The discomfort radius

The discomfort radius

Have you ever noticed how an invisible barrier seems to form around people who are begging on the side of a busy street?

It's a phenomena that is especially visible on a small foot bridge, of which there are many in Dublin. The narrowness of the bridge means space for pedestrians is already tight, yet we still manage to maintain a wide berth.

Eye contact is also avoided at all costs, as you risk humanizing them. It's a lot easier to ignore the problem if you keep your eyes fixed on some point in the distance.

I've also noticed that the worse the shape the homeless person is in the larger the radius around them.

If someone is passed out, clearly on drugs and filthy, then we go wide. If they are relatively clean, and maybe holding a well written sign rather than trying to talk to you, we go a little bit closer.

I call this 'The discomfort radius' and it describes the amount of distance we put between ourselves and thing that make us uncomfortable, and it's proportional in size to how uncomfortable we are.

What does it all mean?

Why would you want to look at something that makes you uncomfortable? Surely it makes sense to distance yourself as much as possible, that way your life can be nothing but lollipops and rainbows.

I would argue, however, that it's important to embrace the discomfort.

To look that homeless person in the eye, so to speak.

Often times we are avoiding hard truths.

Maybe you avoid exercise because it reminds you of how unfit you are.

Maybe you avoid the mirror because you hate your body.

Maybe you avoid social situations because they make you uncomfortable.

What ever it is, the more uncomfortable it makes us, the greater the lengths we will go to in order to avoid it.

The discomfort radius.

However, within that radius are things that we often need to see.

In there lay the grim, uncompromising realities.

It's where shit gets done.

It's where change happens.



The Convenience Pill

The Convenience Pill