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Author: Betty J.B. Brouwer < BACK Wonder-filled

It is with eager anticipation that I noticed the first tinge of green appearing on the grass, along with the yellowish hues on the willow trees. These glimpses of colour signal that something is happening. This is a season of anticipation, of renewal, of watching things come back to life. Spring speaks of the gift of life and discovery. It speaks of wonder.

I learned a valuable life lesson about wonder and curiosity a number of years back. My teacher, a two-year-old. Before becoming a parent, I had the opportunity to look after a friend’s little daughter. When we set out for a stroll I had no idea that we would spend well over an hour walking around a small city block.

We noticed bugs, we poked in the cracks, we stopped and sat on the sidewalk and spent an interminable amount of time simply throwing the remnants of winter gravel onto the road, enjoying the sounds it made. With eyes sparkling and giggles erupting, this little two year old girl taught me a valuable lesson that day. She taught me to slow down, to discover and to marvel, to see the world differently, to see it through wonder-filled eyes.

Elizabeth Gilbert in her book, Big Magic, articulates how this need for wonder fuels and fills our souls. She writes, “At such times, I can always steady my life once more by returning to my soul. I ask it, ‘And what is it that you want, dear one?’ The answer is always the same: ‘More wonder, please.’ As long as I’m still moving in that direction – toward wonder – then I will always be fine in my soul.” (p. 250)

It seems we are designed for wonder. When we are in a state of wonder, curiously exploring, we are in an open and engaged posture. Stephen Porges describes this state in his Polyvagal Theory, in which he explains how our nervous system responds to stress. He says that when we are experiencing “felt” safety, we have the “brake” on our defensive strategies of fight, flight and freeze. When we are in this open and engaged posture we are receptive, able to take in new information, able to respond and enter into reciprocity. We are able to approach new experiences without fear.

Wonder is the ability to be curious, to explore. We do this best when we are feeling safe, when we are in an open and engaged posture.

Central to the attachment work I do, (Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy) is an attitude of PACE – playful, accepting, curious and empathy. When we are in that PACE-ful space, a place where we can wonder, we can lower our defenses and engage with the world around us. PACE helps to create emotional safety which opens up space for us to have wonder. I often say, PACE is good for all and essential for some.

If we can approach life from a place of wonder and curiosity, others will be invited into that space. Wonder invites reciprocity. It creates the potential for growth by opening up possibilities.

As you see the signs of spring unfold may your life be filled with child-like wonder.


Betty J.B. Brouwer is Shalem’s Director of the Linking Lives/Building Attachment program and the Artistic Director of Shalem’s RE-create Outreach Art Studio.

Key Word Tags: Healthy Relationships, Counselling, Parenting, Attachment

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  1. Elske said...

    Curiosity used to be a “negative” word but more and more, employers are looking to the traits of wonderment and curiosity as traits that are looking for in an employee. In our wraparound work, we often ask, when we want to explore more with a person, “I wonder”. It can open doors in conversations. Thanks for your article Betty.