What can we learn from feeling stuck? If every experience offers the possibility to help us life more free, more meaningful lives, then stuckness might have its own seed of liberation. The feeling of being “stuck” is somewhat generic and can encompass a variety of human experiences, from fairly mundane to a kind of horror that begins to feel mundane:
· Stuck in a relationship that’s not very good but not very bad, living a life that feels dissatisfying but I have no ideas about what would be better.
· Stuck in an abusive cycle, where I feel terrified of someone or something in my life that has the potential to cause me harm if I try to make any changes, or even if I don’t make any changes. I genuinely feel there is nowhere I can go because every road seems dangerous, even the road of doing nothing.
· Stuck in bad circumstances, such as being loaded with debt, wanting a job but not having a car or Internet access that would help me to look for one or actually commute if I could find one, living in an apartment that’s broken down and costs more in rent than it’s worth, and every time I try to make a move the ground seems to come out from under me.
Feeling stuck is painful. Our animal nature wants freedom as much as it wants comfort. The capacity to choose our lives can help us live gracefully with what might otherwise be unbearable situations. When we feel that choice is missing, we can fall into that learned helplessness that is akin to depression. This is a different experience than living with the spiritual belief that our lives are ordained for us by some wise benefactor. Submission to an outside will can itself be a choice that helps some to find freedom in life. A substantive difference in quality comes from the belief that such submission is voluntary and purposeful. Coerced submission is no blessing.
When we feel stuck, all that energy that wants to go and do gets coiled around the basic problems, becoming increasingly more painful. Some of us start finding ways to numb the pain or distract ourselves and displace all that pain and energy into something over which we have more control. A frequently-used example is yelling at a dog instead of speaking up to a boss. Irritation with life in general, or a sort of floating anxiety and fearfulness that seems to have no cause, may point to somewhere in life where we feel we cannot move and we want to avoid perceiving.
This perception is important. One way to begin to free that energy and reclaim it is to sense and sit with it, to sense the blocked energy and suffering, and to continue sinking into that sensation. Becoming free sometimes demands that we learn to move toward the intolerable. To simply sit with ourselves being stuck and feeling frustrated and let that part of ourselves speak. If we can sit with this and find a trusted ally who is willing to listen and offer honest feedback, we might begin to recognize something we’ve been avoiding that might help us to become free: a conversation, a resolution, an action. Sometimes we have to learn how to wait while staying awake enough to see an opportunity when it comes.
Action is not always possible or desirable. Sometimes giving ourselves space to feel or finding people who can sit with us in pain is enough to lighten the heart of its burden. We can change our experience of ourselves, but we might need to find physical safety and meet our survival needs before we have the energy to do so. Help exists if we are ready to look for it. We might not know what is possible, or who is willing to help, or what is available to us, before risking a change.
What else helps when you feel stuck?