Learning to Sit with Discomfort So We Can Finally Let it Go.
Republished with permission by Jacque Saltsman
Do you remember playing hot potato when you were a kid? You'd be in a group and whenever you thought the thing might be coming your way, you got ready. You tensed up. You narrowed your focus. You zoned completely in on the thing. You stayed on high alert. Whenever the thing came your way, you did everything in your power to get rid of it as fast as possible. Because if you were too slow and got stuck holding the thing when the music stopped, you were OUT and nobody wants to be out.
Thanks to a interview I watched with Glennon Doyle Milton recently, I realized this is exactly how most of us learn to handle uncomfortable feelings, pain, discomfort and difficult situations in our culture. We spend a boatload of time and energy anticipating the thing coming, all rigid and suited up in our armor. We constantly live in fear of it getting too close and when it actually does, we bear down and then toss it away from us as quickly as humanly possible.
Now we obviously can't be blamed for this (partially joking) because this was taught to most of us by example. My dad (rest his sweet soul) was notorious for waiting until the last 15 minutes of a 5 day trip together to drop whatever bomb or bad news he had to share. It was also taught by default, meaning we were never taught how to sit and just be with and process uncomfortable emotions or situations in a loving and compassionate way.
But why doesn't the hot potato method work? Well, it does work if the sole goal is to never feel uncomfortable. However, we all know by this point that discomfort and pain are part of the journey. And when we can get to the other side of them we are stronger, life is richer and we feel more connected to ourselves and whoever else is involved.
Because here's the thing. Whatever you are trying to get rid of... it's a part of you. Whether it's temporary or permanent, it is a part of you and your path and it is where you are right now. Which means it's essentially OK. EVERYTHING that's going on with you, no matter how uncomfortable, scary, painful or embarrassing it feels, is OK. You are truly accepted and loved by the universe, God, Mother Nature, Love, (insert your higher power here), no matter what's going on with you. You are also loved and cared for by your tribe and there are people who need you EXACTLY how you are.
Take a few deep breaths here and know this is true.
I always have clients and friends asking me how to get rid of something ugly or uncomfortable in their lives (negative voices, bad habits or uncomfortable feelings). I applaud them for being willing and ready to make changes in their life. However, lasting change rarely occurs how people think it does. If we focused solely on getting rid of the thing, it would be immediately replaced with another thing and the vicious cycle of never feeling OK would remain.
So, what is the fastest way to get rid of something we don't want in our lives?
Stop needing to get rid of it so desperately and learn to ACCEPT it!
I know. I know. It's not the answer you were looking for and it can even seem counter-productive. But think about it. What if we could finally accept all the parts of ourselves? I'm not saying we have to love it or even like it. But if we can learn to look at it, bear it, have it over for a cup of tea and truly accept it as part of ourselves, we would begin to feel some of the peace and freedom we are looking for by trying to ditch the thing in the first place. And THEN we can start to unwind, unravel, diffuse or let go gracefully and with much less effort.
I'm not saying we should all just give up now, accept our lot in life and never try to be better or any happier. What I am saying is if we bravely decide to go one step deeper and stop treating parts of ourselves like hot potatoes and being so disgusted by them, we can then create the space and compassion needed to heal and feel truly OK no matter what. Only then can we make changes from a very deliberate, intentional and conscious place. That my friends, is where the true peace, love and freedom really exists.
What does that look like?
Awareness - Become aware of what you are afraid of; what you are resisting; what you want to get rid of like the hot potato. Notice when you become tense or your inner critic is on overdrive. Notice when, how and by what you are being triggered. Write it down. Describe it.
Self-Compassion - Once aware, we must cultivate self-compassion to be able to sit with whatever the thing is and truly accept it. Again, we don't have to like it, but when we can truly accept it and everything else about ourselves, only then does it have a chance of ever being transformed.
Releasing Shame or Trauma - Sometimes true acceptance can be inhibited by trauma from the past or deeply rooted shame that is stuck somewhere in our psyches and bodies. For this, we may need to reach out for the professional help of a therapist, spiritual guide, healer or anyone trained in this type of release work.
Letting Go (vs Pushing Away) - This is a natural unfolding to the surrendering of acceptance. Once we truly accept whatever it is, it will naturally begin to dissolve and have less power over us. The answers will start to reveal themselves because we'll finally be seeing the situation with a softer, kinder and much broader lens. We will start to look at things from a perspective of curiosity instead of judgement and everything will begin to align.
If during any part of this process (and it IS a process) you begin to feel the urgency, desperation or rigidness of needing to get rid of something immediately, just stop. Take a deep breath. Remember your OK-ness. Remember you are loved and supported and strong. Remember that there is NOTHING that is in you that is wrong or ugly. It's just what is. And that's cool. Because you are cool. Whether you believe or not, you are. You are more than cool. You are awesome and beautiful and courageous! And there are people in this world who really need you exactly the way you are... right this second. Like right now!
So, DO YOU! BE YOU! Be all of you! And know that I am with you every step of the way. We are all in this together, my friend. Peace!
Jacque Saltsman is a Healer and Life Coach committed to the empowerment and healing of adventurous and willing souls locally and globally. She can be found at jacquesaltsman.com