Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Take some comfort in being uncomfortable

A lot—most?—of us want our anxieties to simply disappear. Thus, some turn to meds in hope of a quick cure but usually are disappointed that they are not panaceas. We just want to be calm, at peace, and relaxed, yet we torture ourselves daily with fears, obsessions, and compulsions.

Yet the path to a calmer life actually involves learning to endure discomfort—to acknowledge and face our fears and deal with them. Abraham A. Low, MD, called this THE WILL TO BEAR DISCOMFORT. (It's such an important concept that he wrote it in all caps.)(1)

Dr. Low noted that our culture worships comfort, so it is against our social upbringing to do something uncomfortable. He lamented the "cult of comfort" in 1950, and it's even more active today (A point expressed in last year's WALL-E). Note how he wrote that a patient must endure discomfort to overcome his fear of handwriting:

"And once he learned to be uncomfortable without wincing, he gained confidence and passed on to his muscles the assurance that writing was possible, though uncomfortable."(1)

Of course, once we face our fears and indeed do what is uncomfortable, these tasks eventually will become easier and, in fact, comfortable.

This is tremendous, life-changing insight! I'm surprised Dr. Low's chapter on this topic is only five pages. But it's so simple, yet profound, that it makes complete sense.

1. Low AA. Mental Health Through Will-Training. Glencoe, Ill.: Willett Publishing Co.; 1997;145-9.


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WesleyG said...

reinforcing OCD/Anxiety is the worst thing you can do, yet it seems like the only option some people have.

I don't care what anyone says, as much as OCD has taken it has shown me I'm stronger than before.

Doug said...

Wesley, interesting view. We people with mental illness do end up learning a lot about ourselves!

C-Dub said...

You hit the nail on the head when you said that facing our fears eventually make the discomfort go away. It's taking the first step in even the smallest things that build the greatest momentum.

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