I’ve noticed, in myself and in my clients, a tendency to treat uncomfortable feelings as if they were a threat or a problem that needs to be fixed – a sign that somehow we’re spiritually lacking or flunking mental health. We get adversarial with ourselves – moving automatically toward analysis of “what’s wrong,” in an effort to defeat “the problem” and control how we feel.
I wonder about a gentler, more spacious, more peaceful approach to our inner discomfort - an alternative to the tyranny of self-improvement.
I wonder about offering companionship and a compassionate heart – and not so much analysis and judgment – to our experience of discomfort.
I imagine honoring the feeling - maybe saying: “Thanks for letting me know.”
I imagine noticing how the feeling is expressed by tightness or discomfort in the body. I imagine breathing gently into those physical sensations – sending nurture, kindness, forgiveness, light.
I imagine listening more deeply to the feeling, appreciating its underlying request.
I imagine remembering that no feeling is permanent, that the natural course of all feelings is to move freely through us.
Often, we fail to bring this kind of spaciousness to ourselves. We disregard our feelings or we tighten down on them or get caught up in stories about them or fight with them or try to push them away – all of which only adds to their stubbornness and our suffering. And all these sufferings, when mindfully noticed, offer new opportunities to practice self-forgiveness and self-compassion.
With practice over time, we learn that no inner experience is beyond our capacity for compassion and companionship. We deepen friendship with ourselves - and trust. We discover an inner spaciousness that is larger than any feeling or any problem we could have.
Discomfort, then, is not so dreaded.