Personal Experiment 3: Learning to be Comfortable with Discomfort (Physical Pain Edition)

Xue Zing
6 min readJul 6, 2021
Image by Nikko Macaspac from Unsplash

I was exposed to this phrase one day back around my university days while reading and fumbling around the Internet.

The concept was a weird one.

Learning how to deal with discomfort.

Just like how firemen train for emergency situations, we can condition and learn how we react to uncomfortable situations.

I realized that in the future, there will definitely be some parts of life that will cause me discomfort, whether that be little or great.

I figured I might as well start preparing for it now.

I combined this idea with another concept called exposure therapy, which basically was used by people to overcome their phobias via incremental exposures to the fear.

I figured I could learn it by exposing myself to incremental stages of discomfort.

Thus, began another experiment of mine.

Goal setting

This experiment was rather vague. It was hard to measure discomfort.

I decided to narrow down discomfort to just pain, most people are uncomfortable with the slightest pain, especially if they expect it.

Hence the fear of jabs and pulling out a tooth.

Now, since it was hard to quantify this experiment, I decided that the exposure should be easily controlled and would not fluctuate.

This is because I would be using real-time feedback and if it was too much, I could halt the experiment for the day and revise the process to be a little easier.

Hence, I chose physical discomfort over mental discomfort because it was more easily controlled and I could stop at any time.

Now all I had to do was find out how to inflict discomfort and pain onto myself…

A lightbulb went off in my head and I called a friend of mine.

“Hey man, you know you been asking me to join you at the gym? I’m ready. When can we start?”

He was curious to know the reason why I called him in the middle of the night, raring to go hit the gym.

Xue Zing

Writing about thought provokers that go against conventional self-help