How Do I Know If I Need Therapy?

How Do I Know If I Need Therapy?

“So about how long should it take until I feel better?” “How long do you think I’ll need therapy?” “How many sessions should I expect to attend before my problem is solved?” I have asked all of these questions during time spent on the other side of the couch. I know what it’s like to want concrete answers and expectations met. Everyone wants a sure thing in the face of so much uncertainty.

Therapy is not exactly a sure thing. Surely, it can and does help, but it’s not as simple as basic input of time and results yielded. Results depend on client honesty (with themselves and the therapist), right fit with a therapist, client’s commitment to the work both in and out of the therapy office, and right fit with whatever therapeutic modality is used.

Therapy is almost never a quick fix, but there are quicker-fix type/brief therapeutic modalities available. Whether or not these protocols are right for someone depends on a lot- personality, history, diagnosis, whether or not a person has experienced complex trauma. Even in the best of scenarios, it still requires the practice of skills through time to maintain results.

Under the psychotherapy umbrella, there are five really (really) broad categories we use to organize treatment strategies:

Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Therapy:

Makes the unconscious conscious, insight oriented. Emphasis on client-therapist relationship. Brief therapy model (20 session maximum) is not the rule, but is available for single-incident trauma like an attack, rape, catastrophic event, targeting a single life shift.

Examples of Psychodynamic Therapy: Jungian, Dream Work, Attachment-based

Often used for: Increasing self-compassion, improving self-concept, self-actualization, mood disorders, relational problems, trauma, developing insight to identify and manage internal conflict, shifting external locus of control to internal locus of control, couples, families,

*Psychoanalysis: Multiple times per week. The therapist is a blank slate onto which client projects their beliefs and experiences. Relies heavily on free association.

 

Behavior Therapy:

Focuses on conditioning new behavior. Uses brief therapy model.

Examples: Applied Behavioral Analysis, Aversion Therapy, System Desensitization

Often used for: Phobias, Addiction, Anger issues, Impulse control problems, self-injury

 

Cognitive Therapy:

Focuses on changing thought pattern. Uses brief therapy model.

Examples: Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Often used for: Phobias, Addiction, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Suicidal ideation, Anxiety disorders

 

Humanistic Therapy:

Focuses on cultivating personal accountability and reaching highest potential. Emphasis on free will. Uses both brief and long-term therapy models.  

Examples: Gestalt, Client-Centered, Transpersonal, Solution-Focused, Adlerian  

Often used for: Improving self-concept, self-actualization, improving communication with others, cultivating self-awareness, shifting external locus of control to internal locus of control, couples, families, existential crises  

 

Integrative or Holistic Therapy:

Often referred to as “Eclectic Therapy.” (Some practitioners will basically fight to the death in disagreement over whether or not Integrative is also Eclectic.) Uses various modalities depending on what is indicated for each client. One therapeutic modality combines various features of the previous four categories. Uses both brief and long-term therapy models.  

Examples: EMDR, Narrative, Cognitive Behavioral, Dialectical Behavior, Internal Family Systems, Gottman Method, Transactional Analysis

Often used for: All of the above

 

Some people prefer to see the same therapist for various issues they’d like to target while others seek out a different specialist to treat each issue. There’s no right way to do this, just whatever feels like it’s working for the client. Some clients come with an agenda and leave when their goals have been reached. Some stay for a while after because they like having a professional to talk to who’s all about them. Plenty of people try therapy and find it difficult to give themselves over to the process, take a more passive route to treatment, get frustrated and give up. Sometimes this is because traditional psychotherapy is not a good fit for them right now, maybe ever. There are so many other great therapeutic options. Traditional psychotherapy is not the only way to heal or feel better.

 

I know it’s overwhelming to look for a therapist and decide which kind of therapy would be best for you, especially when you’ve been dealing with a problem for years, and you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and ask for help.

 

If you describe the issue and a little bit about yourself, many of us will be able to direct you in the right direction. There are plenty of therapists who won’t do this because they are sure that they can handle it regardless of their training and orientation. While I would like to believe that this is mostly the exception rather than the rule, it happens. If you feel too overwhelmed or busy or exhausted to educate yourself on various therapeutic tools and modalities, remember that you can interview multiple therapists at a time to see who feels like the best fit for you. (You can also do this regardless of your stamina to self-educate.) Once you start seeing a therapist, you can audition us. If you’re not feelin’ it for some reason, you can switch. It’s ok not to like your therapist or to like them, but feel like they’re not actually helping you. Therapy is an investment, and you have the right to switch providers at any time for any reason. If you’re feeling like you need to discontinue treatment, I usually recommend addressing this with the therapist; sometimes it just takes a little direct communication to shift things. Even if you don’t plan on continuing your work with the therapist, honest feedback is good for both sides.

 

If you’d like to talk more about this, please email me or call and I would be happy to answer any questions. This is one of my favorite subjects!

 

Love and Be Loved,
Natalie

Forget Self-Esteem

Forget Self-Esteem

The US went on a real self-esteem rampage starting in the mid to late ‘80s. How-To books were written for parents, leaders, educators, executives, and anyone else who wanted to know how to cultivate high self-esteem in themselves and others. After 30 years or so, we’ve seen the impact of this practice, and it hasn’t delivered what its supporters had hoped. As it turns out, the self-esteem movement helped people approach life with more entitlement and less personal accountability. I get the intention behind the self-esteem movement and support that intention, but based on what we now know about the human brain, the application was doomed from the start.

 

Self-esteem is about confidence in one’s abilities, feeling good about oneself. I might be the most confident about my driving skills but constantly get into fender benders, get pulled over for speeding, and be a general train wreck on the road. Someone else might believe that he is an ace baseball player and yet is consistently overlooked by even the least competitive teams. Anyone can have high self-esteem. It doesn’t mean they’ve earned it. It doesn’t even mean that it’s based in reality. This goes to show that someone might have great self-esteem and a poor self-concept.

 

Self-concept is how we view ourselves, the beliefs we hold about ourselves, and the feedback we get from our environment. We categorize ourselves, then interpret those categorizations.

Part of your self-concept might be that you handle failure well because you learn from it and use failure as a way to learn strategy and increase your drive to get what you want.

 

I’m not saying that plenty of us don’t have faulty self-concepts. Most of us have incommensurate negative or positive self-concepts somewhere in there. I’m saying it’s more skillful to assess self-concept as opposed to self-esteem because it’s not about how confident or insecure we are in our capabilities as it is about looking at the evidence.

 

In sixth grade, I struggled with math. I wasn’t crazy-struggling, but I wanted to enjoy the same confidence in the subject I saw my peers enjoying so, I came to my teacher for help. If she had been concerned about my self-esteem, she would have told me something like, “Oh, Natalie, you’re such a great student! You’re not struggling that badly. Besides, you’re great and look at all the other things you can do!” Luckily, she cared more about my long-term self-concept than my self-esteem and told me something like, “Ok, Natalie, if you want to be better at math let’s look at where your performance is weak. Here’s where you’re doing well and here’s where you need help. Let’s work on it.” (Thanks, Mrs. Roloffs. I owe you.)

 

So, if you’re struggling with insecurity, instead of working on raising your self-esteem, try looking at how you’ve structured your self-concept. You’ll find it’s a much more useful tool than glossing over your experience with an I’m-ok-you’re-ok message.

 

If you want to look more closely at your self-concept, be curious. What are your values? What do you believe about yourself? What is the evidence of how true or false those beliefs are? What are the stories you tell about yourself? How do they play out in your life?

 

Love and Be Loved,
Natalie

1 Tip to Stop Ignoring Your Pain

1 Tip to Stop Ignoring Your Pain

Pain is inevitable. If you’re alive, you feel pain. I write a lot about techniques and skills we can engage to alleviate our pain and suffering. There are so many options available to us, and I like to spread the word about protocols I’ve found useful. When we’re in emotional, physical, or spiritual pain, sometimes we need to apply a technique or change positions or take a medication or seek support to help ease some of our burdens.

And sometimes we need to sit with it.

This is often confusing to us because of our cultural messaging about pain. It’s categorized as “bad” and in need of immediate amelioration. It is our adversary. The way we deal with pain is to either totally stigmatize it and think we must be bad humans if we’re experiencing it or to completely normalize it and search for someone or something to help us keep ourselves from feeling it. We think “I’m in pain. I must be bad,” or “I’m in pain and I can’t handle it.” If we are in pain, we’re encouraged to throw everything we’ve got in our tool kits at it and never look back. Take a pill; take ten pills; take a vacation; move; buy something; buy everything; get rid of everything you own and live a monastic, minimal life; get a divorce; get married; do something; do anything; produce any external result.

There is a time for acting, for taking steps, for making major life changes and there is a time for inaction, for sitting with the information we’re receiving from our pain or discomfort. “Don’t just do something, sit there.”

All over the internet, in magazines, in self-help books, at workshops we can find myriad strategies for managing and relieving pain. Everywhere we look we see titles reading, “5 Quick Tips for Relieving Anxiety” and “6 Ways to Getting Over It.” I contribute to this, too! I write about tips and sometimes use catchy titles in hopes of drawing attention to tools I’ve found useful both personally and clinically. It’s great to have so many options, and it’s proficient to apply techniques to feeling better. But the answer isn’t always to do something.

It’s important that we face our pain, see it, and pay attention to it. It is important that we hear what our pain is telling us. Pain is useful. It communicates perceived danger, wounding, and injury. It contains essential information about our immediate and unmet needs.

Pain is always trying to tell us something, and it will never get its need met if we don’t figure out what it’s telling us. If it doesn’t get its need met, it will keep gnawing at us in bigger and louder (and often more uncomfortable) ways. Pain understands that a closed mouth doesn’t get fed. So, it opens its mouth and talks to us anyway it knows how. If that doesn’t work, it raises the volume of its voice and continues to raise it until we hear what it’s saying and investigate. If we treat our pain with respect, dignity, and curiosity, we will begin to understand what it needs from us. The more we understand our pain, the less afraid of it we will be and to sit with it will feel more tolerable. Eventually, our relationship to pain will change.

There are two irrefutable truths about pain: 1) We will always experience it and 2) It will always hurt. We will always experience pain because we are living beings and all living beings experience some form of pain. It will always hurt because that is the most effective way of getting our attention.

As we learn to sit with our pain we will begin to notice that our reactions to much of our pain stimuli will change from “Oh my god, I’m going to die,” to “Oh my god, I feel like I’m going to die,” and “This really sucks but let’s see what the hell is happening here,” and “Damn, I’m in so much pain. Let’s see what this pain wants or needs from me,” and so on.

If you’d like to try this on your own, I recommend experimenting with something more surface-level at first. Try sitting with a minor irritation like an itch or the frustration of waiting for a website page to load. With more substantial pain, it is wise to start our inquiry into our pain with the accompaniment and guidance of a skilled practitioner. A lot can come up, and we can become very overwhelmed very quickly. That’s kind of the thing about pain, isn’t it? Sitting with it is, well, painful.

 

Love and Be Loved,
Natalie

(Side note: I am right there with you. I also don’t like pain and still find myself avoiding it or ignoring it. No one is exempt from this process.)

Learning to Stay

Learning to Stay

As a species, we’re in for some challenges. Humans have both nervous systems and self-awareness, the awareness of change, loss, and of death. We are aware that situations change and it motivates us to hold onto the situations we like and try to force a shift in situations we don’t like. We’re aware of loss so; we go to great lengths in trying to avoid it. We’re aware of death and generally fear it so, we engage in all sorts of behaviors and thinking in an attempt to gain control over it. Since everything is temporary, all of our grasping and holding and forcing and avoiding is useless. There is no lasting way for us to ever really hold onto something or someone, force a shift, or avoid change, loss, or death. And this creates a pretty uneasy sense of being.

 

Look at some of your own fear-based beliefs for a second. What makes you nervous? What are you believing when you notice the nervousness? What do you dread? What are you believing when you notice the dread?

 

We have an extensive list of strategies that we employ to avoid feeling the discomfort of these beliefs, to avoid feeling our fear of life’s fluidity. We numb. We fight ourselves or others. We seek comfort in addiction.

 

Underneath all of this struggle is the fear that we are not ok.

 

In the mythology of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama’s final challenge before he reached enlightenment was doubt. Mara, the dark deity symbol of humanity’s shadow side, our challenging emotions, appeared to Siddhartha in the form many distractions some of which were fear, pain, and lust. Finally, Mara appeared to him as doubt. Siddhartha experienced the most difficulty and discomfort with this last challenge. Siddhartha put his hand to the ground and felt the earth, calling upon it to ground him and give him strength. He looked up at Mara and said, “I see you, Mara. Come, let’s have tea.”

 

I’m always struck by this story. I find it comforting that Siddhartha, someone who had practiced for years, received years of mentoring and training and support, someone who was so well-resourced still felt the challenge of Mara, of the hard-to-feel, painful human emotions. I also appreciate that working through his last challenge involved asking for help, that he didn’t try to do it alone. And to boot, he invited the damn thing to tea!!

 

Siddhartha didn’t gain freedom from Mara all at once. It took years of practice and training. Gradually, after reaching out for help and engaging his own presence, he extricated himself. He was free.

 

On this quest for our own freedom, we learn of at least two important resources available to us as suggested by the Buddha mythology: 1) to ask for help when dealing with a challenge and 2) to be present with our experience of our process.

 

It’s so hard to keep ourselves from being swept away by the runaway train of our limiting beliefs, beliefs about ourselves and others, about the nature of the world; our fears of unworthiness; our doubt of our own lovability. Sometimes we can see this train coming for us and we freeze, unable to fight it. Sometimes we don’t see it coming; we realize we’re on it and don’t know how it happened. Sometimes we try to outrun it or fight it. One way or another, it picks us up anyway. Most of us are familiar with this cycle. Most of us know exactly what it’s like to be caught in Mara’s grip and to feel utterly helpless.

 

Asking for help is hard enough. Sitting with the discomfort, bringing presence to it is even more challenging. It requires a willing attentiveness, a moment of pause, and gentle inquiry. The sheer thought of asking ourselves gentle, inquiring questions when we’re in the middle of some kind of freak out brings with it its own uncomfortable trials.

 

Something I’ve found helpful both personally and professionally is Byron Katie’s work. It is aptly named “The Work.” She gives us four questions to pose to ourselves when we are facing the underlying doubt of our ok-ness. In those moments, Katie recommends that we ask ourselves:

 

  1. Is it true? We know that the experience of the belief feels real, but is the belief true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? What is the indisputable evidence?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? What happens for you? What is it like for you? What is the impact of this thought or belief on you? On others?
  4. Who would you be without the thought? Can you sense what life would be like, what you would be like if you no longer lived your life by this thought or belief?

 

These four questions get us off to a good start in dismantling maladaptive or limiting thoughts and beliefs, thoughts and beliefs that served us at one time in our lives, but that are now crippling us. If you find it difficult to ask yourself these questions, start with this one: Am I willing to pay attention to what this experience is like for me? We can’t always jump right in so, simply bringing the intention of presence if often a good place to start.

 

I recommend first trying these investigative questions with a shallow or midlevel fear-based belief. Since we are often floating around in the experience of these thoughts and beliefs, identified with them, bringing attention and presence can be really intense. Start slow. If you’d like to apply this approach to deeper fears and beliefs including trauma, I recommend doing so with the help and support of a therapist or healer.

 

Love and Be Loved,
Natalie

The Challenge of Change

The Challenge of Change

“If you could get rid of yourself just once, the secret of secrets would open to you. The face of the unknown, hidden beyond the universe would appear on the mirror of your perception.”
~ Rumi

 

There are a lot of things we tell ourselves all day each day, both consciously and unconsciously. Everything we do and believe about ourselves is the result of a narrative we’ve adopted. And this can present some problems for us, especially when it comes to a rigid or negative narrative.

 

Here’s an example:

 

As a kid, I was always told to go sit on someone’s lap or talk to someone on the phone who had just called my parents or visit with someone because it would “make their day.” My parents’ intentions were good. They wanted to socialize me and share me with others however, the story that was forming was that I didn’t have a choice about who I interacted with, that I must interact with people whether I wanted to or not, and that it was my job to make other people feel better about themselves whether or not that worked for me. I carried this with me for years, and it meant keeping relationships I didn’t want and committing to responsibilities I didn’t want or need. I had identified so deeply with this way of being that I was afraid to let it go. I’d repeated this story for so many years that I’d unconsciously trained my threat response to activate with even the slightest stimulus. For years I had perceived both interaction and disengagement from interaction as dangerous. I conditioned my threat system to see relationships as precarious, and I needed it to be on high alert. I was familiar with this pattern and didn’t question it so, I kept doing what I had always done. When I realized how much it had been holding me back, I wanted to change this narrative/core belief. I had to acknowledge my attachment to the story and identify the other beliefs I’d held that had been bred by that narrative.

 

The more I delved into this work, the more I started feeling more in control of who I invited into my life, which relationships I maintained, and my level of engagement with people. I didn’t feel trapped anymore, and I accepted my limits.

 

Our Threat/Self-Protection System has evolved in such a way that it automatically turns off our ability to take an interest in anything aside from the perceived threat. This is useful when we have to evade a predator or save a life. In fact, it does us one better! It takes over for us, shuts down our executive functioning, and overestimates danger for us. This is how our species has survived for so long throughout so many dangers and threats. The problem is, it doesn’t know the difference between a predator hunting us and a conflict or phobia or anxiety. It only identifies what our brain has programmed as threatening. Many of us get activated around spiders, public speaking, making a mistake, driving, etc. because our brains have programmed threatening associations with them. As if that didn’t make it challenging enough (and then some), since this system only has eyes for the perceived threat, we have to work much harder to shift gears and successfully manage our anxiety. We have to work against a part of our own brains that has had millions of years to become stronger and more efficient if we want to self-soothe and de-escalate ourselves.

 

What we believe about ourselves + our emotion regulation system + conflict = our life patterns   

 

So the longer we tell ourselves things like, “I don’t deserve it,” “I can’t have it because (I’m alone, poor, don’t know how…),” “This is just the way things have always been and the way they always will be,” “This is who I am,” “I deserve love as long as I give more than the other person,” the longer we condition this pattern and the longer we condition ourselves to associate any upset in this pattern with threat. We can literally train ourselves to feel threatened by success. We can also unlearn and rework these core beliefs.

 

Take the first step in changing the narratives that aren’t working for you anymore:

 

  • Train yourself to be more aware of the core self-beliefs you hold by assessing what is going on in your life right now.
  • What patterns do you notice?
  • Can you see any narratives reflected in your patterns or in what is happening in your life?

 

Love and Be Loved,
Natalie

What is Your Avoidance Telling You?

What is Your Avoidance Telling You?

Avoidance isn’t always unhealthy. In fact, there are plenty of times that it’s really adaptive. I want to avoid getting a parking ticket, so I move my car during the specified times. You want to avoid getting fired so you do the parts of your job that you’d prefer not to do. I want to avoid getting scratched by that mysterious cat, so I won’t bend down to pet her.

Sometimes we’ve personally experienced something that has taught us to avoid a certain stimulus and other times it’s common sense or a gut feeling. In my early twenties, I had to learn through a few different experiences that Hot Cheetos should be avoided if I wanted to side-step heartburn and a fairly sizeable stomach ache. I did not, however, have to learn through personal experience that the assignments for my Abnormal Developmental Psychology class needed to be completed and handed in on time. My instincts told me that my professor had zero tolerance for tardy assignments.

And really, it’s up to us to decide what we’re willing to endure. If you don’t mind getting the parking ticket, dealing with heartburn, or getting a bad grade, you probably won’t move your car. You’ll eat that bag of Hot Cheetos while procrastinating your assignments. We all have varying levels of tolerance to discomfort. And we even label discomfort differently. I might experience public speaking as uncomfortable, but you might label it as one of the more pleasurable ways to pass an evening. It really depends on what we tell ourselves about the experience we are having.

Avoidance becomes more troublesome or unhealthy when it gets in the way of our relationships, responsibilities, and the way we want to live our lives when it becomes our thinking-doing pattern. If I think, “Ugh, I really hate this meeting. I don’t want to go. We never get anything done, and it just goes on and on forever,” and then I skip the meeting once to stay back and get some work done, that’s not the end of the world. But I’m definitely going to want to get that thought process under control. If I constantly tell myself how much I hate the meeting and label it as something undesirable, I’m going to believe that it’s something I need to avoid. I’m going to make it pretty hard on myself to motivate when it’s time to go to the meeting. The more difficult it is for me to find the motivation to go, the more I’ll probably find ways to get out of it. That becomes a problem with both my thinking and my doing (behavior).

I’m not saying avoidance is bad or that we need to manipulate or trick ourselves out of feeling it. I’m saying we need to be curious about it. If I’m curious about why I don’t want to go to the meeting, what makes me so uncomfortable, I’ll probably learn something. I might learn that I need to speak up about it. I might learn that I can effect change by using my voice. Maybe I’ll see that I need to talk about it with my boss and we’ll both discover that my time is better spent doing something else. Upon further inspection, I might find that this is a much more chronic problem than I realized and discover that it’s time to look for a new job. If you allow yourself to contemplate why you’re often late with assignments, maybe you’ll discover that it’s because you don’t want to be in the field you’re studying. Maybe you’ll even find that you don’t want to be in school at all right now.

This is one of the gifts of avoidance. “If I don’t think about it, I don’t have to deal with it.” We can just keep skipping the meeting rather than thinking about training and searching for a new job. We can continue not to get credit for late assignments and focus on that problem instead of risking what it might be like to tell our parents that we don’t want to be in school right now. We can come home to our partner after a long day and sit in front of the TV with our phone in our hand and not think or talk about the fact that we haven’t felt very connected lately. When we avoid, we don’t have to do the thing, and we don’t have to think about why we’re not doing the thing.

I like to use mindfulness when I’m dealing with avoidance, my own or someone else’s. Give it a try. Ask yourself what you notice about the situation you are avoiding. What’s it like to do it? What’s it like to avoid it? What are the sensations associated with both? What does it mean to do the thing you are avoiding? And what does it mean to avoid it? What meaning are you making out of the sensations? How are you labeling them?

Bringing a little mindfulness is a good start to hearing what your avoidance is trying to tell you. You deserve to know.

 

Love and Be Loved,
Natalie

Getting What You Want and What You Need

Getting What You Want and What You Need

Recently, it was my dad’s birthday so, I took a road trip to visit my parents. When I’m there, we like to take a lot of walks together. On one of our walks, my dad noticed a herd of cattle. There were at least forty cows walking pretty close together across the pasture. My dad laughed and said, “They’re looking for greener pastures.” As the three of us talked about what we were watching, my dad said it reminded him of something similar he saw when he was a kid.

He observed a herd of cattle walking across a field. As they approached a barbed wire fence, he figured that they would turn around (or at least stop). But they kept going! The cows pushed their heads and chests through the barbed wire fence as they struggled to eat from the other side. Eventually, much of the herd was tangled in the barbs of the fence.

This struck me in a couple of different ways. First, I thought about how determined those cows must have been to plow through a fence riddled with tiny, jagged ends. The second thought I had was, “Woah that is a pretty serious example of what some of us are willing to put ourselves through for what seems like greener grass.”

Moving, changes in relationship status, switching jobs or careers are a few examples of where we can fall into “that grass over there is greener”- and into our proverbial barbed wire fence. While there are plenty of times when a change in location, relationships, or jobs can be totally healthy, there are also plenty of times when making a major life change is not the best antidote to a rut. How are you supposed to tell the difference?

It’s not always easy to be truthful with ourselves about what’s best for us; sometimes we’re afraid to be totally honest about what we need because we’re afraid it might be challenging or painful. So, here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to get a jump on figuring out our best course of action.

How do I tend to react to stressful situations?

If you’re a person who tends to base your decisions on your emotions, you might decide that, since you’re experiencing difficult emotions in a particular situation, it means that you’d be happier if you left that situation (relationship, job, neighborhood, etc.)It might take a bit longer for you to see that discomfort could be an indicator that something needs to shift, but that it’s not necessarily your current situation.

How do I react to uncertainty?

Life is full of uncertainty and people manage it in a variety of ways. Some people avoid the stress uncertainty brings by securing something else in their lives- getting engaged, going back to school, having children, buying a house, changing careers, etc.

What is the narrative I tell about myself?

People tell themselves all sorts of things about who they are. “I’m not good at school.” “I’m not interesting.” “I have no willpower.” “I am too damaged.” These negative beliefs get in the way of your ability to make decisions with which you’ll be happy. They’re fear-based; most people have difficulty identifying their choices when they feel insecure and will settle for whatever feels safest.

So, the next time you find yourself in a “greener pastures” moment, slow your roll a little bit and give yourself some time to answer these questions. Give yourself a chance to make the decision that’s best suited for you, not what feels the safest at the moment.

 

Love and Be Loved,
Natalie

What to Do When You Feel Stuck

What to Do When You 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 overwhelming despair. Feelings of guilt and shame make a lot of appearances here.

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 basic 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 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 power. Sometimes we realize we don’t want to make the change at all. Other times, we recognize patterns never-before-seen patterns, and we begin to address those. We stop seeing ourselves as helpless and start to move into our capability.

Love and Be Loved,
Natalie