Several years ago I embarked on a journey of self-discovery.
I didn’t know that I was embarking on this journey, and certainly I wasn’t seeking it actively. I just happened to meet someone who completely changed my life. I was inspired by her; by her courage and conviction and by her heartfelt desire to help people.
All I knew at the time, was that she seemed to be very happy, and happiness was what I was seeking.
I’ve always been the kind of person who wanted answers.
I want to know, why do I feel this way? Why did that person act that way? Why did this thing work this way? I think I believed that a higher level of understanding would help me to be at peace; would make me feel better. I hated feeling unhappy or upset and my main goal in life was to feel good.
But a need to understand is really all about control.
The reason why people search for knowing, is to be able to control and predict Not knowing feels vulnerable, knowing feels certain, and certain feels safe. So the more we know and can predict, the safer we feel, right?
But you see, I was going at it all wrong. As I began to explore my belief system more thoroughly, and open myself up to discomfort and struggle, I suddenly discovered more peace. After the storm came the calm. The more I leaned into the discomfort, the better I began to feel.
Previously I would’ve covered it up with a cigarette, a chocolate bar, a cocktail or a punishing 5 mile run. I really had no idea how to deal with my feelings of discomfort and didn’t realise that just allowing myself to feel them, and letting them pass naturally, would have exactly the same effect as numbing them, but with less of the undesirable consequences (coughing, weight gain, exhaustion and hang over).
According to researcher Brene Brown, as a nation we spend so much time trying to cover up feeling vulnerable, that we are the most medicated, addicted, obese and in-debt adult cohort in history.
Worse still, is what we do to our kids.
Until we learn that feeling bad is not bad, and learn to lean into the discomfort, we will never be able to teach it to our offspring. The cycle will perpetuate, and the problem will get worse.
I watch my children struggle on a daily basis, but I rarely try to take their pain away.
They cry, they hurt and they feel with an intensity that takes my breath away. My instinct as a mother is to protect them; to scoop them into my arms and try to take the pain away. Yet, what if taking the pain away is doing exactly the thing I am trying to prevent? What if teaching them to numb the pain, instead of learning to accept it, is setting them up for a life of struggle? What if we all taught our kids that struggle is natural? That pain is part of living? That feeling pain and discomfort is necessary to feel joy and happiness?
How much of a better world would we live in? Something to think about next time they cry, and you hand them a chocolate bar to feel better.