Friday, November 2, 2018

Comfort and Beyond

     We relate to life from roughly three different subjective states: comfort, liminality, and distress.
     When we're in our "comfort zone," we feel at home, at ease, safe, contented. The main advantage of the comfort zone is having the freedom & capacity to be authentic, nurturing ourselves & each other - the "tend & befriend instinct" - associated with an inherently deeply pleasant feeling due, in part, to release of hormones like oxytocin. One drawback to the comfort zone is lack of novelty. Without new stumuli, we tend to eventually become bored, get cabin fever - the urge to get out of our well-known comfortable situation and explore the unknown.
     Liminality is our "growth zone" just beyond our comfort zone. When we're in this relatively narrow zone, we're sufficiently challenged and are optimally able to learn. Liminality is a fascinating, important, complex state - see:
     When we feel distress, we're so far removed from our comfort & growth zones, that we fear for our health, our very life. This is our "danger zone" - our "fight, flight or freeze instinct" is activated, we're flooded by stress hormones & survival instincts take over automatically. Now it is almost impossible to: think clearly, learn, make good choices (eg voting), or access any of the other deeper resources available to us in our comfort or growth zones.

     These states are subjective because different people can experience the same situation very differently eg skiing down an intermediate hill is pleasantly challenging for an intermediate skier; boring for an expert skier; and a dangerous, frightening experience for a non-skier. 
     We feel at least somewhat uncomfortable so frequently throughout the day, that it’s very easy to be mildly, chronically distressed without really noticing. But when major trauma is added (eg a previous serious skiing accident), the comfort & growth zones can markedly narrow, while the danger zone expands extremely broadly, so much so that life can feel as if one is constantly on a tightrope, always bracing for when (not if) disaster strikes.

     The more we are able & willing to evolve, the more we feel at home, be able to learn & thrive in all situations (ie become increasingly resilient) and, IMHO most importantly, the more we are able to embody our deepest authenticity, expressed as unconditional love for all.
     "There is an important link between deep change at the personal level and deep change at the organizational level. To make deep personal change is to develop a new paradigm, a new self, one that is more effectively aligned with today's realities. This can occur only if we are willing to journey into unknown territory and confront the wicked problems we encounter. This journey does not follow the assumptions of rational planning. The objective may not be clear and the path is not paved with familiar procedures. This tortuous journey requires that we leave our comfort zone and step outside our normal roles. In doing so, we learn the paradoxical lesson that we can change the world only by changing ourselves. This is not just a cute abstraction; it is an elusive key to effective performance in all aspects of life." Robert E. Quinn

      "There is a kindness that dwells deep down in things; it presides everywhere, often in the places we least expect. The world can be harsh and negative, but if we remain generous and patient, kindness inevitably reveals itself. Something deep in the human soul seems to depend on the presence of kindness; something instinctive in us expects it, and once we sense it we are able to trust and open ourselves." John O'Donohue

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