I have a friend who can’t handle difficult feelings. He plans away the unknown. He can’t wait for things to come to him in the right timing. Though he may consider himself strategic or even a “go-getter”, underneath he’s impulsively pain-avoidant.
I’m learning more and more that my ability to stay in the tension in life is necessary for growth.
The painful and difficult places are where substantial change takes place.[tweet this]
Everyone has their own lists of what they do and do not allow themselves to feel. These lists create the comfort zone around us— keeping us safe from any surprising and difficult experiences that we cannot predict, control, or (seemingly) overcome.
The problem with your comfort zone is that it’s too small for you.[tweet this]It doesn’t allow you to discover more of who you are. It keeps you from stretching. It keeps you from risking. It keeps you from finding the deeper places of meaning and calling.
Because tension and risk are difficult and scary feelings. Because they will require you to be in ways that you’ve never experienced before. Because you’ve experienced something outside of that comfortable place and you don’t want to experience it again.
There are ways to change this.
1. Follow your fear.
Our fear shows us the borders of our comfort zone.[tweet this]
When we get close to the edge, fear tells us to go back. Our fear is trying to protect us. But fear can be used to our advantage.
When fear tells you to retreat, stay. When it tells you to go one way, try going the other. You will find that you can take it. You will find that you can handle more than you may have ever allowed yourself to feel.
2. Tell your stories.
At some point you discovered what is beyond what you can handle. When you have feelings that are uncomfortable, explore the stories where you’ve felt them before. Write them down. Tell them to a trusted friend. The more you understand the stories, the less power they’ll have over you.
3. Find a community of people who will challenge and support you.
You need people around you. Hopefully you already have some of these people in your life. Sometimes you just need to ask them to help and support you — even if they don’t understand what and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Or, sometimes you need to bring new people around you.
Remember my friend? The one who can’t stand the scary places of risk and the unknown?
You know this friend too. He’s in all of us. He’s certainly a part of me!
We have the opportunity to gently guide that friend—that part of ourselves—toward growth, strength, courage, and vulnerability.