On Negative Peace & Clean Discomfort

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There are two phrases I’ve been messing around with lately, and they have really helped me get a handle on what it means to operate in your own integrity and get to a space where your internal world and external experience are matching up.

They are:

Negative Peace


Clean Discomfort

The first (I think) comes from a quote I read from Martin Luther King (but don’t hold me to that), and I’ve thought a lot about the preservation of negative peace, in relation to my horsemanship, my personal conduct, and the community.

My interpretation of negative peace is when there is an outer appearance of peace or calm, but it is preserved only at the expense of something or someone else. Whilst the situation may appear peaceful, there is a huge amount of discord or tension running beneath the surface. If I translate this to the nervous system, I recognize it as a form of freeze.

Some manifestations include:

♦️ Working together with my horse and keeping everything completely quiet or nice, out of concern that “upsetting” them in some way is going to result in a situation I can’t handle. This is negative peace. I am attempting to maintain outer order, but what I have between us is not true calm or understanding, and ultimately benefits me more than my horse. What’s more, it’s the tipping point before an inevitable explosion, regardless of whether that happens sooner or later.

♦️ Personally, negative peace might look like not have a hard conversation. It might look like me maintaining a façade of okayness because I would rather be in that position that potentially involve myself in conflict.

♦️ On a community level, we see examples of this all over. Systems and situations favoring one group of people over the other; the call to “just have things return to normal”; the preference for a perceived veil of calm, even if that calm is not for the benefit of all.

On all counts, you can see how in order to find true peace, there has to be systemic disruption. There has to be a release of energy. With our horses and ourselves, resilience is never found in the total absence of pressure, but it also needs to be created in a context where our resources outweigh our stresses.

Which leads me to Clean Discomfort. I half borrowed this term, half made it up. Clean Discomfort is the necessary discomfort we have to feel in order to expand our capacity and grow. It’s the discomfort of releasing the pressure valve and letting the energy be known, felt, and integrated.

It’s a necessary alchemy.

So, check-in every so often. Is the peace I am experiencing true peace or negative peace? Is the discomfort I find myself in a clean discomfort?

It’s important.


❤️ Jane

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