How do I stop feeling stuck?

Feeling Stuck can be the root cause of depression and anger. One of the basic foundations to good mental health is to have a sense of progress. When progress is hindered in any major area of our lives we will often feel powerful feelings of despair or anger. Which emotional response we default to, is dependent on childhood conditioning.

We must all come to terms with hindered progress as a normal part of our lives. As children we will have dealt with these moments of “resistance” with one of three possible reactions; anger, despair or acceptance. Practiced often enough, these reactions became default responses to any form of hindrance to our goals.

In my personal experience, I would respond to frustration with despair. Even now in my early forties, I find myself defaulting to it when frustrated. I hear the little James’ cry,” this isn’t fair, I’ll never get what I want”. Then the dropping out of hope and the inevitable slide into despair. It’s only with self-monitoring, that I have started to challenge this ineffective, and dis-empowering response to simple frustration.

In my case, I identified a basic assumption about life, that I would never get what I wanted. Frustration is uncomfortable and unpleasant, there’s no doubt about that, but for many of us it is much more.. frustration is unbearable. To deal correctly with frustration, it’s really important to understand that frustration is simply disappointment energy.  .

To deal correctly with frustration,it’s really important to understand that frustration is simply disappointment energy.

David Riddell (Living Wisdom), calls these Unbearable Feelings, or UBF’s. As children we can experience various emotions so powerfully, especially during traumas, that we categorise those feelings as being ‘unbearable’. These unbearable feelings are so awful that we swear to never let ourselves feel them again.  Our response is to produce another “rescuing” emotion that helps us side-step it, like anger or hopelessness.

As we practice this avoidance strategy, we find ourselves stuck in an inappropriate response to life situations. An example of this in my life would be my inappropriate use of anger. This anger would rise when I was hindered in certain goals. One example would be in the classroom. I would find myself winding up and snapping or responding in anger to students. I wouldn’t be aware of the cause, so I would be dealing with it inappropriately. Anger may get things done, it may force the hindrances out of the way, but the damage it causes to the people in the way, is ultimately self-destructive. Anger is never your friend!

I find that by identifying the deeper cause of this anger..as disappointment, and then allowing this feeling to exist and be felt, stopped the anger response almost instantly. I could say to myself, this is only disappointment, it’s not unbearable at all, only unpleasant. Then I was free to problem solve around the frustration and produce much more long-term solutions. Anger is a short term, brutal way to get unstuck. I wouldn’t recommend it.

The other response to disappointment in my life, was despair. This is a slower and more subtle way to avoid this unpleasant feeling of disappointment. Being resisted (or not getting what we want, basically) is a power issue. If you feel resisted, you will either increase the power (anger) or give up (despair). If you think, “no means never”, you may be tempted to face resistance with a victim mentality and give up. I hear it in myself at times, “I don’t want it anyway” or “what’s the point?” This abandonment of our dreams will however, over time, lead to depression.

So how else do you deal with feeling stuck? First, it’s important to recognize that it’s only temporary disappointment. It’s unpleasant, but not unbearable. This acceptance of the true feeling downgrades the emotional strength called up by the hind brain. Simply allow yourself to feel disappointment and realize it’s not nice, but it’s also not dangerous. Not only is disappointment not dangerous, it’s much better than the long-term effects of anger or despair. Secondly, you need to turn on the front part of your brain to problem solve. This takes time and may require you to leave the hindrance in place for the time being.

For example, in response to student resistance in a classroom situation, I may need to allow the situation, feel the disappointment, then when I have time, reflect on ways to change my actions so that I am able to overcome the hindrance to my goal. I might also feel the disappointment and realize it’s not that bad and that my goal was not realistic in the first place.

Setting realistic goals is really important if you want to avoid anger or despair. Unrealistic goals will only demotivate and frustrate you. Ask yourself am I disappointed, because my goals are coming from a false image of myself as “super me”, or is this task doable? Giving yourself achievable goals is motivating and empowering. Taking on unrealistic goals is draining and ultimately self-defeating.

You are ultimately setting your self up for disappointment if your goals are unrealistic. This disappointment experienced for long enough, will often trigger despair, and despair feels like being stuck.

So, are you feeling stuck? Ask yourself the question; “Are these goals realistic?” If not, then adjust your expectations to meet reality. If they are realistic, then find out; what do I have to do, who do I have to talk to, or what do I need to learn, to overcome this hindrance and achieve the life I desire?

Start getting unstuck today!

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