sex, money, and miscellany: talking about what matters

make yourself uncomfortable

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm

A while back I mentioned a conference in passing. I’m still digesting it. Here’s a bite of the good stuff:

We all have the opportunity to learn and grow, pretty much all the time. Most of the time, we ignore it. That’s right, we just walk away. It’s complicated and challenging to grow. It can be painful, it can make us look at stuff we don’t want to see, it can ask of us things that are hard. Humans don’t tend to like hard. We like easy. We like comfy. We like pleasure.

And that, dear readers, is where you can turn it around. Because growth can ultimately lead to good things (money, jobs, relationships, vacations in Tuscany, time with friends), it is desirable. When we just ignore the potential, we frustrate ourselves and cause all kinds of internal conflict. But when we want and don’t want it at the same time, we tend to get stuck.

The good thing about pleasure, though, is that pleasure comes in all kinds of packages. There’s pleasure with comfort, yes: flannel sheets, or a tall cool glass of water. But there’s also pleasure in other places. Consider the pleasure of a hard game of tennis. The pleasure doesn’t wait until it’s over–there’s pleasure in the experience of muscles moving and running and jumping–the effort itself is pleasurable. Hard and maybe even painful and still pleasurable. Consider the pleasure of art or craft–not easy, but a deeply felt pleasure. Or consider sex (you knew I’d get there). Our brains are wired to experience pleasure and pain in very nearly the same location–often the only difference is how turned on a person is. That’s not speculation, that’s been studied. Much of what we think of as pain is emotional reaction plus sensation.

SO back to the question of growth. We want to grow. We resist growth because it is painful. The discomfort required to incite growth must be sufficient to make us realize that we really don’t want to stay where we are. This is the “rock bottom” syndrome, where we need to hit bottom before we are willing to put in the effort to change. But what if we can recontextualize the pain of discomfort as pleasure? What if we can say, “growth causes a pleasurable tingly sensation” instead of “growth causes anxiety”? If we can experience it as pleasure we won’t resist it as much, and being uncomfortable enough to change will be easier.

I know. It might hurt your head. Can you learn to like it?

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