Monthly Archives: September 2015

10 Ways To Go From Feeling Stuck In Life To Feeling Unstuck

Feeling stuck comes from the desire to move forward from one phase of life to another but (for what ever reason) not being able to do so. The perceived reason could be any number of things including fear, other people or situations. Regardless of the reason, it is my contention that dealing with the feeling of being stuck has to be a subjective process with subjective solutions. In other words no one else and no situation can make you feel stuck without your consent. Certainly some situations are more extreme; an abusive spouse or incarceration for example. But even in these examples it is possible to deal with the feeling of being stuck internally. Here are ten methods:

  1. Take Action  – In many ways the feeling of being stuck comes from the inability to take action. As such, taking action by pushing up against your comfort zone fights against or acts to disprove that this inability is in fact a reality. Depending on what you think your reason is for being stuck, take action to counteract this reason. If (for example) you feel that unemployment is the reason for being stuck take action and look for a job. You need to put yourself out there and address whatever your fear may be and by doing so you will cultivate courage and strength. Other forms of taking action might be cleaning your house. I find getting a haircut shifts my feeling of being stuck for some reason. Creating a check list of things to do can be helpful when feeling stuck because it takes the initiative off of yourself and puts it on the list. This at least is a good temporary solution. Ideally you want to act under your own volition.
  2. Cultivate Spirituality – Spirituality means many things to different people. At its core it addresses humanity’s belief or longing for there to be something more to existence than material reality. Feeling stuck is very much a feeling rooted in the material world. As such cultivating spirituality is a means of rising above this feeling. This can be done in many ways and here are a few: (a) Meditation – sit still for ten minutes, be quiet and focus on your breathing. When you find your mind wandering bring your attention non judgmentally back to your breathing. It works. I don’t know why. (b) Prayer – directly address the divine honestly with your whole heart. List the things for which you are grateful. Ask for help. (c) If you have the opportunity I highly recommend going on a retreat for a structured spiritual experience. (d) Simply try to be aware and recognize that inner voice who whispers the negativity in your ear and reinforces this feeling of being stuck. When you recognize it, name it so that you diminish it and separate yourself from it.
  3. Move – Remove yourself from your present situation and negative people. This may be difficult because the reason you feel stuck might be because you feel you cannot move. I have found that moving from one location to another always brings about a feeling of renewal initially. However, be careful you don’t just take your baggage from one place to another. If you find yourself repeating negative patterns after the newness of a move wears off then therapy is probably a better option. If you cannot move at the very least get out of the house and go to the movies or simply take a walk until your mood shifts.
  4. Therapy – Caveat Emptor: There are good therapists and bad therapists and different types of therapy works better for some people than others. I have found that Gestalt body centered therapy was the most effective therapy I ever experienced to address the feelings of shame that had kept me feeling stuck for so long.
  5. Wait it out – All things change; especially moods. The feeling of being stuck feels like it will never end but it will. Simply knowing this can be helpful to combat hopelessness. While you are waiting you can focus on any other item on this list.
  6. Read – There are many helpful advice type books out there. The simple action of reaching out for one of these is therapeutic because when you do this you are taking action. In terms of content, I highly recommend Choose Yourself and The Rich Employee by James Altucher. Both have been very helpful for me.
  7. Exercise – It is important to exercise, eat well and sleep well when you are feeling stuck because these actions increase your energy and ability to shift from being stuck to being unstuck. By contrast, avoid or restrict alcohol and pornography as these things tend to have the opposite effect.
  8. Write – I have found writing about my experiences has given me the ability to see them more clearly. Blog, keep a journal or write a book and self publish it. I have self published twice and both the experience of writing and the experience of actually publishing were both therapeutic. Self Promotion: My books are Shame and Internet Trolling (non fiction) and The Book of Bud (a $.99 novel) are both available on Amazon.
  9. Establish Boundaries – If your feeling of being stuck is associated with another person you need to establish boundaries with this person. This means saying “no” when you don’t want to do something this other person wants you to do. You must say “no” even if it feels bad. It will feel bad at first because you will feel like you are doing something wrong. But what you will also feel soon after is a lightening of your mood. Any prior resentment you had for this person will begin to evaporate. It is quite dramatic and unexpected how powerful this technique is.
  10. Stop Judging – You might equate judgment and morality but this is a false association. When you judge other people you judge yourself with equal intensity. That is because both forms of judgment come from the same place: a wounded ego. When you make the conscious effort not to judge other people the force of the wounded ego weakens. You will find that you will stop judging yourself as well and from this place you can begin to cultivate compassion both for yourself and other people.
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Gatekeepers

In life there are gatekeepers. These are the people or organizations who label you and based on that label will tell you, “yes you can do this” or “no you can’t do that.” For some people a gatekeeper is a boss who tells them they will or will not get a raise or a promotion. For others a gatekeeper might be a book publisher who tells them their book is or is not marketable.

You cannot control how the gatekeepers will label you. But you can control whether you accept that label in your heart.

In the third grade I had a gatekeeper. She was my teacher.

On day she announced she would be directing a theatrical, musical version of Hansel and Gretel. There would be auditions where each student would recite specific lines she selected and based on our performances she would assign all the roles.

At the time I had a best friend named Robbie. We were both class clowns and were excited by this opportunity. I pictured myself moving the crowd through eloquent oration. I pictured myself delivering the punch line causing the audience to erupt in laughter. At the end of my performance I pictured the crowd showering me with thunderous applause.

On the day of the audition Robbie and I waited in line with the other kids to step to center stage and recite the line. Then we waited nervously until the next day for the results. That whole night I could barely sleep.

The next day the teacher announced the roles we all received based on our auditions. She gave Robbie the lead role of Hansel. She continued to read the other roles and who they were assigned to. I waited. Finally she said my name. I would be playing the role of “Background Tree” in scene four.

The background tree had no lines.

The background tree held a cardboard cut-out of a pine tree with a hole cut out for my face.

The background tree stood behind the four other trees.

…with speaking parts.

I was devastated and humiliated. I cried myself to sleep that night. I assumed this meant the teacher thought I had no talent.

Now don’t get me wrong, I suppose the world needs background trees just like it needs ditch diggers…

But that’s not true…

The world needs ditch diggers.

It does not need background trees.

Obviously the role was not necessary to the play. If I did not show up the performance would have continued swimmingly. It’s not like I had an understudy for the role. In fact, there were three other background trees as I recall. I wonder what they’re up to now?

Clearly this role was created for those kids the teacher thought had absolutely zero talent. But inside me I knew I had talent. I certainly had more talent than it took to play the role of Background Tree.

For a long time, however, I accepted this role I had been assigned. I may have had talent in my eyes but I allowed myself to be placed in the background by the gatekeeper. I became afraid of putting myself out there because I did not want to be in the position where a gatekeeper could shut me down again by saying, “You’re not a Hansel. You’re a background tree.”

And by not putting myself out there I limited myself. I became a background tree.

My critical error was that I accepted in my heart this role the gatekeeper, my teacher gave me. I let it define me. I became afraid to put myself out there because I was afraid someone else would label me a background tree again and I did not want to feel that intense humiliation.

Looking back on this experience I realize that in order not to be a background tree in life I must do three things.

  1. I have to put myself out there
  2. I cannot accept in my heart the roles the gatekeepers assign me if I know in my heart they are not true to me, and
  3. I have to put myself out there again.

The only person who can truly make me a background tree is me.

In life there are gatekeepers. And the gatekeepers might not recognize my talent. I cannot let the gatekeepers assign me the role of background tree in my heart because then I actually become a background tree.

As it turns out I did audition for another play in middle school. This time it was a production of Peter Pan. By this time I knew I was not a background tree and was excited to audition again.

Robbie got the role of Peter Pan.

I got the role of “Generic Lost Boy.”

It stung. Just not as much.

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How To Write About Painful Topics (Interview)

Here is a link to an interview I had with Gary Smailes of Bubblecow, a company based in the UK that provides editing and publishing assistance for self-published authors.

In this interview Gary asks me about writing honestly about painful topics as it relates to my first self published eBook “Shame and Internet Trolling.”

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Spiritualism and Checklists

I keep a checklist of the things I want to accomplish every day. Once I perform a task I check it off my list. The idea of the checklist is to motivate me to perform each task on a daily basis and it worked well in the beginning. One of the items on the list used to be “prayer / meditation.” I put this on the list to remind me to exercise my “spiritual muscle” on a daily basis. In the beginning this worked well as a reminder.

Eventually, however, this stopped working. It stopped working not because I refused to exercise my spiritual muscle. It stopped working because this item became another item on the checklist. The fact that I had this on the list negated some of the power of my spiritual practice. I found myself approaching this item motivated to check it off the list; to have it accomplished. I found that my spiritual practice does not work this way.

I firmly believe it is the nature of spiritualism whether in the form of prayer or meditation that it must be performed whole heartedly. Return to me with all your heart. (Joel 2:12). If not, then I am only going through the motions and any spirituality drains out of it. This is true because spiritualism by its nature deals with the nature of my heart, with truth and not surface level appearances. Render your heart not your garments. (Joel 2:13). To the extent I can keep a spiritual practice on the check list and maintain a wholehearted expression towards the task the checklist serves its purpose. But the point at which spirituality becomes a task to compete is the point when it needs to be removed from the checklist. In other words, if I am not approaching spirituality with my whole heart then I am not being spiritual. Whatever I am doing has become an empty gesture (in terms of spirituality). In the same respect, religious ritualism serves to remind of truth. To the extent ritual stops reminding me of truth because I am not approaching it with my whole heart then it becomes empty and is not serving its purpose. In a sense I am checking something from the list that I have not yet completed if I do not pray or meditate whole heart.

The spirit is truth. Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar render unto God the things that belong to him. (Matt 22:21). Checklists are for items I want to accomplish because I want them accomplished and not because I want to experience the performance of the item. Certain things can be put on the check list because they do not require whole hearts to perform. These things belong to Caesar. That is, the physical world. For spiritual things, prayer, meditation, being grateful, these things belong to God and must be performed whole heartedly. These things belong to God (if you like).

So I removed this item from my checklist and I found that I still perform the task. But now the quality of my performance is different. The checklist served me well to begin the practice. But to maintain my spiritual practice I had to eventually take it off my checklist.

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Homo Naledi: New species of ancient human discovered, claim scientists

Article from The Guardian:

Explorers discovered the bones after squeezing through a fissure high in the rear wall of the Rising Star cave, 50km from Johannesburg, before descending down a long, narrow chute to the chamber floor 40 metres beneath the surface.

The entrance chute into the Dinaledi chamber is so tight – a mere eight inches wide – that six lightly built female researchers were brought in to excavate the bones. Footage from their cameras was beamed along 3.5km of optic cable to a command centre above ground as they worked inside the cramped enclosure.

The women recovered more than 1,500 pieces of bone belonging to at least 15 individuals. The remains appear to be infants, juveniles and one very old adult. Thousands more pieces of bone are still in the chamber, smothered in the soft dirt that covers the ground.

The leaders of the National Geographic-funded project believe the bones – as yet undated – represent a new species of ancient human relative. They have named the creature Homo naledi, where naledi means “star” in Sesotho, a local South African language. But other experts on human origins say the claim is unjustified, at least on the evidence gathered so far. The bones, they argue, look strikingly similar to those of early Homo erectus, a forerunner of modern humans who wandered southern Africa 1.5m years ago.

“We’ve found a new species that we are placing in the genus Homo, which is really quite remarkable,” said Lee Berger, a paleoanthropologist who led the work at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He described the slender, small-brained creatures as “long-legged”, “pinheaded” and “gangly”. The males stood about 5ft, with females a little shorter.

Measurements of the bones show that the creature has a curious blend of ancient ape and modern human-like features. Its brain is tiny, the size of a gorilla’s. Its teeth are small and simple. The thorax is primitive and ape-like, but its hands more modern, their shape well-suited to making basic tools. The feet and ankles are built for walking upright, but its fingers are curved, a feature seen in apes that spend much of their time in the trees. The findings are reported in two papers published in the online journal eLife.

Lee Bergen’s daughter Megan and underground exploration team member Rick Hunter navigate the narrow chutes leading to the Dinaledi chamber.
Lee Bergen’s daughter Megan and underground exploration team member Rick Hunter navigate the narrow chutes leading to the Dinaledi chamber. Photograph: Robert Clark/National Geographic

The Dinaledi chamber has been visited by explorers in the past, and the soft sediments in which the bones were found have been badly disturbed. Because the remains were not encased in rock, Berger’s team has not been able to date them. They could be 3m years old, or far more modern. No other animals were found in the chamber that might hint at when the human relative got there.

“If this is an ancient species, like a coelacanthe, that has come down through time and is only tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of years old, it means that during that time we had a complex species wandering around Africa, perhaps making tools. That would make archaeology very difficult, because we aren’t going to know who made what,” Berger said.

John Hawks, a researcher on the team, said that despite some of its modern features, Homo naledi probably belonged at the origins of our genus, Homo. “It’s telling us that evolutionary history was probably different to what we had imagined,” he said. Paul Dirks, another scientist involved, said that work was ongoing to establish the age of the bones. Some tests, such as carbon dating, will destroy the material, and will only be tried once the bones have been studied more closely.

Without knowing the age of the bones, some researchers see the fossils as little more than novelties. “If they are as old as two million years, then they might be early South African versions of Homo erectus, a species already known from that region. If much more recent, they could be a relic species that persisted in isolation. In other words, they are more curiosities than game-changers for now,” said William Jungers, an anthropologist at Stony Brook School of Medicine in New York.

Christoph Zollikofer, an anthropologist at the University of Zurich, said that many of the bone characteristics used to claim the creature as a new species are seen in more primitive animals, and by definition cannot be used to define a new species. “The few ‘unique’ features that potentially define the new species need further scrutiny, as they may represent individual variation, or variation at the population level,” he said. Tim White, a paleoanthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley, goes further. “From what is presented here, they belong to a primitive Homo erectus, a species named in the 1800s.”

The Dinaledi chamber is extremely hard to access today, raising the question of how the creatures came to be there. They may have clambered in and become stuck, or died when water filled the cave. But Berger and his colleagues favour a more radical explanation. “We have, after eliminating all of the probable, come to the conclusion that Homo naledi was utilising this chamber in a ritualised fashion to deliberately dispose of its dead,” Berger said.

The team lays out fossils of Homo naledi at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Evolutionary Studies Institute.
The team lays out fossils of Homo naledi at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Evolutionary Studies Institute. Photograph: Robert Clark/National Geographic

The conclusion is not widely accepted by others. “Intentional disposal of rotting corpses by fellow pinheads makes a nice headline, but seems like a stretch to me,” said Jungers. Zollikofer agrees. “The ‘new species’ and ‘dump-the-dead’ claims are clearly for the media. None of them is substantiated by the data presented in the publications,” he said. Hawks is open to other explanations, but said that disposal made sense. “The evidence really tends to exclude the idea that they entered the chamber one at a time, alive, over some time, because we have infants, small children, and very old adults who would almost certainly not have managed to get into this chamber without being deposited there.”

October issue of National Geographic.
October issue of National Geographic.

Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said that how the creatures reached their final resting place was a “big puzzle”.

“If we’re talking about intentional disposal, we’re talking about creatures with a brain the size of a gorilla’s going deep into a cave, into the dark, and posting bodies through a small fissure into this cave chamber. It’s remarkably complex behaviour for what we’d think of as a very primitive human-like species. Whether there are other explanations remains to be seen, but it’s one of the plausible explanations,” he said.

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The Book of Bud

Please check out my latest self-published novel entitled “The Book of Bud or the Thirty Day Novel Experiment” available on Amazon:

The Book of Bud

This is the story of Bud, a thirty-something, white, male working a corporate, cubicle job and feeling stuck in life. To become unstuck he decides to undertake the “30 Day Novel Experiment.” He has 30 days to write a 50,000 word novel. This works out to 1,667 words per day on average. Very soon after taking on the challenge his life begins to change and he learns there is no turning back.

Written reviews on the Amazon page are definitely appreciated!

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The Free Will Debate Part I

The free will debate has existed since ancient times. Anyone can read the various ins and outs of the debate as argued by various people. I think what is more important is the debate that goes on inside the individual.

On the surface, if I do not think about it too deeply it does feel as if I have free will. I can choose to turn left or right. I choose to make the moral choice (as I understand it) or not.

But it is conceivable that I am only experiencing the illusion of free will. When a thought pops into my head I take ownership of it. I claim the credit of my creativity. But if I think about it, I really have no idea where this thought originated. Perhaps someone, somewhere sitting at a computer is implanting these thoughts in my head and I assume they are of my own doing. In this model of consciousness there is a “me” capable of observing but that “me” is under the illusion that the thoughts I think are my own. But even under this model I seem to have the choice of choosing whether or not I will take ownership of these thoughts. But then again, this choosing could also be implanted by the guy sitting at the computer.

So I am stuck in the position where I cannot prove or disprove that I have free will. My religion teaches that God endowed man with free will. My hunch tells me I have some degree of free will but it is probably less than what I assume it to be without thinking about it too much.

Recently a white-supremacist who has been regularly commenting on my blog made the argument (if I understand him correctly) that “God ordained free-will” (his term) means actually having the limited choice between choosing to do God’s will or choosing not to do God’s will. See the comments to my blog post Procrastination When Writing is Essentially Laziness Only More Complicated. I am sure if I misstated his theory he will correct me in the comments to this post.

The question that arises in my mind is this: How can I know what is God’s will in order to properly exercise my God Ordained Free-Will in order to make the correct decision? From a Christian perspective the answer is that the Bible is the word of God and tells me what His will is. The only problem with that is the Bible says a lot of things that are open to interpretation. So I am still stuck in the position of not actually knowing the will of God.

This white-supremacist commenter also argued that the opposite of exercising God Ordained Free Will is the exercising of Radical Autonomy (his term). He goes on to say that Radical Autonomy leads ultimately to Self-Annihilation (his term yet again). Again, I am sure he will correct me in the comments if I am misstating his position. From my perspective, there are a great many hoops he needs to jump through in order to square his theories on, God Ordained Free Will, white-supremacy, and Christianity not to mention Radical Autonomy and Self Annihilation.

Of course this white supremacist has the free will to respond or not respond to this post in the comments. If he does respond (which I suspect he will) I assume he will believe his choice to respond is an exercise of “God Ordained Free-Will.” The debate will then proceed from there.

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