Tag Archives: Psychotherapy

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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Fear of Societal Collapse

Throughout my life I have gone through periods where I have worried about societal collapse. Sometimes it would fill me with a such a feeling of dread that I found it difficult to go about my daily activities and carried this feeling around with me for weeks at a time.

Realistically, although unlikely, this sort of thing is not impossible. Societal collapsed happened in the 400s to the Western Roman Empire, so there is precedence for this. When I was younger I worried about nuclear war and swarms of killer bees. After the fall of the Soviet Union I worried about peak oil, an asteroid or commit hitting the earth, the super volcano in Yellowstone Park, the dollar collapsing and viral pandemics. All of these are possibilities and could destroy civilization as we know it causing untold death and misery to those who were fortunate enough to survive.

But I have to wonder, are these worries really an indication of something else? There have been many times that I worried that I would never be successful in life but then wondered why it mattered in the first place because the Earth could get hit by an asteroid and society would collapse and success would no longer be defined the same way under the new social order. I think this line of reasoning is more my shame ego undermining my motivation to succeed. There have been times when I felt this kind of anxiety and it turned out to be an indication that I did not feel safe in the normal functioning of my life. I know this because I expressed these anxieties to a therapist. He responded, “so you need safety?” When he said this I felt an uncontrollable wave of grief well up in me. Once I allowed myself to feel the grief in this safe un-judging environment my anxiety about societal collapse lifted. This pointed out to me that what I thought my fear was about was really a disguise.

Of course it does no good to worry about these things. They are completely outside of our control and that is why they are scary. They threaten to overturn all we cling to in life to make ourselves feel safe. But really this feeling of safety is an illusion as much as the fear is. There are no guarantees of safety in life. There are no guarantees of success. There are no guarantees of misfortune.

We cannot really avoid worrying from time to time. We can recognize this fear for what it is, however. We fear loosing these illusions that serve us by allowing us to function in the face of the intimidating, dangerous, enormity of reality. Thinking about this I really have to resign myself to the fact there is not much I can do to protect myself and must therefore try not to worry and live each day grateful for existence and the good things I experience therein. It is an adventure to live under such circumstances. That answer is not entirely satisfying but truth often is not satisfying. Why else would we cling to illusions?

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Speaking Truth

I have always been afraid to speak my truth because part of me believes that if people really knew what I was thinking they would reject me. As a result I tried to figure out what whoever I was talking to wanted to hear and said it. Over time I developed this skill until it came off as natural. People seemed to like me. The only problems were that I eventually lost touch with who I really was I what I really wanted in life. There was a true self buried deep down that was becoming angry (and sad) for being imprisoned.

At a family wedding I recently attended I had a conversation with my sisters about my aging parents. Later in the night back at their hotel room after a few drinks I sort of let my guard down and started saying some rough things about my parents and them. I let out all my resentments regarding my up bringing and how that created the situation where I no longer knew what I wanted and felt pretty much like a failure.

I told my sisters that I did not really have any feelings for our parents anymore and that every time I talk with them I feel horrible. My Dad does not say much anymore. My mother always makes me feel like I have done something wrong. I do not like feeling this and I am starting to question why I have to submit myself to those feelings just because they are my parents. I also went off on my sisters about how they treated me when I was younger, how cruel they were and how humiliated they made me feel.

My older sister tried to turn it around on me and I told her to go f*ck herself. Essentially I never felt entitled to my anger and grief. If it ever came out of me they made me feel humiliated for it. If I spoke my truth I was made to feel humiliated. That negated any entitlement I had to my true feelings and to my true self.

A therapist told me that because of my upbringing I now have to be willing to feel humiliation in order to express my truth. If I am unwilling to feel that then I will never be able to express my truth. For a long time I was unwilling to feel humiliation and as such for a long time I never grew. I was stuck repeating the same old patterns, feeling the same old frustrations. My truth only came out when my guard was down. When my truth came up I felt humiliated both for the truth I expressed and the circumstances under which it was able to come out.

For a few weeks after the wedding I felt the lingering humiliation for saying what I did to my sisters. I’m sure they thought I was the same old weak little brother they grew up with. Only now I am 40 with a drinking problem. I know what I need. I need to feel my anger and grief. I need to own my anger and grief. If I feel humiliation when that happens I need to not abandon myself and join the forces who think that I deserve to be humiliated. I need to put my arm around that humiliated kid and tell him that I am on his side.

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My Experience with Psychotherapy – Part VI

After about a year of being unemployed I managed to land a contract position working for an insurance company auditing their legal bills.  The hours were full time and the work was a tedious, cubicle type job.  Because I was a contract employee I did not have medical benefits, it did not pay very well and I was treated like a second-class citizen compared to the full time employees. On the other hand, I did have a place to go during the day and I had enough income coming in where I was able to get off unemployment insurance. It was better place to work than Dechert because the hours were not as long and the people were a little nicer. For that I was grateful. Basically, I was working this job because it was better than being unemployed.  But I knew that I was working this job only until I could find something better.

The guys in my Men’s Group were supportive and happy that I finally was no longer unemployed. But they all encouraged me to look for a job that better suited my desires.  At the time I really had trouble articulating what I actually wanted.  When asked this question my mind would go blank.  I knew I did not like working in a cubicle all day.  I had a vague notion that I wanted to write but every time I tried to write I ended up getting derailed.

Then I heard about a history teacher position at the private high school I attended when I was a kid. I loved history and could picture myself moving out of my parents’ house and becoming a part of the school’s community.  The job sounded much more exciting than my soulless, corporate cubicle job. I started to get really excited about it.  I interviewed with some of the school’s faculty.  A few of them were teachers that I had in high school. I thought the interviews went well and I really started to get my hopes up.

I remember going to work feeling good about the prospect of not having to work there much longer.  I went to group and told them about the position.  They all seemed to think it would be a good fit for me.  Weeks went by and I did not hear anything from the school.  Every week in the mens’ group they asked me if I got the job.  I kept telling them I had not heard yet.  Then one day I got an email in my cubicle informing me they hired someone else for the position.

I was devastated. I went to group and told them what had happened.  I could barely get the words out when I described the humiliation I felt.  When I did I broke down crying in front of them. At first I tried to hold back the tears but Scott told me to let them out.  Against every fiber of my being and every instinct I had I allowed myself to cry in front of them.

Craig (one of the group members) told me he thought I was going to get the position but now he knew that I was meant not to get it because I had to go through this experience.  I did not fully understand.  But after that meeting I felt better.  A huge weight of humiliation and defeat had been lifted off my shoulders.

I sent Craig an email and asked him what he meant.

Hey Craig,

Last night seemed significant.  But now I feel like that significance is receding.  Can you please tell me your perspective on my work so I don’t lose what happened?  Does that make sense to you?

Thanks

 

He responded:

 Last night was a miracle.  You let people love you even though you were feeling humiliated.  No one attacked you for being who you are.  You let people witness your vulnerability and your perceived “badness” for lack of a better word and you were loved through it, not beat up.  You let people see into your soul and you survived it.  You jumped from a cliff that you could never survive jumping from and landed on your two feet completely unhurt.  Not only unhurt but a better person for jumping.  George, last night was beautiful.  If there were words that would let me relay the true significance of last night I would share them with you.  Words will never do justice to what we experienced last night.  Please let me point out that I did say “we.”  Every person in that room last night was taken to a place we could never be alone.  I feel sad that Dave and Marc weren’t able to be in your presence last night.  It was easily the most significant night in my group experience other than my own major breakthroughs which I can count on both hands.  Stellar.  I hope this puts a little perspective on what happened last night.  And as an addendum, we can never lose what happens to us spiritually and I mean never as in eternity.  Can we feel that always, I don’t know but I can appreciate it when I do.

Love,

Craig

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My Experience with Psychotherapy – Part V

Over the course of the next three years I worked almost every group meeting.  I was usually the first person to show up and I never missed a meeting unless it absolutely could not be avoided.  I possessed a strong inner motivation to be there because on some level I knew it was working for me.  Over time I began to see things about myself more clearly.

I saw that I grew up feeling deeply flawed and at my core I did not trust anyone.  I developed an isolated and easily wounded personality.  I compared myself to everyone else and found myself lacking.  If I witnessed anyone succeed I felt ashamed that I never succeeded.  If I did succeed, I down played my success as if there was a reason I could not fairly claim my success or else be branded a liar or a braggart.  If I failed I felt cruelly and unfairly judged by the world and bitterly angry under the surface.  If my anger surfaced I was made to feel ashamed for being weak and selfish.  In short, I realized that there was no way to win in the world in which I lived.

As I became more aware of this anger within me, I could see how it manifested itself in my life.  I found myself lashing out at former tormentors when I was alone.  Interestingly, when Scott tried to get me to display this anger in a therapy session around other people I found it very difficult to fully get in touch with it.

I also became aware that I self-sabotaged myself when I did something that I wanted to do.  At the time I had been trying to set aside time to write.   But every time sat down to write I became easily distracted or my mind would blank out.  I also became consumed by the potential reactions of other people who might read what I have written.  I then felt ashamed.  “What a stupid, self-indulgent, pathetic thing to write,” I would tell myself. All of this would cumulate and I would find myself not writing.

Scott and I did some “pillow work” on this subject.  He threw a pillow on the floor, pointed to it and said, “That pillow is you and you want to write.  Will you try to discourage the from writing?”

“Get your work done first then you can spend time on your hobbies,” I said to the pillow.

“But he wants to write,” said Scott addressing the force I impersonated, “why can’t he do that?”

“It is irresponsible to not get your work done first,” I answered as the force.

“Why are you smiling?” Scott asked.

I then noticed that I was smiling and felt amusement and shame at once.

“So you’re fucking with me?” said Scott.

“No,” I denied.

“Then why are you smiling?” asked Scott.

I said nothing.

“Who are you?” asked Scott.  “Who is this force you are impersonating”

I knew the force was my father but I was reluctant to say this.  It felt disloyal.  At the same time I could picture him making me feel irresponsible for doing what I wanted to do.  It surprised me that he experienced pleasure in doing this.  I did not want to believe that.

“Okay,” said Scott, “now you be yourself and let the pillow be your father.  What do you want to say to him?”

It feels very awkward but I summon the courage and say in an unemotional voice, “Dad, I think it’s really unfair what you did to me.  I don’t want to carry this burden of shame around.  I want to follow my passions and not constantly be derailed.”

“I hear what you are saying,” Scott said to me, “but it sounds more like reasoned discourse.  Where is the anger behind it?”

I understand what he said to me but it seemed like an impossibility to display the depths of my anger in front of him.  I think deep inside on a very basic level I do not fully trust that he would not shame me if I displayed my anger.  Or perhaps I will shame myself.

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My Experience with Psychotherapy – Part IV

My wife and I started to see a couple’s therapist named Dori in Connecticut who was part of a larger practice trained in the Gestalt method.  Her office was an upper room in a large, formerly residential house that had been refurbished into therapists’ offices.  She primarily had us “mirror” each other whereby one of us would state an issue and the other one would repeat what the first one said starting with the phrase, “I hear that you feel…”  This was very difficult and after several sessions it did not seem like we were making much progress.  We were still angry with each other all the time.  During one session I had expressed that I felt a lot of shame and that I was trying to get past that and that was the reason I had seen the psychic.  And I did not like how my wife had shamed me into not seeing her.  Dori suggested that I join a “men’s group” that two of her colleagues ran in the same building.

I showed up to the first session feeling very awkward and nervous.  The group was made up of six men and two facilitators (Scott and Dave) who were trained in Gestalt, body centered therapy.  I remember that first session everyone took their shoes off in the hall so I did too.  I saw some other people bring in folding chairs so I grabbed one and set it up in the room. Other people sat on couches already in the room.  Once everyone had settled in the facilitators went around to the group members and asked them if they wanted to “check in” or “work.”  If a member checked in he would briefly describe how his week had gone and how he was feeling generally.  If a member chose to work he would describe something that was bothering him and the two facilitators would probe him until they got to the bottom of the issue.

Often the method employed was called “pillow work.”  If a member said they felt anxious about something (for example) the facilitators would put a pillow in a chair facing the member and say, “That pillow is you.  Make you feel anxious.”  Then the member would try to put himself into the mind of a person who would try to make him anxious.  Often this process resulted in the member lashing out in anger and then breaking down crying.

Each member checked in or worked and I grew increasingly nervous as I felt my turn approaching. I remember one member, Rick, announced to the group that he was dying of prostate cancer.  He had just been diagnosed with six months to live.  He seemed pretty balanced about it.  I remember thinking none of my problems were significant in comparison to his.  When it was finally my turn and everyone turned to me I remember saying that this type of situation was very difficult for me.  Scott told me he thought I was courageous for doing what I was doing.  I did not believe him.  I thought he was just trying to make me feel good about myself.

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My Experience with Psychotherapy – Part III

The next therapist I saw was a psychologist I saw for several years while living in Philadelphia.  I went to see him because I was depressed, anxious and generally dissatisfied with life.  Initially my wife and I saw him as a couple’s therapist after friend of mine came to visit.

The three of us went out for drinks.  I remember my wife’s behavior really embarrassed me.  I had just been hired by Dechert and was earning more money than I ever had.  She kept congratulating me and it felt awkward in front of my friend.  I asked her to stop but she kept doing it.  Then we went to a restaurant called Cuba Libre.  There she was involved in some sort of scuffle where some guy picked her up and moved her away from the bar.  She complained to the manager who did nothing.  To me it felt like she was getting drunk and making a scene.  I tried to get her to change the subject but she would not stop talking about what had happened.  Finally I said if she talked about it one more time I was leaving.  She talked about it again and I got up and left.  I waited outside on the street.  She and my friend eventually came out and we took a cab back to our apartment.  She kept yelling at me saying I ruined the night.

The next night my friend was still there.  It felt like things were smoothed over but I wanted to joke with him the way we normally did.  My wife seemed unable to contribute.  It frustrated me.  I felt like I would always have her around so I would never be able to feel free and joke around with my friends. This thought made me feel depressed like I had given up a piece of myself that I could never retrieve.

This was the start of my wife having a problem with my friends.  I remember the psychologist asking me, “why can’t you just let your friend and your wife have that relationship,” meaning (now that I look back on it) why not allow the three of us to interact in the way we did without getting upset that it was not the way I wanted it to go.  It was a valid point but I would not get to that point until much later.

After a few sessions as a couple I continued seeing this psychologist by myself.  Once a week I would leave work at lunchtime and walk across town, past City Hall, to his office.  We talked about a lot of things.  Most of the time I would bring up a subject.  He would take notes and sometimes ask questions but his form of therapy was very client driven.  I cried once or twice.  We talked a lot about my relationship with my father.  We talked about my fascination with “A Christmas Carol,” whether the ghosts were outside entities or creations of Scrooge’s consciousness and about how I burst into tears every time I watched the scene where Fred welcomes Scrooge to dinner (but only when I watched it alone).  He pointed out that even though I was born after my father’s car accident in which my older sister died when she was a baby, that it must have had an impact on me.  That was an idea I had never considered before.  He described me as feeling a “lack of entitlement.”  He told me I suffered from generalized anxiety disorder.

He was definitely compassionate.  He told me I was an interesting case.  I think he liked me on a personal level.  But looking back on it I never really thought the therapy went anywhere.  I think I grew marginally under his care probably because his type of therapy was not well suited for my specific issues.

There were a few instances where he got my doctor to prescribe anti-depressants to me.  I was on Paxil for a while.  It seemed to work but had some sexual side effects that I did not like.  Specifically it was difficult to maintain and erection and to have an orgasm.  I was later on Lexapro, which was pretty similar.  He eventually prescribed me Wellbutrin under the influence of which I had a mental breakdown of sorts.  This happened at my parents’ house in Connecticut one weekend we came for a visit.  Both my sisters and my cousin were there. I remember being so angry with my wife (we were not getting along at the time).  I got up from the dinner table, got a beer in the kitchen and ran out on the golf course behind my parents’ house.  I chugged it in the middle of the fairway in the dark.  The rest of the night is hazy to me.  I remember my cousin consoling me in the driveway as they were leaving.  Then I went up to bed.  I stopped seeing the psychologist after that.

I wanted to get off Wellbutrin but I did not want to experience “mind zaps” I had heard about.  I looked up a psychiatrist in the phone book.  I called her and she was willing to see me.  I think her office was in an apartment building in Washington Square.  My concern was that I wanted to get off Wellbutrin because it was making me behave bizarrely but I wanted to do it in a medically supervised way to avoid the side effects I had read about regarding abruptly going off of anti-depressants.  I do not feel like I made a real connection with her and I only saw her for a few times.  I remember she asked me about my first memory and how abnormal it was that it did not involve either one of my parents.  I also remember another interaction where I told her that I was uncomfortable with my drinking.  Her response was, “well there are other things to drink besides alcohol.”  I suppose she was not that well acquainted with the mind of an alcoholic because I remember thinking that there certainly are other things to drink but none of them make me drunk.  That seemed like an important point looking back on it.  I did not express it to her at the time.

Anyway, she guided me through getting off of Wellbutrin.  Part of that involved not drinking for two weeks, which was difficult but I did it.  Once I got off of Wellbutrin I quickly got back on drinking.

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