BETTER THAN HAPPY – Episode 214

Just a quick reminder from yesterday’s post, before we jump into our discussion on anxiety and our tolerance for discomfort:

“The human experience includes a lot of discomfort, and it’s actually not a problem. It’s just part of the deal.  It’s there for our own growth. It’s there to provide us the opportunity to understand ourselves and to experience discomfort in order to then experience its opposite, which is joy…

Being human means pain sometimes. It means physical pain. It means emotional pain.”

Okay. Are we all on board here? I want to make sure we all agree with this statement before introducing Jody’s second point.

SECOND POINT. As a society, our tolerance for discomfort is very low.

“Our tolerance for being physically uncomfortable is so low because we have so many amazing conveniences that mean that we don’t have to be physically uncomfortable very often.”

Some examples. I love these because they make me laugh – I can relate to these things:

  • We don’t have to tolerate hunger. We can get almost anything we want, any time we want. If we don’t have what we are immediately craving, we can just hop in the car and drive to the nearest grocery store. If the kids are hungry for dinner, we can just walk out to the deep freezer in our own garages. We haven’t had to tolerate hunger, at all.
  • “I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m driving along and I’m like, ‘Ooh, it’s a little cold,’ and I’ll turn it up just a couple of degrees. And then, ‘Oh, it’s a little hot,’ and I turn it down just a couple degrees. Our tolerance for comfort level when it comes to temperature is this tiny little two-degree window that we’re trying to get to. I want you to imagine the days before we had central air and central heat and heated seats in our cars and all the things we have now. We just had to be okay with sometimes being cold and sometimes being hot. There wasn’t a quick easy solution for it, and so our tolerance level for it was probably a lot higher than it is today. ”
  • We don’t have to tolerate being tired. With “caffeine and energy drinks and energy pills and energy gum. We can get a little lift in energy instead of just having to be tired.”
  • We don’t have to tolerate the pain of labor and delivery, with epidurals.

Now, I love my heated seats in my Honda Odyssey. And epidurals – yes! Jody isn’t saying we shouldn’t have these modern conveniences, but it would serve us well to just notice our tolerance for discomfort.

And what about emotional discomfort? Do we also have the conveniences to escape those? YES!

And there are unhealthy or dangerous ways to escape emotions like alcohol or drugs. But there are more common – more legal – ways we turn to, to escape our emotions.

I remember one night, it was such a difficult night. We had three little little children at the time, and Bryant was working 80 hour weeks, and I just felt like we were only getting beat on, when we really needed support and love and understanding. Difficult night. I felt like I needed to escape reality, just for a short time. I was willing to look at my life and deal with it later, I just needed a bit of respite. So Bry and I turned on a movie. And in two hours, all the hero’s problems were solved. Right? And everyone, of course, who deserved to be happy, were happy, and lived happily ever after.

  • We don’t have to tolerate our real life. We can throw on a movie or a TV show and escape whatever negative emotions we are feeling at the time.
  • We don’t have to be patient. We don’t have to wait for our favorite TV show to come on, or wait to borrow a movie from Blockbuster anymore. It is all available to us – immediately, if we want it.
  • We don’t have to tolerate feeling lonely. We have social media we can use at any time of day, to try and fill that need. Our tolerance for feeling lonely has gone way way down.
  • We don’t have to tolerate boredom. “Imagine if you went to the DMV and you had to wait in a long line, like we used to back in the day. And before we all had a cell phone in our pocket, we just had to go to the DMV and we had to wait in that line and we had to just be bored. We don’t do that anymore. We get onto our phones. We play a game or we occupy ourselves in some other way. And so our tolerance for boredom is so low.” We don’t have to be bored. Ever. If we didn’t want to. In fact, I have to set daily goals, to be bored, in a sense. I try to find quiet. I try to block all these stimulating things from my senses, for a time, to see if I can be bored. To see what my brain will do when it is bored.
  • “Instead of having to tolerate the discomfort of not knowing something that we want to know, we can just immediately text someone or Google it or YouTube it and know right away. Not knowing is uncomfortable.  Our tolerance for that is pretty low, right?”

And these things, these modern conveniences, aren’t bad. I use them! But they soften us emotionally.

“Instead of always hitting the escape button and going to Netflix, or whatever, sometimes just allow yourself to practice the emotions… get good at allowing and feeling your feelings…

Emotions are nothing to fear”

Can I allow myself to feel stress? Can I allow myself to feel frustrated? Can I be okay, not being okay? Can I practice leaning into whatever feeling I’m feeling?

For the past two years, I have taken something to help me sleep at nights. With my doctors okay, of course. And I have been doing this out of fear of my own thoughts and my own emotions.

One evening recently, as I was falling asleep, I had a negative thought come to mind. That led to a negative emotion, right? Negative thought, negative emotion – right there. But, for the first time in a couple years, it didn’t scare me. Rather it made me curious. What is going on? Why is this thought coming to mind right now? Where did it originate? Is it new? Is it old? What thought would feel more peaceful to me? How do I get to that thought? And so forth. And it became something for me to play with and consider, rather than something to fear.

Do you know what? I have not taken anything for sleep for a little while now. And I wake up more easily in the middle of the night – yes. But I don’t fear myself at night, anymore. I am comfortable being uncomfortable. I am up to the thoughtwork. In fact, that time, in the wee hours of the morning, has served me very well. And of course I prefer to sleep, right? But even knowing that I don’t have to fear nights, has helped me sleep through them.