You Are Not Stuck
by Cynthia M. Braden, LMFT
You may say, "It certainly does not feel like I'm in control of my life... Let me tell you about twenty ways I am not in control right now and how people and situations are keeping me stuck... you don't understand!"
Cost of Becoming Unstuck: Bravery
There is going to be a cost when you start taking ownership of your feelings and your life. When you decide to learn and tell the truth about how you really feel, what you truly want, or try to change things that aren't working... you are disrupting the status quo, and there is going to be some blowback (initially). The words status quo are from Latin meaning 'existing state'.
Example: He is happy with the status quo and does not like change.
Notice I said 'initially'. Even if you do it gingerly and compassionately, those around you are likely to resist hearing your call for 'change' especially if they are perfectly fine with the way things are, or not very good at listening. When you get in touch with your true feelings and decide to share... it is important to have knowledge and a strategy rather than just 'letting loose' in a moment of frustration or anger (and then being labeled 'crazy' or 'unstable').
When our control is mixed up with the control others have over their own lives, we may rely more on subtle mechanisms such as negotiation and conciliation to move a particular situation in the way we want it to go. With so much negotiation, compromise and often heavy pressure from others to 'do' or 'be' what they want, we may end up feeling that we are vaguely not in control of our own life, our needs aren't getting met, and our strategies to fix things are not working very well.
In more glaring examples of negating you and your desires, loved ones may even be patronizing, condescending or hostile as they dismiss your feelings or the ideas and dreams you have for yourself and/or the 'group.' Maybe you are tired of being told or insinuated that what you feel, want, like or dislike is wrong and needs to be changed. You know how you feel... you know yourself better than anyone else... no one else knows what goes on inside of your personal world... you are in charge of yourself... hopefully you are acting in good faith to take excellent care of yourself and others, and maximize your talents in your life that you have right now.
Others will try to exert control over you to feel a certain way, agree to certain things or adopt a particular set of behaviors. What if you don't agree and want to resist but are terrified of numerous possible negative consequences such as fighting, rejection, withdrawal of help or privileges? Maybe you are unwilling to risk guilt or negativity in the relationship and this stops you from being true to yourself while being fair to others.
You want to resist when things are wrong for you, but go along anyway and feel bad because of fear of disrupting the status quo where things are somewhat safe and predictable. Maybe you blow up occasionally and don't know what's wrong, or overeat or overwork or engage in other diversions. Maybe you tolerate behavior that hurts you... and keep going because of your emotional or physical dependence, fear of change or lack of belief in yourself.
This is where I say, "You are not stuck" and to become un-stuck there is going to be a cost. Sorry about that, but there is going to be a cost because in learning to be congruent, to know and tell the truth for yourself, you are disrupting the status quo and this will be discomfiting to others at first.
Be Willing to Take a Risk
Being stuck is often a result of feeling unsure about the validity of your life and feelings, and fear of the unknown or losing something. Also being stuck is when you feel like you have to 'act' a certain way to be accepted, or for someone to love you.
Being Congruent and the Core Message
When learning to be more congruent, prepare yourself with a core message that you want to deliver about a particular issue, and trust that you can be honest with yourself and others and deliver your core messages in a congruent way. "Congruent" is when what you see on the outside of a person is the same as what is inside the person. We'll give an example in a minute.
When preparing your core message, remember you are not blaming or criticizing anyone.
Delivering these messages on purpose in a calm and confident manner over time will eventually get you heard and shift a feedback loop that you don't like, that may have been in place for a long time.
Initially though, be prepared for pushback and don't let it fluster you. Listen and continue to calmly state your core message (that you have worked out ahead of time). Don't bite any bait or provocation or off-topic deviation. Since this is different from how you usually react, people are going to be off- guard or even shocked! There may be a tremendous amount of resistance and provocation until you can get a new feedback loop established.
For example, Dad comes home from work in a grouchy mood. Mom notices the dark cloud coming through the door and says:
Hi Honey, is everything okay you seem upset. Can I get you something?
Dad replies gruffly, Nothing, I'm fine! and stomps upstairs to his office.
First of all Dad lied. There Was something wrong, and on top of lying, he threw Mom the Rejection Card when she tried to help. Ouch.
Example of a Congruent Core Message
In his defense, Dad would probably say, Well, I didn't want to bother them so I denied anything was wrong. I would suggest a more congruent core message would be:
Yes I had a rough day, I need to go upstairs for a few minutes to disconnect from work. I'll come down for dinner in a few minutes. (Thank you for making dinner it smells good.)
In relationships when you decide to tell the truth, be sure to do things on purpose, and above all be kind and talk about yourself not about the other person's failures. Be firm and kind with an attitude of appreciation and service to others and confidence in yourself.
Why don't we tell the truth?
Use More Self-Control, Finesse
Among Mirriam Webster's various definitions of ways of using 'finesse,' in this case we are working with finesse as:
skillful handling of a situation : adroit maneuvering
He handled the problem with finesse.
Synonyms of Finesse
skillfulness, expertise, subtlety, flair, panache, elan, polish, mastery
How to Become "Unstuck"
Handle situations with finesse and be willing to accept that you may suffer negative consequences as a result of knowing and telling the truth. Using the above strategies over time with an attitude of appreciation, kindness and firmness, you will feel much freer and others will learn to respect you and your point of view. It is not necessarily easy to change unhealthy relationship dynamics, but it is worth the effort.
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