This week we’re talking about buffering. What is buffering?
We buffer to avoid feeling emotional pain or uncomfortable emotions.
When we buffer, we use external things to change how we feel internally. This means engaging in an action to put a buffer between us and a feeling we don’t want to feel. The action could be something like overeating, overdrinking, overspending, over-Instagraming, over-Netflixing, overworking, over-cleaning, or over-exercising. It could be anything if we’re using that thing/action to prevent ourselves from feeling an emotion.
These things become false pleasures that have a net-negative outcome: When we overeat, we gain weight. When we overdrink, we end up with hangovers and half of the next day is ruined. When we overspend, we go into debt or don’t meet our savings goals.
If buffering is what we do to avoid pain/discomfort, it makes sense that when we stop buffering, we’ll feel pain/discomfort. But most of us don’t understand this, which makes it almost impossible to stop buffering.
We have to be willing to feel uncomfortable in order to move past our buffers.
An analogy for this is like stepping into a house and turning on the lights and the house is a mess. The obvious and easiest answer is to turn the lights back off (to buffer) so the mess will “go away.” But the mess doesn’t go away–you just can’t see it now because the lights are off.
It’s similar with emotions. Avoiding an emotion doesn’t make the emotion go away—it just helps us not to see or feel it. We pretend it isn’t there, but it is there, and it’s there for a reason.
In order to figure out the reason, we need to stop buffering and turn the lights on. Then we need to remember that yes, the mess seems overwhelming, but we can handle it, we can clean it up. Turning the lights off prevents us from cleaning because we can’t see. Going unconscious by buffering has the same effect.
When we stop buffering, we’ll likely experience temporary pain. And the pain isn’t caused by the lack of buffering. What we need to do is stop buffering ourselves long enough to find the cause of the pain.
When we give up our buffers, we’ll still get upset, but we’ll deal with it differently. We won’t head for the ice cream, which will just make us feel sick or regretful. We’ll deal with it by becoming aware and examining why we’re upset. Soon, we won’t even want ice cream or chips because the pleasure we get from food—or whatever buffering actions we’re doing—actually diminishes, and the pleasure we get from taking care of ourselves and fueling ourselves increases.
When we trade the false pleasures in our life for real well-being, we gain confidence, and that confidence creates more confidence, which creates even more confidence.
Instead of using external things to change how we feel, we can use our minds to change how we feel. Or we can even choose to feel and process the emotion in the moment.
Your turn: What feelings have you been avoiding? What are the false pleasures you’ve been engaging in? In what way would your life be better if you didn’t have these false pleasures? Are you ready to stop buffering and willing to feel some discomfort instead, to move towards real well-being?
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