What to Do If You Feel Trapped by Your Circumstances

“As long as we know we’re trapped, we still have a chance to escape.” ~Sara Grant

Talking to someone last week who had to ‘volunteer’ to return to their country of birth, a country defined by the United Nations as one of the least developed in the world in terms of its economic conditions, was humbling.

While I often find myself feeling trapped by the longevity, monotony, and intensity involved in child rearing, I wasn’t sure what I could say that might help someone who had been the victim of identity theft and, through lack of resources, had no option but to leave their family and the country they considered home.

Hearing how anxious, depressed, and lonely she felt, I wondered what I could say that might make a difference. Then, as I relaxed, I realized that our situations might not be entirely different after all.

I won’t deny that my quality of life in terms of living conditions and freedom to move around is fabulous. And I cannot deny, having lived this way, to have that taken away would feel dreadful. But I knew my sympathy would do nothing to change her circumstances.

Instead, I took a different approach and, after the conversation that followed, I realized that what was being said applied as much to me as it did to her, and pretty much universally to anyone feeling trapped. While one person’s circumstances could be judged harsher than another’s, and there would likely be little debate about that, everything is relative, and we can all feel pain and entrapment in equal measure.

The question is what to do about it that is helpful right now?

Well, the overall aim is to feel your inner power, rather than a sense of hopelessness—no one can be free when they feel they are in chains. Regardless of our circumstances, how we think and feel about them is always within our control and our best hope of changing them.

Here are the aspects we talked through:


It’s our struggle with ‘what is’ that causes pain. The longer we try to resist the pain, the more it persists. Yet the worst has already happened; our circumstances are what they are.

On an emotional level perhaps you’ve sunk to the depths of despair, which sits in a pit of hopelessness. Understand that depression is healthier than despair, and anger and frustration are healthier still. So when you are feeling emotions like anger, you have begun to take back your power, to acknowledge your right to have your freedom of choice, and you are going in the right direction.

Do everything you feel inspired to do from a practical perspective to move in the direction you want to go. It’s also a good idea to sense check this with someone who can be objective about your situation and perhaps even offer other suggestions.

The key here, though, is inspiration. If something you are doing, or others suggest, feels like a lead weight around your heart, that is your intuition shouting “other way.” In that case, keep to the bare minimum of what you feel duty bound to in this moment.

I can remember back to trying to conceive and, after four failed pregnancies (my children are pregnancies five and six), there were a number of years when I couldn’t even get pregnant again. The well meaning advice was always “forget about it and it will just happen.”

That kind of advice infuriated me. I’d think, “How am I supposed to forget something that dispatches a monthly reminder?” My partner and I did everything we could think of that felt right and, in the end, had to leave it to fate. It was at that point I became pregnant with our first child.

Once you have done everything you feel inspired to do, let it go.

While we ultimately all want to experience joy and love, as that is our natural state, ease and neutrality are a good goal at this point.

I remember a scene in Nashville, one of my favorite TV dramas, where one character literally takes another who is wallowing in grief and anger and drops him in the middle of the woods. He was furious. It was actually a beautiful sunny day, but his only choice was to walk for miles. As he walked you could see him physically become unbound and relax more.

Meditation and getting out into nature are great ways to bring ourselves back into balance, especially if we can do them regularly. This advice should never be underestimated. Our natural world is an amazing companion in the face of feeling trapped.

Change the Narrative

In order to feel our power and create change in our lives, we need to stop seeing ourselves as victims. You are in fact the hero of your story, and it’s likely the best parts have yet to unfold.

You have to stop saying (even to yourself), “I don’t want to be here” because you are making yourself feel worse. That doesn’t mean you can or should start to think, “I love being here,” because you know that is not your truth. It is more about trying to focus on anything and everything that makes you feel better about being where you are.

For me that’s easy, as child-rearing is fairly paradoxical and, as energy-sapping as it can be at times, it’s just about the most inspiring, enlightening, and fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. For that person I was talking to, while she is currently trapped in a third world country, it is one of the most beautiful countries in our world and there is an abundance of opportunities to help others.

Take Your Power Back

Rather than worrying about how to break out of this hole, bring light into it and life will, in its right timing, show you the way.

In the meantime, look for other ways to find power and be purposeful. I have a friend who was feeling trapped by the need to make money, yet yearned for more meaning in her life. She took a job helping children with special needs, which—while not her calling—holds purpose for her, and she feels like she’s making a difference.

You must look for ways in which you can be free/ Your thoughts are key, as how you view your situation can make all the difference.

A powerful way to change your perspective is to consider that, while you may feel trapped right now, life-changing events can happen at any time—but you have to be open to notice them. If you look back on the amazing things that have happened in your life, you’ll start to see the importance of little unpredictable moments: chance meetings, something you happened to read or watch, or something someone said.

If you can imagine that the new circumstances you dream of require some of these serendipities to line up, and you have an important contribution to make or an important lesson to learn in the process, it may help you feel better about your present circumstances. Think of it as a journey paved with stones that you can only see when you are looking for the best in where you are right now, and then jump from one to the next as inspiration arises; these are your lifeline.

As you get used to feeling your freedom and power again in the smallest of ways, life will start to respond.

Fill Your Cup

To get there we have to focus on anything other than those aspects of our circumstances causing us to suffer. Do things, big or small, that distract you and make you feel better. Read, watch, and listen to whatever fills your cup.

Again, make it a priority to get out among nature. It sounds cliché, but our natural world is like a strong, steady heartbeat, and it really helps you to gain perspective while holding you in a nurturing space.

Write down all the things you are thankful for. I used to write out “I am grateful for…” but found it more personal and powerful to say “Thank you for…”

If you struggle to get started on this, start with things that mostly everyone takes for granted, like the sun coming up each day. Despite our circumstances, there are usually people, places, knowledge, experiences, and other things—aspects of our selves—we are thankful to have had or currently have in our life.

Reach out and help others in ways that are meaningful to you. Your experiences can help people, which will help you to reconnect with the love within you. It is harder to be lonely when you allow this broader part of you to take its place in the light.


Circumstances change; this is not forever. You have to trust that, in time, solutions will present themselves and you will be inspired to act in ways that lead you where you want to go.

Here is a practice I learned from Anthony William to rebuild trust. Each evening as the sun is setting, take time just to notice it. This small act, done regularly, helps us to reconnect at a primordial level with the rhythm of life. Just as we can trust that the sun will rise and set each day, as we reengage with that our basic trust in life to support us also restores.

I believe there are no accidents in this life. This means there is something about your situation that will help you (and likely others) in the long run. While you might not feel it right now, you are powerful, and you are here to make a difference. Do not give up on yourself, this world needs you.

I also believe you’ve been called to this point for a reason, and you are not ever given anything you can’t handle. You can get through this and even find the best parts of it.

In the meantime, be strong, be kind to yourself, and know that you are enough and you are worthy.

About Shona Keachie

Shona teaches by the power of example how to find our inner truth among the often harried day to day practicalities of life. If you enjoyed this article you may enjoy From the Roots of Anger to the Blossoming of Healthy Boundaries, Embrace Your Real Self, Mastering the Art of Inner Harmony: A Journey from Turmoil to Tranquility and The People Who Hurt Us Are Vehicles for Our Growth. To follow her blog click here. shonakeachie.com

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