Comfort vs. Discomfort

My friend Lucia was very down and it was hard to be around because I care for her so much. She had given up and it didn’t matter what I said or did. So I stopped reminding her of all the reasons she should be happy and all the great things about her life (to which she kept responding, “I know. I know.”). Instead, I made a deliberate and calculated effort to make her mad. I wanted her to get extremely mad.

Let me explain.

Each of us was born with an inner guidance system. It is called by many names: instinct, intuition, soul, even guardian angel. Whatever you call yours, it was designed to let you know where you stand in relation to your desires.

The way your inner guide signals you is through your feelings and, even though we call our feelings by many dramatic names, there are really only two: positive and negative.

This can seem like an abstract concept. We strive to feel good but can get confused by whether an emotion is positive or negative. Anger by definition seems to be negative and yet, doesn’t it sometimes feel good to “let it rip”?

There is a hierarchy to feelings and the way to move up the scale is through doing whatever you can to achieve a feeling of relief from where you are at the moment. This is why getting angry often feels good: that good feeling you experience when you let it all out is a feeling of relief.

The reason I did what I could to tick Lucia off was because of a key distinction between being depressed and feeling angry: when you are down, you feel hopeless. When you get angry, you feel as if you have some power. And once you move from feeling down to feeling angry, you are going in the right direction.

Let’s lay our cards on the table for a moment: if our only choice was between people who are depressed and people who are angry, we’d rather be around those who are feeling low. After all, they are much more manageable. We know they’re unlikely to do anything that might cause problems. People who are angry pose more of a threat because they are very likely to take action. And yet, if you have people in your life who are down, it would be a great idea to pray that they get angry.

Of course you don’t want them to stay angry. It’s simply one step on the stairs that eventually lead to feeling good. But before you can feel good, you must feel better. In Seven Steps to Spiritual Success Deepak Chopra describes these feelings of guidance as comfort versus discomfort.

Anger feels less discomforting than depression. Frustration is less discomforting than anger. Impatience feels better than frustration. As the King of Siam once said, “Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”

The reverse is true, as well. Unless there is a catastrophe, we don’t go from feeling good to feeling terrible in one step. There are steps. You wake up in the morning feeling great. Then you react to traffic on the freeway. You still feel good but not great. Then you get to the office and discover there’s no coffee available. And without planning to, you find yourself on the stairway down to feeling awful. Anywhere along the journey, if you do something to feel more comfortable, you immediately reverse the journey and find yourself going up instead of down.

Chopra tells us to pay attention to the signals. Are you feeling comfort or discomfort? Discomfort is a signal that you are travelling down the stairs and may end up in the basement. When you feel comfort, you are travelling up the stairs toward the heavens.

So don’t try and figure out whether you are feeling positive or negative emotions. Simply take the most comforting next step. I promise, even if it’s anger, it will automatically take you in the right direction. .

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