One of the common experiences that brings people into therapy is the feeling of being “stuck”. This is an expression that people commonly use to describe the experience of being brought up again and again against some psychological issue that seems incredibly difficult or even impossible to resolve.
Sometimes this sense of “stuckness” can concern some aspect or issue of a person’s life that seems very hard to get a fix upon, or to face squarely. It may be associated with feelings of boredom, or ennui, or sometimes with feelings that are strong enough that they could properly be called despairing.
It is often the case that the sense of stuckness concerns dilemmas that can’t be solved. There may be tensions, for instance, between a person’s desire to take steps to pursue his or her deepest and most profound aspiration or dream, and obligations and commitments to people whom the person deeply loves. Very often they involve values and deep yearnings of the heart, and sometimes there are feelings that it is almost impossible to put into words. It is most often the case, judging from my experience, that these dilemmas are not something that the individual is going to be able to just “sit down and calmly think their way through”. They are often just too fundamental to the person’s being to be resolved in such a straightforward, rational way.
That is why people often bring this kind of dilemma into therapy. And by the way, such dilemmas are not usually brought forward by dull, limited, emotionally truncated people. Rather, it is precisely the sensitive, aware and intelligent who find themselves “stuck” in this kind of manner.
Often such dilemmas revolve around something that has been a long term issue, possibly even throughout the individual’s life…
Often, it is only by really taking hold of both sides of the dilemma that some kind of a solution can be found. The only way out may be recognizing that the problem is intellectually insoluble, even though I’m a very intelligent, resourceful person. And it can take real courage to accept that this situation in my life brings me literally to my wits’ end.
Here are some hard but important questions to ask about being stuck in this way.
Is there something in this dilemma that I just have to face because, whether or not I want to accept it, it is just the way that life is?
Is there something in this dilemma that hinges on whether I am able to accept myself? Is there some aspect of myself in this situation with which I simply have to come to terms if I’m ever going to find peace around this issue? Is there something about that self-acceptance that I find particularly hard or offensive?
Is there something in this dilemma that I find hard to come to terms with because it entails a secret suffering, maybe something so painful that I can’t even admit it to myself?
Is there something involved in this situation that part of me knows, but that is “split off”, dissociated and unacknowledged?
The only way through this kind of stuckness involves patience and a great deal of compassion for myself. Also, paradoxically, often it is only by acknowledging the depth of my suffering that the suffering can lessen.
Often the container of case studies in depth is the most effective, and often the only place to come to terms with, and to begin to find some kind of resolution of the most fundamental dilemmas that we have, the ones that really touch us in the depths of our lives.
I’d gratefully welcome any of your comments on the phenomenon of stuckness or “unmovable dilemmas”. Have you ever dealt with this kind of an issue in your inner life? Have you ever found yourself “split right in two” about an important or fundamental life decision? I would welcome any of your comments, directed either to the blog or personally to me.
My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness,
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst
PHOTO CREDIT: © Indykb | Dreamstime.com
© 2010 Brian Collinson