Discomfort Ask Dr. G

How Do We Stop Being So Afraid of Discomfort?

How’s your week going?

Mine has been full of Deep Thoughts as well as some really useful conversations. I’ve given a lot of energy this week to noticing and pondering how afraid we are as a society of feeling uncomfortable, and what that means for us.

Did you know that anesthesia – the idea that we should try to reduce or eliminate pain while we try to fix a medical issue or save someone’s life. Is only about 125 years old? For millennia before that doctors and healers and patients alike all accepted that pain was totally unavoidable.  And it was only in the last 50 years that we prioritized pain management in most medical procedures.

Why does this matter? Well, the idea that discomfort is bad is a pretty new idea in our society. And when it comes to setting a bone or filling a cavity, I think it’s a great idea. 

But, like a lot of ideas, if we don’t examine them and put some boundaries around them, they can get taken too far. I believe this one has.

Discomfort is HARD. It can ruin your day, make your stomach hurt, keep you from appreciating what is good. It’s also valuable.

Discomfort is not the same as danger. Danger means we could be permanently harmed.  

We only grow when we’re uncomfortable. We have to experience discomfort to learn, because for our brains ALL change is stressful. We’ve talked about this before but quick reminder: our brains overriding purpose is to keep us alive, which means all change is suspect. And all change is met, at least initially, with stress chemicals. All change is, at the very least, uncomfortable.

When we believe, as an individual or as a society, that discomfort should always be fixed, solved for, eliminated… we get less resilient.

We need tools to manage our discomfort, not only to avoid it or to get someone else to “fix it” for us. When we’re in danger, we need to call a timeout if we can, we need to ask for help. 

It’s crucial to understand how to differentiate danger from discomfort. So this week I’m asking: how do you tell if you’re unsafe or just (really, really) uncomfortable? Comment and tell me!

And tune in next week for some of my thoughts on how to tell the difference.

All my best,  

Dr. G

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A widely recognized media personality, Dr. G is your go-to expert on resilience. Countless broadcast outlets rely on her contagious humor and illuminating stories to tackle tough topics. She is regularly seen on TV, as well as interviewed for print and digital outlets. Here, she’s answering your questions. Search for the answers you need, or ask her your question now!
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