Every day, I talk to people who tell me they feel stuck. I’m no stranger to that feeling in my own life. What causes us to feel stuck, and how can we release ourselves from the stuck feeling?
The words we choose matter.
Language conveys meaning. Words carry energy. How we describe something — both to others and to ourselves — creates an emotional charge within us that impacts our emotions and feelings.
What Makes You Feel Stuck?
Let’s explore this in an easy to understand context.
Think of the last time you went somewhere and got delayed because of traffic. How did you describe the situation?
Did you say you got stuck in traffic?
Were you caught up in traffic?
Did you encounter traffic?
How did you feel about the situation at the time? How did the delay affect your mood and your energy for the rest of the day? Did you show up to your destination calm and peaceful, or frazzled and annoyed?
Words Trigger Emotions
How you show up is often rooted in the emotions you experience when you feel stuck in traffic as opposed to when you encounter traffic.
Notice how your body responds even when you read the different words. What happens in your chest and stomach when you read stuck versus encounter or simply there was traffic.
Now speak the words aloud and feel the effects in your body. Also, listen to your tone. Notice how your tone might change when you say that you were stuck in traffic compared to when you say you encountered traffic.
The story you tell about the experience determines how you feel about it. And the story is based on the words you choose. The words literally change your physiology — whether your heart is racing or steady, whether your stomach and chest are knotted inside or still, whether your neck and shoulders are tensed or relaxed.
So the question is, what shapes the language?
Often, the story we tell is shaped by the expectations we had going into the experience. Our expectations determine whether we will be in resistance to the situation as it is. And resistance creates suffering.
What we experience as pain is a sign that we are resisting something that is, instead of being with it.
How Expectations Shape the Story
When we feel stuck, it’s generally because we are not where we wanted or expected to be at that given moment in time.
If you expect your trip to take 30 minutes and be hassle-free, then the traffic you experience becomes resistance. The other cars in front of you suddenly are the obstacles keeping you from getting to your destination in the time and manner you previously expected.
You are stuck in traffic.
If, on the other hand, you expect that you’re going to hit traffic on a certain road, and there is no alternate route, you likely allow time for it. You modify your expectation of how long it’s going to take to get to the destination.
But even if you don’t allow extra time, when you find yourself sitting in a parking lot on the highway, you’re not surprised. You remember what you knew: “Ok. This is the traffic I was expecting.”
In this situation, you’re not “stuck” in traffic. You’re just sitting in the place where you expected to be.
Every Event is Shaped by Expectations
When clients come to me feeling stuck, they are typically not talking about getting stuck in traffic. But the same principle applies.
If you’re telling yourself you should be somewhere else, then you’re more likely to feel stuck.
If you believe that this is simply part of the process, then the obstacles and detours are less likely to send you for a trip through the spin cycle.
The Lesson: Embrace Where You Are
When you find yourself thinking about where you should be, or where you want to be, rather than where you are, you lose sight of the present moment. You are no longer here.
Learning to be where you are, and embrace where you are, is the first step to getting unstuck.
Where are you feeling stuck? How can you embrace where you are and release the shoulds that are holding you back?