Escaping the Comfort Zone — the comfort zone is not about comfort — it’s about safety and predictability.
In This Moment
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Comfort zones.…. sounds… well… comforting, eh? I don’t think so!
Most of us spend much of our energy trying to find, enter, and stay in the comfort zone. And it’s odd what some of those zones look like.
- A client has been married for 12 years. She’s been unhappy for 10. She stays because the complications she’s created to leaving outweigh her sadness. She’s comfortable in her discomfort.
- Another had a relationship breakdown 18 months ago. After grieving, she decided to start dating. Except, all her dates were with guys she picked up in bars. Lots of sex, no relationship. Rather than look at her locale choices, while acknowledging how much she likes sex, she sighs and says, “I’m comfortable being alone.”
- Another has had a series of body pain issues. It’s related to her tension around her parents. In Bodywork, the pain lets go. I suggest she work on her parent issues. She says, “I’m much better with them. I need to figure out the mechanics of why I keep hurting myself, and curtail more activities.” Her comfort zone is her ever — shrinking world of physical activity.
- I have a belief that I’m not great with foreign languages. Goes back to hating German classes in High School in the 60s. I’ve been working on Spanish for almost a decade, and I can make myself understood in restaurants, hotels, etc. Conversation? Not so much. I lately have been saying, “Maybe we should go to Belize. They speak English there.” I’m comfortable finding excuses for not becoming fluent in Spanish.
Here’s the thing: a comfort zone is always about the past.
Think about it. In the past, the “where you are and who you are” was different. There were things you liked, things you didn’t like, and you shifted and changed things, and ended up with a story that worked for you. Back then, you bumped your nose, and you did something different, until you stopped and gave in.
Believe this: how you are right now, unless you are rigourously working on yourself, is your comfort zone.
If you are complaining that you hate some aspect of your life, and are not moving heaven and earth to do things differently, then you are stuck in your comfort zone. If you sigh and blame others, you are stuck. You have accepted the status quo.
We call them comfort zones because they are comfortable
It’s easy to believe that complaining is the same as acting. It’s easy to think that blaming externals is the same thing as working on an issue. It’s easy to think that “The way I am is the way I am,” and use that as an excuse to go to Belize.
It’s much harder to challenge ourselves
In case 2, above, my client says, “Changing this is hard. Looking at myself is hard. I’d rather be alone.”
Another client: “I’ve been with him for 8 years, and shut down half of my personality at his behest. And he still doesn’t treat me with respect. Now, he’s dumped me. I wonder what I have to do to get him to take me back. After all, I’ve been with him for 8 years…”
Change is hard, until it isn’t
Somehow, in yoga, I messed up my SI joint. I waited a year to do anything to fix it, other than seeing a chiropractor. My hip was slung way over to the right, and hurt 24 / 7. I thought, “Well, I’m getting old, and this is how it is.”
Comfort in pain.
A client recommended her physiotherapist. I went. Painful exercises and manipulation. 3 months later (still doing the stretches,) I’m 80% back to “normal.” Acceptance is not necessarily the best choice.
This is how all of this works.
Because we resist hard work, we accept pain. “Better the devil you know…” We call this our comfort zone. Outside of the comfort zone, is the growing edge. Like with a cut. The growing edge is where the pain, the itch, the swelling, is. The wound heals right at the growing edge.
Many clients walk right up to it, freak out, and back away. The stories come up, “Can’t go there, do that, shift that, accept that — and work with it… nope — no way. What will people think? Is it OK to do that? Will leaving scar my kids? What happens if I put myself out there — in the discomfort zone?”
Heads tuck back in, life passes by, and… you’re dead.
We suggest pushing through
What I’m saying is being in your comfort zone is always about being caught in the past. Caught in the moment when you broke out of your last comfort zone. You breathed a sigh of relief, and decided to bask in comfort. So far, no issue.
And then, you noticed a nudge, a tremor, a hitch… and you decided to suck it up. To accept. To put up with. To focus on other things. And you moved into the comfort zone. You decided to find a way to distract yourself from the pain… drugs, booze, TV, busy-work. Whatever.
Instead, you could see the “itch” as a growing edge, and do whatever you can to nurture it, experiment with it, to work through the issue.
Not easy, not comfortable, but, I think, better than endlessly floating in a comfort zone that might better be described as a prison of your own making.
Over the next week or two, some ideas about “prison breaks.”