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If You’re Feeling Stuck in Life, How Can You Get Free? #2

April 13th, 2015 · feeling stuck in life

So, if, as we saw in the last post, feeling stuck in life is something we want to get beyond… why is it so hard to get beyond it?  If we’re stuck, what are the sticking points?

feeling stuck in life

From the experience of many people in depth psychotherapy, there are some key things that we can learn about getting unstuck.

Letting Go

feeling stuck in life

It may sound odd to say it, but sometimes the thing that most keeps us stuck is that we’re clinging to something and we can’t make ourselves let go.    This is something that a person might be doing semi-consciously, or unconsciously.

Now, we may get some benefit from “holding on”.  For instance, a relationship may not be working for me at all, but I may persist in it, because it would simply be too painful to face the loss of the hopes and dreams I had for the relationship, back when it began. So I may just keep on, enduring, because being stuck feels like a somewhat better alternative.

Or sometimes, we persist in a situation that can’t possibly work for us, and where we can’t be ourselves, because we gain a certain reward for being self sacrificing, or being a martyr.  Some learn very early in life, in the family of origin, that this is what is expected of them. To get past this may require a person to see who they really are in a whole different way.

The individual may have to ask him or herself whether it genuinely is better to be stuck with the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Often new possibilities for life and meaning surround us, but it’s a risk to embark on the path towards them. If we don’t open ourselves to them, though, we end up mired in the same old same old, with psychological consequences that may be very dire in the long run. In the end, perhaps it all comes down to the situation in a quotation attributed to Anais Nin:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud

was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Accepting and Understanding What Psyche is Trying to Bring Us

As I mentioned above, a great deal of the issue around stuck-ness and letting go can revolve around the unconscious mind. Today neuroscience is making us powerfully aware of the enormity and importance of the unconscious mind, which researchers like Prof. Jaak Pansepp call the “core human psyche”, but pioneers like C.G. Jung intuited its importance a century ago.

Often, our stuckness can be rooted deeply in the unconscious. What is more, the solutions that we need to get past these dilemmas may well need to emerge from the unconscious mind. To let them emerge and bring their healing influence may take some real trust in our deepest selves. It is very often around this issue of trusting the deepest self, and having compassion for it, that depth psychotherapy performs its most healing work.

Psychotherapy that is open to the dynamic reality of the deep self requires a profound respect for the instinctual roots of the psyche, and for the wisdom which resides there, which often goes far beyond our capacities for rational problem solving.  The two million year old man or woman often knows exactly what he or she is doing.

The Un-Stuck Version of Myself

As the wisdom of the unconscious emerges, there may be some basic truths I have to face.

feeling stuck in life

Often, getting past being stuck involves listening to the rejected and suppressed part of the self: the shadow.  The work of depth psychotherapy is bringing the stranger home, and often the stranger is our own true self.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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If You’re Feeling Stuck in Life, How Can You Get Free? #1

April 6th, 2015 · feeling stuck in life

Feeling stuck in life can be an extremely troubling thing.  Is there any way to begin to change things, and get beyond that terrible sense of going nowhere?

feeling stuck in life

Just when you don’t expect it — quicksand!

Here are some important psychotherapeutic dimensions of the feeling of stuckness that we need to come to terms with, before we can ever get un-stuck.

feeling stuck in life

1.  Accepting That Something Needs to Change

It may seem like a totally obvious thing to suggest that a person must accept that he or she is stuck, in order to move beyond it. But things are not quite that simple, psychologically. Depth psychotherapists well know that it is all too easy for us to give rational assent to the need for change, and yet to continue on in our denial.  On a more visceral, emotional, only partially-conscious level, there can be all kinds of reasons why we’re not ready to give up our attachment to how things have been. It may be that our past stuck-ness gives us a sense of emotional security, shields us from emotional pain, or flatters our ego. It can take some real courage to look at, and accept why I can’t let go of “the old status quo”.

To begin to move towards something new, I may need to move to a true emotional and visceral understanding of why I’m feeling stuck in life.


2.  Being Genuinely Open to Something New

It can be a huge hurdle to accept the risks involved in moving toward a new possibility. There are so many different things to be weighed up.

For instance, if I want to expand my social world by joining some new group or organisation, I will have to confront my own fear of being rejected, which may run very deep. Until I’m ready to recognize my fear, and run that risk, I’m probably going to remain stuck. Similarly, if I want to create something new, such as a piece of art, I may have to accept that what I create might not be up to my standards, or to the way that I had envisaged it. But if I consistently avoid that kind of risk, I can be sure that I will remain stuck in the status quo.

I may also have to face the possibility that things might happen in a new situation that might be completely different from anything that I had expected.   This could be very hard, because, often, we don’t like dealing with the unpredictable when the stakes seem high.

3.  Listening to the Neglected Parts of the Self

For all of us, there are parts of ourselves of which we’re aware, and to which we’re consciously connected. It’s also true, that, for each of us, there are parts of our being of which we are only partially aware, or not aware at all. If we can find ways to listen to those parts, we may well find some signposts as to how to get beyond our stuckness.

Listening to our body can be a great way to start. Many of our aches, pains and muscular tensions can tell us a great deal about how we’re stuck. Back pain, neck pain, stomach upset, jaw clenching, head ache, nervous tics and many other symptoms can all show us a great deal about the places in our lives where we are carrying conflicts and too much tension. Effective forms of psychotherapy can often open up the meaning of these bodily cries for help.  We have incorporated this powerful wisdom through the work of pioneers like Marion Woodman.

The same is often true of an individual’s dream life. Very often our dreams will show us clearly where we are conflicted, or where the tensions in our lives are preventing us from moving forward. Where possible, it is a regular and important part of depth psychotherapy or Jungian analysis to work with dreams, and to see what they are showing us about how a person might move forward in his or her life.

Just as important can be our random fantasies and thoughts, or even unconscious slips and mistakes, which are often a fertile source of vital information about a person’s deepest yearnings and conflicts.

Being Willing to Let Go: What I Need to Move On

feeling stuck in life

Often, getting past being stuck involves being willing to let go of something, so that there is room for the possibility of something different in life.  In my next post, we’ll look at all the dimensions of letting go, and being open to what psyche is trying to bring us.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

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Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Find a Way Forward, 2

October 19th, 2014 · feeling stuck in life

In the first part of this post we saw that feeling stuck in life, at some point or other, is a pretty normal part of our journey.

feeling stuck in life

I’m referring to genuine experiences of impasse, where, in some key area of our life, we just don’t know how to more forward, perhaps for a long time.

Sometimes people are conscious of this, and sometimes not.  Take a group of people who went to high school together, who still go to their favorite bar every weekend, and sit around the same table where they’ve sat for 20 years.  Do they experience the discomfort of stuckness?  Possibly not.  But are they perhaps stuck?  …Probably a question they should at least consider…


Lessons from Impasse

The ego doesn’t totally run the show.  We may really want to move forward on something, and yet find it impossible to do so.

Neuroscience researchers like USC Prof. Antonio Damasio have demonstrated that much of human decision-making is non-rational, emotional and rooted in the unconscious.  Decisions are not just made in a rational, goal-oriented way by the ego, the conscious, goal-driven part of us.  These neuroscience findings were anticipated by the work of Jung and other depth psychotherapists even 80-90 years ago.

What is true of ordinary decision-making is profoundly true of large-scale decisions about the future direction of our lives.  Making such a decision in any kind of authentic way involves parts of the mind that are far from usual consciousness.   Also, the emotional aspects of the personality are involved just as deeply as any thinking or rational component — as is, what we can call for lack of a better word, our intuition.

True impasse, true “stuckness” can be seen as the whole person demanding that the ego pay attention to its priorities and its needs.  Unless the ego is willing, and is willing to some extent, to relinquish control, stuckness is liable to continue.

Feeling Stuck in Life: What I Can’t Get Past

feeling stuck in life

Feeling stuck in life often revolves around some bedrock truths, realities or feelings that we need to take in.  Often this means coming up against who we really are.  Such experiences of self-encounter, in the deepest sense, are what depth psychotherapists often refer to as encounters with soul.

Example.  A 40s woman is going through the motions.  She is knowledgeable and does well at her career, but without enthusiasm.  Her home life also functions, in that she looks after her two children, and feels close to them, although her relationship with her spouse is limited to meeting the kids’ needs and performing tasks needed to keep the household going.  On the surface, this woman feels that she is “doing what she is supposed to be doing”, according to the messaging of her family of origin and of society. But this superficially complete picture doesn’t stop the feeling that she is missing out, nor stop the yearning for “some kind of real experience!”

A key part of working in therapy to get past stuckness is often in identifying — and accepting — where life is not stuck.  Where does my life’s energy really want to go?  This is often difficult work, because it may entail looking as aspects of ourselves that the ego resists, or even shuns.

Stuck-ness and Renewal

Many indigenous cultures, and other cultures worldwide recognize that human life involves a process of numerous deaths to a certain identity and self-definition, in order to rise with a new identity and relationship to who we most fundamentally are.

feeling stuck in life

I love this song by the great Stan Rogers, which is about death and re-birth — but a re-birth that is only brought about by hard, painstaking — loving — work in the depths.


Feeling stuck in life often embodies the sense that our direction, our purposiveness, our zest for life has sunk into the depths, and we need to get it back.  Embarking on depth psychotherapy is often a process of salvaging this sunken treasure.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

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Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Find a Way Forward, 1

October 13th, 2014 · feeling stuck in life

Feeling stuck in life is an extremely common experience. It can happen at any stage of our life journey.

feeling stuck in life

Nonetheless, the feeling of stuckness often assails us in those parts of our journey when we are either trying to make, or else are needing to make, major life transitions.

What Does Feeling Stuck in Life Mean?

People use this expression a lot in my consulting office.  What do they actually mean by it?

The life experience of individuals is very diverse, but I think that this feeling boils down to the sense that  things in the life of the individual are not giving him or her much (or any) satisfaction.  In other words, that the life expereience of the person is not meaningful, either in whole or in part, and, most importantly, that the individual doesn’t know how to move things to a place where what they encounter in their daily living would be meaningful.

When talking about feeling stuck in life, the discussion sometimes revolves around the idea that “the individual is not making ‘progress’.”  However, I’m not sure that the idea that the goal of human life is to make some kind of triumphant “progress” is really all that helpful, here.

Rather, I find it far more helpful to think about this issue of stuckness in terms of the “flow” of our energy out into our lives, for connectedness, meaning and creativity.  Ultimately, in Jungian terms, the flow of that energy should take us more and more towards individuation, the process of becoming more and more our unique, authentic selves.

We Get “Stuck” in Unique Ways

feeling stuck in life

There is no set formula as to who will get “stuck”, or how such an impasse might come about in someone’s life.  As Harvard psychologist Timothy Butler tells us, the experience of “feeling stuck” enters our lives in a great variety of unique ways.  Career issues, relationship issues, death of a parent or other loved one, transition of children away from home — all of these types of events, and many more, can lead into the sense that the whole pattern of a life feels stale and not very meaningful.

The key element of this sense of stuckness?  That our image of our lives and of our personal world is no longer working.  As Jung might put it, it is a time in life when we may well need a new personal myth — the underlying “big story” we tell ourselves about our lives and our place in the world.

Impasse Means We Need to Change Our Fundamental Attitude

feeling stuck in life

What can you do to get a sense of “flow” back, when you’re feeling stuck in life?  Should you seek counselling or therapy?

Therapy like depth psychotherapy of the Jungian variety may assist greatly in dealing with the large emotional and life issues that may surround feeling stuck in life.  It may also assist in the uncovering of a “personal myth”, or deep life story or self-understanding, that can help move us back into the flow of our lives.

Finding the flow of the creative energy in our lives is the most important issue in dealing with feeling stuck in life, and, in the second part of this post, we’ll be looking at some of the ways this can start to occur.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

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© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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