Some weeks ago, on a boiling hot Wednesday evening, I was leading one of our groups in the mens prison. One participant, JH, was getting really restless and agitated as the room was pretty toasty. To be fair it was bloody hot. 28 men in a room with no air conditioning and 95 degrees outside… so he did have a point. But it’s just heat. No one was going to die. And no one else was making a fuss. He was behaving like the sweat dripping down his front was out to attack him. He kept saying how uncomfortable he felt.
I then said something like. ‘Why do you care so much about being uncomfortable? It’s only a feeling. You don’t have to react to a feeling you know’. We left it at that – he wasn’t that amused by my observation and I wasn’t going to continue giving it airtime, so we moved on. He did actually quiet down.
The following week during check in another participant GD, who had been sitting next to JH, had an insight which he shared. When he had heard – ‘why do you care so much about being uncomfortable’ – something clicked inside. GD has had a severe anxiety disorder for many years and he also has Tourette syndrome, which shows up as an involuntary tic. He twitched, pretty severely most of the time. He realised his twitching was a reaction to an uncomfortable feeling. He felt anxious and it created a twitch. The twitch relieved the anxiety and so it went on, again and again. But what he realised in that moment was – why do I care if I’m uncomfortable. I don’t have to react to discomfort, it’ll pass on it’s own if I do nothing. He saw his anxiety as a temporary manifestation of his state of mind in the moment. And left alone, with no reaction to try and rid himself of it, it passed.
And quite like magic he no longer twitches. It’s actually quite strange to sit next to him now, he seems like a different person. He’s relaxed and comfortable in his own skin. He still feels anxious sometimes but he knows now he doesn’t have to react to it. And as he said – I’ve been uncomfortable plenty of times in my life so I realised it’s ok. And now I don’t even see discomfort I just see life moving through me.