Dr. Andrew Magers
July 26, 2019
The Blind Side of Convenience
If you’re just joining us, this is the third installment of our Blind Side Series where we’ve been discussing the potential disadvantages of excessiveness, even with positive matters. As Dantès rightly said, “There are virtues which become crimes by exaggeration.” The first post concerned gratitude and the second focused on selflessness. Here, I want to explore the disadvantages of too much comfort.
As our civilization has become increasingly more advanced, products are more available than ever that make our lives convenient. Just recently, I saw that I could buy a banana slicer, a tool that saves you all of the enormous time you’ve been losing slicing bananas, hour after hour, day after day...now, obviously, buying a $10 item like this won’t mess up your life, but it does illustrate how comfortable our lives must be. It was less than 100 years ago that we didn’t have antibiotics. Now, we have tools for saving us 15 seconds of fruit slicing.
If you rely on your phone GPS to get around, you may struggle to read a map, or even get lost easily when your phone isn’t working. I love that I can quickly find where I need to go, but what skills and intelligences are we possibly sacrificing at the foot of convenience?
These physical examples show us what is true about our mental health and psychological well-being as well. When we avoid discomfort at all costs, we never grow. At a recent speaking engagement, someone asked me how they could establish a needed boundary with a friend without triggering them or making them anxious. I responded that they may, in fact, need to trigger them or make them anxious. Discomfort is sometimes the exact indicator that the right thing is happening.
There’s a reason we have the phrase “growing pains.” When we climb the stairs, and it makes us tired, we don’t rationalize that we must be taking the stairs wrong. We understand that to mean that we might need to lose some weight. Becoming a faster runner means sweating and achy muscles. Becoming a psychologically healthier person might mean painful conversations, cutting things out of your life that are not good for you, and wading into the shameful events of your past.
The truth about most mental health interventions is that they are not complicated. The difficult thing isn’t understanding what we should do, the difficulty is actually following through with it. We often think it takes more willpower or a better understanding of the reasons why we behave a certain way to change, when change is already at our fingertips - we need only be willing to sacrifice our comfort.
As an example, I worked at college counseling centers for two years in graduate school and had frequent conversations with students who struggled with pornography. Part of the solution was simple for most of them - throw away your smartphone and get a phone without internet access - but most wanted to keep the comforts of a smartphone while also stopping their unhealthy habit, so we struggled through months of setbacks and disappointments while trying to work with less effective solutions. Some pain on the front end can often mean less pain in the long run.
What this all means is that you may benefit from assessing what comforts in your life are keeping you from growing or becoming healthier. What subscriptions, behaviors, patterns, tools, or relationships in your life offer you good things but also create problems for you as well? Do you like that social media keeps you connected with people, but you spend way too much time on it? Have you been meaning to try a new hobby but keep rewatching the same shows on your streaming service? Has a relationship been harder or more painful than it’s worth, but at least he or she is nice some of the time? If you need some perspective or someone to walk with you through such a change, we are happy to help.