Stuck? some tips to get you out of the proverbial mud

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Stuck.  Ugh.  Whether we are stuck in the mud, stuck in a line, stuck in traffic jam or just plain stuck in life, it doesn’t feel good.  And, it can be hard to find the motivation to get unstuck.  Ever get your foot caught in the mud?  Yeah, kind of like that.

The problem is that once we are stuck in the proverbial mud, our perspective just changes, and, it is so easy for it to stay that way.  When you are trapped, and you can’t move, then the world around you seems like a scary and intimidating place.  When you are stuck either physically or emotionally, you can feel like you are just watching life pass you by.  People feel like they have no way to explore new options, defend themselves against threats, or, simply just enjoy themselves.

While we are rarely actually physically stuck, being stuck emotionally can be just as limiting for us.  That’s why we so often feel that we are in life situations that we cannot get out of.  However, there is a fine line between being unhappy and uncomfortable, and unmotivated to change; and, being really unhappy, really uncomfortable and really motivated to change.  What’s the difference?

The main difference lies in our own comfort level.  We all fall into patterns that we are used to.  We all have habits and patterns that are useful and productive.  These can run the gamut from overly simple (leaving your keys in a designated place every day), to the more involved (general household organizational habits).  Think about your visceral reaction when your keys are not where you left them.  Especially if you are in a hurry, one can easily fall into panic mode.

These habits or patterns also extend to the way we interact with those around us.  We have positive interactions with our spouses and friends, and the not so positive.  Like our visceral lost key reaction, it’s the same when we are forced to interact with someone differently than what we are used to.  We panic, we get scared, we run away; if not in a physical way, then, in an emotional way.  This is when we walk away from an interaction thinking, “This just didn’t feel so good.”  Sometimes our frustration from these interactions can lead to self destructive behavior.  So often we find ourselves banging our heads both figuratively and sometimes literally (!) against the wall as a result of our frustration.  So why do we do it?

I’ll tell you the secret.

Because it feels good.  Not good in an objectively good way.  It’s only good because it’s comfortable.  We know it.  And, whatever negative response we get that comes from this undesirable behavior is what we are craving, because it’s what we know.

Let’s take the following example.  Renee and Tony have a pretty good relationship.  They have been married for a while, and they understand each other pretty well.  However, they fight over the cleaning on the weekends.  Renee wants Tony to help out more, Tony is a good guy and husband, and deep down, he wants to help his wife.  Nevertheless, almost every weekend, they have some sort of fight/disagreement over the house cleaning.  This is a comfortable pattern for them.

Renee is used to fighting to get what she wants, because that’s how it worked in her home growing up.  The only way her parents got anything from each other was from fighting about it.  Renee is afraid to ask for what she wants unless she can safely hide behind the veneer of being upset.  To ask for something plain out is scary and unnerving for her.  Meanwhile, Tony could just do his fair share of the cleaning every weekend, since he knows what his wife wants.  But, for Tony, when he fights with his wife, and she gets upset, he loves to feel like he is comforting her during the aftermath.  In his emotional mind, he needs to feel like he is being generous and benevolent by wiping away her tears (whether they are real or not).

So, Renee and Tony come into counseling to stop the fighting.  That’s good.  After all, fighting is bad.  But, just stopping the fighting isn’t going to work unless they themselves understand where the fighting is coming from.  They are stuck.  They were comfortable with their situation which is why they stuck it out (or in it) for so long.

Both Renee and Tony needed to get to a place where their dissatisfaction with their fighting significantly outweighed the benefits they were getting from fighting.  So, when they came into therapy, we were able to work on how they could get what they needed from a more positive and healthy place.  They needed the tools to allow them to get what they need and want without all the extra stuff holding them back.  And, they needed to understand each others’ needs better, to avoid future confrontations.

They needed to pull their feet out of the mud.  It’s not pretty, in fact, it’s pretty messy.  But, over time, the mud washes away, and you are left with two very functional feet.  Or, in this case two more functional people.

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