The Tyranny of Comfort

adventure (noun): an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

I love the “typically hazardous” part. 

Looking at life from the Hero’s Journey mindset, we recognize that we are called to adventure over and over. 

Luke Skywalker accidentally intercepts a call for help from Princess Leia.

Gandalf shows up in the Shire​ and informs Frodo that he must destroy the One Ring.

A genetically engineered spider bites Peter Parker while he is on a high school field trip. 

The real “adventures” that life doles out are often not of our own choosing…flat tires, career changes, unexpected pregnancies, accidents, losses.​ 

Suffering kicks in when we resist these challenges and opportunities, and it’s natural to resist the discomfort of change. 

As a therapist, much of the initial work is focused on accepting reality, rather than being victimized by it. 

We want to feel in control. Safe and secure. And so we resist. Rationalize. Distract. Deny. We get stuck, becoming anxious, depressed, and lost in the process. 

More and more of us are stuck. Why? 

The Tyranny of Comfort

Yes…our smartphones, tempurpedic​ mattresses, heated steering wheels, and Nest thermostats, amongst a million other little luxuries, have played a major role in the decline of our mental and emotional well-being. 

We are amongst the first few generations who can exist with almost no discomfort. 

These days, we can carry out virtually all necessary work, social and entertainment activities from bed, moving only to use the toilet or to obtain unnecessary calories conveniently delivered to our doorstep and refrigerated a few steps away.

Our comfort zones – or resiliency zones, if you will – quietly atrophy from lack of use. 

But those calls to adventure are never-ending. Stuck in our safe routines, we choose to decline an exciting trip, to forgo applying for a big job opportunity, to drink away the pain of a loved one’s death.

Many of the serious presenting problems that show up in therapy sessions – depression, panic attacks, PTSD, addiction – trace back to this slow spiritual death by a thousand Netflix episodes.

How to prevent this? Intentional discomfort.

Creating the friction that survival used to demand. Flexing our resilience muscles so that they are strong and ready for the next call to adventure.

I call these Resiliency Field Trips.

Right now is the perfect time to plan a few of your own. Download my free checklist, plus you’ll also get my quick reference idea sheet, 50 Adventures Beyond Your Bubble.

As with all things, keep it simple to start.

A challenge: 

Appreciate the comforts of modern life, by removing them.​

  • Take a cold shower.
  • Go outside.
  • Walk or bike instead of drive.
  • Leave your smartphone home.
  • Stand instead of sit.
  • Turn off Netflix and read a book.
  • Have a conversation in person.
  • Play with your kids, on the floor, with cardboard or legos or art supplies.
  • Write a real letter, with a pen.
  • Make a meal from scratch. Maybe over a fire.
  • Go on an unplanned adventure.
  1. I’m glad you did stop by, Peter! Life is funny in it’s paradoxes…as a therapist I find myself constantly prescribing the opposite of what our fear-based ego wants us to do. Discomfort is a powerful (and often fun) ally in finding what we’re all looking for; joy, fulfillment and meaning. Cheers!

  2. Super insightful! There were elements of this that I was picking up on in my life, feeling better having a cold instead of hot shower in the morning, but the frame of comfort as a tyrant makes so much sense. I have a tyrannically comfortable bed. It is like an enabling friend, making me feel good about bad choices!
    Thanks! Glad I stopped by.

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