“I am alive!” We should always carry this awareness with us as a background melody for each moment of our lives. It gives life a deeper meaning and value.
Unfortunately, we often forget this simple fact and begin to take our presence on Earth for granted. It happens because the awareness of being alive is deeply linked with the awareness of death and we are terrified of that! Moving away from this basic awareness leads us to hole up in what it is called a “comfort zone.”
What is a comfort zone?
A comfort zone is a series of recurring or static habits, thoughts, and emotions. We invest our energy, more or less consciously, in limiting our life experience and protecting ourselves within what we already know. In this way, we sell our aliveness for a sense of security governed by fear.
The comfort zone can have different sizes, be more or less rigid, but it always damages us: we start to close off and shrink. We become like a flower that is scared to blossom and decides to stay small.
Problems & Negative experiences
We usually take refuge in a comfort zone after we’ve had negative experiences and we want to protect ourselves from pain. If we live in this narrow corner of life for a long time, however, it starts to create new suffering.
The more our comfort zone tightens and becomes claustrophobic, the easier it is for us to develop different kinds of problems: relational, sexual, psychosomatic and so on. The more we suffer in a specific area of our life, the more sensitive we become about this area. It becomes the door through which our problems manifest themselves.
When needs become fears
Each of our problems hides one or more fears. On the one hand, something natural in us works to expand our life experience: the NEED to express ourselves, to love, to feel, to change, to let go, to connect and so on.
On the other hand, the conditioning created by our negative experiences work to keep us continually safe. In order to do that, they cover up our needs with fears and are a source of possible danger because they lead us into the unknown.
Fears are the negative interpretations of our natural needs to live fully: FEAR to express ourselves, to love, to feel, to change, to let go, to connect and so on.
All those fears are different expressions of a deeper and more basic one: the fear of living. Which is the outcome of our disconnection from the basic awareness of being alive and of our eventual death.
Terrified of being alive
Why are we terrified by the awareness of being alive and by the existence of death? We are terrified because it forces us to take responsibility for how we are living our life. Suddenly we become aware that we have just one life and it can end at any moment.
This awareness takes us out of our daily numbness and brings us in contact with the core of our life experience as human beings. It is a deep mirroring process; we cannot lie anymore.
We are forced to ask ourselves questions like:
› Am I really living my life?
› Am I satisfied with my life?
› Do I live intensely enough?
Answering those questions might bring up some inconvenient truths that are difficult to manage. But if we accept them, they can be used as an energy boost to get us out of our comfort zone and start living our lives fully again.
Actions to get out of your comfort zone
The psychological suffering that results from our problems and fears is, in reality, an alarm clock that wakes us up from our comfortable numbness and pushes us to connect with life again.
To me, there are three main actions that help to heal our suffering and get us out of our comfort zone and to open up again: being vulnerable, grounding in the body and taking risks. I describe these actions below using examples from my practice as a psychologist and my personal life.
A client once asked me how to delete all of his insecurities and to feel completely confident, like some people he envied in life. I told him that, as far as I’m concerned, there are no people completely confident in the world, but there are only people who show their insecurities and people who do not.
Someone who is completely free from insecurities is simply fake or dead. The mind of my client was trapped by the fear of living. Showing our insecurities and being vulnerable is the most beautiful expression of ourselves because we go beyond our masks and show a more authentic part of who we are. Self-confidence comes by itself, it doesn’t need to be built up; it is natural.
“Only the insecure strive for security”
Grounding in the body
One day, another client told me that she had started to blush more and more with men. She was feeling ashamed of it and was starting to consider it a real problem. I looked at her and I said, “The problem is not that you blush, it is that you are ashamed of it!”
To me, shyness and blushing are signs of an innocence and naturalness that she found had returned because she had begun to root herself more in her body, while shame is a result of the fear of opening up with others.
“Shame is a soul-eating emotion”
The first true act of love that I did for myself was to quit a job that I hated and that made me feel deeply unhappy. I was scared of financial insecurity and a new, unknown future. It turned out to be the best choice of my life!
At that time, I didn’t know that the force that pushed me to get out of my comfort zone was my deep need for a radical change. I was not living my life and I needed to take responsibility for that and do something for myself: from the fear of living in the joy of living!
“A man needs a little madness… or else… he never dares cut the rope and be free!”
Zorba the Greek
Returning to Joy
Accepting our vulnerability, going back to the innocence and wisdom of the body and taking risks in life lead us to have a more authentic contact with ourselves.
The more we ground in the body and open up, the more the mind relaxes and frees itself from fears. Life becomes less problematic and rather joyful and light. Difficulties and insecurities keep happening, but they don’t take up all of our attention. We start to accept them as the counterpart of joy. Actually, we realize that they are necessary to experience joy.
Getting out of our comfort zone implies a jump into the unknown, but it always pays off because life in itself is uncertain and unpredictable. The more we root in the basic awareness of “I am alive!” and accept the eventuality of death, the more we are connected with the source energy of life.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
Neale Donald Walsch
First published on IamExpat.