I am really excited today to take on a slightly different format. Because when I thought about talking with you about the idea of “I feel stuck in life,” I realized you have a lot of questions about why you’re stuck. And how you get unstuck. And all the things that go with that. So, I decided, why don’t I just answer your specific questions and we’ll chat within those answers?
So today, we’re going to talk about feeling stuck. It is a very common sensation in a divorce, and post-divorce experience. And it’s something that I have related to many times in my life. And it can be a very vulnerable place to be – a place where women are really looking for answers and guidance, and we’re not feeling confident. I’m excited to dig into this topic and to answer your specific questions to hopefully help you get unstuck concretely and move the needle. So you can take steps today to change this sensation.
The answers that I’m going to bring to you about feeling stuck and how to get unstuck are based on all of my experience working with women throughout my divorce recovery therapy and divorce coaching career. The divorce coaching practice, the membership community, my therapy practice, and then my own experience being a divorcee. So, let’s dig right into the first question that you asked, which is…
I Feel Stuck in Life FAQ
What does it mean when you feel stuck?
That question has a couple of answers but the same route in my opinion.
When you’re stuck, it could be depression. Or it could be indecision. Or internal conflict. Or it could be that you’re just really shut down. It could be any number of those things. But at the core of all that stuff is usually that you’ve stuffed so much of what you feel, what you think, what you believe… down. And have not worked through it enough to feel clear about the next action.
A lot of times, we shut off our feelings.
We don’t trust ourselves let alone anybody else. We feel lonely and lost. And we shut off our dreams. And we shut off our ideas because we feel like if we bring those things to the surface, it’s not going to help or you’re not going to get anywhere.
Then it feels like defeat on top of whatever the painful thing was.
Sometimes we just say, “Well, fine. Then I’ll just go small.” And we build this little box in our life after divorce to function within that doesn’t include all of the thoughts, feelings and beliefs, and ideas that we normally would be exploring.
Because we don’t want to get into a power struggle. Or be rejected. Or feel horrible amounts of uncertainty or loss or whatever it is.
So you build this tiny little box to function out of, but it’s hard to move in that box. Aka…stuck. As I was preparing today, I was thinking about a very specific divorce coaching client I spoke with this morning. Who’s feeling very, very stuck. And she was presenting two different courses of action – two paths. And she’s struggling to pick a path because she doesn’t like either. (I wonder if you can relate to that in your experience of stuckness.)
And so, she or you, or any of us women will remain stuck if you refuse to commit to some course of action. Pick a path. Or pick a step on a path. But we can’t get unstuck without taking some action.
And usually, by taking some action, we experience clarifying moments.
Getting unstuck after divorce doesn’t mean that we’re suddenly going to have clarity about what the rest of the path looks like.
Often, getting unstuck means taking a few steps in the dark, and feeling our way through. And that’s OK.
And I think that’s what being here helps with so that when somebody else is sharing their experiences, you can recognize:
“Oh, OK, this is how it is. This is how it goes. This is common. This is familiar. Other people feel this too. OK. I’m not crazy.”
So you can doubt yourself less and you can move forward more.
What causes a person to feel lost?
Feeling lost and lonely is slightly different from feeling stuck, though they’re very related.
Feeling lost is – “I no longer can tell where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going.” And therefore, I feel stuck because I don’t know what to do. Feeling lost is like being disoriented. It’s not necessarily a refusal. But being stuck is a refusal to take a step.
And I think that when women feel lost after a divorce, that lost feeling comes as a result of having shoved down so many thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and ideas. Because for some reason expressing them or living into them has been met with resistance or rejection for a number of years.
I think for many of us women, this started through societal influences.
Whether we go all the way back to, “Children should be seen and not heard,” or, “We shouldn’t think too much. We shouldn’t feel too much. We shouldn’t look a certain way.”
And then if you get into a marriage with someone who you feel shuts you down, then all of that is compounded.
So digging out of that experience after divorce – feeling minimized or undervalued – there’s a certain muscle memory there and we tend to return to that feeling of being lost and disoriented and wondering,
- Who am I?
- Where have I been?
- Where am I going?
- How can I get reconnected?
- Which parts of me have I lost touch with?”
What causes emotional detachment?
Part of what happens when we’re in that lost place is becoming detached emotionally. Because to cope with the things that you’re going through after divorce, it’s easier to do it without all of those emotions being on full blast all the time.
Maybe you’ve been with a partner who was really shut down around their emotions as well, which you probably found exceedingly frustrating.
Emotional detachment is a coping skill.
It’s a way of coping when we don’t feel understood or received. And when we don’t feel understood or received, that brings in rejection. If it continues long enough, then that rejection starts to feel like abandonment. And it sometimes just becomes too much to bear.
And God forbid that you’ve experienced abuse.
Then detaching emotionally is literally how we survive that abuse.
So, the more we emotionally detach, the more we lose ourselves, the more we feel lost, and the more we stay stuck. So these things are all interconnected.
What do I do when I’ve lost myself?
We have to start reattaching our emotional process.
Where do I feel these feelings in my body? Why do I feel mad? Sad. Glad. Afraid. Or shamed in my body. And this is one of the things that I do at the very beginning of my 21-day journaling program.
And the more we inquire about that, the more we’re reconnecting our emotional awareness, the more we can express, and the more we can take steps to find self, get unlost, and get unstuck.
Why am I so stuck in the past?
Have you ever sat with your high school girlfriends and war-storied about high school life and retold the same stories? Why do we keep going back to these same stories?
It’s because there’s a lot of joy there.
So sometimes women go to the past because there’s joy there and we’re having trouble cultivating joy in our present day. But sometimes we go to the past and ruminate or rehearse painful things and have trouble letting them go.
And we do that sometimes out of a bad habit, but usually, because something about it feels incomplete. Something around the who, what, when, where and why is unanswered. And it feels very incomplete.
How do I stop revisiting the past?
After divorce, we tend to revisit the past to try to make sense of it.
To try to regain our sense of understanding about how and why something unfolded and what our role was in it.
Because women want to be good stewards of our experiences, we want to learn from the past; so that we don’t reenact it in the future and can start healing.
I want you to give yourself the benefit of the doubt, that if you’re struggling with being stuck in the past, it’s for a good reason. But sometimes we have to really get well-boundaried around not living in the past, and leaving reviewing the past to productive sessions; coaching sessions, therapy sessions, and spiritual growth sessions. Not living in the past day to day; day in and day out.
Because that’s rehearsing the problem and deters your divorce recovery journey. And then you’re reinforcing neural pathways that are going to keep you stuck in the problem and literally keep you in that stuck sensation.
Versus when we rehearse the solution, we rehearse our hopes, and we rehearse our dreams. And we say, “This is what I want. And this is what I’m working toward.”
When you are rehearsing the problem from the past, you’re literally inhibiting your ability to commit to a new course of action. Aka, getting unstuck.
Moving on from the past after divorce requires segmenting when you revisit it to really productive sessions with a guide of some sort. And then making a hard choice. You’ve asked how do I stop revisiting the past? It’s making a hard choice.
“OK, I’m not going to do this outside of a divorce coaching session. And if I catch myself doing it, I’m going to redirect myself. Because I understand that if I keep rehearsing the past I am now contributing to my own misery, my own suffering. And I can’t blame anybody else for that except myself.”
How can I get out of my own way?
Sometimes we want an answer that’s like, “Oh, just, you know, flip this lever and say the word green and then it’ll be done,” right? Nope. The only way out is through.
But women do have to really get good at focusing on: I want to heal and here are my dreams and here is what I’m working toward.
And then it’s specific places. Making sense of the past so that women can feel complete with it. So that we can shed it naturally versus trying to force ourselves to. Again, just being really well-boundaried.
There’s a natural shedding that happens when we work through things and we feel complete with them.
But for a while, you’re probably going to have to practice setting limits with yourself.
Why do I miss someone who hurt me?
I love this question because it reminds us that people aren’t all good or all bad, right? You can absolutely love the essence of a person, and your hopes and dreams that have to do with that person. You can see the best in a person. And also acknowledge that their shadow-self damaged your relationship. Just like your shadow-self damaged your relationship.
There are parts of us that are not kind and sometimes they come out to play. You can love someone in their essence and not love the choices that they’ve made.
Not love the rejecting behavior, not love the dismissive, abusive or hostile behavior. Not like the betraying behavior. But realize that that’s not the essence of the person.
It is probably some combination of trauma behavior, personality and/or social influences and it’s not who they are, so if you still love someone or miss someone who hurt you, congratulations.
I’m glad because it means that you have the capacity to forgive people. You have the capacity to accept that nobody is perfect.
But it is still important to know when to set boundaries, to say no, and let go.
How do I let go of the love of my life?
This question has a thinking error in it, right? If this person was the love of your life, then you would probably still be together and not divorced.
I heard this quote not too long ago about the idea that in the course of our lives, our values ideally stay the same.
But our beliefs change with our experience. We want to cultivate values of love, tolerance, and compassion. But with experience our beliefs change.
So when you’re 5, we want you to have the same values of love, tolerance and acceptance. But you’re not going to believe the same things at 5 that you will at 25, 30, or at 50.
Life experience informs our understanding of how things work.
And with our own process of growth, maturation and healing, we’re like, “Oh, there’s more to understand about this.” So you may believe that this person was the love of your life today, but I want you to stay focused.
If you work on your plan and you stay on the path of healing and growing through this, you probably aren’t going to believe that this is the love of your life 10 years from now.
Because if that were the case, you would still be together. If it’s over, do your best to trust that is what is meant to be on your path and that this is happening for a reason. And that you can work within that knowledge and grow through it.
And I believe in you, that you can do that. And if you find yourself stuck in that spot, then just know that you might be like my divorce coaching client I referenced earlier.
There are two choices she’s being faced with and she doesn’t like either of them, but she’s the chooser of her choices, right?
You are the chooser of your choices.
If you’re stuck, then you are choosing stuckness. So stay open to the idea that this person may not be the love of your life and that the love of your life is still out there waiting for you to grow through this.
I like to believe in staying in the solution and in dreaming of what you want. Have faith in yourself and your ability to get where you want to go after divorce rather than voting against yourself and staying stuck in the past.
How do you get unstuck in life?
How you get unstuck is probably going to involve making a choice you don’t want to make, and you’re afraid that if you make it, you might be making the wrong one.
But it boils down to making a series of choices, no matter how small.
Even if it’s to go to the first therapy session.
To find a spiritual community to start making sense of what you’re going through after your divorce. Or going to some group to talk about what you’ve experienced. Finding a podcast or reading a book. Taking an action in the direction of where you want to go.
And I think part of getting unstuck to start healing is asking yourself the question, “What do I want?”
And if you answer that with a rear-facing answer, you’re going in the wrong direction. So, what do I want for my future…that’s not a specific person, right? It has to do with you. What do you want for your future? Ask that question. And if you don’t know the answer, then there’s your work.
But getting unstuck involves identifying where you want to go. A lot of the roadblocks women experience are just our own selves and our limiting beliefs in creating a life after divorce.
So your assignment today is to write down – and not just in your phone but with a pen – where you want to go. What you want for your life.
How do I find myself again? And How can I live my own life?
All of the answers lie within the answer to: “What do I want?”
Do you ever notice that when women ask themselves ‘what do I want?’, they tend to respond first with what they don’t want?
It’s such a funny phenomenon. I want to challenge you to get unstuck and to find yourself. Who you are and who you’re meant to be is being able to identify what you want. And then being able to claim it. And being willing to believe that what you want is possible. And being willing to do what it takes to get it.
How do you love yourself?
The answer is the same here.
When you identify what you want, you can work toward believing that it is possible for you to heal and to start a new life after divorce.
And be willing to do what it takes to get it. That’s an investment in yourself that you would do for your children or for your family, or for your best friend, right? That’s love in action.
It’s believing in yourself enough to invest in who you are and how you live.
And that is loving yourself enough to show up and say your dreams are worth putting the energy, intention, and resources behind to make them happen. And not getting into all of that limiting belief crap about it being too late or it’s not worth it, so why bother?
All that stuff is old, old tapes, old garbage.
You don’t have to keep it. If you keep it, it’s a life choice.
I see it every day in my divorce coaching practice and in my therapy practice.
When we work on getting women unstuck from those limiting beliefs it’s like taking the cap off and letting it run.
And it is so cool! And it is the greatest honor of my life to be able to sit with women in those spaces and help them get past their own difficulties. Being in love with and committed to their own dreams, and with their own personhood.
I hope that you have some more clarity about how and why you’re stuck. And I hope that you can run with this journaling prompt:
“What do I want in my new life?”
Not what you don’t want after divorce. I’d love to hear your story of what you want. Feel free to send it over. And until then, know that I’m over here rooting for you. I know you’re capable. I know that you have big dreams in your heart, and just because those dreams have been stomped on for way too long does not mean that that has to be your future. I’m wrapping you in a huge hug. Unless you don’t like hugs. And then I am staring at you with puppy dog eyes willing love into you. And know that I’m over here thinking of you until we meet again.