BRIEF: Discomfort is and always has been an integral part of human existence. Most of us accept this as a fact of life and build into our lives relevant coping mechanisms to deal with it. . However, some of us really struggle to deal with this harsh reality and do everything in our power to avoid it>Managing discomfort is especially relevant for modern society. Why is that so?
Why is this skill important?
Discomfort is and always has been an integral part of human existence. Most of us accept this as a fact of life and build into our lives relevant coping mechanisms to deal with it. . However, some of us really struggle to deal with this harsh reality and do everything in our power to avoid it>Managing discomfort is especially relevant for modern society. Why is that so?
It is because not knowing how to manage discomfort leads to intense frustration. This , in turn, underlies many mental health problems, especially anxiety conditions such as panic attacks, and phobias, and depression.. These conditions create significant discomfort , something we dislike, but , for example, as we explored before on flooding accepting the discomfort of physical symptoms of acute anxiety is essential. There are also, strong links between frustration and most addictions.
The behavioural response to a demand that one should not suffer discomfort is, in the case of the addict, to seek out substances and addictive behaviours to ensure that this is not experienced.
It is also relevant in toxic stress. While some of us will become anxious and release adrenaline when stressed , other will become frustrated . This is important , as frustration can lead to the body pouring out noadrenaline, our aggression hormone, rather than adrenaline , our more benign fear hormone, when we are anxious.
There can be significant physical health consequences if this outpouring of noadrenaline is persistent or prolonged . If you are interested in this topic, you can read more about it in Toxic Stress.
Alongside mental health conditions, one must also be deeply concerned at the high levels of frustration within modern society . The media constantly informs us that we live in an age of anxiety. Rarely is it mentioned that we also live in an age of frustration. Consider road rage on the motorways, queues at the airport, boorishness in restaurants… Experiencing and managing discomfort is a skill older generations were forced to develop through necessity.
This is no longer the case in our present -day , fast-moving, technologically driven society. Discomfort is regarded as something not to be tolerated , something to be avoided at all costs. In some situations, our response when frustrated is to lash out verbally , to succumb to road rage, forget our manners, be brusque, and a host of other unpleasant behaviours.
Parallel with this desire to avoid discomfort is an increasingly prevalent belief that everything should be ‘instant’ . That includes all forms of self -gratification. The concept of ‘ I should get what I want , when I want it’ can’t be translated into’ I deserve to have this pleasure now, not later.
This demand for everything to be instant is seeping insidiously into the current generation, fed such a menu from childhood . Parents may also assume it is their task to ensure the lives of their children are less stressful than theirs were, by sheltering them from potential discomfort. This removes a key resilience building block integral their children’s future happiness.
Once they have reached the exam years and beyond, a young person may struggle to cope with the problems that real life will begin to throw at them.
The consequences of these changes can be seen right across society , where frustration is growing at an exponential level . The basis of this frustration is a growing sense of entitlement that we should live in a world where discomfort is either absent or reduced to a minimum.
Of course , this is a false reality, as life is full of discomfort. If we fool our adolescents and young adults – and indeed ourselves -into believing discomfort is not a part of life, we risk exposing them , and ourselves to significant mental health consequences , many of which we are already experiencing as a society.
Dodging discomfort is bad for your mental health. So , learning how to deal with discomfort is a skill we all need to learn, practise and ideally , pass on to our children . It is a critically important emotional resilience skill .
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