Acceptance – Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

By Michelle Carroll-Walden

Can you recall the last time you had a pebble in your shoe?

You knew it was there, but you were too busy to be bothered.

Maybe you were running late for the bus or trying to enjoy the view. But each time you took a step you were reminded of how uncomfortable it was. And not feeling comfortable is not acceptable. So you decided to stop what you were doing and get rid of the offending culprit… that annoying little pebble.

But what if that pebble can’t be so easily tossed?

What if you can’t stop to get it out because you’ll miss the bus? Or worse still, you just can’t find it in your shoe. So you have to put up with it all day, knowing it is there and there is nothing you can do. How uncomfortable. How unbearable.

Sometimes our thoughts or feelings are a lot like that annoying little pebble. They can be painful, irritating, uncomfortable, and even unbearable. We can choose to ignore our thoughts. We can distract ourselves with social media or shopping and it seems ok for a while. But just like the annoying pebble in your shoe, those uncomfortable thoughts or feelings will not go away. And as that pebble starts to dig in, we may even take drastic action to rid ourselves of it. We may avoid friends, family, or activities we enjoy. We may even try to lose ourselves in addictions, such as drinking, drugs or gambling. Despite our best efforts those uncomfortable thoughts or feelings will always remain. But unlike the annoying little pebble they cannot be so easily tossed away. And trying so hard to get rid of them can cost us so much in terms of living! These costs can range from direct health impacts, to huge credit card debts, to pushing away the very people we most love and care about.

So what’s the answer?

It’s about learning to get comfortable with the uncomfortable! It’s about a willingness to let the pebble stay in your shoe.  It’s about not struggling with it so much, or pushing it away so hard. It’s about not allowing our stories, our thoughts, our uncomfortable sensations, to consume us. It’s about becoming aware that they are there but not letting them to take us away from the view – of what really matters most to us in life – the very things which may well bring up those difficult thoughts and feelings.

Of course acceptance isn’t as simple as tossing out a pebble. It’s a tricky skill – but a skill we can quickly learn, and gradually improve upon day by day. And what are the costs of continuing to struggle? What are you missing out on? Who are you pushing away?

Could you be willing to leave the pebble in your shoe and learn to sit with the discomfort, in kindness and self-compassion, if it means you get to enjoy the view?

Michelle Carroll-Walden

Michelle Carroll-Walden

Psychologist, ACT Therapist and Board-Approved Supervisor (4+2 Internship Pathway)

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