By Molly Patrick
Nov 15, 2016,
Feeling uncomfortable is uncomfortable.
Feeling sad, angry, discouraged, depressed and down are shitty feelings and they don’t feel good when we’re in them. It’s natural to want to feel joyful and happy and excited and uplifted and hopeful, and we all want the heaviness to lift.
We live in a society that encourages us to feel better as soon as a “bad” feeling comes up.
Systems, organizations, apps, careers and companies are built around making sure we feel good all day, every day. And as soon as we feel the slightest bit uncomfortable or down or sad or angry, we look outwards and reach for the closest thing that will soothe, take away our pain, and make us feel better.
We can pop some pills, we can eat, we can scroll, we can reach for alcohol, we can pour ourselves another cup of coffee, we can put in 10 hour workdays, we can look at Facebook again, we can eat sugar, we can play games on our phone, we can turn on Netflix.
There are countless ways we can distract ourselves from feeling sad, down, anxious, and any other feeling that we tend to think of as “bad”. And because feeling “bad” is uncomfortable, our knee-jerk response is to run from the pain, straight into the arms of distraction and consumption.
But here’s the thing.
When we numb out, when we constantly distract ourselves, when we ignore that nagging feeling and push it down, when we paint on a smile and pretend that everything’s fine, when we look outward for comfort, when we run away from our pain, a welcome relief might momentarily wash over us, but it’s fleeting. And in return, we deny ourselves the opportunity to sit with and process whatever feeling is coming up for us.
That’s the irony, isn’t it? The feelings we try to escape from are the very feelings that if allowed to experience, will ultimately make us feel better. But we have to be courageous enough to sit with them. We have to feel them. We must be present. We can’t run away. We can’t numb out. We can’t distract. I’m not saying that it’s okay to be sad and feel uncomfortable.
I’m saying that being sad and feeling uncomfortable is 100% necessary for our growth.
Imagine there are two tunnels in front of you.
- One tunnel is filled with obstacles and grief and sorrow and loss and heartbreak and pain. But you can see the end of this tunnel and it’s emanating a warm, soothing light.
- The other tunnel is easy. It’s filled with cakes and cookies and movies and Twitter and booze and pills and games. It’s not filled with intense feelings of pain and grief. But as you look at this tunnel, you notice that it has no end. It just goes on and on and on. No warm soothing light and no end in sight.
At first, choosing the fun tunnel is a no-brainer because it’s easy and it’s not uncomfortable. You pick the fun tunnel and you venture in, excited about your choice. Come on, who voluntarily chooses pain and sadness over cake and booze? And wait – what’s that? Yup, there are strippers in the fun tunnel! A bonus you were not expecting.
You think about the poor suckers who choose the pain tunnel because you’re sitting pretty, double fisting martinis, while being fed cheese by attractive naked people and watching the Sopranos back-to-back starting from episode one. There’s also an endless supply of chocolate ice cream, potato chips and pain killers, should you feel the slightest bit of discomfort at any point.
You’re rolling through the fun tunnel on high, but as time goes on, you start to feel funny. You feel tired, weak and groggy. Your mind isn’t sharp. You feel disconnected and distracted. You reach for another cup of coffee and a donut and this perks you up momentarily, but then you feel even worse. So you stop and watch more TV and then you take a nap. You wake up sluggish and you keep walking, but you’re walking much slower than when you first entered the tunnel.
Your original excitement is gone and you want the strippers to put on clothes. You also want to see an end to the tunnel because for all the fun things in the fun tunnel, you’re not feeling very fun or happy. But the fun tunnel has no end. There is no light waiting for you. It’s filled with plenty of instant gratification, but there’s no long term happiness in sight.
Fuck the fun tunnel. You turn around and head back.
You walk out of the fun tunnel and over to the pain tunnel. It’s dark. There is no Netflix. There is no sugar. There is no booze. There isn’t a stripper in sight. It’s quiet. It looks lonely. But you keep looking at the end of the tunnel, illuminated by a welcoming, soft light. You take a deep breath and you step in. You start walking and oh shit it’s painful! You start to cry. You keep walking. You become flooded with anger. You keep walking. Sadness washes over you. You keep walking.
You blow your nose and wipe your eyes as you get deeper into the belly of the tunnel. Your sadness is intense and sharp and you feel it in every crevice of your body. You keep walking. As you get closer to the end of the tunnel you start to feel lighter. More clear. More grounded. More energized. Your sadness is there, but it has transcended your fear and it’s now just part of who you are and it isn’t scary anymore.
You keep walking.
You reach the end of the tunnel and you feel the light welcome you as you exit your pain. The light is warm and peaceful and you feel content, bathing in its grace. You look back on the pain tunnel and you realize that just like your happiness, joy and love, your pain, anger, and sadness is just another part of who you are. You realize that the only way to feel better is to honor all of your feelings equally, and allow them all to be. Because they are all a part of you and one of them are wrong.
So tell me, what tunnel are you currently in?
It’s hard to be uncomfortable, but it’s part of being human. It will pass, just like everything else. The next time you feel sad or angry or down, go with it. Be fully present. Allow yourself to feel fully without reaching for something to stop it. Do this simply because this is what you’re feeling.
We are hardwired to get through tough times, but in order to get through them in a productive and helpful way, we have to tell the fun tunnel to fuck off, and then feel the sting.
If you’re looking to eat better and have been wanting to explore a whole food plant based lifestyle, check out our plant fueled meal plans and take a test drive our free meal plan trial.
Are you stuck in the Fun Tunnel? Tell us about it in the comments below.
- 1 block of firm or extra firm tofu 14oz / 397g, water packed
- 1 cup onion 115g, thinly sliced
- 4 cups eggplant 380g, cut into a little larger than bite-sized pieces, placed in a colander and sprinkled with salt
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves 12g / you can leave them whole
- White pepper to taste
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon peeled and minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons Coconut Aminos
- 1/2 cup water
- Pre-heat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
- Take the tofu out of the package, rinse with water and extract as much liquid out of the tofu as possible by using the pie pan / plate method (place the block of tofu in a pie pan and stack some plates on top of it and let it sit for about 15 minutes). If you have a tofu press, feel free to use that instead. The goal here is to extract as much liquid out of the tofu as possible.
- Once the excess liquid has been extracted, cut the tofu into a little larger than bite-sized pieces and place them onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Lining your baking sheet with parchment paper is super important. Do not skip this step or the tofu will stick to your baking sheet like mad.
- Place the tofu in the oven and cook for 10 minutes, flip the tofu over and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and set aside for now.
- Make the rest of the dish.
- Make the sauce by placing all of the sauce ingredients (garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, soy sauce, Coconut Aminos and water) into a medium-sized bowl and whisking with a fork.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat for about a minute. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently and adding a tablespoon of water at a time when they start to stick to the pan or look dry. You want them to get nice and brown during this process because that will bring out their natural sweetness and flavor.
- Wipe the salt off from the eggplant with a damp paper towel and ddd the eggplant, baked tofu, basil and sauce to the pan and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all of the sauce is absorbed. Add white pepper to taste.
- Serve with brown rice or any other whole grain.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with feeling all the feelings.
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