5 Things That Keep Us Stuck
Do you sometimes feel paralyzed, as if your feet were planted in a tar pit when the rest of you knows it is time to get moving, to grow spiritually, to deepen intimacy with your spouse, to expand a business or propel yourself into a new career, to take action on projects that have special meaning for you but lie forgotten, incomplete or abandoned?
Then you know first hand the immobilizing feeling of stuckness. It is not a pleasant or healthy feeling. And yet, it is a common experience, one that all of us have lived through at one time or another. Perhaps it is a feeling state you find yourself in at this very moment.
“An empowered approach to life does not tolerate judgment of others”
One way out of stuckness is simply to surrender to it and to abandon our ideas, projects and dreams. In other words, a way out is to stay in stuckness. This is what many of us do when we are confronted with the anxiety we experience as we challenge ourselves to take actions that take us outside the limits of our comfort zone. As we embark on the pursuit of our dreams and aspirations (always found beyond the limits of our comfort zone) our fears emerge and our minds respond to the discomforting lack of safety with an endless array of arguments against the work that would catapult us into a more ample comfort zone- one inclusive of our desired results. We may hear internal voices telling us why change is not for us, or why we can’t succeed. We succumb to the “fuck-its.” Is this you? This certainly has been me in the past. For decades I lived in a rut- mired in a profession I loved but a job I hated yet felt powerless to leave; engaging in compulsive sex I was ashamed to acknowledge, could not understand and was powerless to stop. It took a monumental crisis- a radical and abrupt dislocation of my life before I became willing to confront my demons, my stuckness…and grow. It doesn’t have to be like this.
A static life devoid of growth and evolution is a life of stuckness, for we only stop dreaming and desiring when dead or horribly depressed. The choice we must all make on a daily basis is to either befriend stuckness or dive into the discomfort that always accompanies those who dare live in perpetual challenge to their comfort zones- forever expanding and encompassing more of this mysterious thing called life.
Here is the good news. If you identify with the feeling of stuckness, or with any of the causes described in this newsletter, know that there is a path out, one that does not require the abdication of your vision and desires to inaction. A coaching relationship will help you identify the roots of your stuckness and to map a path out through the various fears that await the courageous traveler. Good coaching will support you on your journey toward the mindset that, once embodied, will allow you to live in pursuit of the vision for your life that formerly existed beyond your reach, for it was to be found outside the bounds of your comfort zone.
My Top 5 Things That Keep Us Stuck
1. Faulty Perspectives Guess what? Life is neutral. It is meaningless and exists in sensory darkness until the spotlight of your conscious attention shines on it and imbues your perceptions with meaning. What assigns meaning to your perceptions of reality derives, in part, from the lens through which you filter what you perceive. We are meaning making machines. We must be in order to survive. Thus, we all posses mental filters that automatically process stimuli in the natural world with the intention of securing our survival. For example, we all have inherited a negativity filter or from our primitive ancestors. This filter or perspective was vital when we lived amidst wildlife in the plains of the Serengeti. In that environment, if we attributed the movement of distant reeds as due to gentle breezes, we might miss the hungry predator stalking us from the tall grass nearby.
Perspectives are complex means of deriving symbolic meaning out of the vast amount of stimuli perceived by our senses that constantly bombards our brain. Most perspectives are learned in childhood and internalized as de-facto truths without much questioning. These then become our default ways of assigning meaning and responding to the world. Our default perspectives are often revealed in our unconscious use of language. They are easier for an observer to detect from our responses to life than they are for us to recognize on our own, but we can train ourselves to identify them and to examine them. Though language alone is insufficient to fully describe perspectives, it does offer us a good starting point in our examination of them. Examples of perspectives may be found in comments such as, “I’m not up to the task,” I’m not good at numbers,” “Its too hard” … You can imagine how a negative orientation to life as embodied in the energy of these statements would prevent someone (perhaps you) from movement toward a desirable goal.
The good news is that we alone among living creatures can work with perspectives and are able to consciously choose and embody different perspectives in order to facilitate (rather than inhibit) the pursuit of our desires. “I won’t act out no matter what,” is an example of an empowering perspective that, along with lots of support-both physical and spiritual, can help a recovering addict traverse the discomfort of withdrawal without having to return to compulsivity.
Learning to work with perspectives is a vital task in a coaching relationship. This alone can greatly enhance your ability to move beyond stuckness.
2. Lo Self-Esteem Lo self-esteem can paralyze us just as powerfully as the neurotoxin of the most venomous viper. It derails our efforts to succeed and ensures that we will remain trapped within our comfort zones. Lo self-esteem is the generator of feelings of undeservedness that short-circuit desires for self-expression and attempts at achievement.
Self-esteem is not to be confused with our worth. Worth is innate. It is inherent in us, just for being. Each one of us is a rare and precious jewel bestowed with value by our creator. Our inborn worth is independent of any quantifiable attribute we may have. However, most of us learned during childhood to confuse this immutable quality of our being with numerous traits, all of which, unlike worth, can and do fluctuate. No wonder many of us are easily convinced that the way to improve our self-esteem is through engaging in esteemable acts.
Self-esteem is an imperfect approximation of worth based on the ego’s attempt to conceptualize that abstract essence described above that defies definition or quantification- a quality inherent to and more fully understood and appreciated by our soul- our worth. To define worth only in terms of the ego’s capacity to experience it, results in the confusing association between worth and quantifiable measures that make sense to the ego such as, possessions, salary, bank deposits, etc. An erroneous perception of our worth based on ego-driven assessments (especially if your ego has developed in the context of childhood trauma or abuse) will lead to stuckness.
My coaching methodology seeks to reconcile the distinction between esteem and worth. Without this reconciliation we are left with only the traditional approach to building esteem- through esteemable acts. Although effective, esteemable acts, in my opinion, offer only a temporary patch to our injured sense of self (and to the stuckness that accompanies lo self-esteem)- one that is susceptible to the failures and disappointments that are part of living.
3. Adaptive Challenges Many of us have been brought up to believe that success in life’s endeavors is primarily based on the having the right work ethic, on finding a proper path, recipe, or solution to our challenges or desires, and to then resolutely and diligently sticking with it. Thus, for example, if we wish to loose weight, all we need (beyond presumably “willingness”) is a technical solution- an instruction manual to chart our path toward the desired destination such as a weight loss book that lists the steps to take, the foods to eat (or not), etc. This would be true if all of our challenges were purely technical challenges.
The fact, however, is that many of us never arrive at our destination- whether it is weight loss or some other goal (say, a workaholic’s desire to learn how to delegate more)- no matter how disciplined we are in following available technical solutions (reading, “Delegating for Dummies,” for example). Why is that? The reason is found in commitments to safety we all possess and which lie concealed in our unconscious mind. If our desired destination, goal or result conflicts with the unconscious mind’s commitments to safety, our unconscious will come up with many creative ways of delaying action, avoiding necessary steps, or otherwise sabotaging the technical solution we sought out in first place. An adaptive challenge is one that confronts the individual with the possibility of breaking an unconscious rule upon which his sense of safety is based.
Self-sabotage is not evidence of a lack of willingness. To label someone’s failure as evidence of a lack of willingness is usually incorrect and fails to recognize the fact that as honest and sincere as an individual’s commitment to change might be, the power of that commitment pales in comparison to that person’s unconscious commitment to safety. Safety and survival trumps all else. To label someone as unwilling (or unconstitutionally incapable of being honest) is to miss the forest for the trees. This failure of understanding is what keeps a helper stuck and feeling frustrated when an individual he is being of service to fails to achieve his desired result (the helper will be stuck in an unhelpful perspective, the helped will be stuck in his adaptive commitment to safety).
If you have experienced any form of self-sabotage en-route to your dreams, my coaching program will help you to uncover, define and overcome your hidden commitments to safety when these run counter to your desired goals.
4. Addiction Untreated addiction in any of its multiple manifestations, whether it is a process addiction or a substance addiction, convinces the addict that he cannot change. Addiction lures the addict with the comforting belief that life without it is impossible. As addicts, it is no wonder that, even when “high functioning,” we are stuck in non-awareness and we sleepwalk through life. Recovery coaches, sobriety coaches, lifestyle coaches, spirituality coaches or life coaches are valuable assets in the recovery from addiction for those who avail themselves of this resource.
5. Victim Consciousness Victim Consciousness is the primary focus of my life’s work. It is the main deterrent to the expansion and evolution of our comfort zones. Victim Consciousness is such a commonly experienced approach to life- one shared by so many people around us- that we fail to recognize it or to appreciate that it is an orientation to living that can be changed. A discussion of its origins, characteristics, dynamics and more is beyond the scope of this short segment. Suffice it to say that from a victim orientation to life, we exist in a perpetual state of stuckness. We do not perceive ourselves as the creators of our realities. We feel and live at the mercy of the world, the people in it (our bosses, creditors, spouses, etc.) and life’s circumstances (natural disasters, illnesses, etc.). When in Victim Consciousness, we cannot focus on what we want for we are busy reacting to fears and anxieties and blaming others for our misfortunes, rather than utilizing everything in our experience to create our desired outcomes or to learn from our efforts.
A Victim Orientation to life can be replaced with an empowering orientation when we avail ourselves of trained helpers to accompany us on the life-long journey of empowered living. My coaching program is dedicated to the transformation of Victim Consciousness through the use tools and practices that return you to a healthy sense of power and self-responsibility.
If you are ready to stretch beyond your current comfort zone (or if you know someone who is); if you are ready to define, explore and pursue a rich vision to fuel your passions, it is time for us to talk. Let me tell you why I am the coach to accompany, guide, encourage, champion and support you on your journey.