Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It Don't Mean a Thing

I often hear people talk about discomfort as if discomfort were a reason for doing or not doing something.

"I understand what you want, but I'm just not comfortable with it."

"At first I thought it was good idea, but then I got this funny feeling about it."

"I'm just not comfortable with my ability to pull this off."

I'm sure you've heard it too. It's reached epidemic proportions. In fact, the use of discomfort as a reason has become so pervasive, that it's rarely questioned when invoked.

Of course, the first question that springs to mind is, "So..."

You can end it with a simple "what?" or you can be more specific.

Fact is that everyone who attempts anything significant experiences discomfort with it. Every home purchase is followed by a period of buyer's remorse. Every new wedding vow is followed by a "but what if." Discomfort is a natural response to making a real decision, i.e., one that has consequences and can't be easily changed. It's a natural side effect of significant and irreversible change.

As such, the first thing to know about discomfort with decision and change is that the discomfort doesn't actually mean anything about the specific decision or change. Prisoners often feel the same discomfort with leaving prison that they did with arriving at prison. Home owners often feel the same sense of discomfort buying a house that they do selling one.

There have been studies of people using meds for hypertension where no matter how often the dosage is increased or the prescription changed, their blood pressure levels first drop and then slowly return to their original levels. Why? Because they felt uncomfortable with the reduced blood pressure (e.g., sluggish or impotent). As the meds began working, they'd counteract them by, for example, maintaining a steady state of agitation.

Discomfort is just a phenomenon associated with change. It causes us to be wary and alert. It lets us know that we're doing something significant. However, it doesn't mean anything about the specifics of the change. It's not an indicator of right or wrong correct or incorrect. They're not related in the slightest way.

Discomfort is NOT a reason.

Happy Wednesday,

1 comment:

  1. PS If you insist on interpreting discomfort, you can do so in a way that is consistent with its nature. The meaning of discomfort can be tied to the degree of discomfort as measured in magnitude and frequency.

    Or more accurately, it can be tied to the relative degree (relative to your personal sense of normalcy.) The greater the degree of discomfort the greater the frequency and/or magnitude of change relative to your norm. If you're a "creature of habit", then the slightest changes can cause great discomfort.

    Finally, it's degree of change, not direction of change. If you're someone who deals constantly with change, then a reduction in degree of change can also feel quite uncomfortable.


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