Become comfortable with discomfort. This is something that we hear so often that it has almost become a cliche. And yet, this statement points us towards freedom from uncomfortable feelings..
There is a lot of reference in self development circles about this concept of embracing discomfort as a means of personal growth. The idea is that we only really grow as a person when we engage with our fears and wrestle the monsters hiding under our bed.
This notion of pushing ourselves beyond the comfort zone and into the unknown underscores the goal setting that takes place in therapy and coaching and motivates clients to push themselves towards dreams and achievements.
What about the scenario where discomfort lands on the doorstep, unannounced and without invitation? The scenario where discomfort is not about taking cold showers or getting up at 5am to go to the gym. The scenario where discomfort isn’t anything at all that we’ve consciously chosen, nor is it part of any goal we’re working towards.
Sometimes discomfort is a break up, a divorce, the loss of a job, finding ourselves in unknown territory and having to navigate our way through.
In these cases, we didn’t consciously choose discomfort as a catalyst for personal growth, rather, it arrives as a byproduct of the challenging life circumstances that we all find ourselves in at some point.
We may not have chosen it but in these cases, embracing discomfort represents our best and most valuable opportunity for transformation and meaningful change.
Even on the most basic level, there is empowerment and relief to be found in the realisation that when we’re at our very worst, rather than succumbing to our circumstances and the way we feel, we can instead embrace the uncomfortable process we find ourselves in.
This is not the path of uncomfortable ice baths and pushing ourselves and extreme goal setting. Although this often comes later.
Rather, this is the path of wading through uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Of staying with fear and sadness and holding up and moving forward, even in tiny baby steps. The path of allowing the discomfort, and of wondering if it has something to offer us.
So, How Can We Do It?
There are different kinds of exercises that therapists offer clients to help move through this discomfort. In my experience, one of the most important of these, is to allow it to be. Acknowledge, accept and understand that this is how we feel. Although it may feel counter intuitive as we are so good at distracting ourselves and pushing away unpleasant feelings, there is freedom to be found in choosing not to run, not to distract or hide. Instead we make space for and accept the way we feel.
What I’m suggesting is not that we become introspective and chase after every thought we have, in fact this process is quite the opposite. When we allow uncomfortable feelings to be felt, without engaging in the story and the never-ending thought stream that goes along with these, the feelings become bearable and unlike thoughts, they reveal a finite quality.
This process requires that we get to know our emotions, we become adept at pinpointing where these show up in our body as a felt sense and then we allow them. This requires emotional literacy.
When discomfort lands on your doorstep, you can either run from it or you can allow it in, maybe even welcome it and notice how it changes as a result.
For more information on how to manage your feelings, contact me: