The comfort zone is a widely used idea. It serves as a reminder that to be intentional about change comes with a sense of discomfort. That is, that change doesn’t happen in the comfort zone.
As always with such models, they are simplified to help us understand the idea.
However, they then are easily based on binary thinking. It establishes the idea that comfort and discomfort are opposites. It can induce the idea that staying in the comfort zone is bad. And it may even establish the idea that being comfortable is the way to deal with life in normal times.
That leaves out, what comfort is about and how it serves us.
Comfort is a human reaction to confusion. It allows us to exclude as much of the experience of discomfort as possible. Possibly pushing it aside to react to the confusion and the discomfort it brings. Comfort then becomes a containment of the overwhelming aspect of the experience with the desire to make it manageable.
It is reproducing the support a mother is giving to her child when it is overwhelmed. The mother contains the extraordinary feelings for the toddler, helping it get used to them. This helps the toddler experience his emotions as ok and as emotions, he can deal with, the mother is role modeling it for the child.
What adults forget when they step into their comfort zone is, that they are stepping into a space in which they can deal with their confusion or their experience. It’s to deal with their experience that they step into this zone. It is a moment in which they can rely on their past ability to deal with the situation. But they can just as well, as in the past, reach out to others who can assist. They can let others take up the containment role and simply have them accompany their own process of moving into the confusion to deconstruct it.
Sometimes it isn’t possible to do both, contain the overwhelm and seek clarity.
The question thus is what one seeks comfort for. Is it to exclude the overwhelm or to gain clarity? Not to forget: what does the situation allow?