Sometimes I have clients who come to me because ‘things aren’t going as well as I’d hoped…’ or they feel ‘a bit… I don’t know… meh…’. When pressed, the conversation tends to get a bit vague – there’s nothing really wrong, they just feel like they’re idling when they should be joyfully/successfully/contentedly getting on with their lives.
Similar to a high performance car that’s been stuck in the mud, there’s nothing really wrong with the car, but, in that situation, it won’t be reaching its destination anytime soon. So what does that mean for those who feel they are caught in a rut? Is it so rare or are there reasons? And even if there are, how can we escape from it and move forward in these areas of our lives that seem to be holding us back?
Rests, Perspectives and the Little Voices in Your Head
Whenever there’s a problem, most of us aim to find the answer right away, before even asking what the question might be. What’s actually happening that may be presenting this challenge right now? What might it be telling me? Like a child who excitedly and confusedly tries to explain something to us, and we don’t understand at first – it’s an opportunity for us to explore a little further, discover more information, and aim to use our resources and creativity to find out both source and solution to the situation at hand.
Does this rut force us to look up after having our heads down in some area of our lives? When we are completely involved in something, we sometimes miss all the angles until we stop, and give ourselves some distance. When we are going so quickly, we might not see what’s actually in our environment that could give us a different take on our headlong course somewhere. Are we assuming a lot and need to pause to reassess our standpoint? A piece of music without stops or rests might just sound like constant noise after a while. Or if we’ve only been looking at one piece, we may miss a bigger picture – like only looking at a trunk, or a tail, or a leg of an elephant may not give us a complete representation of the animal in question.
Are we heading in the ‘right direction’ or do we need to tweak? Fortunately or unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what the future holds, yet we can make some educated guesses based on our own past to see if our trajectory is moving us towards what we need and want. Remember, this isn’t just results – much of our life is playing the long-game rather than instant gratification. Sure, we may get material feedback, but taking a closer look at our mental and emotional arc may be more telling. Research has discovered that purpose and meaning may have more lasting positive effects than simply pleasure – so deeply is this held that it may even positively (or negatively if we don’t have that meaningful direction) affect our DNA.
Could we be torn between our own desires and those of others? Sometimes people in our past, hopefully in a most loving and supportive way (but not always), can give us pointers on what they feel would be best for us. They may not actually be correct, but we often carry their voices around in our own heads long after any conversation or advice has been given. I sometimes help people rediscover their passion in life through a career change that was ‘given’ to them, even though it might not have suited any aspects of their being. Concepts like “do it 100% right or don’t even bother” can be a sticking point, because of our humanity and natural tendency to have an imperfect moment or two, but it can debilitate forward movement because of a perceived need to be perfect. Letting go of some of these early messages can help us to feel better, and actually do better as we listen to our own inner wisdom, without the din of the past interfering.
Often planted as seeds by others or nurtured from formative experiences in our past, our inability to get ourselves out of a rut may be protective. If we start on a path, might it be the wrong one? Would we experience possible failure, bodily harm, rejection, embarrassment or __________? When we can discover what the subconscious mind is actually worried about – which is often not what our rational mind presents for us – we can direct our energy at clarifying as well as providing real solutions to the concerns of the mind. Sometimes we find that our energy would be better spent on not holding us back or keeping us ‘put’, when we can discover our deepest needs and desires, and help our mind move into a more mature way of experiencing the world (and our current, abilities, strengths and insights).
Exploring the Emotional Facets of “Stuck”
While there may be many feelings attached to getting ourselves in a rut, there are three that seem to stand out – boredom, fear and despair.
Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do we get stuck because we’re bored, or bored because we’re stuck? As it turns out, usually boredom tends to be the most socially accepted and sharable emotion when it comes to being in a rut. While there are exceptions, most people are feeling some internal turmoil or stress because of it, which indicates overwhelm or internal ‘busyness’ rather than a lack of challenge. If you or someone you love is experiencing ‘boredom’ with a lot to do, you may wish to look at other emotional options.
Fear tends to be at the foundation of our inability to move forward. Because, something might not turn out right, be worse than before, or hurt us or others, right? If we’re not aggressively defending our reasons for staying put, fear tends to have us running away, or paralysed – yup, that fight, flight or freeze response. There may be some valid reasons for our concerns – and if so, it may be time to provide yourself with the resources you need to minimize these negative outcomes. Most of the time, however, it’s just our highly creative and protective minds that are creating ‘what ifs’ that we can ruminate over without moving through them or moving on.
Despair often creeps up on us while we’re staying in the same place. Our subconscious make a habit of our inabilities to shift and we learn to be familiar with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Unfortunately, when we are feeling this way, we are less able to think laterally and creatively to give us the hope or the internal help we need. This is sometimes when we need some external force (or a self hypnosis practice) to force a shift.
None of these emotions are ‘wrong’ – they are just letting us know where our needs lie, and sometimes trick us into believing that this is ‘all there is’, rather than being temporary when we deal with the issue at hand.
So there’s a Pothole, see, and other options…
When there’s a pothole in the road that’s bothering you, there are a number of options – take another road, shift your wheels just a tad to miss it, call the city to fix it, fill it in yourself… But if we see the pothole like a mini version of getting stuck in a rut, most of us continue to drive right over it, or even park within it. So here are a few options that may move us out of the hole and back on the road of our lives.
Today’s the day: While the best time to plant a tree to shade you today is usually years ago, starting now is the next best option. Our ability as humans to shift our thoughts, feelings and behaviours is awe inspiring – I see it every day! Many of us add the regret of having lost time with our rut to make it even more challenging to move… just remember the tree. One tiny tweak changes everything – just like a miniscule variation in the direction of a plane can alter its destination by thousands of miles/kms over its flight.
Find External Resources: How to start? Sometimes it feels that you can’t create a solution from the thinking that created the problem, so it may be most effective to ask for additional support. Whether professional or personal, find someone whom you feel will be compassionate and authentic. And while there may be suggestions that are uncomfortable or unfamiliar, remember your first day learning a language or working out in the gym – developing different mental, emotional and physical muscle takes a bit of energy.
Summon Inner Resources: While you might not believe it, you’ve probably got most of the resources you need to move out of the rut yourself. Using the imaginative subconscious mind gives a number of options to do so…
Feel the ‘fear’ (or other emotion) – the subconscious mind is the emotional mind, so when you allow yourself to feel fear or any other negative emotions, you’re accessing that part. When you experience this without trying to push it away, there’s usually a lot more information to glean from its emotional presence. And having survived the discomfort of a feeling without anything bad actually happening, gives you the deeper knowing that you’re bigger than any of your feelings.
‘Pretend’ you’re not in a rut – how many times have I asked kids for an answer and they replied they didn’t know, then asked ‘what would it be if you already knew the answer’ and all sorts of options popped up. Our mind can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality, so if we pretended, in our minds, that we weren’t stuck, what would we do next? Many have scoffed at these exercises yet have discovered some of the greatest insights while they were just ‘pretending’
Move farther down the road – looking at our life a few years from now can often give us some great options for what we need right now. People are very good at realizing that we’ve made shifts, strides and changes in our past, but fail to anticipate that we have the same capacity in the future. But we do. Imagining a brighter future, down the way, can help our inner fire ignite so we can find ways of getting there. And even if we see ourselves in the same place, that can often be the negative inspiration to get us moving again (see Feel the ‘fear’ for support).
Our path may not always be easy and ‘bump-free’ and we can learn from exploring the challenges we feel and face. Days/nights, heartbeats, thought waves all have ups and downs, so our ruts are a natural part of the ebb and flow of life – having a few tools may just help you ‘flow’ again.
If you need any support for any ruts in your life, please contact me – I’m here to help.