Embracing discomfort

Buoyancy aids, dance moves, night vision, and illusory comforts


Introduction: multi-polar swings

As the creatives on this planet, many may think we have it easy pirouetting around with our flamboyant ideas, and often colourful modes of being, but this perception is usually far from the truth. As recorded since the beginning of time, artists and writers, in particular, ride the waves of the forces that envelop them, deploying their creative practices as a type of buoyancy aid to prevent drowning.
Among the infinite forces at play, one perpetual constant stands out—the delicate dance between comfort and discomfort. While the mere mention of this subject can invoke sensations of unease, it provides a fascinating insight into one of the more profound processes of creativity at play. As creatives, we are natural explorers, often diving into untouched chasms and encountering unexpected feelings, along with yet more invisible forces. Delving into the concept of comfort alone can shed light on the powerful connotations of complacency.
These are daily explorations that can feel like navigating an assault course, with life’s obscurities and man-made obstacles at every turn. As creatives, we open ourselves to the multi-polar trappings of the living experience, be it from the protected sanctum of our thinking spaces to the uncertainties of external criticism, and perhaps always with the perceived vulnerabilities of being a square peg in a round world.
These are expeditions that can feel like navigating an assault course, with life’s obscurities and constructed obstacles at every turn. These are daily encounters that can require great swings in our thinking and force us to travel great distances in neurological space. Even vast swings in labyrinthine psychological states are great stressors, which can often go unrecognised and unacknowledged in society’s drive for normalcy.

Contorted darkness

I liken the creative journey to that of mining, where we crawl, sweat, and wrestle at the coalface of the unimagined. Artists, scattered in the seclusion of studios and workspaces across all cultures, labour tirelessly in these uncharted territories, following impulses in pursuit of untapped feelings and channels of expression, setting forth without a clear destination in mind.
We follow our instincts, driven by an insatiable curiosity and an unrelenting desire to explore, willing to make profound sacrifices for the sake of this exploration. We often push through the discomforts of darkness and the mysteries of the unknown, navigating convoluted twists and enduring extended, excruciating periods of uncertainty, without a thought for the ubiquitous ‘comfort break.’
The true rewards are not solely found in unearthing diamonds and gemstones that may someday materialise, but also in the sparks of enlightenment that arise from the act of toil itself. This is the uncomfortable voyage of the innovator, the very essence of creation – the forging of new possibilities where none existed before, an inexplicable impulse to journey well beyond the comfort zones. Through the profound and often contorted darkness, we ultimately sail beyond the unimagined boundaries of imagination, embarking on an unsettling journey and establishing new modes of existence that few others seem willing to undertake.

Psychological preparation

On our creative journeys, as an act of overcoming fears, we can actively confront and acknowledge the presence of discomfort. Psychological preparation to recognize, understand, and begin to embrace discomfort becomes an essential process in maintaining creative well-being and buoyancy.
One of the remarkable powers of our creative minds is the inherent ability to objectify abstract forces. We possess a unique capability to step back and view situations with a detached perspective. As visual thinkers, our perception goes beyond the mere use of our eyes; we can envision and cast light upon the uncharted, revealing what is often obscured.
Rather than instinctively shying away from discomfort, we have the power to choose to pause and dissect its origins. Is it a force beyond our control, a consequence of our actions, an element to embrace, or a catalyst for progress? Is this discomfort a signal that ignites our creative fire, or does it pose a threat to our well-being and the creative process itself?

Objectification enabled

This concept isn’t complex; it’s elegantly straightforward. The creative mind possesses a remarkable tool—the ability to perceive, envision, model, and give shape, in other words, objectify the intangible. It’s a unique capacity that switches on a kind of night vision or thermal camera, allowing us to stop, look around, and see the formations and defined edges of discomfort head-on as and when they come into view.
For those of us compelled by the creative drive, the well-defined boundaries of discomfort can transform into a signalling system guiding us through the tunnels of exploration. For many, this interplay becomes akin to a highly-toned muscle, developed and strengthened without effort through the evolution of our creative practice.
It’s a unique muscle which has evolved and been toned with the creative spirits. A muscle which now, at this crucial juncture in time, we seem to be swimming in forever-complexities, contradictions, fallouts, and grey zones, which feel incomprehensible to most. A muscle which may well need to flex and come into its field as our challenges become ever more profound and demand defined responses.

Conclusion: Embrace choice

Our license is choice—whether we pirouette on Swan Lake or mosh in the snakepit, we can dance in the face of discomfort without fear. The shadowy territories of discomfort aren’t necessarily a hindrance but a potent signalling system, abundant and available to be embraced and worked to our advantage.
As the creatives, we possess a unique ability—to objectify the abstract and intangible, to view the definitions of discomfort as coordinates through the journey of our explorations. This ability, like a ‘muscle,’ has evolved alongside creative spirits. Now, in a world filled with compounded complexities and abstracted uncertainties, the imperative to flex, confront, and embrace the discomforts that most choose to recoil from becomes vivid and clear.
This may simply be a growing intuition that we don’t necessarily need the constructs of comfort that we’re forever reminded to aspire to or that the unnerving discomfort of silence may be golden. In doing so, we exponentially expand the horizons of choice, revealing potentials beyond the ordinary and humdrum of normalcy.
Most notably, we safeguard our dance moves from the stagnation and complacency too often shrouded by the illusory claims of comfort.

Image: The Mosh Pit At Endfest, In Washington, D.C.(1991)