Sep 1722

Diffused discomfort

I'm an overthinker.

There, I said it.

Overthinking can get a bad rep, and with due reason.

Overthinking can be unhealthy for sure.

It can lead to inaction, unhealthy obsessions and perfectionistic tendencies (see last weeks post).

But overthinking can have its upsides too.

Whenever I make a sizeable commitment, I tend to do a fair amount of overthinking.

Whether that's in purchasing a new pair of headphones, buying a new flat, or choosing who to marry.

I overthink the hell out of these.

But sometimes that's good, sometimes it's helpful.

In big, hard to reverse decisions, overthinking has a more natural place at the table.

When there's a high cost to backing out, we should dial up our overthinking sensor and lean into what it finds.

Sure, maybe I could be a little quicker to act on easily reversible decisions, like purchasing headphones, but I like my due-diligence phase, and my Bose QC35's have lasted me 6 years with no need to replace them on the horizon.

So overthinking can be helpful, sometimes.

But that's not what I've been thinking about today.

I've been thinking about diffused discomfort.

What the hell is that?

I'm not entirely sure, I'm discovering it as I write to you.

I'm not sure if I'm even using the words correctly, but it's a feeling that resonates with me.

It's the "something feels off, but I'm not quite sure what" spidey sensor.

It's the "here be dragons" internal notification that goes off when you step into the wrong metaphorical cave.

It's a subtle indicator, frustrating in its lack of specificity, frustrating in its ability to persist in the background without ever really announcing itself with any clarity.

It's blurry and unclear, its true form hidden from me.

It's this sense that I can best described as diffused discomfort.

The discomfort part is obvious, you can feel it and it doesn't feel good.

But the diffused part, that's the bit that takes self awareness to acknowledge.

We can feel something is off, but we aren't quite sure what.

Something is nagging at us, but what is it?

It takes a switch of mode, into self-detective, to gain any actionable insights.

When that diffused discomfort comes, we must dive into it, if we want to understand it's microcosm.

We must spend time with the discomfort.

And that's another point when overthinking can actually come into play.

Thankfully so, considering my remarkable ability to pursue it.

By diving into the blurry, poorly defined world of diffused discomfort, we notice that it isn't blurry or poorly defined at all.

As with most things, it's just a matter of perspective.

Whilst I'm outside of it, at a distance from it, its secrets are hidden.

But when I delve into it, and spend some time adjusting my focus, I notice that there are gems here, gems only visible from the inside.

It's that hunch that something doesn't quite feel right.

Most of the time, the situation isn't all that important.

It might be a handshake with a fellow indie hacker at a meetup, the meetup you've already decided isn't for you and that you'll never return to again.

In cases like these, a sense of diffused discomfort may bubble up, but the rewards of investigating it won't cover the costs of doing so.

But sometimes, in a big decision, like choosing who to go into business with, or deciding whether to buy that flat, or to marry that person, knowing exactly what the unspecified, blurry cause-for-concern-inner-alarm is trying to alert you of is damn useful.

Not because what you'll find out when you delve into its depths will naturally cause you to pull away from the business, flat or relationship, but because it may end up doing the opposite.

Our human skeletons and mystical fleshy parts don't like carrying around a ball of unspecified uncertainty.

We aren't at our healthiest when under the consistent weight of their gravity.

But until we actually examine what the signal is, what it thinks it's found and what it is trying to protect us from, we can't know whether the thing is a big deal or no issue at all.

And we can't begin to know how to take steps to resolve it.

In my experience, these things tend to resolve themselves, but only if we work with the process.

By delving into our discomfort, to try to adjust our perspective and focus, we'll notice what's really going on, and can then take steps.

Steps like having that conversation about an awkward topic, that's better had now than after you've spent 2 years together and $50k in business, or 5 years into a marriage that is fracturing due to both of you carrying around a universe of diffused discomfort turned resentment.

By understanding our spidey senses, we can start to organise our inner world, and move forwards with clarity.

Clarity, after all, being the very thing we seek through overthinking.

Is this the right path? Well that's the wrong question.

There isn't an objective "right", in my experience.

But by lifting off the weights of unspecified uncertainty, by clearing the diffused discomfort, we'll be in a far better place to make good, healthy, whole decisions, than if we'd just buried them deep down.

So take a moment next time you notice this old friend bubble up, to spin it around and dive within and listen to what it's trying to say.

Or choose to consciously ignore it, acknowledging its presence but shelving it away as unimportant due to the scale of the situation its signalling against.

But don't let the diffused discomfort linger.

If it's lingering, it needs dealing with.

In my experience, it's only when I dive within it, that I gain freedom from it.

After all, that's really what it's trying to bring.

Freedom, clarity, safety, peace.

And isn't that what we're all after?

Fred Rivett's face@fredrivett