Lately I’ve heard a lot of people talk about feeling stuck. They feel thwarted by a force that is keeping them where they are, without any forward movement. Most of us have experienced this feeling—it's like being caught in an eddy, a place of calm on the side of the river with a perfect view of the water flowing past us in the direction we want to go. We can feel disheartened, lost, and alone at times like this.
If I’ve learned anything in life, I’ve learned that I’m the one who usually gets myself into those eddys and I’m the one who can get me out of them.
There’s three key practices I adopt to get back into the flow.
First, I remember to be my own Witness. By that I mean that I watch myself and listen to myself as if I were someone else. It’s a great lesson in letting go of one’s ego. My Witness is fairly objective. She acts like a tour guide of my psyche, pointing everything out to me.
So, what does she point out? The two other practices I use to both get me stuck and get me back into the flow. . .
She points out when I’m acting like a Victim. When I feel stuck, I suffer from the “woe is me” syndrome, like the world is out to get me. I feel out of control and powerless, like I can't do anything right. I can twist anything to validate that I am a victim of life.
My Witness also points out and brings attention to my Inner Gremlins—those pesky voices in my head that try to keep me from succeeding. Are they putting me down because of fear? Safety? Security? Probably one or all of those in any given moment, but my Gremlins are the ones who are telling me I should be scared. I should play it safe. I should stick with what I know. When they are talking to me, they sound perfectly reasonable. So I succumb to fear. I do that which I’ve done before, a gazillion times. I don’t stretch myself beyond my usual.
When I listen my Inner Victim or my Gremlins, I become vigilant in finding situations and opportunities to validate what they are telling me—totally unconsciously, of course, but I catch myself seeking out validation that I suck. See, I didn’t get an endorsement because I suck. See, I didn’t get that client because I suck. See, I can’t learn something new because I’m too old. You get the idea.
I read recently that, during the course of a day, we have about 60,000 thoughts and 90% of those thoughts—54,000 thoughts—are negative. It’s those darned Gremlins and my Inner Victim that has a lion’s share of my thoughts.
In order to stop believing them and maneuver out of the eddy and back into the flow of life, I tell myself a few things. First I tell myself that I am powerful and I have choices. I—not my Inner Victim—am in control of my life. I am not a victim, I am a victor! I am at choice every minute of every day. Even when I’m doing something I think I “have to” or “should” do, I remind myself that I am making the choice to do it. Even when I’m doing something that keeps me stuck, I remind myself that I am making the choice to do it. Often, just the awareness is enough to help me make a better or different choice.
After I lost my leg in an auto accident 37 years ago, taking baby steps was how I learned to walk again. It’s how I learned to ski on one leg. It’s how I learned to rock climb and backpack. Baby Steps. I am a firm believer in taking baby steps. Each step is a mini-triumph, a sweet success, an awesome accomplishment. My fear, safety and security Gremlins appreciate my baby steps, too. When I break down any desired change into baby steps, they have time to adjust to any new normal I throw them.
We all find ourselves in the eddy sometimes, watching the life we want flow right past us. What changes are you trying to make? How do you feel like life thwarts your attempts? What would happen if you compassionately witnessed your thoughts? Believed that you are powerful and at choice? What if you took baby steps to make this change happen?