It’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. “What?” you might exclaim. “I don’t want to be uncomfortable. Isn’t the whole point of this journey to find a way to be peaceful and stress-free all the time? Isn’t being comfortable the whole point?” Yes and no.
For example: Imagine that you’ve prepared yourself well for an activity, such as giving a speech or performing on stage; you may be quite comfortable with your ability to do the task. In your mind, you know that you’re capable, but the mere idea of the activity makes you so uncomfortable that your actual performance falters. This is destructive fear at work. It sidles into your body and mind to trigger self-doubt.
As you walk into the room to give your well-prepared speech, destructive fear would want you to focus on what might go wrong. It would want you to get stuck in some sort of discomfort—whether the thought of a knot in your stomach or the possibility of forgetting an important topic. Destructive fear would try to convince you that your discomfort is too much to bear. It might make you want to vomit or run from the room.
Destructive fear does not want you to be able to tolerate the idea of being uncomfortable. Destructive fear wants you to be uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. Interestingly, destructive fear also wants you to be uncomfortable with being comfortable. Imagine slowing down and pausing to breathe before giving your speech or performance—trying to calm yourself and become comfortable. Destructive fear might very well creep in to undo your efforts—it would want to make your anxiety and stress level rise. Destructive fear, in short, does not want you to be comfortable in any way at all.
The focus of constructive fear is far different. It wants to help you move out of these destructive cycles; its goal is to help you transform.
Constructive fear knows that new behaviors are unfamiliar and uncomfortable by nature. It knows that change and growth are simply not possible without some degree of discomfort.
Constructive fear knows this sad truth: so much potential is never fulfilled—in the self or in relationships—because people run from discomfort. Whether we do not tolerate the discomfort of a rough patch in a relationship, the difficult discomfort of letting go of an addiction, or the discomfort of a change in life, so much beautiful life potential is lost to the voice of destructive fear that demands complete comfort or unsettled discomfort.
The Negative Messages of Destructive Fear
Constructive fear wants you to notice the negative messages of destructive fear, and it wants you to learn from them. Using another example, imagine having a difficult heart-to-heart talk with a loved one. Perhaps deep conversations are not your forte, and the mere idea of moving into the intimate, emotional realm is frightening. Maybe you’re more accustomed to talking of work, sports, or more superficial matters.
Destructive fear might want to raise your anxiety. It would want you to view the talk as a threat. It would creep in to warn you, “Heartfelt talks are bad! They’re unnecessary! They are no fun! You’d better fight or run. Get out of this unfamiliar territory in any way you can. Get out now!”
Constructive fear would help you see through this negative, destructive tactic. It would help you to compassionately slow down—to take a step back to notice your discomfort without judgment. It would help you become aware of your emotional state and how destructive fear is trying to take over.
Constructive fear might say,
“Heartfelt discussions are simply new and unfamiliar to you. You learned as a child and through adulthood to be frightened and to avoid these discussions. Yet you can learn to become more comfortable with them by practicing. Just notice that you are a bit anxious and scared. Breathe. Pause to check in with how your body feels. Remember that intimate discussions are actually very healthy; they are a vital and essential element of truly bonded relationships. You have the courage and ability to talk about intimate matters—the most important elements of life. Take a step forward into this new behavior. It is natural to be a bit uncomfortable. Allow yourself to tolerate the discomfort; you have what it takes to be ‘comfortably uncomfortable.’ You will transform and grow as you strengthen this ability. You will build true confidence in your power to speak your truth—to safely and securely talk about anything with dignity, courage, compassion, and respect.”
Wanting To Be Comfortable All Of The Time
In many ways, we get too used to being “comfortable” in life. As humans, we generally want to be comfortable all of the time. Couple this with our culture’s “quick fix” mentality and the idea of learning how to be comfortably uncomfortable goes by the wayside.
When we have a headache, we reach for a pill. When we are lonely or sad, we reach for a pint of ice cream. When work is stressful, we reach for a box of cookies or a bag of potato chips. If we are unhappy, we reach for an antidepressant. If we are anxious, we reach for an anti-anxiety pill. And so it goes. We down pills, drink booze, have hookup sex, overeat, and overshop to avoid discomfort.
None of these tactics work to tackle the underlying issues. By refusing to get to the bottom of what’s causing the issue, we do not address the discomfort. We get caught in the vicious cycle of running from discomfort and running into it again.
A Healthy Threefold Process
There is a far different, more conscious and powerful way to move through life. With constructive fear at your side, a healthy threefold process becomes your ally in learning to utilize discomfort. These three steps are simple yet highly effective.
- Let constructive fear help you investigate what causes the discomfort—the underlying messages of destructive fear.
- Use the voice of constructive fear to guide you into noticing options that don’t keep you stuck in old patterns that are deeply unhealthy and uncomfortable.
- Practice being uncomfortable in a healthy way. Build your ability to tolerate the discomfort that arises as you approach your life experiences in a new way. You may even enjoy it as a sign of positive growth.
Remember, destructive fear wants you to be uncomfortable with the slightest discomfort. It wants you to run away. It wants you to stop conversations with yourself and others that might help you change negative pathways. Constructive fear will help you become aware that learning to be comfortably uncomfortable is a vital element of your transformative journey.
©2019 by Carla Marie Manly. All Rights Reserved.
Published by Familius LLC. www.familius.com
Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend
by Carla Marie Manly PhD.
If you find yourself running away from fear, you're running in the wrong direction. Fear demands that we move toward it, face it, and hear its messages. When we fail to do this, the price is high-chronic anxiety, sleeplessness, damaged relationships, skyrocketing pharmaceutical use, and more. In her enlightening book Joy from Fear, clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly explains that fear, when faced with awareness, is the powerful ally and best friend we all need.
About the Author
Dr. Carla Marie Manly has become recognized as an authority on fear and fear-based disorders such as trauma, anxiety, and depression. With a doctorate in clinical psychology and a master's degree in counseling, Dr. Manly merges her psychotherapy skills with her writing expertise to offer sound, digestible guidance. Recognizing a need for greater somatic awareness in society, Dr. Manly has integrated yoga and meditation practices into her private psychotherapy work and public course offerings. Visit her website at https://www.drcarlamanly.com/
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