It’s trendy in self-help communities and spiritual groups to insist that discomfort should not only be tolerated but even sought out. They insist that if you do something unfamiliar, you MUST experience some degree of unpleasantness.
We call that discomfort if it’s a mild unpleasantness or pain if it’s more severe. Either way, the idea is that growth and change require some kind of unpleasantness.
For most people, “comfort zone” has become synonymous with “the area in which you are not growing.” They can’t imagine that growth could happen in a state of comfort—that you could be developing as a person, AND feeling great (or even just neutral) doing it.
This idea that a comfort zone is a zone of stagnation is built on a lie:
New things always mean unpleasant feelings and sensations (i.e. discomfort).
The truth is something slightly—but meaningfully—different:
New things always mean strange feelings and sensations.
Strange feelings may be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.
Most of us have outgrown the old “no pain, no gain” paradigm that was popular in the eighties. (Cue the upbeat soundtrack, leotards, and endlessly gyrating aerobics instructors.) We discovered that pushing through pain actually slowed us down in the long run.
But the paradigm most of us adopted after that was “no discomfort, no growth.” That’s a little more cheerful, but not much!
Now we are moving into a new spiritual paradigm, one where growth happens in joy, without pain, lousy feelings, discomfort, and other forms of unpleasantness.
We ditch the “no discomfort, no growth” paradigm and align with a new one: “Growth involves encountering the unfamiliar, so it will feel strange but not necessarily uncomfortable.” Or, a little pithier, “Strange can feel good.”
Really, as kids, we often already know that experiencing new things doesn’t have to involve discomfort. I’ve seen lots of little kids take their first bite of cake ever, and none of them looked the slightest bit uncomfortable about it. It’s weird for them but pleasant.
And often I’ll see some kid do something that seems much more dramatically new, and it’s not even “a thing” for them. Some kids are gifted singers, and they just break into song in the middle of a group of people, performing before strangers for the first time. “Hey, kid, wasn’t that uncomfortable? You’ve never done that before. Heck, I’d be scared to sing in front of strangers.”
And many of them say, “That wasn’t uncomfortable. I loved it.” It may have been a stretch for them, but the sensations that came up weren’t sensations of discomfort. Those stretching feelings just felt good. They were doing something quite new—while staying in a state of comfort.
As you experience something new, try pretending you are Alice in Wonderland or an explorer of a strange new world. You’d expect there to be unfamiliar things all around, but the unfamiliarity would feel exciting, intriguing, mystifying, or just odd. Curiouser and curiouser!
Children’s tales often hold the motif of encountering a strange (but not bad-feeling) person or place. Places and people in certain children’s books may appear wild, woolly, bizarre, or outlandish, but the main characters discovering them are often delighted rather than uncomfortable.
(There are lots of stories and scenes about uncomfortable strangeness, too, of course, but those won’t help you get used to the new paradigm. Be selective.)
What if you met a unicorn today? It would be strange, certainly, but probably not uncomfortable. (Perhaps it depends on the unicorn.)
If it helps, consider how growth happens in a heavenly place or the Other Side. Do you really think angels are groaning, “Oh, I’m growing as an angel, which means I’ve got to feel discomfort here in this land of bliss”? Most of us acknowledge that at some point, in some otherworldly place, creatures grow through joy rather than discomfort.
If you believe that, then why couldn’t we experience more growth through joy here on Earth? Maybe we won’t get to nonstop joy all the time here, but we can experience new things with less discomfort at least.
Growing means making unfamiliar states of being into familiar ones. It’s about choosing which new experiences you want to have, and then bringing those into your life and making them familiar, easy-to-access, or easy-to-understand experiences.
So long as you are reaching into the unfamiliar and making it familiar, you are growing, whether it involves discomfort, neutrality, or joy.
As we raise our vibrations, our unfamiliar experiences begin to become more and more joyful. We stay in comfort more and more as we explore. I suspect that at even higher levels, the unfamiliar is always (or nearly always) joyful. There, there’s no such thing as stepping out of your comfort zone, because everything new is merely strange, not uncomfortable.
Excerpt from Lisa Rasche’s book, A Maverick’s Guide to the Law of Attraction, Book 1: Energy Creates.