Karen's Blogs

Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational, and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

What’s the Difference Between Constructive and Destructive Emotional Discomfort?

What’s the Difference Between Constructive and Destructive Emotional Discomfort?

Emotional discomfort is a complicated subject. Is it a feeling to take seriously, to ignore or to overcome? Does it serve or hinder us from growth? How can we learn to distinguish constructive from destructive emotional discomfort?

After two sessions in a row discussing emotional discomfort with clients, I began thinking more about it. In the first session, a client said that she overate because “I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable stopping.” This led to discussion of why and whether she could have managed her uncomfortable feelings in order to avoid experiencing a different kind of discomfort, that is, over-fullness. In my next session, a client expressed pride that when she’s with certain kinds of people—mostly narcissists like her father—she’s now able to see them for what they are (from her emotional reaction to them) and either distance herself from them or manage being in their company.

For certain, emotions are meant to give us information about situations, especially if there is any threat inherent in them. Emotional discomfort in its myriad forms can alert us to whether something or someone will bring us pleasure or pain. Feelings are strong and keep returning because they want to make a point—pay attention here. However, not all emotional discomfort is a valid warning against pain or threat. Some of it is from our old stuff stored in memory. 

For example, as a dysregulated eater, if you leave food on your plate when you are used to finishing it all, you will likely feel uncomfortable. Your thoughts will try to reduce your anxiety (destructive discomfort) by tell you to keep eating. The story you tell yourself will be that you can’t bear the anxiety of leaving food and only will feel better if you polish it off. However, if you want to learn to eat “normally,” you will need to tolerate (by softening or changing) this discomfort so that you can learn to stop eating when you’re full or satisfied. In this case, suffering anxiety is constructive discomfort. 

As soon as you feel emotional discomfort, ask yourself these questions: Is the feeling justified or mere habit because you’re experiencing a challenge? Is the feeling giving you crucial information that will help you survive and thrive? Or are you experiencing recall from a similar situation long ago rather than being in reality? If you sit with the feeling, will it go away? If you decide that you’re experiencing constructive discomfort which will better your life, all well and good. But if that discomfort will be destructive to your well-being, you’ll need to manage it in order to thrive. In fact, experiencing that discomfort is the only way to grow and improve your eating and your life.








APPetite on Facebook


My Interview from Eating Enlightenment

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.karenrkoenig.com/

This website is owned and operated by Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. It contains material intended for informational and educational purposes only, and reasonable effort is made to keep its contents updated. Any material contained herein is not to be construed as the practice of clinical social work or of psychotherapy, although adherence to applicable Florida States, Rules, and Code of Ethics is observed. Material on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment for mental health issues or eating disorder problems, which should be done only through individualized therapeutic consultation. Karen R. Koenig, LCSW disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained on this website. This website contains links to other sites. The inclusion of such links does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW who disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained in this website. Further, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or current usefulness of the material contained in the linked sites. Users of any website must be aware of the limitation to confidentiality and privacy, and website usage does not carry any guarantee or privacy of any information contained therein.