Is avoiding discomfort a sensible strategy?

If you are of a certain age (early fifties) we can often find ourselves in an interesting phase of our life –  between the generation above us who are retiring and the generation below us who are at the beginning of their careers. From this vantage point, we find it fascinating to observe what is changing and what is staying the same across all generations, as times wanders by.

For example; the older generation grew up with a lot of physical discomforts, no central heating, outside toilets, limited food choices, fewer creature comforts etc.. Whereas, in comparison, the younger generation has benefited from plenty of food, warmth, computers and in general have had to endure less physical discomfort.

Although the younger generation seems to have experienced less physical discomfort we feel that both groups have equally experienced the same levels of emotional discomfort, although each is of a different paradigm.

So, we would like to explore what is your attitude towards discomfort?

Every mammal, animal, insect, fish and creature that lives ‘out-there’ faces a life of discomfort finding food, trying to not get eaten, finding a mate, building a shelter and generally staying alive! They don’t have any choice but to accept that discomfort, and just get on with it. They don’t have the luxury to procrastinate or be picky or choosy.

So, why do so many people try to avoid discomfort, or expect that the world should be a comfortable place? Surely that is pure naivety? Because if you could be comfortable with discomfort then you could get on and do anything!

We believe the difference between the creatures of the world and their ability to handle discomfort and ours can be simply explained: firstly, they don’t expect anything to be any different, and secondly, they don’t think! Whereas we humans do expect things to be different and we scare ourselves (to discomfort) with our own thoughts!

Moving into your discomfort zone

Now, because this website is all about finding inner calmness, silencing the mind and freeing yourself from yourself – it makes sense to remove any hurdles to these goals as quickly as possible.

Therefore, the new question becomes – How can I be comfortable with discomfort? And if you are still not sure, a sub-question may be Why do I avoid discomfort anyway?

As people explore these questions they soon discover that what they are trying to avoid are typically bad feelings, bad thoughts or uncomfortable bodily sensations. For example, lots of people won’t eat fruit or vegetables – they say “I don’t like the taste!”

OMG! They won’t eat food that is essential for their health because the taste gives them a little discomfort! They won’t stop smoking because it may cause them some discomfort!!! Can you see at a simple level these beliefs just don’t pass the common sense test?

We would like to suggest that it may be so much more natural for us to just relearn how to be OK with discomfort and accept it as a part of life and get on with things rather than trying to control everything so we only get good sensations as that is just unrealistic and self-limiting.

The trap we fall into by avoiding discomfort

If we don’t start to accept discomfort (as a normal part of life) then, we have to stay in the old paradigm where we need to try and avoid negative emotions and shut down our incessant negative thoughts – or we try to meditate them away, or credit card them away, or food them away, or alcohol them away – but you know deep down that they will keep coming back and you’ll keep on trying to avoid them! What a cruel, bitter, fearful and senseless game!

So what is the antidote? Begin to just accept discomfort….

  • Just eat your vegetables even if you don’t like them…
  • If it is boring,  just do it anyway…
  • If it is cold, put a coat on and just get on with it…
  • If there is conflict, just deal with it…
  • If you want something go and get it…
  • If they are annoying you, tell them to stop…
  • Stop moaning and get on with it…

Will these things make you feel uncomfortable, of course, they will, for a few seconds, for the first few times, and then it’s all over and you will have moved on. Any other way leaves you stuck (and often miserable). Start to realise that we don’t need to avoid discomfort it is part of life! Embrace it and realise that being comfortable with discomfort enables you to do almost anything! How refreshing.

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