Finding Strength in Uncomfortable Places

Finding strength in uncomfortable places is my life’s work as a therapist and human.  When I am sitting with clients, it is often the case that I come across having discussions about dealing with that which is uncomfortable.  It is very rare that I come across people who come to this easily.



I mean honestly if it was possible to get what I want out of life without having to be uncomfortable EVER I would totally sign up for that program.  If strength and resilience came through traveling the easy street, that’s the freeway I would totally be on.

Thankfully I have been blessed with people along my path who have helped me face that which I didn’t want to deal with.  These people did not have any snake oil they were trying to sell.

These loving souls NEVER suggested I buy any self help book that had the 12 steps to being happier or any BS like that.  Each one of them from the therapist I saw many years ago, to my acupuncturist, chiropractors/nutrition professional, yoga teachers, body workers, etc all have very kindly let me know that what if I wanted a healthier and happier life than being uncomfortable was surely a part of that journey.

All along my journey these kind souls helped point out the windows and doors that I would close and walk through.  Blindly, I took their guidance because something in my heart told me it was right.  When with each and every person along the way, I could feel the beating of their heart and knew that there was nothing but love.

The strength came in ways that would often surprise me.  Sometimes the suggestions were to face some fear that was blocking my way.  Other times it was found when I would need to soften and pull back from forcing solutions and forging forward.

Why you ask am I reflecting on this now?  Well the obvious would be it’s New Year’s Eve and the closing of a year that was incredibly challenging and full of personal growth.

Another reason is this video I saw posted on Facebook over the past week.  The speaker, Simon Sinek,  discusses the issues that are challenges for Millenials, the generation of kids who were raised fully in the digital age.

While there are TONS of issues raised in this video which could work into a plethora of discussions, the one that I thought we could discuss during tea which Sinek mentions in his video is the topic of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Dopamine is released in the pleasure center of the brain in the limbic region.  It causes us to get elated and excited.  You know that “high” that people talk about when doing things that make them jump out of their skin with excitement…yeah that’s the ticket.

While Sinek discusses the process of dopamine release through mobile devices and social media as it relates to the younger generations.  Please don’t blame the youngins….

We are a country run on Dopamine.

We are ALL addicted to the quick fix of the instantaneous high whether it be through getting a text, an email, a drink, smoke, pill, a cup of coffee and the list goes on.

Dopamine fixes are our socially acceptable way of not feeling our own discomfort.   All these “fixes” promise us that we will never have be uncomfortable.

That is until they wear off.

And then we crash and feel like sh*t.

What do we do then, you ask?  Well of course we get back on the magic carpet for another ride down quick fix highway.  This has been known as the “hedonistic treadmill” that has been come to be known as our primary modus operendi for dealing with uncomfortable emotions.

By no means am I drawing lines of judgment from others and myself.  I see it in myself as well.  The little “comforts” I create to help get me through in the moments when sitting with discomfort feels too challenging.

We all do this without even knowing it because it has become so artificial endorsed in our society.

What is so destructive about this pattern?  Does this really matter?  How harmful is a little dopamine anyway?

You ask…..

Well it not very harmful unless you are tapping the pleasure center through artificial means on the regular.   There is a lot of biology that gets ignited during this process.  Without weighing down our tea time with all that mumbo jumbo what I can say is that the end result is that overexertion of this “reward circuitry” through the dopamine release means that your body no longer can naturally produce dopamine.

WTH does that mean?

Basically your smile is actually a permanent frown.  One can call this “chronic depression” and again that’s a debate for another chat.  But basically this can be due to the fact that you haven’t allowed yourself to sit with your pain long enough to let it actually release.  Carrying your pain around with you and artificially treating it through instant gratification keeps you in a constant state of seeking.

So how do we find strength in the uncomfortable places?

Simply put, we begin to allow ourselves to be uncomfortable.

I know…that’s not an easy sell.  I was told by a marketing consultant a while ago that this was one of my biggest challenges in my business.

I will never suggest that it is easy but I will also never suggest that lasting happiness is ever possible without being uncomfortable.

In our last chat Stripped Bare and Resilient I discussed how this year was SO uncomfortable in a variety of ways.  I would be lying if I told you that I always sat through it without seeking the quick fix along the way.  That being said, there weren’t  many tears shed, many yoga practices that brought me to my knees, many meditation sits that brought up stuff I didn’t want to but did face.

As I sit at the end of the this year,  I can honestly say that I know through personal practice that strength comes from being uncomfortable.  If we don’t allow ourselves to be uncomfortable, then we will never truly find our capacity for greatness.

What have you found in the moments when you have been able to sit with your discomfort?  What I have discovered is that it helped me to see that I am truly stronger than I could ever have imagined before.

Cheers to finding strength in uncomfortable places!!

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  1. Jennifer on January 4, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Hello there. This is a great post! Things I need to sit with myself and then also share with the clinicians I supervise. Thanks for sharing.

    • admin on January 6, 2017 at 6:05 pm

      That’s great! You are welcome! It is always my pleasure to share an integrative approach with other social workers. It is my hope that some day integrative health will be a part of our training. Being able to “sit with self” is a key part to healing and one that does go contrary to our typical approach to managing our emotions. Thank you for taking the time to comment! I look forward to continuing to increase the network of colleagues who are interested in an approach that is grounded in more of the basic fundamentals of mindfulness training. Cheers!

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