In any growth process, you’re going to encounter discomfort; it simply comes with the territory. The spiritual growth process is no different. It’s good to remind ourselves of this so we don’t get stalled once growth kicks into high gear.
What’s the secret to handling emotional discomfort so you can move forward and past it? Well, here’s what doesn’t work:
- Avoiding it. Avoidance is a form of resistance, and in case you haven’t heard, what you resist, persists. We avoid discomfort through procrastination, distraction, and focusing on anything that will take us away from it. Unfortunately, these behaviors often create pitfalls of their own by becoming new habits that don’t serve us and in fact, hold us further back. Avoiding discomfort is a sure recipe for “stuckifcation”, as Havi Brooks calls it, and since once you know discomfort accompanies growth, the last thing you want when you’re trying to grow is to get mired in muck along the way.
- Ignoring it. Pretending you’re not uncomfortable when you are, or in other words refusing to acknowledge your discomfort enough to even avoid it, is also a subtle form of resistance. Inevitably, your angst and frustration will seek an outlet and seep through cracks to find expression, maybe in areas of your life you’d prefer it didn’t.
The secret to dealing with discomfort is to get comfortable leaving your comfort zone. Or, if you can’t get comfortable, at least get used to it. Knowing discomfort goes hand in hand with growth helps, so when you’re setting a new goal, stretching to reach an important milestone, or determined to transform on the personal front, recognize you’re in for some turbulent air. As I’ve said before and I’m sure I’ll say again on this blog, awareness heals all. Managing your own expectations regarding discomfort is a great example of this and makes the process of moving through discomfort not only more possible, but more palatable.
In every growth process, there are points at which discomfort will peak. These, while they can be extraordinarily challenging and painful, are your best opportunities for rapid transformation, because it is precisely at these moments that you can make leaps. These are times to put on the wings of faith and jump.
I’m reminded of the first (okay, the only) time I went skydiving. I didn’t plan on it – it was a spur-of-the moment decision made on a business trip to Palm Springs, California during which I had to arrive on the weekend for a conference and had most of that weekend to myself. At the time, it made no sense. In hindsight, I know exactly why I jumped.
My daughter (now 12) was nine months old. I’d been either pregnant or a new mom for what seemed like forever. I hardly remembered the ambitious, smart, independent career woman and avid traveler I’d been before having her. I missed that woman, and I not only wanted her back, I wanted to be her again. Needed not just to remember her, but live her life. I knew when I saw the skydiving ad in the hotel room tourist magazine that the fastest way to reconnect with what I loved about myself was not introspection or contemplation. It was action.
A quick phone call and $200 later, I was hitched to a former member of the Russian skydiving team, tumbling from a small prop plane at 12,000 feet over the desert, air rushing past me at hurricane velocity, feeling totally, utterly, ragingly alive.
I quite literally leaped.
To this day, I’ve never regretted it. Risk of death and injury with nine-month-old baby at home be damned. I’m sure I’ll have my detractors and I’m fine with that. I can live with a little judgment and criticism, but I can’t be fully alive with the brakes on. And neither can you.
Any type of change is uncomfortable, even growth for good. Remember, the most significant experiences of your life will always take you out of your comfort zone. You may not like being out of that zone when the time comes to leave it, but knowing you’ll have to go certainly makes the process easier.
As humans, we crave equilibrium and love the semblance of control, so whenever we know what’s coming we feel better, safer. And while it’s desirable to feel good and safe so we can at least basically function, being comfortable and safe is not a realistic expectation 100% of the time.
Growth is growth. A flower doesn’t push its way through the soil without getting its stem bent and twisted and shoving aside some shit and worms along the way; nor does it stop to think or complain about the process. A baby isn’t born without considerable pain to its mother. The same goes for you as a growing, evolving being. Expect discomfort – welcome it even – and you’ll be one step closer to the secret of dealing with it.
Plus if you really can’t stomach it, you can always get as much of it out of the way at once with a good leap. And no one ever said you couldn’t jump tandem!