What about unpleasantness?

Michael Milverton @ Unsplash

I read this article on positive thinking this morning where it’s argued that extreme positive thinking can be harmful. While that may be true or not, it made me think that it’s not quite a positive outlook to the world that is the issue, but our general unwillingness, or even habit, to suppress or avoid what brings discomfort or pain. We want what is good, happy, joyful, successful, and avoid what for us is not that.

Avoidance appears in all spheres of life and all forms. When we are sad or worried and binge on Netflix to avoid thinking about the cause of our sadness, but also when we want something here and now without being willing to put an effort to get to our desired end result (instant gratification).

For example, it took me a while to understand that the unhappiness I felt with my poor progress when I was learning skiing in my early twenties was coming from my lack of willingness to push through pains to get to the gains. On many occasions, I would just give up, being annoyed, and went to the chalet to wait for everyone. Only once I accepted that learning skiing as an adult IS hard, unpleasant, and occasionally painful (and that no amount of my resistance will change it), and yes I don’t want it but I want skiing MORE, only then I was able to get myself to continue with doing (practicing); and only then I started to make real progress. All of a sudden, the entire experience was not so painful, it became fun.

The same is with other things in life. We don’t want to feel what is unpleasant, we are not ready to go through pains, so we become avoiders, or we give up on our desired results. As the saying goes “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” (Haruki Murakami, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”).

What are the pains in your life that you are avoiding? Is there a pattern? What mechanism of coping you developed? What small step are you willing to do today to stop that cycle? Let me know, I am curious.