This is not a new idea for me. My experience in counseling and trauma response taught me how to sit with people in pain. I have seen first hand the value of allowing pain to surface. The only way out is through…
As a coach, I sit with people when they are noticing painful emotions, thoughts and sensations. It is not my job to alleviate their discomfort, rather to hold the space for whatever shows up and help them be curious about what has arisen.
This morning I am working at my standing desk (ie. the kitchen island) because my lower back is still bothering me.
I have that usual sensation of wanting to write, but not being clear on what is emerging.
I notice myself, stepping away from my laptop and walking over to the snack drawer to find a handful of almonds. Coming back to write a few more lines, and then moving to the stove to turn on the kettle for tea. Coming back again, and then turning around to gaze out the sliding glass door.
What has got me squirming, not wanting to plant myself in front of my writing?
Am I uncomfortable? Physically, yes, my back is a dull ache and other compensating muscles and joints are creaky and sore. Moving around does feel better than standing still for too long.
Emotionally uncomfortable? That feels more slippery...Let me think about that while I do a lap around the kitchen…
I’m going to have to go with yes.
An analogy is coming to mind that I want to share. When I practice yoga, I am often in asanas (poses) that are a little uncomfortable. What I notice is that when I acknowledge the discomfort and breathe into it without trying to erase it or change it, I relax deeper into the stretch.
I don’t try to figure out why my hamstring is tight or how I might make it feel better or fix it. I simply try to be present to the experience of discomfort and give it permission to be there.
What happens if I apply this strategy to emotional discomfort?
This morning, as I stand here at my kitchen island, I can acknowledge the discomfort I am feeling and be here with it. I don’t have to distract myself with a snack or with a walk to the window. I don’t need to figure out why the discomfort it there and what it means. I don’t need to push past the feelings, and I don’t need to fix anything.
I'm not sure yet where it is going to take me, but I am going to trust that it will take me somewhere.
When we stop running away, when we stop trying to avoid what is uncomfortable, we often discover it has a way of giving us what we need to move forward.
What is your relationship to pain? How does it show up in your life, and how do you handle it?
Jessica Curtis is a professional coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.