The Curiosity Drive: Our Need for Inquisitive Thinking

Author(s) : Philip Stokoe

The Curiosity Drive: Our Need for Inquisitive Thinking

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After eighteen frustrating months heading a specialist adolescent unit, Philip Stokoe applied for a training in consultation at the Tavistock Clinic based on the ‘Tavi’ aka ‘group relations’ model. This experience changed his life and, ultimately, led to this book. Embedding the training into his working life, he came to recognise the crucial importance of curiosity to the development of the mind. Alongside love and hate, it is a primary drive inside each of us. Without the desire to ‘know’, human evolution would take a very different path.

Stokoe outlines the work of Freud, Klein, and Bion to provide a firm foundation to his exploration of individual development and how it relates to groups and organisations. He lays bare why so many organisations are dysfunctional, takes an in-depth look at the problems unique to psychoanalytic institutions, and gives clear insight into how groups function as a separate entity to the individuals involved. He also investigates curiosity’s shadow side, detailing the ‘alternative’ processes needed when it becomes a problem.

A truly excellent book for trainees, professionals, and anyone who has ever been frustrated by work!

Reviews and Endorsements

‘Engaging, challenging, peppered with fresh ideas about the developing mind, organisations, and individual and couple relationships, this book is as lively as it is informative, as enjoyable as it is profound. Steeped in psychoanalytic thinking and enriched by systems theory and Shakespeare, the work is an inspiring expression of the author’s own curiosity and capacity for original and creative thought.’
R. Peter Hobson, Emeritus Tavistock Professor of Developmental Psychopathology, UCL

‘Building on Bion’s positing of the necessity to add the urge for knowledge (K), to the urge to love (L), and the urge to hate (H), as the third primary human emotion, Philip Stokoe’s starting point, and central focus of this book, is that “curiosity … is central to the development and the maintenance of the mind”. He suggests that from early on infant development is driven by inquisitive thinking about their experiences and states of mind.
‘In a truly encyclopaedic re-examination of the Klein/Bion tradition of psychoanalytic theorising, Stokoe demonstrates his view that, by focusing on the curiosity drive in the course of human development, our understanding of the growth of the mind is significantly changed and that this change is crucial to our understanding of how human beings behave and relate to each other.
‘The book has depth in its theoretical explorations and breadth in its descriptions of the applications of that theorising, and will be of great interest both to those wanting to learn about the development of psychoanalytic thinking concerning human development, and to experienced practitioners who will be encouraged and enabled to apply that orientation to work with individual patients, with groups, and with institutions.’
Stanley Ruszczynski, psychoanalyst and Consultant Adult Psychotherapist (and past Director, 2005–2016), Portman Clinic

‘Freud (1915, p. 194) wrote of the young child “working with the energy of curiosity” in seeking to extend himself in the domain of knowledge. For this impulsion he used the term Wißtrieb, a term that subsequently has been translated variously as an “impulse to investigate”, “epistemophilia”, “a drive towards knowledge”, and even the complex and problematic notion of a “truth drive”. In researching the subject with depth and breadth, in his own way and very much using his own voice, Philip Stokoe has worked with the energy of his own curiosity – a curiosity operating in several fields at the same time. Bringing together his experience and knowledge of psychoanalysis, theatre, and the workings of human groups, he has made a study of the subject with many discoveries. It will stimulate the hunger for new knowledge in a wide variety of readers, and by no means only those working in the fields of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. As he implies at the outset, the term “application”, in relation to psychoanalytic ideas, can be used in an unhelpfully divisive way. I prefer to see his writing as bringing out, and articulating, the already-existing psychoanalytic, dramaturgical, and group-mentality dimensions of the phenomena. He does this to harness the normally occurring intransitive use of the term “being curious” to another specific function, that is to say the study of thinking. In this respect I rather like the sub-title of his book: “Our Need for Inquisitive Thinking”. Never before has this need been so pressing, in a time when an election has been fought by a political movement explicitly and openly antithetical to research and a scientific outlook.
Philip Stokoe is to be commended not only for writing such an interesting and well-informed book on such a crucial subject, but also for being willing to engage with its political ramifications.’
Chris Mawson, training and supervising analyst of the British Psychoanalytical Society

‘Philip Stokoe has the gift of describing ideas which appear stunning in their novelty and originality whilst at the same time resonating with something we may intuitively have known but have until now been unable to quite put our finger upon or to articulate.

‘The breadth and scope of the ideas contained within these pages makes this a book for those with an interest in how we relate and function as a species, within groups and as individuals, in addition to those working in clinical and organisational settings. It is a book for the curious and seekers of meaningful ways to understand the dilemmas faced in everyday life and work.’
Jo O’Reilly, Psychoanalyst and Consultant Psychiatrist in Medical Psychotherapy

‘The opening chapters of this substantial, clearly argued and quietly passionate book rehearse a familiar Kleinian and Bionian account of the development of mind, from birth to adulthood; but Stokoe gives this story a new twist and new vitality by positing at its heart what, following Bion, he calls the K (i.e. knowledge) or curiosity drive. Without this, he argues, the story is incomplete. So he slows it down and gives it a “second look”’
Robert Snell, British Journal of Psychotherapy 37, 3 (2021) 517–519, © 2021 BPF and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

‘The Curiosity Drive sets you thinking and exploring your own thoughts, as you become curious. The title is therefore apt. I enjoyed reading the book and found it difficult to put down/ It would make a valuable addition to the library of anyone who is interested in how we think, including therapists from any modality or those interested in personal development.’
Jo Sansby, BACP Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal Jan 2022

Table of Contents

About the author

The role of curiosity in the development of the mind

Love, hate, and curiosity

Development continues…

The healthy organisation model



Psychoanalytic organisations – what’s different?


Love in Shakespeare

The problem with curiosity


About the Author(s)

Philip Stokoe, BSc, MSc, CQSW, FInstPsychoanal, is a psychoanalyst (Fellow of the Institute of Psychoanalysis) in private practice working with adults and couples, and an organisational consultant, providing consultation to a wide range of organisations since he qualified in 1983 at the Tavistock Centre. He was Honorary Visiting Professor, Mental Health for three years at City University, where he is helping to set up a radically new way to train mental health nurses based on psychoanalytic principles. He worked as a Consultant Social Worker in the Adult Department of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust between 1994 and 2012, where he was the Clinical Director of the Adult Department from 2007 to 2011. With his wife, Mary Morgan, he has developed a theory about a stage of human development that they call the 'Creative Couple' state of mind. He has a particular interest in human creativity as it relates to the development of the mind and the central role of curiosity and interest. His early experience as an actor has left him with an abiding interest in theatre, art and cinema.

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