Why We Stay Stuck and What to Do About It

Aug 27, 2021

Many people who have experienced the loss of a spouse find themselves stuck in the darkness. Those who I speak to know that they don’t want to stay where they are, but they can’t see a way forward. I remember it well.

We want to somehow be less sad; to hurt less. If only the loneliness weren’t so incredibly difficult.

Some people know that they want to find a companion or a relationship but can’t fathom how to take the first step.

Many couples were just reaching the finish line of retirement and getting ready to launch into a new chapter – together. And then everything about life came crumbling down. Now what?

One of my clients described it as standing in a doorway but being unable to take the step through.

Whenever we find ourselves unable to take action, we are very often feeling one of the following:

  • Confused
  • Worried
  • Overwhelmed
  • Doubt

These feelings, like all feelings, are caused by a thought.

Learning to closely monitor your thoughts is step one in getting unstuck. Ask yourself why you are feeling overwhelmed (or worried, or confused or doubtful). The answer is your current thought. Thoughts create feelings, and feelings drive action or inaction. Which makes our thoughts incredibly important.

Which is why I want to shout from the rooftops, “Don’t believe everything you think!”

Thoughts are simply the sentences your brain is offering you. This doesn’t mean that all thoughts are true, and it also doesn’t mean that all thoughts are useful.

Now let’s take it a step further and consider this interesting nuance. Thoughts that create feelings such as confused, worried, overwhelmed or doubt keep us in inaction – stagnant, stuck, immobile. Which, to the primitive brain means safe, not taking risks, not facing the unknown, not stepping forward into an uncertain future.

And as far as the primitive brain is concerned, this is perfectly fine. “Just stay safe,” it says, “Stay with what’s familiar.” Even though what is currently familiar is also miserable, at least it’s familiar-miserable and not unfamiliar-miserable. Because what is unfamiliar, to your primitive brain, may represent danger.

The primitive brain has only one job: to keep you alive. So perceived danger is a problem and the primitive brain will therefore always act to protect us.

So, if the primitive brain has its way, we will linger in confusion, worry, overwhelm and doubt and therefore continue to not take action.

But another part of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex, wants more. This is the epicenter of reasoning, judgment and impulse control. It’s the adult in the room, so to speak. It’s the part of the brain that knows that inaction isn’t serving you; that life would actually be better if you could get un-stuck.

Using our pre-frontal cortex, we know that all thoughts are optional. We get to decide which thoughts to think, on purpose. We aim for thoughts that are both true and useful. (In this case, useful means to generate the feeling that prompts the desired action.)

This is the way forward to what you want for yourself.

If your pre-frontal cortex seems to be missing in action, I’ve got you. My coaching program called Life Reconstructed is designed to help. It is all the tools and resources I wish I had in my own journey, along with a community of people who get it. Simply click here  and we’ll see if it’s a fit.

Simply click here and we'll see if it's a fit.

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