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A Growing Relationship with Discomfort

By Lisa Meuser.

In the first blog piece on discomfort, I wrote about how we often unintentionally conflate discomfort with wrongness, and the importance and significance of befriending discomfort. In the second piece I explore the topic of internalized oppression – which includes living from our internal narratives of should, supposed tos, and so on, which create a push/pull fighting dynamic inside of our self.

In this piece I’m going to share an experience, which will reveal a little bit about how these two are related as an entry way into diving deeper into this topic.

A couple of months ago – right around the time I was starting to write more on discomfort, I had an experience that I started to share with clients, to illustrate how quickly the mind can jump in when discomfort happens.

I was in a meeting with a group of people – some were familiar to me and some unfamiliar. We were all sharing our reflections – where we saw the organization in this present time in relation to our groups’ particular focus. The focus was not race, but race was on my mind. I had been struggling with this organization – the last month in particular after hearing first-hand about some overt and covert racism that had been happening. I felt compelled to share my thoughts. Actually, if I was to continue to be a part of this community, I found it necessary to share my thoughts. I verbally shared with love in my heart, and presence in my being. And yet. Right after sharing I could feel a deep throb in the area of my solar plexus. It was loudly uncomfortable.

I was somewhat surprised that I was having this physiological response, and in the span of a few short seconds I noticed narratives checking to see if I’d said anything out of integrity, or anything wrong. Since I had been studying discomfort, particularly the conflation of discomfort with wrongness, I very quickly saw through what was occurring. Here was a lived example where discomfort came, and in a split second my narrative was assuming I might have done something was wrong, and that I’d be rejected for doing so.

I’m lucky to have this awareness. I immediately had a short conversation with myself – “This is just discomfort; it doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong. This is just discomfort; I am in no danger.” I consciously acknowledged I was safe, and that I was having a body response to saying hard things, but that I was indeed in integrity. I brought conscious attention to my bones, to my breath and to my being and slowed down to rest with all that had arisen. About a minute later, the wave had shifted.

I am sharing this to show how common and how normal it is to conflate untruths to our experiences – as well as how quickly these thoughts can surface, as well as how quickly they can subside.

I will not write extensively on this today, but the topic of oppression ties into this as well. In fact, it is very relevant. Had I not had the self-awareness, I would have very likely moved into an oppressive battle within myself, which could have very quickly have led to becoming passive to the real-life oppression that is happening within that organization.

Speaking out against externalized oppression may not be easy for many of us. It may very well bring discomfort. If we think this discomfort means we’re not safe, and/or, if we think this discomfort means we’re doing something wrong, and/or, if we think this discomfort means we should stay or be silent, not only will we be enabling the dissonance in our minds, we will be supporting the structures of oppression in culture.

Befriending my discomfort does not just make life more fulfilling for myself, it allows me to speak up and disrupt oppression that is happening around me. It allows me to say hard things to people 1:1, it allows me to say hard things in group or organizational settings, and it allows me to write things that people often find challenging. I might even say that befriending discomfort is key in evolving.

Some things which can help us befriend discomfort will sound counterintuitive at first. Perhaps befriending discomfort already sounds counterintuitive enough, however it is by getting closer to that which we don’t like that we can learn about it. If you would like to develop a healthier relationship with discomfort, I invite you to explore this diagram from the first blog post:

discomfort =>

belief: I’m doing something wrong/I’m wrong =>

I’ve got to: figure out/manage/control/fix/adapt =>

overwhelm/exhaustion =>

numbing/dissociating/disembodying =>

more discomfort…

…and the cycle continues.

Do you see this patterning in your own life? Developing self-awareness takes time, but it is crucial if we want to develop different ways of being in the world. Slowing down, which is also hard and can seem counterintuitive, so that we can become more intimate with ourselves can be profound. Be curious of your relationship with your inner narratives and their relationship to discomfort, and please let me know what you discover!

Note: I will be facilitating a 10-month Exploration in January 2021, where we will learn how to befriend ourselves and our experiences, as well as extend that knowing in our work with others. Please email me if you’d like to know more: [email protected]

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

A Journey of Connecting with Discomfort

By Lisa Meuser.

There’s something huge going on right now that is freaking people out around the globe, within almost every person: discomfort. 

Whether it’s Covid 19, or the great awakening with regards to racism, or something in between, this is a time of uncertainty – and for most humans, that ushers in dis-ease, restlessness, anxiety… discomfort.  

If we could clean up our relationship with discomfort, the world would be a lot different. Yes, the world.  Really. And, yeah. It’s not that easy. I know. Discomfort and I were enemies most of my life. I did everything I could to negotiate with discomfort  – I maneuvered, manipulated and managed life in such a way that I became an expert at avoiding discomfort. On levels I was not conscious of, I thought discomfort (1) defined who I was as a person, and (2) would kill me if I felt it. Hidden within both (1) and (2) was a rather significant belief: if I’m feeling discomfort, it’s because I’m doing something wrong. Or worse yet, if I’m feeling discomfort, it’s because I am wrong (or a derivative – bad, for example). 

This belief is a pretty limiting belief, yeah? It is a belief that promises pretty much only one thing: a life of suffering. There is no way around it. If one believes that discomfort equals wrongness, or any derivative, there is going to be suffering – eventually. 

I tried to hold off “eventually” for as long as I could. To avoid it, I spent my life trying to control, fix, adapt, manage, figure out… and when that didn’t work, or exhausted/overwhelmed me, I rotated between being numb, dissociated and disembodied.

Survival Strategy: Going Mental
Why would I choose such a belief if it’s guaranteed to bring me suffering? Why would anyone? Well, no-one would choose it. But life experiences and various contexts will innocently lead us to this belief. 

For example, if we’re in a family of origin that does not talk about feelings and sensations, and how to be with them…. or if we’re in a family of origin where the adults are causing us harm… or if we’re in a family of origin where our siblings or other young people are harming us, and the adults in our lives aren’t helping us… or… (there are countless possibilities).  As a young being, we will experience shock when we are harmed or disconnected[1] from a sense of/our sources of safety. Without guidance, without people to safely re-connect with us, and without nurturing instruction, we will quickly become overwhelmed, and then we will innocently turn against ourselves.   

We won’t be aware of it at the time, but we will subconsciously blame ourselves. We are literally at the mercy of the adults in our life, so we need them to be good in our eyes. It is not safe to blame the adults, so we blame ourselves. We will assume it’s us, and then we’ll try to find out how to please our caregivers, figure out who they want us to be; we’ll try to manage the situation and our own behavior, even try to control what’s happening, control our caregivers and/or ourselves through our behavior, or to fix what we think is wrong. Or we just keep adapting to their wants and needs while losing contact with our own.  

In thinking that it is our fault, in an attempt to figure out how to get out of such a predicament, we will disconnect from our bodies because it’s too overwhelming to be with what we’re feeling without support. Instead we will turn to our heads to help us manage, fix, figure out, fantasize, and/or control.  We will literally go mental, in an attempt to feel better, to feel connected, to feel whole.  

Until we learn how to safety include our bodies, we will live the rest of our lives from this very mental-oriented strategy/adaptation. A friend of mine created this diagram to describe the (mostly subconscious until recently) process that she has been reliving over and over throughout her life:

discomfort =>

belief: I’m doing something wrong/I’m wrong =>

I’ve got to: figure out/manage/control/fix/adapt =>

overwhelm/exhaustion –> numbing/dissociating/disembodying =>

more discomfort…

…and the cycle continues

This is 100% “normal” in our culture: I’ve not met a person that hasn’t done this in one way or another. Some people unconsciously live their whole lives from this disembodied place so as to avoid what they innocently fear: discomfort.  They don’t know from lived experience that discomfort is normal, and actually a necessary aspect of evolvement, and instead conflate it with personal lack, I-am-wrong-ness and even danger.

Befriending Discomfort, So That We Can Know Love

So here we are – and I’m noticing something interesting. As I’ve been journeying with so many during this time of Covid-19, which then flowed into a world-wide awakening into the naming of systemic racism, I notice the most resilient people are those who have made “friends” with (or, re-connected with) not just their bodies, but also with discomfort. For various reasons, some of us have learned – by choice or by circumstance – how to be in our bodies while there is discomfort. Others of us have not been given the opportunity to learn this, or are very slowly learning this with the support of experienced practitioners. This territory will feel extremely counter-intuitive for most, so it is a journey… a learning that will re-create a life anew for us. 

I am going to write a series of posts about this curtailing

  • how and why this is particularly relevant now
  • the importance, and *necessity*, of befriending discomfort
  • how this is linked to racism (and Covid 19) and white supremacy
  • how this is related to waking up, Love, and unity consciousness
  • how this is connected with self-love, trust, and a life of well-being
  • how to unweave and unlearn the belief that discomfort is bad/dangerous. Or, in other words, how to put a cog in the wheel of oppression. 

Yup, it’s all related. If you’ve read my past posts about awakenings over the years, you might already get a sense of how it’s all related. The giveaway: in order to open one’s heart and reside in Love, in order to truly be as unity-consciousness, in order to sincerely be in well-being: one must have an inner resilience to be able to feel all that comes with such territory. The territory of our humanity is wide, expansive and deep. Befriending one’s body – reconnecting with one’s body – and discomfort, is key if one is to be with this territory. 

This is not easy territory. It requires us to be well-acquainted with the depths of compassion and presence, the somatics of trust and allowance, and… the wisdom of Love. 

I will be moving into more context in the next piece in this series. Please feel free to email me with feedback or questions at [email protected]

[1] It’s crucial to name that underneath our struggle with discomfort, is disconnect. As young beings we feel whole and loved when we are with loving and kind people. When we experience a lack of love and kindness as young beings we experience disconnect, which can be terrifying. Unless there is repair, that sense of disconnection will live on, and we will crave and try to “get” wholeness by any means possible moving forward.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.