What Can I Do When I Feel Stuck?

We’re meaning making machines. I hear that phrase all the time. Humans are always trying to figure out their worlds. Our minds are always working on a problem. Despite our obsession with optimum productivity, the reality is, our minds are always productive— when we’re working (of course), when we’re watching a movie, when we’re sleeping, when we’re playing— we’re making connections, we’re doing work.

We struggle when we get stuck on something—when we can’t come to a conclusion, when we can’t solve the puzzle. Regardless of whether there is a solution (usually those solutions are temporary), we are driven to feel satiated by an ending.

Our collective pandemic experience has provided us with a unique problem; we were unable to get away. Essential workers went into the workplace (which was often treacherous); however, many people were in their homes going through the same motions every day. Not only has the content remained the same (us, doing what we normally do), but so has the context (in our dwellings). It’s known that a change in environment can breathe life into both a low mood or an old problem. We are not different when we change environments. All of the faculties that we have in one place, we have in another place. And yet, part of our mind is clearer, we can see anew.

We have learned that we can’t always change our environment when we’re stuck. The issue with this is that while it’s a lesson that we learn as we get older, we also age out of a remedy for this stuckness. We can’t always physically move, but we can imagine. We can be anywhere, any time. Is it too silly? Sure— that’s what’s helpful! A project at work is stumping you? How can you imagine yourself in a different position and come at the problem in your new context. Maybe you’re doing your paperwork on a spaceship. What does it look like? What does it sound like? How does it feel? What was your morning like? Did some of your breakfast float away from you as you were trying to eat it? How much of your shaving cream managed to stay on your face? Now stand up at your spaceship office and see what work you can complete as a NASA employee (except it’s your actual work).

Maybe you’re having some trouble breaking patterns in your relationship. Give it a rest, do something different! We know that role playing in a sexual context works because of the novelty it introduces, but you can play roles outside of sex! Why not! You can pretend you’re on a trip— make some passports out of construction paper! I’m still using the phrase “skadoo” from Blue’s Clues (when Steve jumps into a picture and then he’s there!). I love the idea of skadoo-ing into a time and place.

Spontaneity is often lost in adulthood, but it allows our neuronal network to fire in a way that’s a little different from normal, which, in effect, can aid us in breaking out of dissatisfactory patterns.

I’m not asking us to slip into delusion or dissociate totally from reality. It’s important to acknowledge whatever feeling we may be having that’s causing us distress— to validate ourselves and ask ourselves what we need. Is there room for play? When we can be detailed in play (read: mindful), our mind is working on a new puzzle, and it’s excited! Here, we can begin to shift our experience, cope, and potentially make a change.

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