You know that feeling when you’re with another person, and there’s an awkwardness — a sense that there’s something missing? And you find yourself scrambling around thinking of something interesting to say that’ll bring your connection back to life?
Sometimes this does in fact kick-start a conversation in which we can both become absorbed, but sometimes our anxiety prevents that from happening.
I realized recently that I’ve had that a lot in my life.
Now when I’m on my own, I know what to do with unpleasant feelings of awkwardness. I’ll simply pay attention to them mindfully, until they pass. And often, even as I’m in the act of noticing my discomfort, I’ll find that a sense of well-being arises, so that first I’m comfortable with my discomfort, and then once the unpleasant feelings pass I’m deeply content.
But for some reason I haven’t thought to do this when I’m with others, especially in intimate relationships.
Recently however, when I was with my girlfriend, and I noticed that sense of our silence being awkward rather than comfortable, I found myself happy just to be with the feeling of discomfort. Rather than trying to think of something clever to say, I simply noticed how I felt, and accepted it. There was the faint stirring of anxiety, but I just accepted that as well.
And what happened was, in a way, quite predictable. Just as when I’m on my own, I felt happier, and the anxiety passed. But in another way the experience was a complete surprise; I found that paying attention to the uncomfortable sensation reconnected me with my heart. It felt like my heart was blown wide open, and I felt an overwhelming sense of love for my partner. This feeling of love, expressed through body language, looks, physical communication, and — yes — words, brought about a powerful sense of rapport and intimacy. This is an experience that recurred several times while we were together.
And I love that simply being with my discomfort not only allows it to pass, but also connects me with a powerful sense of love. And I love feeling freed from the anxious need “to be interesting” so that I’m able just “to be.”
I suppose that in a way this isn’t profound, and I’m sure that many you are saying “of course, everybody knows that!” But I thought I’d share it since I’m a fan of showing my “work in progress.” So if this practice is something that’s new to you, then please try it yourself and see what happens. I’d love to hear from you.
It certainly is an area of immense stress and suffering – the awkward silence. It makes me think of my recently deceased father’s dementia and the terror I felt about being alone with him and just not talking. My brothers and I tended to make sure we visited together so that we had somebody to carry on a conversation with. I rationalized that if my Dad wasn’t unhappy and didn’t want to participate in or listen to a conversation then there was no reason for it to cause me so much anguish. I didn’t really get enough time to develop a comfort factor but it was something I was aiming for.
It’s clearly very good progress in a relationship when you can stop feeling the need to be entertaining ( and also to be entertained ).
This is nice insight into sitting on the emotions that arise which bring about non-preferred thoughts, feelings and situations.
Thanks for sharing, I will keep this in my subconscious.
Thanks for sharing- it is a wonderful reminder. Being with the unconfortable feeling is such a simple thing and yet we (I!) so often forget that possibility and fall back to the unconscious trance.