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EDUCATION - KEY TOPIC

Understanding the Problem

Topic 2: Overcoming Shame and Getting Unstuck

Getting unstuck and moving forward involves recognizing that there’s no shame in seeking help or looking for more in life. We can find ourselves feeling “stuck” because of either tragic, negative experiences or in the midst of situations or conditions that may appear good to others. Either way, change is possible. If your challenge is addiction, know that your value and worth is far more than your current condition or state. Recognizing what keeps us stuck can help us take steps to grow, and deepen our understanding of life and ourselves.

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Breaking Shame

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, or 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. Being vulnerable means being authentic, and that’s a sign of strength. Recognizing a problem enables us to start the process of growth that can unlock purpose and peace in our lives. And it starts getting unstuck from shame and any other thought that would seek to keep us from growth.

Understanding Why We’re Stuck

We can get “stuck” in a variety of ways.  Negative, traumatic experiences and challenges can keep us operating in limitation and pain. We may feel stuck in depression or anxiety, or find ourselves battling an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Or, positive contexts that may appear appealing to others can become environments from which needed change feels scary or unappealing. Whether it’s the paralyzing feeling of a total lack of movement, or endless waiting for a circumstance or something external to change or begin, or feeling tied to a series of choices, events or circumstances beyond your control, recognizing that we’re stuck — and that there’s no shame in recognizing it — is the beginning of change.

We may be the only ones that know when we’re stuck. The things that get us stuck don’t have to be overtly negative things. In fact, something that others view as appealing or positive could be the culprit. A well-regarded job that, if we’re honest with ourselves, has a toxic environment or leads to an unhealthy balance in life. 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 aren’t bringing lasting fulfillment or intimacy. A repeated cycle of working hard throughout the week to get to a weekend of partying or other escape, but not finding real fulfillment in either. Recognizing what keeps us stuck requires us to be honest with ourselves, and see if our current situations match the future we desire.

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 the external circumstances that appear to be unchangeable, or controlling the situation. It’s harder and more unpleasant to see where our own lack of self-awareness, boundaries, or communication has contributed to the very circumstances that are keeping us “stuck.”

There’s Hope No Matter What

It doesn’t matter what our 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, changing, refreshing, and we have an opportunity to do so in a way that connects to more purpose, peace, and fulfillment.

Getting “unstuck” starts in us. The truth is that whatever external situation is contributing to the “stuckness” is only part of the problem. At the core, the external issue is affecting or blocking some internal need of ours. The bad boss is really just triggering the deep human need for validation, or security, or safety. The destructive relationship is appearing to, but 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 in ourselves why the external situation or condition, and feeling stuck to it, affects us so much. Ask yourself: what underlying need is not getting met through this situation? Am I lacking purpose? Connection? Love? A creative outlet? Boundaries?

There are definitely situations that need to be addressed and changed right away — such as an abusive relationship. But there are others in which getting unstuck may not require the full change envisioned, but simply a different approach to engaging with it.

Human beings are built for community, and in the process of getting unstuck, there is great value in inviting another external perspective. Find someone whose view you trust, and who does not seem stuck in the way you are. Hint: 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.

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