Natalie Mills, MFT – I Feel Stuck

I hear the words “I feel stuck,” multiple times a day. This phrase is uttered by clients, friends, family, and by people I don’t know who are simply passing by. Sometimes these words are accompanied by fear and anxiety, other times by hopelessness and desperation, and sometimes, mild frustration. It’s clear that people are experiencing at least some portion of their lives as being lived under duress.

Most of us don’t readily see the choices available to us (if we did, we probably wouldn’t feel stuck quite so often). We feel confused by our feelings and we begin to take long detours down the road of overwhelm and despair. Feelings like guilt and shame make a lot of appearances here.

"Little Manhattan" by Yutaka Sone
“Little Manhattan” by Yutaka Sone

Feeling stuck can manifest in any aspect of our lives. The top categories most of us report a feeling of being stuck are in their jobs, relationships, in various behavioral patterns, in a feeling, financially, and in particular thought processes. We no longer experience as much enjoyment and whatever it was that drew us to these things in the first place and we become preoccupied with our discomfort and unhappiness. And then, from there, it just feels like things get worse.

So, how do we regain sight of our choices? Well, we’ve lost site of our awareness. We’ll have to take some steps to reconnect ourselves to it so that we can move beyond knowing the feelings of “I feel stuck,” toward why we feel this and start strategizing solutions.

The first step toward reconnecting ourselves to this necessary awareness is establishing our objective. What do we want?

The objective can begin as something as broad as “to feel better” or “to feel unstuck,” though this is not where we will leave it. Gather as much information about the situation as possible and organize it. Find out the components that make up what we are dealing with, why, the roles of said components, and their importance. Prioritize these components.

The second step is to come up with actions, which meet our objectives. How will we get there? What will need to happen first, second, third, etc.? Taking what the first step produced; things like, what we want our situation to eventually look like, what we can control versus what we can’t. This will help us to gain perspective about the best way to achieve what we want.

The third step is to evaluate our chosen actions for potential consequences, both positive and negative. By taking this step, we can allow ourselves to become more aware of our own motivations, the intricacies of our situation, and think critically about the strategies best suited for us. It provides forethought.

Once we see the choices available and the steps we can take toward making a change, we start to feel less stuck. We begin to experience our own power. Sometimes we realize we don’t want to make the change at all. Other times, we realize patterns never-before-seen patterns and we begin to address those. We stop seeing ourselves as helpless and start to move into our own capability.

Natalie Mills, MFTSan Francisco Counseling and Therapy

First published on Natalie’s blog on September 19, 2013.