Do you ever feel stuck when it comes to making “the right” decision? I believe we’ve all had this feeling at some time. When I feel stuck, here’s a process I find to be especially helpful. Though it may not bring immediate clarity, it will likely move you closer.
For an example, let’s use an issue I hear frequently. “I have a coworker, relative, or acquaintance that I find difficult to deal with or be around. What can I do?”
1. State the problem subjectively. Yes that’s right, subjectively, and allow yourself to be mad, hurt, irritated, anxious or whatever uncomfortable feeling this person brings up. Instead of trying to talk yourself out of it, pretending you’re not feeling it, or attempting to keep it at bay, invite it in to have a seat at your kitchen table and “have some tea”. (Don’t worry, this is only temporary.) You see, it’s when we try to avoid this feeling that it has the most power over us. When we are willing to “call it out” it will go. I guess you could say it’s like facing down a bully. A bully gains power from the fear they can create inside of us. The more we fear the bully, the more power they have over us. When they can no longer create fear inside of us, we cannot be bullied. It’s the same with uncomfortable or painful feelings. The more we fear them, the more power they have to control our behavior in ways we don’t want or even realize.
2. Now state the problem objectively. State the problem as though you were viewing this situation as an observer, without judgment. For example, “there’s a frequent/infrequent person in my life and I don’t like the way I feel when I’m around them.”
3. Next allow yourself to consider all the options that you could choose from in this situation without judging them. Here are just a few you might consider:
Option #1- Complain over and over again to other people about this person and how they need to change. This is usually a clear indicator that our head and our heart are in conflict. That means our heart is telling us something has to change and our head is saying “nope, I’m not the one that’s going to change. I’m not the one who needs to do the changing, they do.” This is a safe option but changes nothing and keeps us stuck right where we are.
Option#2– Less likely but possible: move, get a new job, tell this person they need to change, stop spending time with them…
Option #3– A more empowering option- To empower ourselves in any situation, the focus must be on what we can control, which would be ourselves. Asking why this person bothers us so much, or what is it they’re doing that brings up this negative feeling inside of us, is the beginning of getting “unstuck. If possible, put a name to this feeling. Then ask yourself, how would I prefer to feel around this person?
4. Now for the fun part, finally. Here’s the key to the best choice for you. Close your eyes and rehearse each option in your mind to see how it feels. It’s like trying on shoes to find the best fit, except that this is an inside job. It requires tapping into how you feel as you “try on” each choice. One of the choices you’re rehearsing will feel better or will be “a better fit” for you than the others. Please don’t take my word for it, give it a try.
In her book “Finding Your Own North Star” Martha Beck puts it this way: each choice has the potential to feel either safe but imprisoning (like doing nothing might feel), or scary but liberating (considering a change in our own behavior, yikes!). The one that feels slightly scary but liberating is the one that’s right for you.
I can hear you now, “oh great, I have to be scared to be liberated?” Liberation, or a sense of freedom, is frequently just on the other side of our comfort zone which can seem scary, mainly because it’s not known. Having experienced more emotional pain than I care to, I am willing to “pay the price of slightly scary” for emotional freedom. What about you? Remember, small steps or micro steps are all that’s needed to begin to move you forward. Keep breaking your steps down until you hit the one that feels like “I could do that”.
But what about the choices that aren’t so clear-cut? Even if your choices don’t easily or clearly fall into one of these two categories, they will tend toward one side or the other. “Listen” (with your feelings) to that feedback and allow it to “percolate” inside of you. Your answer will come, maybe not at this moment, but soon.
With love, Jackie