Finding Clarity through Emotional Distress

Emotional distressEmotional distress, or emotional discomfort as I like to call it, is a sign that something is not right in your life. These are the times when you grow and change the most–usually for the better. The key to making it through difficult times is finding clarity.

Some years ago I had a boss who was obsessed with finding out how “comfortable” people were after each counselling session with me. I told him “I am not in the comfort business. I am in the clarity business.” I must admit that I was in a lot of mental/emotional ‘discomfort’ during those arguments with my boss. I was fired less than a year later, bringing even more intense discomfort. I blamed my former boss for everything…for a time.

Emotional distress is first and foremost a signal that something is not working in your life. Confusion and uncertainty accompany it. Something is wrong…but what?

You could quell that discomfort with alcohol or pills or food. Many do. Most of us have at some time or other done just that, and we temporarily felt a little better.

On the other hand, you could externalize the discomfort: “If it weren’t for him… “. “If it weren’t for the economy…” Blame, like alcohol, offers temporary relief at best. I got a lesson in the futility of blame after I lost my job.

I invite you to look back over your life for specific times when you were in serious emotional discomfort. Perhaps it was when someone close had died, a relationship was failing, a job was not working out or you had a life-threatening disease. Recall your confusion and uncertainty.

Now flip the calendar ahead a couple of years. Notice how the discomfort was almost or completely gone and how your life had changed. You were wiser and your life was ‘bigger’ and certainly different.

The important thing to understand is that you wouldn’t be the person you are today without those bumps and the emotional discomfort that went with them. Each bump was a challenge to change and grow. Of course, hindsight is easier than insight in the thick of a life-changing event.

So far I have written about the discomfort that comes when events and crises befall us. We are victims, but when we make it through the discomfort, we are better for it.

By my late 30s I had been through enough trauma to fill a lifetime: abduction and sexual abuse twice, torture, father killed, mother killed, breakup of family, mental illness in family, marriage breakdown, separation from children, alcoholism, brother suiciding, etc.

On the positive side, however, I realized I had not only survived these painful life events, but had eventually emerged mentally healthier, happier and more optimistic about the future.

I began to seek challenges I knew would be uncomfortable, but now with a knowing that I would survive and grow through the experience. Among other things, I left a tenured university faculty position without another job to go to, remarried (after two failures), started and ran businesses and moved across the continent.

So, if you find yourself in the midst of discomfort, I invite you to ask yourself what your present pain is about. What are you afraid to confront? Then do whatever it takes to get clarity.

You will emerge on the other side with a more expanded presence, because clarity and emotional discomfort are incompatible.

Alcoholic Neuropathy: Signs and Symptoms

A reader left a question on the article “Can you become Allergic to Alcohol?” Her question was

What is alcoholic neuropathy? Have heard the term and interested in understanding.

She went on to add the comment,

It is just amazing when you read the comments from other people, and it is like they are just describing the events of your own life.

Alcoholic Neuropathy: Symptoms

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How to Get the Most from your Health Professional


Why do you go see a medical doctor, psychologist, chiropractor or other health professional? Most people would answer that they seek help because they have a problem that needs fixing.  What is the true problem that needs fixing?

You might go to your chiropractor because your back is hurting after lifting something heavy. You see your doctor because you can’t breathe, because you have chest pains, or because you have a fever. You might seek a psychologist’s help because you are having anxiety attacks, you are fighting with your marriage partner, or you want to get over your alcohol addiction.

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Is there a Key to Longevity?

long life

There comes a time in life when we all begin to realize that we are not immortal. However, some people seem to live longer. Is there a key to longevity?

I recently attended the memorial service for my friend David. He died in his 87th year. David was a war hero and veteran of the Second World War and the Korean War. He lived a long and productive life, the last 40 years of it with his wife Arlene.

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