The 5 Questions: Getting Unstuck

The 5 Questions: Getting Unstuck

When we're stuck it feels like we don't have any choices. We feel frustrated and helpless. Then rigidity seeps in and we find ourselves identifying more with the problem than with the solutions. People offer us ideas and suggestions for how we might move out of our stuck-ness and we reject them all.

We are struggling and getting nowhere. Sound familiar? It does to me.

Photo by Tania Dimas

What Happens When We're Stuck?

Our thinking starts to become rigid. We are so sure we've looked at it from every angle that we start to buy into the idea that there is no solution. If we aren't willing to see it differently that's probably true.

We believe the solution is "out there" when in reality the solution is usually, at least partly,  "in here". In other words, we think of the problem as an external circumstance that is happening to us, but the truth is we have more control over the situation than we think.

When we are stuck it's often because we are at war with ourselves. We have a part of us that doesn't want the solution. Maybe the obvious solution feels too scary or too unfamiliar or it doesn't align with our identity. "I couldn't possibly do that!" Sometimes we just don't want to have to do what we need to do to deal with it.

It's often easier to stay stuck, bitter, and rigid than accept a solution that will challenge us to grow. We say we don't want to be stuck but there is a part of us that isn't ready to move forward.

We may think we have to do it all ourselves. Maybe we don't trust that anyone will be there for us, perhaps because we've been disappointed or hurt in the past. I recently heard a friend of mine say "I've got to take care of myself because no one else is going to do it." I'm a big advocate of taking responsibility for ourselves but this had a tone of bitterness that told me she'd been let down before.

Being able to ask for help and trusting that it will be provided is a fraught step for some of us. Cultivating the capacity to allow ourselves to be helped, by another person or in a spiritual sense is a key step to being able to move out of stuck-ness. When we are in a stuck place we need a fresh perspective and that's why talking it over with a friend or therapist can help.  When we can ask for help we are demonstrating a willingness to let the problem be solved.

Here are the 5 questions I ask myself when I find myself feeling stuck, frustrated, helpless, hopeless, and maybe even a little sorry for myself.

  • In what way am I creating this struggle for myself?
  • Why am I unwilling to release it?
  • What would it feel like if it were solved?
  • What would I have to release for it to be solved?
  • Could I let it be lovingly solved for me?

Let's look at how these questions can help

In what way am I creating this struggle for myself?

If you believe, as I do, that we create our reality, this reminds us that we are in charge. It allows us to see that it's not something that is happening to us and that we have the agency to solve it. It moves us from seeing ourselves as helpless victims so that we can be the hero of our own story.

Why am I unwilling to release it?

This question invites us to look at what concerns we have about letting go of the situation. At first glance, we think that, of course, we want it solved, but if it isn't getting resolved generally there is a part of us that is hanging onto being stuck. This could be because something about the resolution is a bit scary or would involve some growth that we don't feel comfortable with yet. If we can discover what that is we can address it.

What would it feel like if it were solved?

Being able to physically feel what it would feel like if the stuck were resolved primes us for the future we want. We can follow this feeling to the future we want. When we have been stuck for a while we get used to the feeling of being stuck. That's why it's important to lean into the feeling of what it would be like to be free of the problem.

What would I have to release for it to be solved?

By definition, if we are stuck we are holding onto something. What would it take for us to loosen our grip, to allow some flexibility in our thinking, to open to the solution?

Could I let it be lovingly solved for me?

There is something lonely about being stuck. We may talk incessantly to whoever will listen about the impossibility of the situation but we never really accept the help we need to get to the other side of it. This is partly because the stuck can become part of our narrative and even our identity but it's also because on some level we don't trust that we will be supported. I see this most often with people who have been hurt. It's natural that they don't want to be hurt again but closing ourselves off to help is part of what keeps us stuck.

When we can ask a friend or therapist to help us find our way out we are signaling that we are willing for it to be solved. Some people, like me, are open to spiritual help as well. Christians have a tradition of "turning it over" to God but you don't have to be a Christian to ask for spiritual help.

Abraham-Hicks, a spiritual teacher, talks about a technique for asking the Universe for help. She draws a line down the middle of a piece of paper and on one side writes down all the things she knows she can do to resolve the problem. Then, on the other side of the page, she writes the things she needs the Universe to take care of.  This has been a very helpful and successful technique for me. No matter what you believe you can be supported to move out of stuckness into vitality.



Photo by Jan Kahánek

In practice

Write the questions on a page in the back of your journal. The next time you're feeling stuck, journal your way through the questions until you feel something shift. That's the rigidity falling away and an openness to seeing things differently emerging.


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I specialize in helping people break through self-imposed barriers to live more dynamic and satisfying lives.