Fun Tunnel with Strippers
By Molly Patrick
Nov 15, 2016,
Feeling uncomfortable is uncomfortable.
Feeling sad, angry, discouraged, depressed, or 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, or 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.
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 are the very feelings that, if we allow ourselves 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.
- Pain tunnel: one tunnel is filled with obstacles and grief and sorrow and loss and heartbreak and pain. But you can see a warm, soothing light at the end of this tunnel.
- Fun tunnel: this 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 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 painkillers, 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 are 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 none 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, sign up for a free trial to Plant Fueled Life where you can find the most delicious plant based recipes and loving support.
Are you stuck in the Fun Tunnel? Tell us about it in the comments below. Join our 21-Day Dry Challenge starting April 10th, 2023 if you’re considering taking a break from drinking alcohol.
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Thanks, Molly. I really needed this today. The tofu, too.
I’m absolutely taken with the tunnel analogy – truly love it! Maybe this one will help my loved ones see the beauty of the path that I’m on… still holding out hope that they will see the light and join me! Either way, I’m so happy I found you 🙂
OMG! Just so eye opening! All I can say is thank you! So many people out there need to read this. Truly enlightening!
I am stuck in the fun tunnel. I keep plowing ahead, too scared to turn around. I am tired. Tired of the booze. Tired of the phone games, tired of the pills (that I take more and more of, but which work less and less). I love the strippers, but Yes, even them I’m getting tired of. The thing is, I’ve been in the dark tunnel, and I didn’t see the warm light at the end. I’ve done the meds and done the ECT treatments, and that dark tunnel is just too damn scary, so I’m stuck in the “fun” tunnel. Which isn’t really all that fun.
Jen, thanks for stopping by and being real with us. We feel you! 💯 There is light at the end of the tunnel, even if you don’t see it. 💖 Sending all the love. “You’re not starting at the bottom. There is no top to get to. You’re meeting yourself where you’re at today.” – Molly Patrick
Love you so much, you are always right on.
Awww! So much love to you!