We’ve all been there before. After reading this sentence, stop for a moment and think about a song that “brings you back”.
…Now come back. Think about where that song took you — what memory it transports you back to. Can you see, hear, and feel that moment? Isn’t it funny what music does to us. It’s a time capsule — a cache of memories that are crystalized in our minds and in our hearts.
I find the Spotify “wrapped” to be cringy, but decided to play my most listened to track from 2021.
Then the time capsule opened.
“Untitled” by Knuckle Puck is teenage angst manifested.
“I’ve been fraying at the fabric”
“Strung out and biting on the back of my bottom lip”
The moment that the first guitar strings are plucked, I’m thrusted back to a distinct memory where I’m driving down Kunia Rd, in Oahu, Hawaii. My life had become radically altered, and I was just putting together the pieces.
I remember being out of touch with what made my life rich and meaningful, desperately attempting to manufacture happiness from superficial aspects of day to day living.
“I’ve built my guard up to the clouds”
“I’ve been reduced from high-rise windows to stepping stones”
The song brings back the all too familiar emptiness in my chest, a humble reminder of what was lost, but, more importantly, what I recovered when I thought everything was lost.
“I’ll tell you everything was copacetic”
Although the memories are somber, I couldn’t be more grateful for it. There is an ultimate truth that applies to multiple faucets in life: Discomfort is the catalyst for growth. You can either be comfortable and stagnate or stretch yourself — become uncomfortable — and grow. To find the best version of yourself, choose the latter.
It’s easy to avoid the very thing that we need to confront. Doing so allows us to fade back into the illusion of comfort and control. It temporarily quiets in the anxieties or experiences of hopelessness, but pours gasoline on the feelings of despair. Short terms gains, typically result in long term pains.
But the good news is, whatever you are feeling discomfort about, there is someone else out there, feeling exactly the same thing. You are never really along in your discomfort.
To create long-term happiness, stop avoiding what’s hard. Turn towards it. Change your perspective. Acquire new skills. Push the false boundaries you’ve become accustomed to. Your mind is like a muscle that naturally tightens up over time unless it is consciously worked upon.
Learn to become comfortable with the discomfort. Look it in the eyes and invite it in. Make space through it and discover that as you do it, you’ll see it for what it has always been. A feeling of discomfort that comes and goes.
If you learn this skill, you can master pretty much anything.
“I’ve been much better but at least I’m healing”
I remember making it a goal to practice my own clinical intervention of “just because” therapy. Scheduling one discomforting activity a day “just because” I wanted to increase my capacity to manage discomfort. I would have hard conversations, go to dinner by myself, I would try to learn a new skill, Hell, I would wear sandals to formal places. These actions taken at face value could be seen as arbitrary, but it yielded a capacity of tolerance that I regularly exercise today.
When I noticed the discomfort that always arises, I would intentionally focus on it, breathe into it, hold it with compassion instead of frustration.
Instead of trying to “change” or “push away” uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, we can approach them with curiosity and self-compassion. What would it mean to hold your pains loosely? Almost like you would your newborn child, or a paintbrush your using to create art? What if we learned to acknowledge, say hello to, or even thank our difficult thoughts and feelings?
There are 1000’s of journal articles with empirical evidence across multiple populations and social problems that this approach is effective.
As a clinical therapist, I employ these techniques in practice. I have witnessed 100’s of times what happens when humans face what they’ve been avoiding and discover what was there the entire time.
Their ability to live a rich and meaningful life despite the maladies they’ve been exposed to.
“I’ll tell you everything was copacetic”
Thanks for stepping in my time capsule with me.