Feeling “Stuck”

Are you feeling “stuck” right now? Not sure what to do or where to go? Feeling like everything happening around you is going against you? Feeling overwhelmed?

Lots of dynamics and a variety of feelings can be at play when people find themselves feeling “stuck.” Some common underlying themes will be explored below.


When feelings of fear are high, and especially within the context of uncertainty about the future, this can foster a state of “analysis paralysis.” This state can lead to challenges with indecisiveness as someone is so stricken by fear of the “what ifs?” Their brain constantly churns and jumps to conclusions, assuming the negative and generating vivid images of catastrophic outcomes. As a result, they don’t take any action and unfortunately their misery continues and sometimes by their inaction, they may inadvertently increase the likelihood of some of their fears occurring.


Sometimes when feelings of shame are high, this can also be “paralyzing.” Specifically, when someone is feeling shame, it can be such an overwhelming and all-consuming feeling, that it can be almost like a wave of heaviness that washes over them and they may even feel physically weighed down by it. They may feel like there is a spotlight on them, like others can see right through them, be consumed with how others may be perceiving them, and wish that they could run away, hide, or be invisible. This can prompt a strong desire to withdraw socially, become more reclusive, and avoidant of people, places, situations, and even life itself. They may want to just shut away from life and fantasize about finding an escape and leaving everything behind, even though it is not possible.

At other times, there may be feelings of guilt or obligation that can often track along with feelings of shame and people stay stuck in dysfunctional relationships, work situations, etc. out of feelings of guilt and/or obligation despite clear evidence that it is not healthy or sustainable for them. Unchecked assumptions and fantasy based scripts can dominate their lives; “But it’s my mom, I have to spend time with her,” or, “How can I not go? Our family always get together for the holidays,” or, “I don’t have a choice. How can I not be there for him when he was there for me?”

Self-pity & Powerlessness

When someone has a very strong external locus of control, and they are focused on what everyone around them is or isn’t doing and how others’ actions are impacting them and are either just or unjust, they will tend to present with strong feelings of self-pity and powerlessness. As much as someone may be mired in suffering, they can sometimes find a false sense of comfort in feeling self-righteous and by focusing on pointing the finger at others, while simultaneously absolving themselves of any personal responsibility or accountability.

Essentially they believe, “If everyone else would just change then I wouldn’t feel this way or be in this position.” They can be quite entrenched in this and will resist any suggestions that there may be opportunities for them to help themselves or to be able to influence their situation more positively. They identify strongly as a victim and will look for someone to rescue them. Until they are willing to look at their own part in a situation or to take responsibility for their own well-being and improving their circumstance, they will unfortunately stay stuck in place, often spewing resentments towards others and seeking sympathy.

Action is the way forward

You can't think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking.
Alcoholics Anonymous

Are you vulnerable to holding lofty expectations of yourself that loom over you constantly? Is it possible to drop the expectations? Are you willing to consider your own part in things? Do you see that if you keep approaching situations with the same mentality and behaviours that you are likely to keep getting the same results over and over?

Throughout each day we all encounter a series of “choice points” where the decisions we make can either help us build momentum to invite positive change into our lives or can lead us to accrue more inertia and resistance to change, thereby increasing or at least prolonging our own suffering.

Ask yourself, “What is the smallest step I can take to support myself in this moment?”

And be willing to follow through with your actions. Action is the way forward.

Closing Remarks

Can you relate to any of this? Which of the themes above do you most resonate with? Is this a pattern you are noticing within yourself when it comes to dealing with conflict, uncertainty, or change? How do you see yourself getting “unstuck?”