This is going to be an uncomfortable post, because it’s about me learning to be ok with being uncomfortable for a bit. It’s starts as a gross personal story, so if you’re extremely squeamish, I’d skip to the next post, or maybe just the next few paragraphs.
Years ago, I found myself with an extremely painful lump in my arm pit. I’m susceptible to ingrown hairs and I usually can get them cleared up on my own, but no matter what I did, this one just got worse. I will do anything to stay away from a doctor’s office, so you know it was bad because after a week of suffering, I went to Urgent Care in town to see what they could do for me.
The doctor there was so nice. He gently checked it out and confirmed that’s what it was. He said he’d drain it (it’ll hurt a little) and give me an antibiotic to clear it up. No problem. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for some pain that would subside momentarily, but ultimately be the cure.
Once he went to work on it, he realized it wasn’t an ingrown hair, it was a small cyst near the surface of my skin. “This is going to hurt more than I thought, but since we’re already here we should just remove it.” He was already working on it, no time for pain relievers.
I closed my eyes and leaned into it, focusing on my breath, allowing him to work as quickly as he could.
It hurt, you guys. Badly. My high pain tolerance is source of pride for me, so when he congratulated me on being so tough, I was beaming. The assisting nurse was also impressed. I laughed (through involuntary tears), “Meditation does work!”
Bandaged up and sent home with antibiotics, the infection cleared, and I’ve never had another problem.
Why am I telling you this god-awful story?
Because this morning, while I was reading The Anxious Hearts Guide, I came to the part on “Becoming Secure” and “Sitting with Discomfort” and the experience popped into my head when I read “…those panic feelings are real, yes, but they are feelings” and “lean into and accept discomfort.”
Some feelings are unacceptable to me. When I feel them, I panic and react instantly, but rarely does this reaction help my situation. Surprise! What can I do? I think this is finally starting to sink in and be useful to me.
When I started to feel pain while the doctor addressed my wound, I could have reacted, pulled away, or punched him in the nose. Why didn’t I? Because I knew that the pain would probably be short, I trusted the doctor was not trying to harm me, and I knew I would be better for it. I am not an animal, communication was used, and I can expect a brighter future, so I let it be. I accepted it and waited.
I realized, over this past weekend, that I can do the same thing with my emotions. When I feel uncomfortable feelings, instead of running from them in panic, I can remember those same things: emotions are short lived, trust that no one is trying to harm me, and know that I will probably be better for it if I take a moment to let the feeling work its way past. Let it be. Accept it.
Emotions are warnings that something is there. They aren’t fool proof. I’ve found them to be quite susceptible to imagination and fancy. They come and go like the weather.
This is the practice I’m focused on right now, allowing uncomfortable feelings to be there.