Dying Daily #275: Distress Tolerance

One of the primary reasons I see people struggle with follow-through is a lack of distress tolerance.

We live in a world and society that tells us, either directly or indirectly, that we do not ever have to be unhappy or uncomfortable. There are quick-fix pills for just about everything, including a large variety of healthy life struggles and difficulties.

Now, I am not a masochist or someone who thinks we should necessarily manufacture struggle and hardship. I am not someone who thinks we should derive our meaning and identity from struggle and suffering. These things are not useful.

We should, however, cultivate an ability to withstand distress and maintain equanimity in the face of the things we cannot control.

It’s not that hard.

One of the surest ways to cultivate distress tolerance is to simply do everything you need to do, regardless of how you feel and regardless of what you think of these things.

It’s amazing how much our opinion of things makes a mess for us, especially when you consider just how irrelevant our opinion about things really is.

What is your opinion about the current weather? How much does the weather care? It has been brutally hot here, planes are grounded, all sorts of stuff. People are complaining, the weather stays exactly as it is.

What about chores, like the dishes and taking out the trash? How much do you dislike them? How much less necessary have they become because of your opinion?

This applies to everything.

We live in this weird time where we think we have mastered reality, so we are in constant opposition to anything we dislike, making our peace fragile and our contentment fleeting. Of course we cannot follow-through on things in this state. We bail at the first sign of discomfort or difficulty.

Do the things you need to do, no matter what.

Be uncomfortable, be unhappy, and realize that it doesn’t really matter.

Take cold showers.

Eat the same food.

Drive in silence.

Sleep less than you can.

Work.

Learn to mediate so you can observe how the mind pulls you to and fro.

See what happens.