The Discomfort of Change

by Jesse Lott

If you've thought of seeking or have sought therapy, it's likely because you are wanting some sort of change in your life.

Change, typically, is difficult and can be tremendously uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, in fact, that the discomfort is enough to spur most to give up and settle with the old. I encourage my clients to stick with the discomfort, to embrace it, as change that is worth having is probably going to be tough. I invite you to the following exercise/metaphor to drive this point.

Pick up a pen or pencil and write your name. Which hand did you use? Your left? Right? This is your dominant hand. This hand represents the problem that brings you to therapy.

Now switch hands and write your name again and pay attention to what that is like. This represents the change you want in life.

When you write with your dominant hand, you do it without much thought, without much difficulty. It's natural, normal, comes without much effort. You probably didn't struggle much, if at all; it's familiar. This, being the problem, is something you've grown familiar with and is your dominant approach. It's rote and automatic.

But when you switch hands, you are forced to contend with myriad levels of discomfort: it's weird, odd, uncomfortable, unnatural, and, if done for even a short period of time, can bring up feelings of frustration and thoughts of how ridiculous the exercise is. It can be uncomfortable just enough to make you switch back to what you're used to simply because it's familiar.

But, if you were to stick with it, to push through the discomfort, to not let your frustration get the upper hand (no pun intended), you will eventually begin to notice improvement in your ability and skill. The discomfort will lessen, your efficiency will increase, and the unfamiliarity will dissipate, becoming your new normal. At times, you'll likely pick up the pen with your dominant hand out of habit, and that's ok. You simply switch hands, mindful of your habit, and continue on. And, in time, you will be proficient in writing with two hands rather than just one.

Welcome the discomfort of change.