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.

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.

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.

Putting Our Feelings Aside

We all have emotions. It’s healthy  to  express them. Yet, there are times  when putting too much emphasis on our feelings can be detrimental. To avoid outbursts or unnecessary confrontations, it is better to express our emotions carefully. In order to avoid unhealthy confrontation, we can knowingly choose to “compartmentalize” or “put our feelings aside.”

We can identify and fully sense the inner turbulence of feelings in a situation without having to get swept away in them. By paying attention to the situation and wanting to stand our ground, we then can consciously choose to put our feelings aside for the moment. We are not denying our feelings, we are merely postponing the expression of them. As astronaut Mark Kelly stated in the Associated Press, “Ignore stuff going on in your personal life and just focus on your mission. The key word there is being able to compartmentalize things.”  Putting problems and personal feelings aside in little boxes and zeroing in on the task at hand is what astronauts, military personnel, firefighters, business professionals, nurses and surgeons do all the time. No one needs to know what’s happening inside our minds unless we really want them to.

We certainly have the right to be angry, hurt, etc., but how we handle these feelings is what counts. It is okay to hold back in order to keep peace for the moment or to get something accomplished. Having staying power in the face of adversity, or exercising great self restraint in expressing emotion takes courage. Consider a performer hearing bad news or having had an argument with their spouse right before a performance. They take a deep breath and “put their feelings on the back burner” until the performance is over.

Postponing our emotional upsets is easier than attempting to turn them off completely. In order to avoid becoming totally stressed and anxious, though, we must revisit and process our feelings when it seems safe and appropriate.

Knowing when and how to express our-selves takes honesty and courage. Keeping a stiff upper lip for a certain amount of time is okay, but it’s also very important to give our-self space to honor and express our feelings. When the time is right, journal, pray, meditate, create, talk to a friend and cry if need be. As Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

OUR DEFAULT SETTINGS

Your personal default setting is based on past experiences and conditioning.  As a child, you may go through a harmful experience, or even a series of experiences that set your emotional frame of reference. You may have wanted something, and instead you ended up receiving the opposite.  For example, if you wanted attention, and instead, you were neglected or criticized. You may end up with feeling as though no one really cares, and your limiting beliefs could be that you are not important enough or smart enough. Or, you may have apprehension or self doubt as your default mode.

You don’t have to be at the mercy of your default setting. You can shift it, just as you do any other habit. Bertrand Russell has a point in stating, “It is only the intellect that keeps me sane; perhaps this makes me overvalue intellect against feeling”.  I believe that you need to honor your feelings. But when your negative feelings become a common uncomfortable occurrence, then you need to override them with your thinking and intellect.

In order to reset and create a new pattern of feeling, you have to make a conscious effort to pay attention.  Next time you are in your default mode, pause and take a deep breath. Simply by choosing to pause you bring awareness to yourself in the moment.

Notice your feelings and reactions to what you are thinking.  Remember, though, do this as an observer, not as a judge!  

“Once your awareness becomes a flame, it burns up the whole slavery that the mind has created.”  ~Osho~

Self-inquiry is useful in breaking the energy-drain.  While you can’t always control the feelings that pop up, you can manage them and redirect them. This naturally disrupts the rush of personal judgment and doubt.

Each time you consciously recognize your thinking and how it affects you, you will begin to be reminded of the magnificence of your inner mind. The fact is, we have the ability as human beings to balance our intuitive-feeling mind with our rational mind.

As you use the power of choice to lead you toward positive thoughts, your default mode will begin to show up less frequently and with less intensity. And as time goes on, your reactive thinking and negative feelings will last five minutes instead of five hours.  So take pleasure in the subtlest of changes.

The New Year reminds us…

The New Year reminds us to assess our actions  so we can improve on getting what we truly want in our lives.  This  is the perfect time to be honest with ourselves. We  draw up a list of work to be done and things to be improved.  

In order to balance the list, though,  it is crucial to not just look at our imperfections and shortcomings, but to also look  at what we have  accomplished.  

What we want to build upon are our gifts, talents and abilities. They are the seeds we want to grow. Connecting with our  abilities and  strengths will help us to weather the ups and downs of our days.

Remember, the things that we say to our self are essential to how we act. Therefore, we can add a source of pleasure to our days by simply taking responsibility for the quality of our thoughts.  

Allow room for error.  The English poet Alexander Pope said, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”  We make mistakes, we stumble, and we may wallow a bit.  When we acknowledge our error with compassion and forgiveness, we can pick ourselves back up and find our way on a path that feels good.

Let’s begin each day with a resolution to give positive meaning and direction to our actions.