Humans tend to live out a cyclical pattern of getting stuck and unstuck; certainly over the years, months and weeks but sometimes over shorter windows of days and even hours. Our approach to getting unstuck makes a material difference in who we become. Getting stuck and unstuck might look different for each of us from the outside but what is likely similar is the internal environment.
For me, “stuck” has felt first like a mental followed by an emotional valley, moments where everything seems just a bit harder and solutions don’t come easy but the questions keep surfacing. Where the mental chasm between life’s demands and what I feel prepared to handle might increase a bit. When all of a sudden, in the mornings, the bed feels more magnetic and just a bit safer. Where the recurring internal optimism is met by a faint but definite voice of a cynic that sows seeds of self-doubt, calling that optimist a fool. Where the wiser me doesn’t jump in to troubleshoot because it hasn’t been fed the nourishment of solitude, reflection and self-care. When I find myself in such a space, I often realize that it had been on slow boil and I failed to see the signs and “weed the mental garden” in time, only to now find the mind overrun with aggressive vines. It’s often such a subtle shift at first when the thoughts start marching on a downward trajectory. I have also noticed that this always happens when the connection to self is lost and my actions lose the benefit of oversight from my steady, wise and compassionate internal observer.
Getting stuck for me is an entirely mental thing.
The unstuck similarly doesn’t arrive with a big bang. It often begins with the simple yet hard-to-do act of listening to my body. Historically, it’s has been a challenge for me to pause and tune into the embedded wisdom in the body when the mind is running in loops. My particular internal programming would rather I do all the work first and then anything else. When the stress knots arrive, my tendency is to push harder on the gas pedal as if I could outrun and outwork the knot to make it dissolve. It never does. What does happen is that the tasks become Sisyphean―laborious and ineffective. When the mind is overrun with action, the last thing I want to do is take an active pause; by which I mean a pause to understand the fear that underlies all that action and stress (yes, it’s always fear of some sort). That knot in the belly, the labored breathing, the sleeplessness, the tight jaw are often the physical manifestation of a deeper undercurrent, and it’s hard to wade through the pulsating fear when we’re already overwhelmed. This is where things like journaling, breath work, yoga, and other rhythmic movement practices like hiking, walking, and dance come in. They create a safe silence that allows the spidery fears to start crawling out from the nooks so we can see them for what they are.
All fear―fear of failure, fear of not amounting to anything, fear of not being understood, fear of losing trust and respect, fear of losing physical or mental faculties over time…you name it―is ultimately the fear of being othered, of being cast out of the tribe, of not being loved for exactly who we are. Imperfect, afraid and yet deeply desirous of love and belonging. And these fears don’t just create emotional pain, they turn into physical aches and pains.
Getting unstuck typically requires some physical shift followed by a connection to trusted others. And the thing that felt so big starts to dissolve and lose its hold.
Our fundamental human need to belong and be loved is often at the root of getting stuck, and that unconditional belonging and love from ourselves and others is often what gets us unstuck to propel us forward. The hardest thing of all is to show to someone that we are afraid and need them. The mental and physical shifts are certainly important but they are a precursor to then asking our trusted humans for support and care.
We can stop the work at the mental and physical shifts and get back to productivity or we can add that extra splash of human care and make the journey both fruitful and worthwhile.
(I am deeply and lovingly grateful to my humans who got me unstuck last week!)
“A life truly lived constantly burns away veils of illusion, burns away what is no longer relevant, gradually reveals our essence, until, at last, we are strong enough to stand in our naked truth.”— Marion Woodman