Understanding our discomfort

It has been some time since I last wrote a blog post. Here we are, 4 months after lockdown began, and only now do I feel I have the clarity and headspace to start to write again.

I’m not going to spend my time sharing my specific experience of lockdown. I think that this issue has been examined by so many better writers than I, that I’m not sure that I could bring anything new to the table. We have all experienced it in our own way, and I’m sure I will still be reflecting on this time in my life for a while to come.

I came here today to write about the anxiety I feel when I know I need to do something that might be hard, and how I will put it off until I can no longer avoid it, even if that means my mood is impacted and I struggle to focus on anything else. I suppose what I am describing is a fear of confrontation. But, more specifically, the fear that there just might be a confrontation, rather than the confrontation itself. It is the build-up of negative, nervous energy that I get when I know I have to have a tough conversation, or that I need to put myself out there and be vulnerable.

I honestly can convince myself of the worst case scenario, and it takes me a lot of effort to pull myself back from a place of near panic, with this feeling being heightened the longer the build-up to the event is. Very occasionally, if I accidentally think about it before I go to sleep, it will stop me sleeping.

When I examine this feeling, I can understand it to be a fear of letting someone down, or, of being seen as less than my best self. Heaven forbid anyone doesn’t like me! I can recognise that my self-view is very much entwined with how other people view me. This isn’t an unfamiliar feeling for me, I can remember experiencing this as far back as childhood. I am happy to say though that the frequency with which this happens has greatly decreased as I have got older, and decreased again with my psychotherapeutic training and the therapy I personally received.

When I look back on the way in which it impacted me when I was younger, I feel annoyed that I was so scared to use my voice, in case I caused discomfort in others, when I was causing myself so much discomfort. Because one of the biggest shifts I have experienced over the last few years, is to begin to put my own comfort first. I don’t say this lightly, as it has not been as easy as it may sound. A lifetime of values and experiences have to be examined in order to take the first step towards putting this into practice.

But, there is so much freedom in taking that first step. The world didn’t end because I was a little more “selfish” (I dislike that word so much). Putting my own comfort first has actually improved my relationships, not destroyed them. I can come to every interaction from a place of honesty, which, when I was keeping so much of my internal experience hidden before, I could in no way do. Relationships built on dishonesty – our dishonesty with ourselves, our dishonesty with the other party, will always be on shaky ground. 

I am not the finished article. I expect I will always have to work on my feelings of discomfort that I described at the beginning of this blog. However, every time I push through my discomfort, I discover it is nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. 

There is an interesting article here that describes the habituation of anxious feelings, and how mindfulness can help.

What are your thoughts on pushing through discomfort?

Take care,