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“I Feel Trapped in My Life”: A Common Midlife Sentiment, Part 2

March 21st, 2016 · i feel trapped my life

As we saw in Part 1, “I Feel Trapped in My Life” is an all-too-common sentiment in the second half of life.  People very often feel the need for some difficult-to-define kind of freedom.

i feel trapped my life

It’s all good to “normalize” the feeling, to recognize that many people, to varying degrees encounter this feeling at some time in their lives from the late 30s on.   But other than just passively bearing the feeling, how should we react to it?  What can we possibly do about it?  Can we possibly get beyond the sense that life is an inescapable trap in the second half or life, or, are we just — stuck with it?
i feel trapped my life

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To a Certain Extent, the Feeling of Being Trapped is Unavoidable

To a certain extent, the sense I have that I feel trapped in my life is an unavoidable one.  Life, by its nature, confronts us with endless choices between mutually exclusive options.  If I take a job in Toronto, I can’t simultaneously be working at a job in Sydney, Australia, to choose an extreme example.  Every time I make such a choice, I cut off one or more possibilities.  On the one hand, it can feel like being trapped.  On the other hand, if we never decide anything, we never are able to live out anything — which is an even worse trap!

Can You Accept The Flow of Life?

Depth psychotherapists know that one of the crucial parts of the life journey is accepting where it is that life has taken us, when these are things that occur and we have no control over them — the whole range of fateful happenings that we didn’t plan, and that didn’t want.  They can range from the merely undesirable, straight through those things that are completely devastating.  The most difficult of these things are such that no human being could feel glad about them — or understand why they occurred.  You probably have your own examples, but premature loss of a loved one, and the life-changing illness of a child would be two profound examples.

While it can never take the wound away, there is an important and profound kind of healing that occurs when the individual is able to accept in a fundamental way what has occurred.  When the individual can simply let what has happened be, and stop resisting it.  In my experience, such acceptance tends to happen most frequently in the second half of life.

 

 

The Great Journey of Self Acceptance

Depth psychotherapy is aware that, combined with these two issues, is the great journey of self-acceptance that Jungian psychotherapists like Robert A. Johnson call shadow work.  One of the things that can trap us most completely is an inability to accept, or even acknowledge those parts of ourselves that do not fit well with our self-understanding, or the ways in which we feel that we “should” or “ought” to be.  Very often these aspects of ourselves will appear in our dreams, in situations where we feel ourselves gripped by compulsions,

Working with the shadow can bring a great sense of freedom.  Having compassion and acceptance for the wounded and unacceptable parts of who we are can oftentimes open new possibilities in our lives.  The shadow, which we often repress so hard, may often be a source of genuine creativity, when it comes into dialogue with the conscious self.

“I Feel Trapped in My Life” — But Paradoxically, A Journey May Await

In midlife and the second half of life, meaning and movement in our lives may well come from sources that are different than we might expect.  Accepting who and what we are as fully as possible may well bring us to a surprising renewal.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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 PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike ©  Georgie Pauwels ; 
© 2016 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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“I Feel Trapped in My Life”: A Common Midlife Sentiment

March 14th, 2016 · i feel trapped my life

“I Feel Trapped in My Life” — Have you ever said this to yourself?  It’s a sentiment to which many people in midlife and later can relate.

feeling trapped my life

Depth psychotherapists know that these feelings will be recognizable to many in various life stages, but they can become overwhelming acute in the later parts of life.
The sense of feeling trapped at midlife manifests in various ways.

I Feel Trapped in My Life from Brian Collinson

The Feeling of “Having Settled”

During “the first adulthood”, the period leading up to midlife, we often make choices that seem reasonable or good, which have binding effects far into the future.  They can seem good at the time, and, all things considered, they probably are.  Yet, they can often have a huge impact in the midlife transition of our lives and beyond.  We may well feel that these choices are much less of a fit at that stage, but, by then, the cost of altering them may seem prohibitive indeed.

We may experience these high consequence choices in many areas of our lives, including:

  • relationship with a spouse or partner:
  • binding choices around career path;
  • in some cases, just generally settling for a low gear, possibly low risk, life, or,
  • a thousand other possible variants.

As we confront our lives, if we can be honest with ourselves, we might feel a sense of being trapped by our decision, whether they occurred very intentionally and deliberately, or just as a matter of events simply taking their course.

The Feeling of “I Could Have Had More, Accomplished More”

Whatever form the fateful choice takes, there may well come a point in our life journey when we feel pain and regret associated with these choices, as depth psychotherapists well know.  The individual may feel that he or she has somehow missed their life.  Consumed with regret, his or her experience of life can seem like hollow play-acting.

The individual is often filled with a deep yearning for more.  To have accomplished more, perhaps to have had more, to have had different experiences, and possibly even different relationships.  For the individual having such an experience, life may feel excruciatingly painful, empty and hollowed out.

Perfectionism

The individual’s inner perfectionism can often spur these feelings.  Perfectionism may savage the individual’s sense of accomplishment, telling him or her that anything and everything done is worthless or simply “not enough”.  For the perfectionist, life can start to seem like an endless and inescapable series of brutal reminders of his or her own inadequacy.  And as researchers like UBC’s Prof. Paul Hewitt point out, often, every new success simply raises the bar higher — so that happiness, or joy of accomplishment, is an eternally receding target.

Avoidance of Persons, Places and Things

The individual who feels trapped by life, who feels that his or her accomplishments are negligible, and that he or she has made choices that have put life on fundamentally the wrong track, may start to avoid persons, places and things that remind him or her of these painful feelings.  When this happens, we know that we’re taking ourselves out of the mainstream of our lives.

feeling trapped my life

The Power of the Unconscious

In the midst of our feelings of trapped-ness, we may resist things being any different in our lives.  As painful as the trapped sensation is, it may feel better than taking the risk of letting alternatives to our current life experience enter our lives.

Yet, something may be trying to emerge in our lives, if we can have the courage to be open to it.  Meaning and purposefulness may be found in listening to those parts of the self that are unacceptable to the ego.  This is the part of the personality that depth psychotherapists and Jungians call the shadow.

In the parts of the psyche that Jung called “the undiscovered self”  may reside a very different image of who we really are, and also a way forward into a meaningful life in midlife and the second half of life.  We’ll explore this in the second part of this post.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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 PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike ©  Bailey Weaver ; 
© 2016 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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