Over the past few weeks of this pandemic, I’ve watched people protest in support of reopening society. There have been photos of people carrying signs stating they want their liberty restored, that they need a haircut, that their constitutional rights are being denied. I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t something more going on under the surface for all of us, regardless of what political party we belong to or our economic status. I wonder if what we’re all experiencing and wanting to be delivered from is more than just our loss of freedom. I believe that what’s at the heart of the protests and our anxiety at quarantining is our inability to sit with our personal discomfort.
It’s unAmerican to have to feel discomfort or be inconvenienced. We have solutions for every possible discomfort we may experience. Don’t like your job? Have a drink when you get home. Not happy with your weight? There are thousands of diets for you to choose from to solve that problem. Don’t want to sit with your pain? There are thousands of TV channels for you to numb yourself with so that you forget that you’re in pain. Our culture is based on the avoidance of pain and discomfort, so much so that we believe it’s our right to not have to endure any form of discomfort, even if it means saving lives. We dislike discomfort so much, that we’d rather take the chance that we or our loved ones will be exposed to a serious and potentially deadly virus than to be inconvenienced by discomfort.
When I first started to do my inner work and the feelings came pouring out of me with a force I had never known, I too protested. For weeks I visited my therapist and railed, “I’m having feelings! Make them stop!” I would have made a sign with those words on it and stood on a street corner and screamed those words at anyone who would listen if I thought it would’ve ended my discomfort. I wanted to do everything I could to stop the emotional pain in my body. I reached out for ways to numb the pain, but eventually I knew the only way to get through the pain was to sit with it and accept it and allow it to change me. It’s one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn.
I can’t help but think that’s what’s going on inside of people who are protesting the shut down. I believe that battle is going inside all of us to some degree as we are trying to come to terms with a new level of discomfort that most of us have never experienced before. I wonder if people put down their signs and the things they’re trying to numb themselves with and sat with the discomfort, perhaps we’d all gain insights into what it is that’s really bothering us about this time. I have a feeling that we may find out that what we really want to protest is having to spend so much time with ourselves and our pain. I feel we’re losing an opportunity for self reflection and self awareness now that states are starting to open up more. The protests worked, people aren’t going to have to sit with their pain and discomfort anymore. What a lost opportunity for us all.