We all have different associations of what being physically stuck somewhere means, like being stuck in an airport when your flight has been cancelled or stuck in traffic during rush hour. But I think we also all know, and have at least once experienced, the feeling of being stuck mentally or emotionally as well.
I experience being stuck emotionally and mentally quite often. Writing this very article started with me having a writer’s block. Over the years I learned that if I hit a mental or emotional block, I need to look deeper to understand where this block came from so that I can dismantle it and move it out of the way. I realize by talking with other people, that I’m not alone in this experience. The truth is we all feel stagnant and stuck once in a while. And I do believe that in difficult and unprecedented times like we are in right now as a global community, some of us might experience feeling stuck even more so.
So why do we get stuck in the first place?
I think although the feeling of being stuck is a shared and a commonly understood human experience, the reason behind one person finding themselves stuck is as varied as human experience itself. The cause could be extrinsic or intrinsic in nature. I don’t think the answer to this question can or should be generalized. Instead, everyone has to reflect and answer for themselves, what causes them to get stuck.
I would like to give you some insight into my own reflection process where I dissect one behaviour/ thinking pattern that seems to get me stuck at times. I share this with you in the hopes that it inspires you to dig deep when answering this question for yourself.
Over the years of growing up, I developed the mindset of needing to get things right and perfect. I believed that if I get it right, I will be fine. If I’m perfect, I will not only be in control, but also exempt of any harm, suffering and pain in life. So for years I held myself to the highest standards including everyone around me. I’m not sure when I first adapted this narrative. Was it taught by others or did I learn and decide on this construct on my own? When did I learn to fear pain, suffering and harm? Looking back at it, accepting, adapting and living the above stated narratives as truths caused me a lot of pain and resentment. Perfectionism was a way of life. A few years ago this way of thinking along with other negative narratives greatly affected my ability to love myself and appreciate and love others.
As I grew older and wiser I learned to dismantle some of those narratives. And I realized that some of those narratives are quite deeply connected to my emotional body. The second narrative mentioned above has a especially a strong pull on my fear, which keeps it alive to this day.
Specific situations seem to trigger fear and other negative response mechanisms more so than others. I can’t help but notice that sometimes this emotional response has been triggered by the boundaries set up by my very own mind. I started to see how the narratives such as perfection make up the the very fabric of my mental boundaries. This realization did not trigger fear but curiosity. And as I started to learn more about the way I get stuck and triggered, the more I learned about myself. I also noticed that my curiosity is getting stronger. My desire to learn and grow is getting stronger than my fear. I’m naturally pulled towards this positive connection to truth.
And although getting stuck and triggered still causes me a lot of pain and stress, I become less and less concerned about the potential pain and fear that might result from being stuck and triggered because at the end even this experience is an opportunity for me to learn and grow. This shift in mindset allowed me not only to grow but also heal wounds and traumas from the past. Along the way I also learned more about acceptance, love and forgiveness, as well as gratitude. I try my best to see every block as an opportunity and chance to grow. But as I said, I sometimes still struggle with negative thinking patterns, still get triggered and still get stuck.
We all experience situations that don’t go according to plan, because life isn’t linear and to a certain point is unpredictable. Getting stuck is part of the learning process. To struggle and even fail is part of the learning process. Just think about the countless times you had to fall and get back up in order to be able to walk on your own. You might not remember your own persistent struggle with this, but you might have observed this with your children or nieces and nephews or other small children in your social network. For me, adapting a perfectionist mindset with no room for failure set me up with a mindset that couldn’t recognize roadblocks and potential failure as another opportunity to listen and learn. My mind recognized blocks and failure as a threat, something to be feared of, which left me paralyzed for many years, unable to deal with them appropriately. I still struggle going through this process of getting stuck, learning, accepting and letting go. When my thoughts are very negative I can get lost in it all, without realizing that I’ve just got stuck yet on another mental or emotional block. And even to this day, after being stuck many times, I still get surprised when I yet again get confronted with another block ahead of me. I get annoyed, frustrated and sometimes hopeless. It sometimes takes me days or weeks until I stop to identify with the suffering that has been created by getting stuck.
So to my future self and everyone who is stuck right now, I have this advice:
If you’re stuck, take a step back, acknowledge and accept that you’re stuck and take this as an opportunity to learn. An opportunity to peel back another layer or barrier and use this opportunity to let go of constructs such as perfectionism that are no longer serving you.
I hope you enjoyed reading this. I will post another blog article shortly in the coming days addressing the maintenance work I do, which help me stay mentally, emotionally and physically flexible enough to not get hung up on every small block I encounter, and help me keep my positive perspective and mindset alive.
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