Step Out of Stuckness

We all experience feeling stuck from time to time in our lives. It is natural to experience these impasses. Either we encounter them at the end of something; a change or a transition in our lives, or we simply become stuck in a feeling. We find ourselves retreating. I like to call it cocooning. Either way, we get caught in uneasiness, self-doubt, avoidance, and confusion about ourselves and our future.

In his book, “Getting Unstuck”, Timothy Butler describes the fact that impasse is developmentally necessary. He believes that impasse is an internalized notion of inadequacy, and a request for us to change our way of thinking about ourselves. The impasse starts with feeling stuck and ends with finally taking action.

When we find ourselves in the midst of an impasse, it means that we need to rework our approach, and adjust the things we say to ourselves. Old recurring feelings of anger, shame, self-doubt may have crept in. What identity or familiar feelings do you get caught in? It may feel like a comfort zone but it really becomes our stuck point and not very comforting.

When we find ourselves  stuck in an uncomfortable emotional loop, there is something inside us that is being ignored.

To get back on the path where everything seems to flow with ease, it’s essential  to face reality for all of what it is, and is not. With acceptance, understanding and clear seeing, we give the stuck feelings space to move, dissolve or step out from the loop.
Ask yourself ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘when’ questions. Do not ask yourself ‘why’. ‘Why’ questions are guesswork and keep you in your head.

Perhaps you can ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • “What are the thoughts I am thinking that keep me in a stuck mode?” 
  • “What benefit do I get being in my stuckness?”
  • “What are my personal worries and fears?”
  • “What can I begin to say to myself to over ride my personal worries and fears?”
  • “By staying stuck, what am I taking away from myself?”
  • “What good qualities am I ignoring in my stuckness?”
  • “What am I grateful for?”
  • “What are the things I enjoy?”
  • “How can I encourage myself?”
  • “What specific things can I say to myself to activate good-feelings?”
  • “How will I take responsibility for choosing what action is next?”
  • “What specific actions can I do to build my confidence?”
  • “When will I decide to take these actions?”

With a strong dose of listening, a seed of inspiration can begin to grow. Gather your inner victory team together. Join forces with your strengths; the feel-good feelings. Align with your goals and core values. Build inner-reliance and inner-cooperation. With your inner support team you can balance your strengths with your fears and weaknesses.

In the movie, “A Beautiful Mind”, Nash says, “I still see things that are not here. I just choose not to acknowledge them. Like a diet of the mind, I just choose not to indulge certain appetites.”

Let’s not indulge our self-doubt. Agree to go beyond your insecurities and weaknesses, and   nourish your personal strengths and uniqueness. “The only thing greater than the power of the mind, is the courage of the heart.” Begin to embark on the idea of saturating your mind with the good stuff of the  heart.

Obstacles

I walked into my office the other day after being away for two weeks.  I was weak and  healing from a surgery.  To my surprise, there was a pile high of what I think was sound proofing sheets.

When I first walked in and saw it I felt my heart race, and I could feel a tinge of adrenaline run through me. I then proceeded to take one off the pile thinking I could move them and place them one by one around the room before my client was to arrive.  As my energy level was really low I realized that it wasn’t a good idea. So, I sat down. I took a breath to gather my energy. I was amazed that in that moment I developed patience–patience for the moment of weakness and not being able to do anything about it. I then was able to sit for the moment and relax into whatever was arising in me.

 As said in, Pema Chodron’s book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, “Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okay-ness. When we resist what is happening, it’s called suffering.” When we can ease into patience with our struggle it awakens our freedom to connect to our fundamental goodness and our true nature to being perfectly human. Patience ignites friendliness towards ourselves and gives us more freedom to choose.

Well, this was a true test for me. How could I sit with a disturbance or obstacle in front of me without being affected by it? How could I have bits and pieces piled up in the middle of the room and just let it be without letting it faze me? It was difficult for me because I like to have everything in its place, and I also worried about the affect it would have on my client.

My client arrived and she walked around the obstruction to her seat and we began our session. I apologized for the mess and for my absence the past two weeks. This was enough to enable her to focus on what was important to her to discuss and to resolve. She was not concerned at all with the obstruction in the room. Indeed, the focus was on her own personal obstacles; she had her own agenda to resolve with me. As we spoke, we were totally focused on our conversation.

I had put the stumbling block of my day aside and gave my client space to deal with what was necessary in the moment. I was able to separate myself from my feelings until I could revisit the situation and do something about it. Of course, after my session, since I share the office suite with my son, I texted him to thank him for the sound proofing but also asked him if he can get them moved or at least stack them up neatly against a wall until we were able to install them.

What this demonstrates is how we have the ability to notice our feelings, thoughts and even body sensations and then let them pass until we want to revisit them in the proper time.

After putting my worry aside and getting on with what needed to be done, regardless of the obstacles in front of me, I realized that as long as I allow myself to be bothered, everything else seemed to be an obstacle to overcome.  As we patiently move through the art of mastering our personal obstacles we gain clarity for what is truly important.

Core Issues

We all have certain core issues that need our attention.  Core issues are emotional memories that anchor us in emotional fears and negative beliefs about ourselves. They can hold us back, form our reactions, and shape our thinking.  The challenge with core issues is not necessarily the negative experience we had but the emotional charge that gets attached to it. The emotional charge becomes our frame of reference and keeps re-surfacing throughout our lives.

Look for a theme that runs through your upsets. Core issues gone unnoticed will either keep us stuck or push us off-balance. They can destroy our ability to find healthy solutions that are in sync with our true desires and they sometimes subconsciously force us to act in a way that sabotages what we truly want for ourselves. Core issues interfere with love and create opposition and resistance against our self.  And if we are not careful they keep being recreated and replayed throughout our life.  In most cases, core issues touch us at our deepest level and will remain embedded until we address them.

We all have core issues that emerged in our lives as a result of growing up.  As Ram Dass said in a lecture, “If you think you are enlightened—spend a week with your family.”   We are continually evolving in our lives as the adult child of our parents.

We all have a certain frame of reference that holds us back in self-doubt.  Emotional fear is at the core of these feelings. When fear is activated, we could feel overcome. We may be frozen in apprehension or worry, or confused, or sense feeling rejection or disregard. We may even feel physical pain, tension or a sensation in our chest or stomach.  In those times of emotional fear we instantly become reactive, we judge, criticize, blame or withdraw, all in order to defend ourselves from more hurt. Those triggers or intense feelings are our core issues. They are our embedded wounds from feeling unheard, unloved, unworthy or feeling helpless or hopeless or left-out or unable to express our desires or simply scared we would get into trouble.

We need to be aware of our core issues so we can monitor ourselves more productively and the quality of our reactions can be managed with self-respect and self-understanding. The more ‘real’ and true to ourselves we are, the more we can welcome our limitations. Experience your emotions so that you can be in tune with your place of vulnerability.    When we can honestly be with our feelings it provides the space to have more freedom to choose to respond from a place of strength and clarity. When you are emotionally charged you can neutralize it with words that a nurturing loving parent or friend would say.  Pause a moment.  When you pay attention to your breath you have the ability to soften the intensity of the moment. Take a step back and see what benefit you are getting out of being offended, enraged, or angry.  Pay attention to your needs and what you feel you are lacking.  Parent or make friends with the part of you that needs attention or a dose of confidence.  When you become clear of your core issues, you become much more empowered to override them in order to create what you truly want in your life.  Life is difficult and also beautiful.    If you are at peace with the truth of all that you are, you can more easily see a solution.  Be gentle with yourself. As an adult child of parents that we had we deserve to treat ourselves with loving kindness.

Glimmer of Doubt

So many of my clients over the years have asked me, “How is it I can trust?”  Trust is a difficult topic. When we have been disrespected, it becomes challenging to trust.  So, how can we trust again?  Is it possible to rebuild trust in someone who totally disappointed us?

We learn to distrust trust by being hurt or lied to or betrayed or misled. Not only do we lose trust in other people, but we also begin to distrust ourselves. We fear being upset, and we become guarded and expect the worse from people. So, when we have been conditioned to not trust, it takes some effort to realize what healthy trust feels like.

Creating genuine trust is a process that happens over time, and it’s not an easy task. We need to be in tune with our ability to evaluate people. We all have an inner sense; all we need to do is listen to it. A glimmer of doubt will nudge us when we have an uncomfortable feeling in someone’s presence.  So pay attention. Observe their mannerisms, their reactions to situations, or the things they say or doesn’t say. When you listen and observe, you will get a sense of how to proceed.

It takes time to build a trustful foundation, and it only takes moments to shatter it. If someone has let you down, let the rage settle. Trust grows with patience. The springboard to trusting is to investigate the reasons for their behavior. Listen and ask questions in order to become aware of their perspective in the situation. The glimmer of doubt you feel is your gauge to guide you to be empathetic. Look for the sincerity of their words or actions.  Take the time to develop communication. Look for explanations, compassionate feedback and understanding.

We all make mistakes, and if we understand the other’s point of view, it becomes easier to formulate a conclusion as to whether to trust them again or not.  But even when we understand our wrongdoer and possibly even forgive them, we are not necessarily obligated to trust them again. When you simply sit with what you know and you decide to rely on your wisdom, you will come to a conclusion that feels right.

What is most upsetting is not necessarily that our trust has been violated, but that the glimmer of doubt becomes more apparent. As Lady Gaga says, “Trust is like a mirror, you can fix it if it’s broken, but you can still see the crack in that mother fucker’s reflection.” Look within to determine if you can see past the cracks or whether they have been shattered beyond repair. Step back and take some time to find peace and equilibrium. Then you can move forward cautiously trusting again.

Resolving Anger

We all get angry at times. Anger is an emotion that is necessary. When our individuality is threatened in some way it is human nature to become angry.  Whether it’s a physical or an emotional attack, anger will arise when we are being threatened.  We will either fight back physically or verbally, but sometimes we will withdraw inwardly until we feel it’s safe.

How many times are we confronted by people who control our feelings by judgment, manipulation or criticism?  This may anger us.  But if we learn to look below the surface, we will find the real cause of what angers us.

When our emotions are overlooked and we feel invalidated, it can weaken our ability to express ourselves; we get frozen in the sting of disregard. Learning to manage our feelings when this happens requires balancing our inner feelings with the external situation. In order to balance our inner feelings, it is important to be honest about our emotional state and what we are feeling about ourselves. For instance, how does it affect you when someone close to you overthrows or negates your feelings by telling you that you shouldn’t feel a certain way or that what you said wasn’t important? Or how do you feel when someone continually points a finger with ‘you’ statements?

When our feelings are repeatedly disregarded, we can get caught up in blaming or belittling ourselves, negating what we truly want, or just plain swallowing our pride. It’s important to remember that the problem may not be that you have trouble learning to manage your emotions but, rather, that the other person has an unhealthy need to control, manipulate, and gain the upper hand. In that case, it may require that you distance yourself from him or her a bit or learn to navigate around his or her incrimination. It certainly does not feel good to continuously sense that you are being put down, defeated, or emotionally hurt by a parent, spouse, or other loved one.

So, begin to recognize what you are feeling so you can decide how to proceed. The goal is to feel the feeling and then proceed by gathering your pride.  When anger gets triggered, you can ask yourself, “What feelings about myself are activated?”  Do I feel disregarded, useless, unsafe, negated, rejected, abandoned, or lonely? These are our core issues that will get triggered over and over again.

Self-inquiry requires that you be aware and honest with yourself. Catch yourself as you are withdrawing.  Commit to inner validation of your emotions without blaming yourself.  And when you do withdraw, pay attention to the part of you that needs safety, nurturing or support.  Remember, even though, as children, we learned to distrust, deny, withhold, or doubt our feelings, feelings are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad–they just are.  Everyone has feelings, and our feelings are worthy of our attention.

Reconciling Change

My childhood home was sold this month. Sadly, the house is now empty and ready to be torn down.  I will miss it.Image

But as Goethe reveals, “Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.”  What are our choices for reconciling ourselves to change or loss? How do we cope with it?

We may want to avoid or deny the situation. Or, we may take time to linger over photos and save artifacts to retain our fond memories and to memorialize the past.  We may decide to move on and take the time to create new meaning and memories for our self and our family.  We may get angry at the change and agonize over the loss. Or, to accept the finality of the loss we reconcile ourselves to the unavoidable fact that this segment in our life is over. So, to return to the question of what our choices are, the answer is, it’s probably experiencing a bit of all those feelings that help us to reconcile a change or a loss.

Change or loss is ever-present in our lives. We continually face uncertainty, surprises, and transitions, with either positive or negative outcomes.  We get older, a child is born, people get sick, injured, or even die.  Summer vacations end, the new school year begins, friends move away, a new love is found, games are lost, and the list goes on. Change or loss can trigger any number of feelings; happy, sad, delight, resistance or grasping.  Life is a dance of sensations and we have to follow the rhythms of our hearts.

Understanding that change is inevitable helps us to let go of our expectations so that we can accept things as they are. When we cling to the past, we fail to recognize “life belongs to the living.”  To live is to evolve and progress — to change — not to continually return to what used to be. We must find meaning and appreciation in our new moments and reconcile the changes and losses we experience. As we reconcile changes and loss, the old merges with the new and  we find a renewed sense of energy and confidence in the beauty of our lives.

Quality Moments

People say quality moments are hard to find. We spend time working and undertaking daily responsibilities.  And we also use up moments drawing our own conclusions or creating a story of judgment about what we are doing, who we are with and the emotions that we have.  What we neglect to realize is that each moment we spend is a quality moment.

Imagine spending more time capturing who we are in any particular moment without categorizing it or wanting to improve or edit it.  Imagine just being with whatever we are feeling in that moment without critiquing it or doubting it.  Imagine trusting the process of life and recognizing that every moment of its unfolding is beautiful and perfect in its own way.

“Sometimes we like what we’re feeling and then suddenly we don’t like what we’re feeling. And then we like it again, and then we don’t like it again.”  It’s fine for it to be like that.  The problem is we become accustomed to doubting, negating, or evaluating our moments and not seeing the beauty in them.

Often our fleeting feelings are just as irrelevant as our momentary thoughts. We don’t need to get hooked into every thought or feeling that we have.  They just are.

Moods come and go. Some days are cloudy or even rainy, while other days are sunny. Some days we wake up with a headache or a heavy feeling in our heart.  But then there are other days when we feel everything is just right, when there is a certain lightness to the moment. There are moments when we smile. And then there are moments when it feels as if everything has all come together.

So let’s begin to have an appreciation for where we are in each moment and an acceptance for what is. And let’s not get caught in a flood of judgment. To accept is to say ‘yes’ to life in its wholeness.  To accept is to have the wisdom to experience what is happening in the moment and to believe that it doesn’t have to be different. It’s never too late to begin to appreciate all the moments of our lives-the warm breezes, the sunny days and even the passing storms.

Does ‘It’ Get Better ?

A common question many people ask me is, “So does ‘it’ get better?”  I guess the important word here is ‘it.’ What is ‘it’?

To me ‘it’ is the ‘freedom to choose.’ Freedom to choose to gather our courage and confront whatever situation is at hand.  And when I say confront, I don’t mean to go to battle. I mean to look at things honestly. We look at things honestly by choosing to respect and validate our feelings. At any moment, we can choose to step back from a situation, to pause, take a breath and reflect. We have the freedom to choose to view a thought or  situation from a different perspective.  We can choose to change our thinking at any moment.  Changing our thinking may even change how we feel about something. We have the freedom to choose how to respond to or what value we want to place on someone else’s judgments or criticisms. We can choose when  to communicate our concerns or feelings. We have the freedom to choose what actions to take. Sometimes we have the freedom to choose to change something, and sometimes it takes courage to accept things as they are.

When we are children, we are reliant on the actions and decisions of those around us. We don’t have a choice, nor do we fully understand the whys of our experiences. A lot of the time we conform, obey, and even become submissive to avoid further hurt. In so doing, we discount ourselves. We subconsciously build a barrier as a defense to protect our feelings, and then it becomes habit to neglect or doubt them. But just because we’ve experienced disappointment in the past does not mean it has to continue.

How long we stay stuck in what happened in the past is our choice. We often expend our energies blaming people from the past or holding onto resentments, but the reality is,  they may have done the best they could, given their shortcomings.  With  freedom, we are no longer victims. Blame subsides and turns into personal responsibility.

So, ‘it’ does get better when we acknowledge our freedom to choose.  With ‘it,’ we gain the freedom to honor and have trust in the expression of who we are; our deepest feelings, thoughts, desires, aspirations, hopes, and even our fears. We gain the freedom to take responsibility for ourselves, for our thoughts, our feelings and our actions.  When we become true to our self ‘it’ becomes easier and we can relax into being who we are. When I talk about things getting better,  being true to ourself  is at the heart of it. 

“It gets better” does not mean we can take a back seat and wait for things to happen. The ‘it’ puts us in the driver’s seat of life.  ‘It’ sets us in motion.  The roads in life are not always predictable nor smooth, but life flows much easier when we have the ‘freedom to choose’. Choosing to be ‘real’ and to accept life as it is will lead us on the road to creating a life that feels good.

Our Personal Holding Pattern

Have you ever been stuck in an airplane circling around your destination until it’s safe to land?  An announcement comes on that says it’s necessary to be in a holding pattern due to fog or air traffic. At first, you are okay with it, knowing that an experienced pilot is in charge. But after a while you become annoyed being stuck in the air. You start worrying about what could happen, and then you wonder when your plane will finally land safely.

How often do you feel stuck in your own personal holding pattern?  Fear is a natural instinct when you feel unsure or confused.  Predicting an impending negative outcome or being uncertain about the future and resisting change can put you in a holding pattern. It’s natural to be rational and to look at all angles of a future scenario. Sometimes, though, you fabricate a scene that ignites apprehension. This causes you to linger about in a cloud, and you stay there in your holding pattern, afraid to move or take any action.

Eventually, circling around and around in uncertainty and fear becomes uncomfortable.  When you feel like you are hanging around in the clouds for too long, that can be your signal to formulate strategies for finding a safe place to land. Consider what actions you may need to take in order to sort out  any confusions or conflicts. What information do you need to gather?

Sometimes you don’t have the answers, so the key is to walk softly, one step at a time. This way you can discover the solutions as you go. Taking time to pay attention to each step helps you to recognize that the answers may be right in front of you or close at hand.

As long as there is no imminent danger  you can move forward beyond your trepidations by taking a moment to breathe. You breathe to center yourself. At your core is your goodness and strength. Sometimes you need to remind yourself of this. So take a deep breath to soften the tension and defenses around your core. Gently center yourself and proceed with courage to stand on solid ground.

Staying “real” is an ongoing process.  So, it’s important to accept all that you are. Honor your stuck-ness, fears, imperfections, and worries along with your strengths and positive qualities.  Once you do that, you can genuinely find your way through your problems to solutions that feel right to you.