Don't Just Do Something, Sit There!

Finger String


What happens when you sit with a difficult question or feeling?


People ask me about change and what to do when they come up against a difficult question or feeling. With thousands of clients, I've seen one major differentiator: the ones who sit with the feelings and the ones who run themselves into the ground trying to avoid them.

There's no denying that change can be hard. It isn't always pretty, awesome or fun. When it's challenging, our first instinct is to run to avoid the pain or difficult feelings and thoughts. I've learned this never works, in fact it often drags the painful process out even longer. As the saying goes, "you can run, but you can't hide."

Running from difficult thoughts, feelings or questions is how we avoid being present. We sometimes do this by busying ourselves with tons of tasks and responsibilities and we call it, "being responsible" or "being busy". We justify our escapism so we can validate our decision to avoid the painful stuff.

I get it. Bills need to be paid. Laundry needs to be done. Dishes need to be washed. Work tasks need to get checked off. But over time, this way of being only reinforces the muscle we have around avoiding and running. We don't strengthen the muscle of staying. We don't become more able to sit with pain and tough stuff, we just get really good at avoiding it so it never feels more likely or more possible to endure it.

We perpetuate our very predicament.

I learned to sit with hard feelings during a few different transitions in my life. When I felt challenged by something at work, with a relationship or within myself, I intentionally told myself to sit. Sometimes I even had to sit on my hands or wrap my legs around the chair rungs. When I did this enough times, I became able to sit with my thoughts, however painful or hard, and eventually I changed my perception of those thoughts. They were no longer painful or hard, they just "were". When I stopped being afraid and stopped being so busy to avoid facing my fear, I became more able to face whatever change was coming my way. I breathed more deeply, got more air in my lungs a thought more clearly.

It helped me plan my next move and helped the change process move more smoothly.

Next time something challenging or painful comes up, don't just do something---something to avoid the tough stuff---just sit there, instead.

You might be amazed how productive sitting still can be!



photo courtesy of livingaquotablelife