The Creativity Cure

A do-it-yourself prescription for happiness

"Happiness Depends on Contrast"

On Pleasures Arising From Discomforts

A moment of happiness can come when you least expect it or from a strange situation.

Made by Chloe's hand

“Sometimes my cat bites hard or digs in her claws. It hurts a little, but there is something delightful about it. How often do we get literally bitten in our usual modern lives? These days we are cut off from our nature, from nature itself, then a cute little animal, a bite, a tiny drop of blood... is a jolt back into the real, physical world. It feels good. Reminds me of a line from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club describing the effect of a fistfight, "There's nothing more life affirming than getting the s--- beat out of you."

The above was an email from my friend Scott Ely, MD, MPH, Associate Director of the Hematopathology Fellowship Program at New York Presbyterian.

Technology has taken us from outdoors, in-the-flesh, face to face and five-sense experience to sun-up to sundown screens. Boredom, wait time and needing to physically rise to get the job done are falling by the way side. Manual manipulation and thinking walks (mind-body, sort-it-out processes) with their stumbles, errors, blunders and nicks are not as common. Less chance of getting caught in the rain on route to the task.

While there are great advantages to technological efficiency, there are also disadvantages. Discomfort tolerance can diminish; we get soft. Sedentary, accustomed to comfort and used to convenience, we may lose our edge and energy. The sense of aliveness that comes from physical challenge can be sacrificed.

I once had a client tell me that he loved to run around in the cold without zipping up his jacket though his Mom fretted. A surgery resident said he got a secret thrill from doing rounds with a fever, as it made him know he could handle stress. One client likes to run in the rain, just to take it on.

Recently, psychologist Dr. Ronald L Siegel, (http://www.mindfulness-solution.com/About%20the%20Author.html) a speaker at a Harvard Medical School course on The Practice of Positive Psychology, shared that though skiing taxes his body it leads to flow. Flow is a state of being that provides satisfaction or for some, peak experience.

Flow is a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi. In his words it is "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost. http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/4.09/czik_pr.html

Do we need the discomfort? Should we actually seek it just to achieve focus, energy, sharpness and flow?

I believe it was Freud who said that happiness depends on contrast.

Discomfort is connected to vitality.

 

Carrie Barron, M.D., is a psychiatrist and co-author of The Creativity Cure: A Do-It Yourself Prescription for Happiness, which she wrote with her husband, Alton Barron.

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