The Difference Between Seeking Comfort and Seeking Healing

There is a very big difference between seeking comfort and seeking healing. There’s nothing wrong with comfort; I want to be very clear about that. There is some level of comfort and feeling held that is very helpful for healing. Many times, feeling more comfortable can be a prelude to healing.  

It’s just that not all forms of comfort are helpful in that way. There are forms of comfort and comfort seeking that actually have nothing at all to do with healing.  

Those non-healing forms of comfort can, at best, be a stabilization mechanism. There are moments in our lives when any stabilization mechanism is a really good idea. Psych meds were invented for that very reason. Nobody in a healing profession fools themselves that psych meds are actually healing, but they do provide a stabilization, in times when that is of primary importance.  

They also tend to have various side effects—like many other sources of stabilization that have various side effects.  

I’m not saying no to any of it. Some times are very difficult times.  

The Earth element has everything to do with comfort: where we seek comfort; how we seek comfort; whether we allow ourselves to seek comfort; and whether we allow ourselves to actually take it in, after having sought it.  

The healthy Earth element begins with comforting and holding as a pathway to integrity. I would say that one of the most important conversations that we can have, in times of earthquake, is, “How are our comfort pathways, and are those comfort pathways also pathways of integrity?”  

That can look really different than we think it might on the outside. There have been times when a bag of potato chips and a 1940s British detective novel have genuinely been exactly what I need to stop a downward spiraling process, and kind of bandaged me up for a while. It can benignly numb me out in a way that allows my subconscious to catch up with what just happened in my life. That kind of swaddling and holding can, on the whole, be a really good thing.  

How much of the time, when we make use of comfort behaviors, is there something in us is saying, “This is maybe not the highest, most glorious, most direct route to healing and integrity…” or something far more judgmental than that.  

If there is part of us that is thinking something like that, what unfortunately happens is that we don’t actually get all that we can out of our comfort mechanism. There we are eating more Sara Lee cakes than you could even imagine, not even taking pleasure in it, nor even allowing that wedged diabetic coma feeling to assuage us at all, because we are so busy beating ourselves up for having done it.  

I want us to talk about comfort, and I want to talk about admitting how much we sometimes need some comfort mechanisms, even if they are not “perfect.” I want to talk about healthier comfort patterns, because I think that it’s destructive to just try to divide it between “healthy” and “unhealthy.”  

There’s way too much middle ground to be able to accurately grapple with our reality if all we’ve got is “healthy” or “unhealthy.” This is Earth—there is always a wide middle ground. What are we doing with our heart, as we take comfort, to hold it as a potential doorway into a next-step-better for our healing and our integrity? 

To learn more, check out my Earth Seasonal Resources.

To join the discussion, find us on my Perennial Medicine discussion listserv (all are welcome).

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