Growing Outside of Your Comfort Zone (Book Snippet 23)

Virginia Satyr, a famous family therapist, once said,

‘The greatest need is to experience the familiar.’

The dread of the unfamiliar — the polarity of whatever happens to be our core need — is what keeps us locked in our comfort zone. Our comfort zone does not necessarily represent a happy place, it is just a familiar place in which we stay even if is toxic and even if we are unhappy. To create security through predictability is at the root of all kind of seemingly irrational human behaviour: battered wives stay with their abusive husbands, people stay with their constantly nagging partners, and disillusioned employees stay at companies they hate working for. When I was first introduced to think of fear as F.E.A.R. (False Expectations Appearing Real), I found it to be a clever play on words, but it didn’t seem relevant in my life. Since then I have come to understand the deep wisdom contained in the F.E.A.R. acronym.

To have fear is not bad or wrong. It’s natural. Fear is simply a signal by our subconscious to be cautious based on the assessment that something dangerous is happening or will happen. If you find your fears suffocating and want to experience something different from your current reality, it means it is time to move beyond what is familiar. Open your mind to new perspectives, discover the assumptions that drive your F.E.A.R.

This makes me think of an old German joke (yes, Germans do have jokes!).
A man driving on the motorway listens to an announcement on the radio: ‘Drivers on the A3 motorway are cautioned to proceed with extreme care! There is a car driving in the wrong direction.’ After hearing this warning the man angrily shouts: ‘One car going in the wrong direction?! There are hundreds of ‘em!’

In other words: If people who know you well point out to you that you are emotionally needy and intrusive, or inflexible and controlling, or impertinent and unorganized, or emotionally cold and distant — there is probably some truth to that. But just because someone else is right, doesn’t make you wrong or bad. You did what you thought you had to as well as you could. And now it might be time to step outside of your comfort zone and explore what lies on the other side of being right.

When it comes to relationships, we are often amazingly skilled at attracting people into our life who are comfortable in the corner of the compass that is uncharted territory for us. It is easy to fall in love with someone because they are different, but it is not so easy to stay in love with someone despite them being different: We are attracted to someone very independent with a free spirit — until we feel rejected by them — which is when we will try anything to break their will. We are touched by the warmth and attentiveness of a person — until we find them smothering — and start pushing them away. We admire the structure and discipline of someone — until we feel they want to put us in a box — and begin to ridicule them for being rigid and inflexible. We are enamoured with a creative person who creatively dances with life — until we feel they broke a commitment — and we attack them for being unreliable and flimsy.

If we meet a person who represents our polarity, this person could become our greatest teacher because they already know how to do what we struggle to learn.

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