Updated: Mar 16
Sometimes we just go through periods of life where it just is not the way we want it to be. It can happen when we least want it to like when we are on vacation or celebrating something and wishing we were feeling more carefree and fun. Instead, we are kind of crabby and just oppositional in general. When we are like this it does not take much to set us off and everything around us is annoying. This can also happen when our circumstances in life are challenging and we are not managing our minds effectively. For example, we can get lost in uncomfortable emotions if we are a caregiver to a failing parent, in a marriage that appears to be falling apart, or on the verge of losing a loved one. Whatever the reason, we sometimes feel like we are being swallowed by a cloud of negativity and like we temporarily lose touch with our higher selves in the process. We usually respond to this with resistance or attempting to escape the feelings or situation. If we can learn how to just permit the discomfort to be there, however, we can start to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Typically, when we are experiencing uncomfortable feelings, our first reaction is resistance followed quickly by judging ourselves for having the emotions. We question what is wrong with us that we cannot enjoy ourselves during a time that should be so wonderful or we become critical of our behavior and may feel shame because we are short with our loved one who needs us. We find ways to beat ourselves when we experience uncomfortable emotions as if that could possibly be the answer! The biggest problem with resisting a reality we do not like and unwanted emotions is it makes it worse and magnifies the uncomfortable feelings even more! I always know when I am resisting a feeling because I can feel a tightening in my chest and my jaw line. If I had to give resistance a color, it would be smudge gray and if it had a texture, it would be like concrete. It sort of feels like pressure on my chest cavity that is persistently pushing down on me. It might sound bad, but It is actually pretty subtle. So subtle in fact, that often times I am not even aware of what I am doing until my jaws clench and my upper body is tense. After doing lots of thought work on this, I know now that is a red flag for me that I am resisting an uncomfortable emotion. Once I realize that, I have the option of permitting the uncomfortable feeling I have been resisting or trying to escape from it.
There are so many ways to escape feeling! We can do that with anything that can distract us from the present moment. This could include alcohol, food, Netflix, social media, and shopping just to name a few. This gives us a dopamine hit that can give us relief momentarily but then the funk returns with a vengeance once the short-term pleasure wears off. Over time we need more and more of those dopamine hits more frequently, so the scale tends to go up with over indulgence and our bank account may do down with over spending.The problem with this approach is we never learn to get comfortable with uncomfortable emotions and always try to avoid them. When we live our lives from this perspective, we desperately try to avoid situations or people that might impact us in a negative way. This approach stunts our growth, robs us of our personal power, and keeps us in stagnation.
Okay, we see now that there are detriments to both resisting and escaping our feelings. Let’s now discuss the benefits of permitting the feeling to be there and why that is a good thing even if it might not seem that way. This requires awareness and consciously letting go of the resistance and opening up to it. It requires us to expand and breathe into the feeling. This approach requires us to accept the reality of the present moment and to purposely not make the feeling a problem or try to figure it out. It means accepting that life is not always going to be the way we want it to be and that is ok. Eckhart Tolle tells us we do this by distancing ourselves from our thoughts (ego) that generate uncomfortable feelings and just let them be there without really listening to them or believing them. When we do that and stop resisting reality, the feelings dissipate and become more manageable. Typically, we can process feelings in about 90 seconds. This is a great skill to learn because uncomfortable emotions are the primary reason we do not take risks and challenge ourselves. If this is no longer a problem, we do not have to be afraid of anything and can really start to live up to our potential! We can use our brain energy on something meaningful and future focused that generates the results we desire.
So no matter what happens in life, if we have a brain, there will always be a part of us that wants to resist and escape the present moment. Our brains think they are helping us and trying to keep us safe, but they are just holding us back and keeping us attached to our egos. This can only lead to suffering when we do not embrace all the emotions that life has to offer instead of just trying to feel the good ones. As I have mentioned in other posts, life sucks sometimes and uncomfortable emotions are a part of the human experience no matter how much we attempt to avoid or escape them. The more comfortable we get with being uncomfortable, the more freedom we have to experience our lives in a way that can bring us real joy and profound personal growth.