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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.