“It is the way we react to circumstances that determines our feelings.” ~Dale Carnegie
We’ve all felt like we’re drowning in mud.
You feel stuck, worthless, and confused.
You want to move. You should. You have to. But you can’t.
And then it evolves into anxiety, fear, and overwhelm.
But what if—just what if—being stuck isn’t the problem, but how we perceive it?
The Truth About Being Stuck
Every year, I have periods where I feel “stuck.”
Yet when I look closer, I see that “being stuck” is a label I give to a natural part of life.
It’s a time when not much happens. The anxiety comes when I think it should be otherwise. I start to force myself to work, to come up with ideas, and to make things happen.
And when I don’t get anywhere, I call it being stuck.
So, what is being stuck except the way I perceive life?
As I write this, I’ve been in a stuck period for the last few months. The difference is that I struggle less, because I’m beginning to let it be.
Why We Get Stuck
You get stuck when you think you should be something you’re not. When you think life should be different than it is.
I know I’m trying to force myself to do something when words like ”should,” ”have to,” and ”must” enter my mind.
When I relax and surrender to this quiet period in my life, things seem okay. I see that I can’t control life. I can only notice what life brings to me.
The Secret to Being Stuck Completely
Being stuck is like quicksand. The more you try to get out, the deeper you sink.
My mind wants to push, control, and manipulate. It stems from insecurity. I want to be secure, be loved, and be remarkable.
I think that if I could just control life, all would be well.
It’s not until I face reality that things begin to lift. Here are three things I do:
1. Give up.
When you’re stuck, surrender to being stuck.
I notice the thoughts and feelings within me that say that I’m stuck, and that something is wrong.
If I stay completely in this moment, there is no being stuck. There is only the label of a situation—a label that I’ve invented based on what I think my life should look like.
When I notice all this going on, I breathe a deep sigh of relief.
But that doesn’t mean that the feelings go away. I might still feel the anxiety, but it doesn’t have a death grip on me anymore.
I can see the play of thoughts. I can surrender to what comes.
And I still fall into resisting, but I’m getting better at letting it be what it is. I’m getting better at enjoying being stuck.
The funny thing is that when we enjoy being stuck, we’re not stuck anymore, because being stuck was all in our head.
2. Enjoy yourself.
There’s always something you feel drawn to do during these periods. You’re not completely stuck, not in every area of your life.
Right now, I’m reading books. I’m playing with my son. I’m watching movies and TV shows (the British version of Sherlock is amazing).
And on occasion, I’m writing articles like this, expressing what I feel.
I do the work I need to do. But then I let myself have fun.
It’s easy for me to feel guilty during this period because I feel like I’m not doing enough. But I’ve learned to see that I’m doing the best I can.
It’s another example of getting stuck in the story that I tell myself.
I am who I am. I’m doing what I can do. That’s enough.
And right now, that means doing less. The tide will shift soon enough.
The same is true for you. Do what you can, but go easy on yourself.
At times when I feel truly stuck, I write.
I don’t have a system or structure. I get a piece of paper and I write. I like to write by hand, the old fashioned way. It seems to clear my head more than writing on my computer.
What I do is write down everything going on in my head. No censoring. No looking back.
I let everything come out, especially the nasty bits.
The more I do this, the more I notice repeating patterns. I see how I want to change what is, and how futile it is.
The more aware I become, the more these things fall away.
When you truly become aware of what goes on inside of your head, you start to let go because you see how you create your own suffering.
My Biggest Mistake
When we resist what is, we suffer. That’s true for anything in life.
When I try to change what is, I poison myself from the inside out.
But with time, I’ve learned to see my resistance as a sign to relax. To see that I can only do my best with what I have, then it’s out of my hands.
There’s no pushing needed. Life lives itself through me, because I am life.
I am not separate from anything or anyone. I am this planet. I am the stars. I am you.
I sometimes wonder why we think we are not supported in life. We come into this world through a womb, where we’re supported.
The trees in the forest are supported. Yet we believe we’re the exception. Are we? I don’t think we are.
We just think that life should look different than it does. But the fact that life isn’t what you think it is shows that you’re wrong.
Let Things Be
Whether you feel stuck for a week or for a year doesn’t really matter.
You do the best you can with what you have.
But something I’ve noticed is that the longer I’m stuck, and the more I surrender to it, the more I learn when I come out of it.
It is the darkest periods of my life that have taught me the most about myself.
I’ve learned that life isn’t all about accomplishing things. Sometimes it’s about resting and letting things be.
These periods are no different than the seasons. There’s sun. There’s snow. There’s light, and there’s darkness.
Once you let it be what it is, things change because your perception changes.
But beware of making this another thing you have to do. Be kind to yourself. Let yourself be completely stuck.
And let yourself fight it, because you will.
It’s all good.
Woman in a jar image via Shutterstock