I used to measure the success of my life in the amount of comfort I felt. I thought that if I were doing things right, everything would sort of play itself out in this beautiful ease, where nothing really felt like work, and everything felt really warm and fuzzy. I thought that if there were ever something I was kind of dreading, or had a difficult time doing something, that I was failing.
And then I started to do wilderness therapy.
That’s when it all shifted.
Each week in the field, everything felt difficult. The weather was either too hot, or too cold. Simple things like eating meals, drinking water, and getting out of bed in the mornings were tedious tasks that required a lot of coaxing and coaching just to get the group moving. Then there were these beautiful moments called “refusals” where your plan for the day would be sideswiped by a student undergoing an emotional breakdown. Or, you know, a family of moose would suddenly appear in your hiking path. In the wilderness, things just kind of come up unexpectedly and you have no choice but to deal with it.
( Side note: refusals= students refusing to do anything asked of them. It can and does include: eating, sleeping, getting up, cooking food, drinking water, moving, getting dressed, and even speaking… I came to love these in the end, after learning different techniques on how to deal with this behavior, but at first they can seem quite daunting. My favorite ways to deal with refusals included: reading, playing games, talking about orcs or D&D, and making shapes out of clouds).
I learned a lot about “Type 2 fun” in the field. Type 2 fun is when something feels really difficult in the moment; say, for example, summiting a mountain, but after you get to the top it feels incredibly rewarding. The deal with type 2 fun is that if it wasn’t difficult or discomforting at some point, the reward just isn’t quite as great. It’s really awesome to drive up a mountain to go swimming at a lake, but the experience is totally different if you took the four hours to summit the mountain, and really felt you earned that dip in the lake. See the difference?
The reason this has been coming up for me, is that I’m in a period of great discomfort right now. It’s not the physical discomfort of living outside and dealing with the elements, but I am instead faced with the discomfort of putting myself out there in the job field, making new friends, and dealing with personal issues that had previously been pushed to the side.
I can get caught up believing that my success is determined by how easy life feels, but I know all too well this isn’t at all true. The truth is, there is great power and success from dealing with things that are incredibly difficult and actually overcoming them. By overcoming challenges and facing fears, you are proving to yourself that you are capable of doing hard things. You are building your experience and confidence, and expanding and pushing past your own limits. It’s a beautiful and powerful thing to face fear head-on.
How do you handle discomfort? Any tips or tricks?