When we feel something negative or uncomfortable, we usually deal with it in one of 3 ways: reacting, responding or avoiding.
This might look like yelling, throwing things or sending a mean text.
It could look like watching Netflix and eating a tub of ice-cream.
It may also be over-cleaning or online shopping.
We call this 'Buffering': an activity we do in life to “numb out” or to avoid fully experiencing our lives. It usually has a net-negative behaviour (like over-eating and over-spending).
To illustrate this concept imagine you are standing near a river. The riverbank is a safe, warm, and dry place, there are no real dangers or unknowns there and you can be quite comfortable. But the problem is, the thing you really want is on the other side, and the only way there is to get in the river and cross it. Being in the river is definitely not be as comfortable as the riverbank. It is cold, and really deep, and has some rough waters. It is full of unknowns. You get half way across and find the discomfort is just too much and want to turn back.
This is all totally normal, none of us particularly like feeling uncomfortable and that is why we buffer. We believe we should always be happy and therefore we use buffers to keep us on the riverbank.
But what is waiting on the other side is even more amazing! Once you have commited and swam through that river of misery and not let your buffers stop you, you are on dry land and where you wanted to be! This ‘other side’ represents a mastery over the very emotion you were trying to buffer from. On this side, you recognize half of your life is going to be (and should be) negative emotion that should be listened to and used to manage yourself emotionally and cognitively.
So which side do you want to be on? Really? Not which one sounds better. Which one is going to get you where you want to go?
What do you do to avoid discomfort or negative emotions?
What would it look like to allow it instead of avoiding it? What is the worst that could happen?
Try it out this week... allow an emotion that you typically avoid. Let me know what you think.