Ever had that feeling? Bewildered, off balance, hurting, sad, confused, uncertain, and conflicted? Are you feeling that way now? Congratulations you have just been knocked out of your comfort zone. How did you get there? Make a stupid decision? Over commit yourself? Get hurt? Or perhaps you chose to step out of it? However you did it, one thing is certain, you feel baaaaaaad. In fact it is safe to say that it pretty much feels worse than anything else. You were in a “safe” place and now you are not. There is only one course of action: get back in your comfort zone. Oh there is a second one as well: get used to the change.
Let me clear something up for you: you are always going to live in a comfort zone of some sort. There has to be a “normal” for you or you will go mad. The trick is not to confuse comfort with what is best for you. In my experience people would rather die than change, and it boggles the mind that someone will stay in a bad situation rather than step out into a potentially good one.
There exists in your brain a small gland called the Amygdala, its function is to manage the psycho cybernetic system. In other words it manages your comfort zone. Your comfort zone is decided by what is “normal” for you right now, as “normal” is predictable and consistent. “Normal” can be really awful, but “known” is better than “unknown”. So when you stray from what is “normal” your unconscious mind goes to work to protect you, and the best way it knows how is to get you back to “normal”. So your Amygdala is instructed to release a nifty cocktail of hormones that make you feel all kinds of bad. You will feel guilty and depressed; in fact, you will feel anything you need to feel in order to get you back to “normal”.
This accounts for why so many people only ever get so far in life, or why they attempt something but then go back to where they were. There is no such thing as too much change, but there is such a thing as not being able (or wanting to) handle the upset that comes from a move away from “normal”. The bad feeling will last as long as it takes for the new you to become “normal”, so the trick isn’t to get rid of the bad feelings but to adjust to the new “normal” quickly. Sadly, what most people do is to just go back to normal and then after a day or two the shock subsides. They feel better, no doubt, but it’s deceptive as they feel relief for going backwards.
Please understand that your unconscious mind does all of this to protect you. The comfort zone is a safe place because you have developed coping mechanisms to survive there, the unknown is scary because you don’t have (or don’t know that you have) coping mechanisms for all that is there. What is amazing though is how your unconscious mind gets you to feel as though your entire world is collapsing at the most, and worries you so you can sleep at the least. It knows exactly what to do to get you to come home where you can cope. The simplest way it achieves its goal of getting you back where it is “safe” is by making you feel like you have done something wrong. Right and wrong are merely judgement calls, but when it feels right it feels right, and when it feels wrong…it feels terrible. Guilt is a powerful force when it comes to keeping you where you are.
So what do you do with all of this information? Well it depends on what you want. If something has happened that isn’t in line with what you want and you find yourself in that awful space outside of your comfort zone, then get back if you can. If your comfort zone isn’t where you want to be and you find yourself in that awful place outside of it, then adjust quickly and learn to cope. Your rule of thumb should be to always move forward. Do whatever will move you forward. The principle of the comfort zone demonstrates the power of emotion to move us in a direction, but while emotions should be listened to they don’t always steer us forward, they steer us to “safe”.
You will spend most of your life maintaining your comfort zones, and you will spend some of it in the horrible place outside of them. What you need to ask yourself is, “Are my comfort zones where I want them to be? Or are they taking me where I want to go?” If yes, then keep them, if no then its time for change. Change can be very uncomfortable as we are built more for consistency than we are for change, but change is also very good.
Need help coping or assessing a comfort zone? www.imaginife.co.za
I won’t give up on you.