Pillows of Problems | Emily Hightower

Issue #36

Research shows that our brains are negatively biased, and we will look for problems no matter what our current circumstances are. In Michael Easter’s book, The Comfort Crisis, studies by David Levari are cited on “prevalence-induced concept change,” where Levari found that instead of becoming more fulfilled as our lives improve, we lower our threshold for what we experience as problems. This becomes a problem in and of itself worth looking at. Your experience of your stress is both valid and worth questioning if you want to find contentment and balance.


In my work with trauma I often say we cannot compare pain; your experience is valid and real to you. If you don’t start there, you end up in a mental game of denial masked as righteousness or humility. We tend to use comparison as a way to either justify our pain, or cheat ourselves of the validity of our own experience. This comes out as something like; “Of course that guy is doing better than I am, look what he can afford. If I had his circumstances I wouldn’t have any problems.” or,  “I should be happy and healthy, look at all that I have compared to most”. These comparison games keep us up at night in what are likely and hopefully safe, comfortable beds; restless on perceived pillows of problems. 


This is not to say your problems are not real. In fact, this is one big reality check on how we face problems and testing ourselves to get out of comparison and comfort as dominant strategies for solving them. 


In our work at SH//FT we approach stress from a principle rooted in our biology: stress is natural and it is supposed to be met through your body, not your mind. In a society where comfort has convenienced us into physical disconnection and stagnation we find ways to create the stress we need to feel alive even when things are relatively ‘good’. We look for problems to solve and they are mostly in our heads. Then we point and compare in isolated egocentric lives to understand our discomfort. Then we feel ‘stressed’ about our problems and look for quick ways to feel good; a natural impulse also driven by biology. We live in a world where feel-good-quick is easy but not free. The cost of feeling good without physical effort or connection is usually more overstimulation or addiction. Think; smartphones, tv, alcohol, weed, quick convenient food, etc. – relatively no physical effort required to get the drug and no physical effort required to use it.


When you’re facing your stress and problems, rather than compare your relative pain to others in the form of wealth or comfort, look at the pain of disconnection and stagnation in your own life. No matter how much money, luxury, comfort or time you think you have or want, if you are not connected to your body and creating ways to move stress through it (movement, physical strain, breath, recovery) you are likely sleeping on a pillow filled with feathers noticing only the fluff of problems floating around in your head. Real or imagined, those problems deserve your physical attention to SH//FT from pain to opportunity.


We designed our monthly membership with physical practices that will revitalize you and reconnect you with tools to move stress through your body and widen your tolerance and perspective so you can meet the stress of modern comfort and disconnect with skill. We hope you’ll join the powerful path of self discovery that goes way beyond what people think of as ‘fitness’. We are in this to master modern stress and turn a tide of comfortable suffering into an opportunity for evolution.