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Before I begin, I’d like to share with you a story.
One day, a cop found a drunk who was looking for something near a street light. The cop asked the drunk what he was looking for. The drunk replied, “I’m looking for a key.”
The cop joined him in search for his key. After some time of unsuccessful searching, the cop asked, “Where did you drop your key?” The drunk replied, “I think over there,” pointing to a place a little distance away. The cop asked, “Then why are you looking here?” The drunk replied, “Oh, because the light is better here.”
The moral of this story is that we often avoid discomfort and stressful circumstances because they are too difficult to confront. Yet, it is in these moments and places that we can find what we are truly searching for.
We can embrace our discomfort by understanding our mind at a deeper level.
We all have a general comfort space in which we prefer our daily lives to operate—one that doesn’t cause us discomfort, stress, or anxiety. It could be in our way of living, in our relationships, or in our jobs. What we define as comfort or discomfort is all connected to our past conditioning.
According to Carl Jung, we develop our conditioned mind—which he called the “ego”—at an early age, when we begin interpreting the events in our external environment.
The ego helps us to survive and continues to keep us in our comfort zones throughout our life, even if these spaces may not actually be comforting or satisfying. Comfort is what our ego knows best and it is what it has identified as safe.
For our ego, stepping out of our comfort space is threatening—the most fearful act we could take—because we will be stepping into a space where we’ve never been before. The discomfort we feel of the unknown raises fear within us.
That fear is whatever our ego mind has identified as unsafe. It could be fear of uncertain times, fear of loss of security, fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of domestic violence, fear of death, or even fear of getting what we want, because then we’ll have to change our self-narratives and we’ll no longer remain in the same status quo.
The disadvantage of remaining in our comfort space is that we are unconsciously limiting ourselves. We deny ourselves from deeper connections in our relationships, from our unlimited potential, and from creating new possibilities in life.
We need to try to move outside of the areas in which we feel comfortable, so that we can reach the full potential of who we really are.
One of my major discomfort spaces is being in the spotlight. As a child, I danced while people were watching. I owned classrooms when a teacher was absent. But I must have interpreted something in those events (when I was in the spotlight) as dangerous or negative, because later, I chose to be invisible.
Being invisible became my safe space.
I stopped dancing to the point where I had two left feet, and when I grew up, I chose careers where I worked behind the scenes. I pushed people away because I didn’t like attention.
When I decided that I wanted to expand my world, as soon as I thought of taking action toward something that would put me in the spotlight, I’d find myself being busy, getting sick, getting moody, procrastinating, or just not taking action. I’d fall back to my comfort space of being invisible.
While we may think our “obstacles” are all in the external world, the pushback is actually our ego creating defenses (known as resistance) to keep us in our status quo. When we move to the end of our comfort space, we hit this barrier of resistance, which through external conflicts reveals our internal conflict (that is otherwise invisible to us).
If we understand that what we are seeing and experiencing externally is the resistance, we can then begin to inquire into our unconscious mind by asking ourselves, “What is this showing me about my mind?”
For me, it was showing me that my ego was afraid of being incapable, ruining things, and not being good enough. With this new knowledge—which my ego had done such a wonderful job of hiding from me—I can consciously choose to remain in my comfort zone: be invisible and play small. Or, I can embrace my discomfort of being in the spotlight and face my fears, until this discomfort becomes my new comfort—and I’m no longer giving power to my fears.
Where are you finding discomfort in your life?
Perhaps you find yourself in an uncomfortable scenario that you didn’t choose. Perhaps you feel overwhelmed in some way. This could be your greatest opportunity to discover your inner light and create new possibilities. This discomfort could lead to the development of a strength you did not think you were capable of, one that is forged in your heart. Discomfort and chaos have the ability to lead to great transformation. Trust the process you are going through.
If you find yourself stuck in fear of the unknown or wary of doing something you’ve never done, I’d ask you to try the following:
>> Take a small action step toward your discomfort.
>> Ask yourself, “What is this showing me about my mind?”
>> Work with the emotions that arise.
>> Don’t quit.
And lastly, I’ll leave you with this question to consider:
When things are uncomfortable or challenging, the temptation is to run, to disconnect, to get anxious—but what happens if when, just for a while, we find the courage to embrace our discomfort?