I was sitting in my therapist’s office describing my absolute terror of attending a friend’s party. My social anxiety had reached an all time high, and every time I thought about going to the party my whole body tightened up and fear ravaged clear thinking. This was several years ago, but I still clearly remember that feeling.
What’s interesting is that the party was at a dear friend’s place. Someone I trusted and felt comfortable with. I had also reached a point where I could see how this one thing, this fear, was affecting my life and preventing me from having experiences and joy regularly.
I did work with my therapist, but most of the work I did was self lead. I realized that my comfort hinged on staying hidden; keeping myself from engaging in social events had become a habit, and I regularly used my introverted-ness as an excuse to not participate.
Today I understand my anxiety. It came from childhood and adulthood traumas (experiencing emotional abuse at a workplace, not feeling safe as a woman because of unwanted attention as a child and beyond, and being deeply wounded as a child by caregivers, etc.) that lead me to feel overwhelmed by my emotions and which transferred into many forms of anxiety.
It’s fascinating to look back on my behaviours, specifically ones that kept me hidden and unseen to stay comfortable, and see how they were intended to protect. But years of responding in these ways made me seek out ways of staying safe instead of feeling happy.
Comfortable does not mean safe. Comfortable means being in a place where we can control the environment around us for the perception of security. When in fact a lot of the things we do to keep things status quo, comfortable, organized, or in control exist to help us avoid feeling the immensity of the emotions that linger under the surface of our consciousness.
I’m not completely discouraging preparedness and organization, as it often keeps our lives running smoothly. It’s the attachment to and lack of wavering of those habits and structures that’s alluring and keeps us from experiencing life in a full and vivid way.
Today I love going to parties. I could be anxious if I chose to,, but I’ve developed tools and I’ve put in the time to experience growth so anxiety no longer dominates my life. It’s not that I no longer experience anxiety, but it’s how I relate to it that’s changed. It doesn’t scare me, and when it starts to grow, I get help. Healing doesn’t imply something goes away forever, it means that the memory keeps us humble and grateful for learning to experience life without the oppression of the pain.
If you put down one thing that keeps you comfortable, what happens in your body? What fear arises? Is it the fear of being seen and worry around the judgment that might follow? Or wanting control or certainty of outcomes? Maybe the question is; what is it that makes you comfortable?
Would letting that thing go, or just choosing a different reaction or response, make the thing go away? Or perhaps a shift of behavior could change your vantage point so you’re able to look at yourself from a different perspective. It could be an illuminating experience unto itself.
Attachments to safety are as varied as there are humans on this planet. To understand your own attachment, ask yourself what you’re brave enough to let go of .
Through yoga and other somatic practices over the last 25 years, I’ve learned how to come back to my body and find comfort within instead of attempting to manage all the things in my external world. This isn’t about perfection, because I still manage and control things in my environment to feel safe. But instead of those things becoming more ingrained and myself more attached, I’ve slowly (and continue to) relaxed my grip on my attachments, bit by bit and year by year, and new ones are revealed as time moves on.
Be gentle with yourself. Being human is challenging, and we often limit our own enjoyment of life. When we show up for ourselves and see the ways we’ve been gripping to our comfort, we can make change and life gets more enjoyable. It’s hard to imagine that letting go of comfort does that, but once you get through the agitation of letting it go, you open up new experiences and eventually feel expansive, and life feels a little more magical..