Comfort Bubbles
by Tom Fonseca

There are still many unknowns for me, but even so, there are some things that I do know. I know that for much of my life I have avoided reality, the here and now. As a child, I learned that if I built an imaginary bubble of comfort around my consciousness I would not have to feel as much pain or discomfort. But this comfort bubble eventually became an obstruction that occluded my perceptions and therefore my emotions. After many years I could not feel much of the pleasure or excitement that life had once held for me. That is what initially drew me to a spiritual school.

What I refer to as a comfort bubble can be thought of as the perpetuation or projection of pleasure and comfort. It can take the form of imagining that one is already participating in an upcoming event or it could be an attempt to relive a past pleasurable event. In the absence of either of these it could also be a purely imaginary event that is invented just for its entertainment value and to avoid loneliness.

Imaginary conversations, anticipation and expectation, fond memories. These things in and of themselves are not bad. But if they run automatically, unnoticed, as they did in me, they can become an obstruction to enjoying the here and now (reality). Real emotions, like joy and sadness, can only exist in the hear and now. Living in a comfort bubble is a very problematic way to live one's life.

One must be attempting to engage in the here and now in order to find such an obstruction. The goal of the comfort bubble mechanism is to avoid the here and now and thereby minimize discomfort. It hopes to achieve this by filling the space between pleasurable events with the memory or anticipation of other pleasurable events. The here and now contains many unknowns and the possibility of real pain and discomfort. Being absorbed or identified, even with something negative, does not contain the possibility of real pain. In this way much security can be derived even from imaginary unhappiness. But this security and imaginary comfort does not come without a heavy price.

Basically, this is how the comfort bubble works: projections of future events cause a person to create expectations that are usually not reasonable. As a result of the projection there is disappointment and frustration because things did not happen the way they were supposed to. The projection can also require that certain people will behave in a certain way. In this case, the anger and disappointment would probably be directed at that person with the hope that it would cause them to get it right the next time. It becomes a cycle of projecting into the future and expecting things to happen in a certain way and then being disappointed when they don't and hanging on to the negative emotions. This permits one to avoid living in the here and now and makes up a complete comfort bubble.

After many years the bubble that I created was like a part of me. Even though I could not put my finger on it I was aware that something was wrong. My habit of imagining had become so automatic that I was no longer aware that I was doing it. There was not much to contrast it with until I began making serious efforts to work on myself and become present.

Some major side effects of the comfort bubble are:
1. Lack of emotional intensity.
2. Light to severe depression.
3. A feeling that life is no longer fulfilling.
4. Longing to relive childhood experiences.
5. A feeling of self loathing.
6. Noticing ones own lack of perceptiveness.
7. A feeling of general anguish.
8. Spending lots of money on distractions.
9. Feeling busy and yet not getting much done.
10. A feeling that one is being left out of life.

The list goes on.

One of the many challenges here is that one can only see these as side effects or symptoms if one can remember what it felt like to be well. It is not so different from a medical illness in that way. If one has a constant headache and can't remember not having a headache, or doesn't believe that there is a cure, then one will not seek a cure.

But if one can sense that there is a cure then one has the possibility of regaining a fulfilling life. This is the only way to truly experience life, just as one did as a child. The primary technique that I know of for achieving this type of change and the one I have been using is Self-observation. But Self-observation is not something one can easily learn without some instruction. And in order to continue Self-observation in the proper way it is necessary to have some coaching. This alone prevents most people from learning how to do it.