Wholeness Healing Today

Leaning Into the Uncomfortable

“It’s he or she who’s willing to be the most uncomfortable who can rise strong. Discomfort: the way home”.
~ Brene’ Brown

The idea of leaning into the uncomfortable probably sets in motion feelings of discomfort as you read the words. It doesn’t seem like anything we would really sign up to do. “Lean” into being uncomfortable? After all we spend much of our waking day finding ways “not” to lean into the uncomfortable – pushing away from the uncomfortable. We develop and master ways to escape from the feelings of uncomfortableness, whether it is digging into our work, having a drink, eating carbs,  watching more TV and/or ignoring the feelings that may be bubbling up. In our medical model today very often the idea is, “Let’s make it hurt less so that we’re more comfortable.” Sometimes we’re looking for that magic pill for everything that is uncomfortable.

The truth is that we are human and most of us don’t get to stand back in the “comfortable zone” forever. Inevitably, we will have days that the pain of life feels unbearable. This might be chronic physical pain or emotional pain brought on by a number of life moments. It is these moments and events in our life that may be our guide to bring us home to our own true self, our own soul. It is only through “being” with the discomfort that we can actually “push through it”. Avoiding isn’t the way home. It is just avoiding what will have to be addressed at some point. Learning how to lean into the moment can be empowering and freeing. We aren’t going to escape having the moments. So, let’s talk about how to lean in.

Mindfulness teaches us about leaning in. One of the ways it does is by simply developing the muscle of being with pain. If you sit in mindfulness/meditation practice, one of the instructions is if an itch arises or an ache arises, just be with that itch. Be with that ache. Turn the attention to it. Don’t shift your posture to fix it. Don’t scratch the itch. Just hang with it, stay with the discomfort. Notice the sensations of discomfort. Label those sensations. At first, that’s difficult. It is foreign. But, since we take up this practice, over time, we get increasingly skilled at this and can actually stay with some states of body that are pretty strong in their discomfort.  Mindfulness then becomes a way to manage chronic and emotional pain.

As we practice mindfulness we begin to build tolerance for those moments that are hard. We begin to learn that as we lean in, just like a muscle that is tense as we sit with it, we can feel the release of it. By labeling the feelings and sensations, we can name it and it gives us the language to directly look at the uncomfortableness, leaning into it. This also depowers the uncomfortableness as you face and manage it.

Increasing the capacity to be with difficulty builds the muscle of resiliency to handle what comes and goes in life. We aren’t going to avoid these moments, so let’s build our mindfulness practice so we know what to do when moments happen that are uncomfortable, giving us the tools to push through it when it comes up.

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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