We all get stuck sometimes. We aren’t broken. We aren’t crushed or defeated. But we aren’t moving forward. It’s more like treading water. We spend a lot of energy getting nowhere, simply staying afloat, alive and breathing. We retreat. We hide. We heal. And as we emerge, because most of us, like a car in mud, will eventually become unstuck, we move forward with a resolve, a renewed sense of purpose and a feeling of determination.
I get stuck a lot. Sometimes it only lasts a few days. Other times it may last longer. I got stuck for a bit when my dad passed. I found myself stuck again when I had elective surgery and was forced to slow down and heal. And sometimes I get stuck because I finished a great book or television series and don’t know what to start next. I guess what I’m saying is don’t judge your stuckness. It could be from big trauma or small changes. Stuck is stuck is stuck. I think what’s important is to acknowledge the stuck, wallow in it a bit (not too long), and then make advances towards becoming unstuck.
Becoming unstuck varies with each and every situation and every person. What heals YOU? What makes YOU feel better? What can YOU do to move yourself in a new, a better, a positive direction? Interestingly, there is science behind this becoming unstuck, this ability to be able to bounce back, adapt, adjust, bend and twist without breaking – this resilience. Resilient people employ many of the same coping mechanisms – optimistic but realistic outlooks, confronting or facing their fears, having a strong moral compass, and attempting to keep physically or mentally fit – amongst others. But one of the common aspects that I consider vital is social support – the friends and family and connections that one makes and keeps and feeds. THIS is vital to resilience, to becoming unstuck.
“Close relationships built during good times protect us when we must endure stress or face danger . . . interdependence with others can provide a foundation for resilience,” state authors Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney in their book, Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges (pg. 136). Our friends are our friends for a reason. They lift us up. They support us. They push us when we are stuck and prop us up when we are mired. “Emotions are contagious; how you feel depends on the feelings of those around you” (pg. 143) so surround yourself with the best people you know and avoid the toxic, negative, nay-sayers. Your friend group supports but doesn’t enable; they provide the warm shoulder to cry on but also the “get on with it now” push.
Our friends give us confidence. Our friends provide motivation. Our friends will help us live longer lives, free from isolation and the foreverness of being stuck. Our friends understand us and truly, science says, they protect and strengthen us. And we need to remember to reach out because most resilient people do not go it alone.
Friends help us feel safe. Safe runs through our bodies via the vagus nerve – the longest nerve in the autonomic nervous system, stretching from the brainstem to the colon. It’s a BIG thing right now. It’s literally the science of being safe – respond versus react; fight or flee or freeze or being able to center with our true selves. It’s a lot to digest. Google it. But a great podcast that can help you learn about it is called . . . Stuck, Not Broken hosted by Justin Sunseri, a licensed marriage and family therapist in California.
I do daily Tarot card pulls. I do them to learn more about the cards, the energy and direction they offer and to gain insight and a sense of direction as to what is going on in my life. A recent pull yielded the 9 of Swords, the Fool and the Judgment card. The 9 of Swords is about anxiety and sleeplessness; the card depicts a person in bed, tormented, surrounded by swords (intellect and communication). Melissa Cynova, author of Kitchen Table Tarot explains it as, “Your mind is too full, your troubles seem vast and unmanageable . . . Anxiety comes when we can’t control the outcome of something” (p. 200). Contrast that with the next card, The Fool, who is all about movement and adventure. He is “guileless . . . honest . . .genuinely happy . . . when you see this in a reading you know it’s time to jump” (p. 55). Stuck to jump. Then the Judgement card comes up and light shines in and you can see the way because you see the past and you accept it and move forward. “This card often comes up when we reach a crossroads. We can continue the way we have been, or we can challenge ourselves and find our authentic path” (p. 113). Stuck to Jump to Onward. The cards were telling me what I inherently knew and was feeling.
Now as I said, sometimes getting unstuck takes longer than we expect. Take this blog for instance. I started it in September. It is now December, and I am finally finishing it. I acknowledge the situation and move forward. But I have a had a lot of connection and interaction with my core group of friends throughout this period. I’ve felt lifted, supported, celebrated and appreciated. I’ve leaned in and I’ve listened. I helped and was helped. The message, my lesson, is that even when we are stuck, we are often progressing somehow. Don’t despair. Look within, see, recognize and accept. And reach out when you are ready. You are building resilience.