Stop Feeling Better and Get Better
Posted on March 17, 2012 in Fulfillment, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” —Winston Churchill
Back in my twenties, I had a boyfriend who was controlling. He hid it well at first, charming me with his confidence, his bartender status and sous chef talents. The crazy came rolling out after I was completely smitten. At first it was just, “Where were you?” and “Who’s that calling you?” Soon, he was trying to tell me who I could be friends with and what I could wear. I knew I should leave him. I pictured his control escalating and my future involving one of those seedy live cop shows—with me crying as the police dragged my boyfriend off to jail. It didn’t match who I am. That’s when my psychologist told me there’s a difference between feeling better and truly getting better.
So, I broke up with my boyfriend. And that decision would have counted as getting better if I made it stick. Instead, I kept caving in and going back to him to feel better. Feeling better is temporary. It’s the quick fix to get rid of uncomfortable emotions. Getting better can be permanent. It’s dealing with pain or discomfort to improve your life. I got it. This bad boy boyfriend (who I naively thought I could fix) was like my drug. Leaving him hurt me, and I wanted to stop hurting, so I disregarded what staying meant for my future.
It is human nature to want to feel better and not push ourselves in the direction of pain, hardship, sacrifice or discomfort. It’s natural to avoid pain that lasts for quick decisions that can make us feel better right now. So we eat too much, drink too much or work too much to distract ourselves from pain, bury emotions and feel better.
But then we don’t grow.
When we refrain from making decisions, deny reality or avoid responsibility to feel better, life doesn’t get better. (Feeling better doesn’t last.) Getting better always involves doing something you don’t want to do, and it always results in life dramatically improving. To get there, we have to choose short-term discomfort for long-term benefits. We have to work against our desire for instant gratification to achieve permanent life improvement. And it takes courage.
We live in a world of feel better. Depressed? Can’t sleep? Have anxiety? Take a drug. Disregard your health for most of your life? They make drugs for that too. But quick fixes are just Band-Aids, covering up the problem. They might provide temporary relief, but they don’t solve underlying problems. Lasting change doesn’t happen until we choose to do the hard work and are willing to endure pain to get better.
My psychologist finally awakened me to the danger of staying with someone who was increasingly controlling. I left him for good. Even though I could intellectualize why it was the right decision, it was still painful and uncomfortable to walk away. I envisioned how I wanted my future to look to get through it. Getting better permanently, finally won out over feeling better temporarily.
Whenever you choose feeling better over getting better, your life will stay stuck. What are you doing in your life to feel better? Ask yourself: Is it worth sacrificing my future?