Curiosity in MOL

“Tireless Curiosity” is at the heart of MOL. But what is the MOL therapist curious about?

In discussions about accreditation and other MOL aspects, this has been raised in a variety of ways. Is there an answer that is straightforward and clear?

This is my attempt.

In my understanding, the MOL practitioner is curious about what, why and how client’s control of an important matter for him/her is hindered (conflict), and at the same time is curious about the present experiences (disruptions) the client has while focusing on exploring those matters.

Curiosity appears to serve several principles: giving the client control of the MOL conversation, facilitating the client to explore and focus on what´s important for him/her, and facilitating the client to shift awareness to perceptions that come from higher levels. All this promotes reorganization to have enough time to work on the right spot.
I’m curious :wink: about other perspectives and/or ways to understand what the MOL therapist is curious about

In my understanding of MOL, the MOL practitioner is curious about (2), the researcher into levels of control and how MOL works is curious about (1). Capacity for attention is limited. Being distracted by (1) during a session with a client risks slipping into an advice-giving Mr. Fixit point of view typical of conventional psychotherapy. I would like to see (1) systematically cultivated as part of PCT research, but I believe such research should be retrospective into memory and memory extensions such as audio and video recordings.

The two points of view have a similar minimalist approach.

It appears to be a universal fact of scientific research that processes of observation can color or outright change the resulting ‘observations’ and ‘findings’. Even more than in the physical sciences, a minimalist, least intrusive methodology is necessary in research with living control systems which may perceive and may control perceptions of what you do, as here the social phenomena of the therapist-client interaction.

From the therapeutic point of view, one must be minimally intrusive on the client’s internal process, only calling attention to the client’s shifts of attention during that process.

Hi Matias and Bruce,
I understand curiosity as some kind of openness to experience, awareness of what is happening and noticing and using any opportunity to explore in full depth and width. Curiosity is never linear: that’s why the desk of a scholar is littered with books and why it’s hard to write a report about anyones reorganization process that reflects the real experience of that process. Within a conversation, curiosity is limited by limited by time and space, you can’t notice and point out everything.

I think it is most important to consider what goal is served by this curiosity.
A journalist is curious as well, but that serves a different purpose than the curiosity in MOL. The journalist wants to get the full story, with all relevant perceptions, to be able to draft a good article.

The MOL therapist applies her curiosity to allow the client to experience the variety of perceptions involved in the conflict and all perceptions connected to that.

If the MOL therapist also has the goal of writing a report about the client, that goal is conflicting because now the client’s pace is limited by the understanding of the therapist.

As MOL and PCT researcher I can’t help but also having the goal of wanting to understand the dynamics of reorganization as I witness the process, and wanting to recognize the levels of control involved. This also involves curiosity. I try to balance these goals by noticing them in myself, and by redirecting my attention to what’s happening in the conversation at hand. If a conversation is recorded, it’s much easier to leave the analysis for afterwards.

I know one MOL practitioner, Femke, who uses this wonderful methaphor for the MOL attitude. She thinks of herself as a trainee to a biologist in the forest (Biologist is not the best translation here. We use ‘boswachter’, which is a knowledgeable caretaker of the forest). The trainee is very eager and very curious to learn all about what the biologist knows, and the kinds of questions the trainee asks make the biologist way more aware of what is around them in the forest. What’s that animal? What’s that lichen called? Why is it red? What does that mean? What is in between there? Why is that bird here? Why do you halt? Where do you want to go? What’s this? What’s that? The trainee keeps close to the biologist, follows him at his heels, and does not take charge. The biologist may at times be put off by the questions, lose his usual train of thoughts, but starts to notice things he wouldn’t notice on his own.

What do you think of that metaphor and that kind of curiosity?


Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Eva and Bruce!

In my perspective, (2) responds to the 2nd MOL goal. But what about the 1st MOL goal? what is the MOL therapist curious about while asking 1st MOL goal questions? isn’t it about (1)?

I think this a really important point. There are definetly things that could distract the therapist, for example being curious about something different rather than the two main goals? Also judging (even positively), or thinking he/she has understood the problem, and/or the therapist has a solution for it…

I think I can see your perspective here: if the therapist is more curious about (1) than (2) and therefore doesn’t ask about (2) when the opportunity comes, that will count as being distracted from “calls” from higher levels.

In any case, if the therapist flexibly moves around (1) and (2) I don’t see that being curious about what, why and how (levels of perceptions) client’s control of an important matter for him/her is hindered (conflict) could lead to distraction. On the contrary, I believe it leads to focus awareness.

It usually happens in a MOL session with a client, that you are about to ask a (presumably) good question, but a disruption just appears before you do that… so you have to leave your “nice question” behind as the higher level has sent you a new invitation to ask! and that can happen rather quickly

Really nice way to put it. So, would you say that the therapist is curious about conflict, all perceptions connected to that (levels) and the experience of the variety of perceptions involved? I would agree with that.

It’s a really nice methapor that reminds me of the Cathedral and the torch one.

I would add a couple of things to it. The questions that the trainee could ask are about something… what are these questions curious about…? because they could be related to a lot of different aspects of the forest. I believe, the trainee is curious about something that the Biologist/caretaker wants to control better (control/conflict) (and on the present experience of focusing on that, of course). Is it the lichen? the colour? the animal? what is the Biologist/caretaker trying to control more or better?

The second thing I would add to the methapor is that when the trainee asks about, let’s suppose, “that animal”, that animal wakes up! Gets closer to the biologist, and looks at him/her in the eye. The animal may appoch in a threatening way, or maybe in a friendly way, or maybe is the Biologist the one approching it… (as a MOL therapist we know we can’t know in advance). That is when we ask about the present experience, what happens for you as your are getting closer to the animal now?

I appreciate both your comments! I found them very helpful in thinking through this. Please let me know what you think.

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A great sequence from Ted Lasso on the importance of curious questioning. It may be useful in MOL workshops, etc.

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My favourite comedy drama series of all time…

Lovely! I loved the first season. I guess I’ll now have to watch the second.

This is my favourite scene. What PCT principles can we draw out of this one? Ted is controlling for some high level variable such as being fully open to people’s views, that he misses the disturbances to his self-esteem that are in the face of the viewer…

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I think one meta-PCT principle is “Don’t jump to conclusions about what people are controlling for”. A second would be “Curiosity is great, but best used when tempered by skepticism and observation”. What I see in this clip is a fellow controlling for reading negative evaluations of himself and being quite bemused by what he reads. Apparently they are not a disturbance that requires any obvious pushback, even when he finds out what “wanker” means. They are disturbances but apparently the kind that keep whatever variable(s) he’s controlling at their reference. That’s what makes this clip so delightful to me. My guess would be that he is controlling for confirmation that the people giving the evaluations don’t understand what he’s up to. I don 't see any evidence in this clip that he is controlling for self-respect, let alone that he is ignoring disturbances (or, more properly, the effect of disturbances) to it.

Very elegant interpretation!