Living in the “place between no longer and not yet” (a phrase coined by Victor Turner, anthropologist, writer) can make us feel stuck. We all find ourselves living with uncertainty, and the unknowns can create a level of anxiety within us that has us freeze and then at times feel stuck. The topic of getting unstuck is well-vetted on the Internet, with many how-to videos and articles about how to get unstuck, whether it is finding ways to continue doing work we have been doing or seeking new and healthier ways to do things that we need to do to thrive. Ironically, when you are stuck, the sheer abundance of all those videos and articles can contribute to not knowing what to do next.
One of the healthiest things I listened to while reacquainting myself with this topic was a five-minute video by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. (therapist, speaker, author) who talked about using the stuck place as the place to be uncertain. It is a place to first process the frustration of not knowing what to do next, letting go of the fact that we need to propel forward, and then accepting the fact that we are just sitting in this space. I believe this gives us the freedom to be stuck and a purpose to being stuck. Namely, we need to process the fact that we cannot currently move ourselves in our work or personal projects. In accepting that this is part of the process, we can relax enough to gradually become unstuck. Like many things in life, if we break the process down to attainable steps, we will find ourselves on our way.
Step 1: We can name the place of being stuck as the place of uncertainty. By naming it, it becomes a more neutral place, an acceptable place, or even a helpful place.
Step 2: During times of uncertainty and definitely during this time of the pandemic, we might feel grief for the way life was before and the way we more smoothly and maybe more effectively were able to do our work or projects or self-improvement efforts. We are grieving the times of what was, times when we had more clarity on what will come next. We need time to process and to appreciate that there has been a change and that change not only causes general uncertainty, but it could also change the way we might respond to things, sometimes leaving us without a known road map and that the way we move and do things may look different from before.
Step 3: When we feel stuck, we can use self-compassion to lower expectations of ourselves and redefine success, at least temporarily. Kristen Neff, therapist and author of Self–Compassion, on her website, self-compassion.org, notes that having compassion for ourselves is just like having compassion for others. We first recognize suffering, empathize with it, and then react with care and concern. In a recent New York Times article, life coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders thinks of our states of mind as being helpful or unhelpful. She also notes that for most people, we can be stymied by not knowing all the steps it would take to finish or succeed. Here is an illustration of shifting from an unhelpful mindset to a helpful one:
We can use a helpful mindset and self-talk around consistently making progress, as opposed to thinking that success is only defined by completing a project.
The good news for most of us, in addition to processing and accepting, is that if we employ one or more of these unsticking strategies, we can start become unstuck:
Even though feeling stuck is uncomfortable and often frustrating, it is an experience that most of us can relate to and, as a result, many of us have found solutions too, like I did when I perused the Internet for help.
This blog post was originally published at https://oaap.org/thriving-today/, [May 28, 2020]. Copyright Oregon Attorney Assistance Program 2021. Republished with permission.