Let me ask you this: what do you do when you feel that uncomfortable feeling of change, the sharp stab of pain, or the ickiness that comes with not knowing?
Do you do everything you can to numb it, or do you sit with the feeling?
There’s a lot of pressure – both social and self inflicted – that we put on ourselves to always be DOING or ACHIEVING or hiding our pain or awkwardness and putting on a smile to face the world. Push and try harder and wear ourselves out forcing against the current.
That giving up or giving in is a sign of weakness.
And don’t ever look weak or as though you’re not progressing, or you’ll find yourself on a slippery slope towards failure (or vulnerability). And wouldn’t that be the worst?
I’ve recently started getting into Yin yoga and one of my teachers shared a beautiful insight (probably while watching me squirm and grimace in discomfort). She said, “Certain yoga poses are difficult and they are that way for a reason, but instead of pulling out of the pose or trying to distract our mind to take away from the feeling, it’s important to breathe through it and sit with the discomfort until it no longer feels painful.”
I’ll be honest, I momentarily lapsed out of ‘yoga zen’ to think, ‘Is this woman crazy?’, but as I slowed my breath and sat with the feeling, I found that I was able to deepen the posture for an even greater result. And, sure enough, my mind stopped trying to convince me that it was too hard, or too painful, or that I was going to give up eventually, so why not give up now? A higher level of consciousness perked up and that little irritable voice calmed the hell down.
And that made me wonder, so often we try to push through it like a stampeding bull or do everything we can to take away the pain, we very rarely allow ourselves to feel the full spectrum of emotions.
We try to numb ourselves with external pleasures. Think, that extra glass of wine or polishing off the whole block of chocolate or ‘charging a little happy’. They seem harmless enough, but are so often a sign that we’re trying to take the edge off.
Brene Brown talks about it in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection:
For many of us, our first response to vulnerability and pain of these sharp points is not to lean into the discomfort and feel our way through but rather to make it go away. We do that by numbing and taking the edge off the pain with whatever provides the quickest relief.
So often we shy away from overly strong feelings – especially the ones that leave us feeling raw and vulnerable.
And, it’s funny, the more time I’ve spent practicing Yin, the more I’ve started to ease up and sit with the feeling in my life.
It’s not always pleasant, but being present and accepting those feelings in the moment actually makes it easier to get through them and start feeling okay quicker.
Not only that, but if we get so used to masking how we feel RIGHT.NOW, we start to forget about embracing the GOOD stuff too. The little wins. The moments of joy. The supreme happiness and epic love.
Because we’re too afraid.
That something might not work out.
And that’s not a full life at all, if you ask me.
So feel the feels, friends.
Do you agree with me? Or do you think I’m as crazy as my yoga teacher may or may not be? I’d love to hear, either way, what you think (leave me a comment below!)
Love this–sit with the discomfort. That’s a piece of advice I’d like to take literally and metaphorically.
Thanks, Katie! I have to say, it definitely works both ways. And getting comfortable with the discomfort in the literal sense, actually helped me get comfortable with the metaphorical side!
I completely agree, Katherine. As a therapist working in residential treatment, I honestly think that the BIGGEST thing that people learn when they’re with us (for 30-90 days) is the ability to sit with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. There can be tremendous relief in truly coming to believe that A) all the ways we’ve tried to manage and control our internal experiences haven’t worked, B) in fact they’ve usually caused us MORE pain, and C) we DO have the ability to sit with those uncomfortable experiences. It just often requires retraining the brain and body since they’ve learned pain should be avoided at all costs. Your site is gorgeous!