Understanding Why We’re Stuck
Trauma and challenging situations open the door to operating out of limitation and pain. As a result, we might find ourselves stuck in a cycle of depression or anxiety, or battling an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
The feeling of being “stuck” can also stem from environments that may be healthy for some, but are not healthy for you. Whether it’s a total lack of movement, the endless waiting for a circumstance to change, or feeling tied to a series of choices, events or circumstances beyond our control, the resulting feeling is one that is both constricting and paralyzing.
Recognizing what keeps us stuck requires us to be honest with ourselves, and to reassess if our current situations match the future we desire. We may be the only ones that know when we’re stuck. Something others may view as appealing or positive could be what is keeping you from moving forward.
Here are examples of what being stuck can look like:
- A well-regarded job that, if we’re honest with ourselves, has a toxic environment or leads to an unhealthy balance in life.
- A dependency on substances to get through our normal daily routine unseen by others.
- A romantic relationship with someone that others would find appealing, but is subtly or overtly abusive.
- A group of friends that feels comfortable and accepting but is heading down a road towards violence, pain, or worse.
- A pattern of sexual encounters that provide a temporary escape but will not bring lasting fulfillment or intimacy.
- A repeated cycle of working hard throughout the week to get to a weekend of partying, but not finding real fulfillment in either.
What can make “being stuck” difficult to address is the challenge of understanding when and why it’s happening. It’s easier to look at external circumstances that seem unchangeable, or appear to control the situation. It’s harder and more unpleasant to see where our own lack of self-awareness, boundaries, or communication have contributed to the very circumstances that are keeping us “stuck.”
There is no shame in recognizing these cycles. Shame is the enemy of growth and connection in life. The voice of shame tells us that we’re not enough, and never will be. It discourages us from stepping forward and tells us that getting help is pointless, or a sign of weakness. But the voice of shame is a lie. There is no shame in seeking help.
Vulnerability means being authentic, and that’s a sign of strength. Recognizing a problem enables us to start the process of growth that unlocks purpose and peace in our lives. And it starts with getting unstuck from shame and any other thought that would keep us from growth.
There’s Hope No Matter What
It doesn’t matter what your current challenge is: Whether it’s a reliance on painkillers or that “extra” drink to get through the day, an unhealthy relationship, or just a general feeling of depression or exhaustion, there is hope.
Our current experience and whatever may be keeping us “stuck” does not have to define our lives. By nature, we are living, breathing organisms that are constantly growing and changing, and we have an opportunity to do so in a way that connects us to more purpose, peace, and fulfillment.
Getting “unstuck” starts with us. Whatever external situation is contributing to the “stuckness” is only part of the problem. At the core, the external issue often masks an internal issue. The bad boss is really just triggering the deep human need for validation, or security, or safety. The destructive relationship is appearing to, but is not actually, meeting our need for intimacy and connection, “to be known.” Seeing life from this perspective creates hope: we may not always be able to change the external situation right away. But, we can start understanding why the external situation or condition, and feeling stuck to it, affects us so much.
Ask yourself, what underlying need is not getting met? Are you lacking purpose? Connection? Love? A creative outlet? Boundaries?There are definitely situations that need to be addressed and changed immediately, such as an abusive relationship. But there are others in which getting unstuck may simply require engaging a different approach.
Find someone you trust and who was stuck in the same way you are. Seek their advice and follow it. If a friend or family member is contributing to the situation where you feel stuck, look to someone else for wisdom. A counselor or therapist can be a great place to start. Human beings are built for community, and in the process of getting unstuck, there is great value in inviting other external perspectives.