I’ve been thinking lately a lot about automatic reactions. Not just things like ducking when something comes flying at your face… I mean mentally, emotionally, and with words and such. Like how I automatically smile and am happy when I see a cute little kid laughing and having fun. Or how I am filled with a sense of ease, calm, and peace when I feel that warm sunshine against my skin on a cool day, or that refreshing breeze on any day.
The one part of automatic reactions that has been most on my mind as of late had been physical discomfort. I have been noticing how, if I am physically uncomfortable, I am automatically in a bad mood.
My morning started beautifully the other day, but the weather was much warmer than I understood it to be before leaving the house. So, as I grew more and more sweaty underneath my coat and many layers, carrying my heavy bags (which were mostly heavy due to the water I’d brought to keep myself hydrated and thereby comfortable throughout the day), hiking up the large hill to work, and my wool sweater began to scratch me through my shirt, I grew increasingly more irritated, even to the point of starting to curse at my clothes and bags. Now, I recognized how this all was automatically happening, and so caught myself before actually cursing, but I’m rather certain I had the words starting to roll out of my mouth when I did hit pause on the affair.
Another recent example is my everyday response to my work-empty (the opposite of work-filled) days at work. At work, my desk and chair do not fit me, and it is uncomfortable to spend more than ten-ish minutes at my desk. I get rather irritated whenever I spend time there, even if I started out working on something I enjoy. Just thinking about having to sit at my desk all day with nothing else to do (as in somewhere else to go) gets me into a bad mood. I’m not even in the chair, and my mood is already in that automatic reaction to the physical discomfort.
When I need to go to the bathroom, and people try talking to me and starting up conversation, no matter how I make the effort to be in the conversation, I cannot be. My entire focus is on the thoughts of Would you please just shut up and leave me alone, so I can go to the bathroom?! I am irritated, impatient, and sometimes even a bit rude out loud.
Now, this does not mean that I am always rude or mean to others when in physical discomfort. Just this week, I was quite uncomfortable, and even somewhat concerned by my intense need for a bathroom while walking home with a friend. I was aware of my discomfort, and my automatic response to the discomfort. I remained kind and loving with the friend, however it was a strain. I noticed how, underneath my skin, I was raving, almost screaming, I was so bothered. The friend was even laughing at the goofiness I attempted to bring to the situation of my bathroom need, but I was not – I couldn’t find humor or ease in it, no matter what I did.
We are able to be angry, upset, and annoyed automatically and intentionally when we are not in physical discomfort, as well as we are able to be happy, calm, and joyful at those times. I think we can have the same apply to when we are physically uncomfortable… I just haven’t yet figured out how.
How can I train myself, my brain, to react comfortably to physical discomfort? When my pants are too tight or my shirt is itchy, when I need to pee or need water desperately, how can I set myself up to be not only okay but to be happy, joyful, or even just calm and at ease? I guess the best way is to see what conversation is happening in my head whenever these discomforts happen, and inquire as to how to ease that conversation’s stress… and, over time, the conversation might disappear altogether, and the automatic negative response no longer occur… perhaps, anyway, but Imma go for it, just to see!
This is my goal right now. Feel free to jump on board, and try it out for yourself; I think it’s an intriguing essay*, well worth the effort.
*Definition of ESSAY (Taken from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary)
1: to put to a test
2: to make an often tentative or experimental effort to perform : try