Monday, October 18, 2010
Sitting With Discomfort
While it makes sense to want to minimize pain, we can do this to a point where we end up shutting ourselves off from our deepest feelings, and also our greatest opportunities for growth.
It isn’t easy to sit with confusion or disagreement or disappointment, let them exist, and just experience our reactions to them. I know I always want to jump in and fix the issue as quickly as possible so I’m not uncomfortable anymore. But I’m learning that many of the things that cause me discomfort are due to things beyond my control, and I need to let them be. In my striving to change the energy of a situation, all I end up doing is getting myself off center.
One way we shut ourselves off from fully processing our experiences and receiving their gifts is by placing our focus outside of ourselves. When I am spinning about circumstances around me, who said this or did that, I cannot be sitting with my own experience. Sometimes it’s more comfortable to focus my thinking on what others are doing. While it may be frustrating and painful, thinking and spinning about what others are doing is often less frustrating and painful than actually deeply feeling my own feelings about what is taking place.
If I try to think my way through something uncomfortable, I may stew for awhile and then feel as if it’s over, but really I’ve just pushed it under the surface. Over a lifetime we can build up so much unacknowledged emotional pain that we begin to see everything through its lens.
I really like the idea that the only way through something is through it. Avoidance doesn’t help, and as they say, resistance is futile. When we start shutting off our uncomfortable experiences, we shut down our ability to feel all emotions, the painful stuff and the joyful stuff. Uncomfortable things will always happen, and the experience of them provides the impetus we need to open our hearts to the profound miracle in all of life’s ups and downs.
An interesting example of this that I heard about recently involves a group of people who were studied regarding their response to the discomfort of holding a hand in extremely cold water. One group was instructed to focus their attention on what they were feeling in their hand. The other group was asked to focus their attention on something pleasant, such as a warm beach in Hawaii. The group that stayed with the pain they felt actually processed it more quickly and easily.
If I sit with my discomfort and give it the space it needs to be fully experienced, I can eventually let it go. In the meantime, while I am in that process of integrating what I need to learn from the discomfort, I validate it as part of what it means to be human. And I remember the hand of God in all of it.
May this tool be a blessing. . .