Monday, April 6, 2015


Monday, April 6, 2015

My upbeat topic for a gray, damp April Monday is comfort!  It certainly beats out citizenship as something I want to write about.

When we experience trauma I think it only natural that we may feel inclined to cope with trauma related symptoms through a variety of self-soothing behaviors.  One of my favorite comforting activities is to eat chocolate.  I will eat it in many guises.  My favorite form of chocolate is Ben and Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie ice cream.  I actually had this ice cream with a chocolate brownie I made as one of my desserts last week.  I have never really struggled with gluttony throughout my life.  But chocolate is definitely my great temptress.

There are many ways we may comfort ourselves.  We might spend time sunbathing in an attempt to burn off a sour mood.  We may spend time with friends to distract ourselves from our own worries.  We might eat comfort foods like I do.  Another one of my favorite treats is biscuits and gravy.  We may find ways to medicate our unwanted feelings away.  I found it instructive when I heard Brene Brown utter the following words in a YouTube TEDTalk: "We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history."  Let that single sentence really sink into your heart and mind.  It's really quite sobering, isn't it?

In my opinion comfort in and of itself isn't a "bad" thing.  When the pursuit of comfort morphs into an ongoing quest to numb out unpleasant feelings it becomes something quite different.  Brown astutely acknowledges in the same video I referenced above that it is not possible to selectively numb emotion.  In other words, if you want to be able to really access and feel states of being such as incredibly joy, happiness and enthusiasm you have to be willing to make room for their counterpart.  You cannot have the joy, excitement and laughter without also being willing to experience sadness, malaise and anger.  It's not exactly a fun reality to acknowledge but I do believe it is in fact true.  You cannot have the light without the darkness.

As I have continued my own journey of personal growth I have begun to more fully come to terms with the enormous amount of sadness I was carrying around for so many years.  When I look back in hindsight I try to bring a compassionate gaze to my early life history.  When I really sit with the many unpleasant memories I can call up from my memory I feel it is only natural I would have developed such enormous sadness.

But the sadness does not have to rule my life now.  I can choose to allow the sadness to be.  And the seeming irony is that the more I allow the sadness to simply be the more the power I feel it once had to undermine me in the present moment withers away.  I have begun to more and more deeply accept that a part of my heart may always carry some amount of sadness over the horrific trauma I experienced in the first ten years of my life.  And as I find myself more and more able to accept this less than desirable possibility I find myself feeling increasingly relieved and calm.  I can have a bright future life even with the sadness I carry in my heart.

My health minded questions for this Monday:

What are the ways in which you comfort yourself?

When does comfort become something pathological?  In other words, when does comfort turn into numbing and addiction?

What are the sources of support you have in your life to help you live a good life?

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