What I have come to see around me and especially with the people I work with is the general move that we have away from discomfort or pain.
We don’t want to get too hot, so we put on the air conditioning.
We don’t want to get too cold, so we put on the heating.
We don’t want to spend the time making a nutritious meal, so we order a take away.
We don’t want to wait for public transport or walk, so we take the car.
We don’t want to wait for that new TV, dress, garden furniture, etc, so we pay for it on credit.
We don’t interview for that new job because we might not get it.
We don’t end the relationship that isn’t serving us because we fear what’s on the other side.
What are we doing here? We’re avoiding the discomfort.
The discomfort of waiting, the discomfort of comparing to others. The discomfort in being with uncomfortable sensations in our body.
How else are we avoiding the discomfort?
We drink alcohol to numb down our experience and postpone the feelings for them to arise another time.
We take drugs to create artificial highs and to avoid social anxiety because we don’t want to be seen for the ‘real person’ we are as we worry we might not be ‘fun enough’ without them.
We masturbate to release the tensions of the day. Just a side note here, I’m an avid supporter of self-pleasure when the intention is exploring one’s body, learning new pleasure path ways, as a self-love practice, etc. What I’m referring to here is when people use sex or masturbation to stop themselves from processing emotions and as a distraction from dealing with a difficult day or internal turmoil.
Social media scrolling as a way to disconnect from the thoughts and rising tension in your body.
Now I’m not saying that we stop having these things or stop doing them. What I am saying is that we need to be more intentional.
‘Am I doing this to avoid something that I don’t want to feel or experience, or is this an authentic interest or desire I have?’
Being mindful that there is always a part of us that can justify almost any behaviour we have. Can you dig a little deeper to understand the truth of what you are doing and why?
What I am guiding you towards here is that quite often, what we are doing is acting on autopilot. We are making decisions and taking actions to avoid discomfort.
If you have had a stressful day, instead of reaching out to someone for support to talk about it, or instead of journalling, instead of just sitting with the sensation that arises in the body, what most of us are doing instead is finding a way to ignore it, or to numb it.
What happens is that the discomfort doesn’t actually go away. It stays in the body. Gradually these micro stresses build and build. We continue to avoid or numb… But they are still there, until…
We end up in a mental health crisis and find ourselves unable to hold it all any longer.
This is why learning to be with discomfort will actually, in the longer term take you to happiness.
Learning to BE with the discomfort, ride the wave and come out at the other side enables you to move through it more quickly, let it go and then you teach yourself how to move into more high vibrational states of joy, pleasure, contentment.
One of the reasons people don’t get support in their sex, love and relationships is because of the impending discomfort in the conversation they will need to have, the vulnerability of the share, the need to take action and do something different. It’s so much more comfortable being with the familiar, even if we aren’t happy with it.
What I am inviting you to take a moment to explore is that learning to be with the discomfort can actually be the path to our pleasure. Let me explain…
If you are stopping yourself from feeling ‘low vibration’ emotions such as anger, sadness, disgust etc, you shut off sensation in your body and you generally feel fairly flat. If you don’t allow yourself to feel the emotion, even more so if you don’t express it with movement or sound, this can create a limited range of emotional experience.
When we learn to be with all the ‘low vibration’ emotions what we are doing is training our nervous system for a greater capacity to be with sensations. The benefit is, that as we increase our capacity to hold low vibration emotions, we increase our capacity to hold high vibration emotions such as joy, ecstasy and pleasure. So if you are struggling to experience an orgasm a way to access this is by increasing your capacity for pleasure by learning to be with the pain.
The thing is with pain and discomfort is that when we want to reach a goal, we often have to go through some discomfort to get there, this is often referred to as ‘delayed gratification’. In fact there are some schools of thought that say that being able to be with the discomfort and experience a reward later rather than sooner can actually enable us to achieve greater levels of success.
An example of this was a test in the 1970s at Stanford called the marshmallow experiment. It was all about seeing if kids could hold off on eating a marshmallow to get a bigger treat later. Basically, they told a child they could have one marshmallow now or wait a bit and get two marshmallows or a pretzel stick, whichever they liked more. Then, the person running the test would leave the kid alone with the marshmallow for about 15 minutes and see what happened. When they came back, if the child hadn't eaten the marshmallow, they got the extra treat. Later on, they checked in on these kids and found out that the ones who could wait for the double treat generally ended up doing better in life.
In many of the people that I work with a large majority have anxiety and/or depression and this has become their way of coping with avoiding being with emotions. As we work together and they build their capacity to be with a greater range of emotion, the more their symptoms of anxiety and depression are reduced. In some cases, they have spoken to their doctor because they feel comfortable enough coming off medication.
My invitation to you is to ask yourself how can you gradually build up your tolerance of feeling discomfort? I have some suggestions here...
Self-Awareness: First of all, when you notice yourself reaching for the phone, glass of wine, or taking the ‘easier’ option after a hard day, difficult conversation or some other situation that is creating some discomfort for you, can you learn to pause for a moment and see if you can locate where the sensation is and can you name it out loud?
Gradual Exposure: Start with small, manageable levels of discomfort and gradually increase the intensity or duration. This could mean taking cold showers, fasting, or engaging in public speaking.
Mindfulness and Meditation: Practice being present and mindful. Meditation can help you observe discomfort without immediately reacting to it, teaching you to sit with uncomfortable feelings or sensations.
Physical Exercise: Pushing your physical limits through exercise, whether it's endurance training, weightlifting, or yoga, can help you become more accustomed to physical discomfort.
Breathing Techniques: Learn and practice breathing exercises. Controlled breathing can help manage stress responses and increase your tolerance for discomfort.
Reflection and Journaling: Reflect on past experiences of discomfort. Writing about them can help you analyse and understand how you've successfully dealt with discomfort before, boosting your confidence.
Setting Challenges: Set personal challenges that take you out of your comfort zone, whether they're related to your habits, hobbies, or social interactions.
Reframing: Use strategies to challenge and change your thoughts about discomfort. Recognising that discomfort is often temporary and can lead to growth can change your response to it. Shift your mindset to view discomfort as an opportunity for growth rather than something to be avoided. Embrace the idea that being uncomfortable is a part of the process of reaching new levels of achievement.
Seek Discomfort: Actively seeking discomfort as a means to grow. This could mean traveling alone, trying new activities, or anything that scares you a bit.
Support Network: Surround yourself with people who support your growth and understand the value of stepping out of comfort zones. Sharing experiences of discomfort can also make them more manageable.
Professional Guidance: Consider working with a coach, therapist, or mentor who can guide you through the process of becoming comfortable with discomfort, providing personalised strategies and support.
Which emotions do you struggle with the most to be with or find yourself avoiding?
What steps are you going to take to increase your capacity to sitting with discomfort?
Carla Crivaro is a trauma-informed and certified Sex, Love & Relationship Coach, she works with men and women internationally to reach their goals in delicious sex, profound love and authentic relationships. Carla helps men and women understand themselves and each other, sexually and relationally, in and out of the bedroom. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Other resources which are supportive around this topic are: