September 28, 2013

Propelled by Discomfort.

Photo: Harry Eggens on Pixoto.

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”  – M Scott Peck

We resist change. We prefer our known discomfort to the fear of what we don’t know. We stay in jobs we don’t like, we stay in relationships that are toxic, we stay in mindsets that keep us trapped in familiar ways of perceiving the world even and often in spite of the regular messages our body is giving us about how uncomfortable we are.

Often, without our own witness, we fabricate stories that spin our discomfort into choices that we wouldn’t actually be making if we had the courage and insight to squarely look at our fear of the unknown.

I keep thinking about the classic tale of the frog that is placed in a pot of cool water and is slowly boiled to death. We all have some of that amphibian brain that chooses the slow boil over the leap into the unknown.

I had known for a long time that my office dynamics weren’t working.

I thought I was working with them; but in retrospect, I realize what I was doing was pulling back from them. Fight or flight is our primary survival instinct, neither of which creates space for the proactive choosing change. I focused my attention on other projects, and the more I retreated, the less choice I felt I had in my office.

Finally, life intervened and just in time, the big change I needed to make all along was thrust upon me and I found myself starting over with all new employees, facing the fear of the unknown that held me hostage for so long.

The story I had told myself that I didn’t enjoy working at my business was a half truth—in fact, I just didn’t enjoy working with the people who were there.

Our fear of the unknown is particularly potent because it has a silent underbelly that magnifies its effects.

All of our self doubt and insecurities become exaggerated under the focused lens of unpredictable change.

Sadly, it is the oldest stories of our past failures or perceived ineffectiveness that fuel this resistance to change. More often than not, an objective observer would find no truth in them. The only way to learn about their falsehoods is to dive into them, to jump out of the waters of discomfort and land in the unknown.

It is alarming how much of our life we are willing to consecrate to our slow boiling discomforts.

This sheds some light on the dynamics of divorce after decades, or the painful disconnect between parents and grown children. Listening for the messages of discomfort in our body is where to begin. Working to unlayer our spun stories of what it means or who is at fault is how to lift the veil on the discomfort itself.

Looking at it plainly will provide tools to move forward.  It will show you the cloaks of self recrimination that might not be yours to carry anymore.

It isn’t about knowing what to do.

In fact, diving into the unknown isn’t about knowing at all. It’s about having the courage to feel, which will embolden you to trust yourself. Discomfort is the way that our emotional body propels the physical body into action. It is not a soup to live in; it is a call to action to listen.


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Ed: Catherine Monkman

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