I don’t know about you but I seem to get alot of posts in my various social media feeds from Life Coaches and Inspirational Teachers and other online contacts, all supporting and advocating the idea of constantly striving to stretch ourselves and ‘go beyond our comfort zones’. On first reading, this can make lots of sense and indeed can be very relevant in certain situations and for certain people at certain times in their lives. But as a general principle, I really question this idea of never resting, never being still, always striving for ‘something better – more happiness, more success, more money, more challenges etc’.
We live in a society with record numbers of people with various Adrenal problems, Stress has become an everyday occurance and we are surrounded by messages that all tell us ‘don’t stop, even when you are ill – just pop a pill and get right back to work’. Alot of people are now recognising that the ‘pop a pill’ thing isn’t healthy or sustainable, but aren’t all the self-help videos and messages telling us ‘don’t give in to feeling bad/ill/sad…just put on that smile and get dressed up and carry on’, just as potentially damaging? They are both encouraging us to ignore what we feel, put it away somewhere and keep on striving for that elusive ‘something’.
I’ve written before about the importance of convalescence from physical illness and I also believe that we need to stop being so afraid of not constantly ‘doing’, and celebrate the power and healing in taking the time to be still, to sit with sometimes uncomfortable and upsetting and fearful emotions. To release our-selves from thinking that if we stop and actually feel, that that is somehow weak or ‘giving up’ or self-indulgent.
In my practise I see and treat the results of unexpressed, unrealised and therefore unprocessed emotions every day, as well as the results of people just having pushed themselves far and beyond their energetic boundaries, until they have burnt themselves out almost totally. Our modern culture of literally never, (or very seldom), switching off from social media feeds, bad news, emails, mobile phones – being available – is enslaving us and making us ill.
It makes me sad when I see praise for those with serious chronic illnesses like Cancer who – ‘don’t let it beat them’ – who carry on ‘enjoying’ foods, drinks and lifestyles that feed their illnesses, who ‘don’t give in’ to sadness, anger, grief or whatever messy emotions may make them a bit more ‘difficult’ or challenging to be with. What if allowing these ‘anti-social’ behaviours, indulging deep feelings of grief or anger etc allowed us to understand where our illnesses actually come from, and give us a greater chance of resolving these feelings and letting them go? What if really understanding our own individual ‘comfort zones’ and boundaries enabled us to truelly protect ourselves from physical and emotional harm? What if we learnt to recognise what happens to us – physically, emotionally or spiritually – when we try to push ourselves beyond these natural ‘limits’ and lead our lives accordingly? What if instead of trying to live in huge, boundry-less, virtual global communities we became satisfied with smaller, local, physically connected and supportive communities that exchange skills and grow better quality, locally produced foods for themselves? What if these communities were committed to supporting the health and welfare of all who lived within, who came together in times of individual and collective crisis so that no one was ostracised or left to fend for themselves?
One of my favourite Movies is a film called ‘Lars and the real girl’ with a very young Ryan Gosling playing a young traumatised man living in a small community. He becomes more and more insular and part of his behaviour is to act as if a blow up doll is his real live girlfriend – (steady, this is about love not sex!) Instead of rejecting him or hospitalising or drugging him, His family and wider community decide to support him through this crisis, under the guidence of his wise Psychotherapist, and the whole community collude in his ‘delusion’ – (and actually discover themselves a bit more too!). As a result he is allowed to work it through at his own pace and then is ready to expand his comfort zone and begin a ‘real’ relationship. It’s a thing of beauty and hope and love and community and healing – how it could so easily be, if we shifted our perspectives just a little bit.
It’s a very, very important part of knowing ourselves to understand what our comfort zones are and why they are there. We can not successfully push our boundaries or explore beyond our comfort zones if we don’t have clarity about them and are able to have resolved the reasons why they are there in the first place. Once again, it’s all about balance and understanding our own unique individual needs. We cannot be prescriptive about this – one size most definitely does not fit all!
Don’t get me wrong, once we are ready, it can be so liberating to discover what may lie beyond those old protective barriers we may have erected decades before, for good reason, but that now are holding us back from realising our true potential. My own personal exerience is peppered with pivotal moments, when I have taken a leap of faith and committed to try something that I have spent a long time avoiding. Almost without exception it has broadened and enhanced my life, apart from one key decision I felt pressured into by others and failed to listen to my own inner wisdom. Ultimately pushing this particular boundary made me ill and I learnt a hard lesson. I agree absolutely that sometimes it is key to us not being stuck, not feeling furfilled, that we are able to expand beyond that comfort zone and stretch ourselves a bit. But never at the expense of our health, never before we are ready and never just because we can or because someone else says we should. Feeling comfortable and at ease is a state to be celebrated not reviled, we should not be constantly applying unnecessary pressure to keep moving beyond it.
In my work as a Homeopathic Practitioner I witness my Clients recovering their health physically, emotionally and spiritually – they get to know themselves in all three areas, what their comfort zones are in all three, how to recognise if and when they are ready to expand these boundaries and embrace new experiences and ways of being. We always go at a pace that suits them, and sometimes it’s more about recognising that life is good enough right now! I believe one of the meanings of life is to know ourselves and have the best life possible – and that’s such an individual thing. It can mean every day is limitless and full of endless possibilities – without boundaries – or it can mean that every day is safe, secure, supported, quiet, peaceful and calm. Both can be filled with joy and love and that’s what really counts.
One of the happiest and most furfilled people I’ve ever met was a gentleman in his 70’s who had a small, organic farm that he had taken over from his Father and his Father before him. He was married to his childhood sweetheart and they still adored each other. They had 4 children, (obviously grown up,) and several grandchildren, he had seldom been away from the farm, apart from to visit family elsewhere in Ireland. He ate well, wasn’t on medication and loved the farm, the animals, the land and everything that grew on it. Some would describe his life as ‘small’ or ‘limited’, but this man described it as rich, happy and full of daily love, wonder and beauty. He told me he did not want for anything! I wonder if it would have been so, had he been persuaded to move out of his comfort zone?