How do I stop feeling so stuck?
As a therapist I hear the word “stuck” every day I’m at the office! Most of us have had that experience over and over in life. We just feel STUCK! Maybe with ourselves, in relationships, with choices, with… you name it.
Here is a profound realization I want to share with you. Usually stuck isn’t a thing… Stuck is a response—a response embedded in fear. Let me walk with you through a few things that may just radically change how you see things when you feel “stuck”!
Just imagine your oldest kid came to you and said, “I think I’m gay”. Most of us have multiple feelings; wanting them to know we aren’t judging them, confused about what this means for them, worried we might actually be judging them, concerned how our kid’s friends will respond – or even our partner, anxious about what quite to say next, excited that they felt able to share this with you… and on. We come across moments and experiences that generate complex emotional responses all the time. Internally we have the sense of being pulled in multiple directions and it can be really disconcerting. This can make us say “STUCK”. But really, we aren’t. Rather, we are weighing all the feelings, and wanting to just give up with all the complexity. Be honest with it and admit that it takes time to sort things through. When we do that, one-feeling-at-a-time you can edge forward. Don’t let being split internally lie to you! You aren’t stuck, you are actually engaged.
Being-for-others, rather than being-with-others:
So many of us learned that keeping people happy was the best way to survive! Kids do it all the time. They bend the truth (“no I didn’t take a cookie”) or they put on the “sweet face” as I call it. It feels awful to be alone and most of us would rather appear happy or tuck our untidy edges away to keep on people’s good sides. Getting stuck in relationships, or with tricky relationships is very often because we have stopped being-with-others as our authentic selves. I wonder how you find yourself being-for-others? Guys, do you have the right facial hair even though it is a pain in the butt to maintain, and did you follow in the family business even though you wanted to go into something else completely? Ladies, do you keep reappraising your outfit and changing it, or tuck away your frustrations at home, or deliberately “enjoy” your in-laws just a bit too much? I’m not saying discount others or be selfish, but I am asking if you feel stuck because you are being-for-others rather than enjoying the authentic freedom of being-with-others?
The pressures around choosing can make us feel “stuck”. But let’s look more closely. Really, we might be afraid of missing out, messing up, loosing friends, spending too much, or being disappointed, or something else. Life is full of choices that have realities and consequences. A failure to choose is a failure to live, just as much as it is a way to avoid unwanted experiences. We can only ever choose with good intentions and wisdom. Life continues to happen to all of us. Admitting to yourself what is true about a choice is critical. For example: “If I buy this new car, then I probably can’t pay for my daughter’s college, and I’d feel like a jerk”. Well, now the choice isn’t the problem! It is what you don’t want to acknowledge or face as a result. Or we might feel that other people don’t approve of our choices and won’t like us. Do you want to be in relationships with people that punish you for being a separate person, or who support you as you engage life? Choices aren’t stuck points, but denying and refusing to live with the reality of life is.
“I either do this, or I do that.” What? Really? Rarely has life ever been so confined as to have two options. Example 1: You don’t either sell your house or keep it. You could rent it out. You could remodel it and sell if for more. You could refinance... Example 2: You don’t either move or stay to find a better life. You could change how you engage in your current neighborhood, you could restructure your life commitments, you could commit to friendships… Now obviously there are practical limitations to things, but far more often we stop ourselves even seeing opportunities. We quickly define options to reduce anxiety but inadvertently put ourselves in limiting situations. In my advertising degree (yep, I did that once), we were made to throw every idea out—the crazier the better—because then we saw just how far the options could go. Next time you find yourself “stuck” with an either-or, brainstorm like your wild and free, and include someone else. I guarantee you will be surprised!
So, we are really good at fooling ourselves. We avoid anxiety, tension and many more of the realities of life and in so doing, find ourselves feeling very stuck. Our authentic selves get marginalized. What if, every time you felt stuck you looked at all of lies that stop you moving, relating and choosing? It would be a rude awakening at times, but I can promise you it is worth it.
If you resonate with “stuck” and you would like someone to wade in there with you, we would be delighted to talk with you about this.
By Paul Loosemore