The Mantra I use when things get uncomfortable
GET COMFORTABLE FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE.
I hear this a lot lately.
From trainers at the gym.
From business experts.
From self-help gurus.
From beautifully hand-lettered instagram posts.
Every time I hear it, you know what I think?
I have a huge aversion to feeling uncomfortable things. Sadness, embarrassment, fear, and disappointment can all go straight to hell.
This is, obviously, one of the things that made me a great candidate for becoming a person who drank too much. Because it's really easy to drown all that discomfort in oatmeal stout and summer shandy.
In fact, learning to sit with unpleasant feelings has been one of my most challenging lessons. I am still learning it.
When I was drinking, I, of course, ignored feelings by drinking.
When I quit drinking, I found a bunch of new ways to ignore feelings, including physical activities like working and sleeping and eating sugar, and mental activities like just mashing the feelings deep down into my mind.
Ignoring feelings as a sober person is healthier than ignoring feelings as a drinker. But it’s still not that healthy.
Because not facing feelings leads to all sorts of unhelpful things, like bursts of temper, feelings of impending doom, the weight of anxiety, little bits of panic.
And if you’re the type of person that is ok feeling his or her feelings, check to see if you’re the type of person that has a tendency to get mired in those feelings and not work your way out, which results in the same results mentioned above.
If you want to dig into this deeply, I’d really recommend Pema Chodron’s book, Taking the Leap: freeing ourselves from old habits and fears.
But to boil it down to a post-sized chunk, there are three steps involved:
Become aware of the feelings. Notice when you’re getting mad or upset for no reason, or that something is bugging you a lot, especially if your emotions are out of proportion to the event.
Feel the feelings. Here’s where mantras come in. Grant yourself understanding by saying “Of course you feel that way. I totally understand why. It’s ok to feel like that.” Don’t dismiss your feelings as something wrong or unimportant. Go ahead and feel justified. I often shorten these phrases to “Of course. I understand. It’s ok.” and repeat them as I’m sitting with the feelings.
Walk through the feelings. This is where it gets super weird, but imagine the feelings as waves washing over you. Feel their intensity and their ebb. Repeat the mantra “Of course. I understand. It’s ok.” as necessary.
It’s a process that gets easier over time. And while it still hasn’t become comfortable, it’s surprisingly become somewhat comforting.
Subscribe to my email list to get an essay like this every week. I sincerely love writing you.