There are few feelings more dispiriting that feeling trapped. When we feel we are in a situation where we have no choices it feels like the walls are closing in. We can feel paralysed and the third, less common, “f” comes into play: fight, flight and …freeze. When we feel like we have no choice what we will do is freeze.
Because we don’t have a great choice we want to make, we make no choice at all. So we stick. We feel stuck. We have all been there and feeling frozen and trapped is one of the worst feelings in the world.
Drawing on timeless wisdom that sometimes the only way out is through and that things might have to get worse before they get better (hey, things become cliché’s for a reason, no?!), I’d like to draw your attention to a quote that will muster your resolve if you are currently feeling trapped by circumstance:
Taken from the great American author and activist Alice Walker (she wrote The Colour Purple) it is, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any”, and I have to concur.
The nature of my work is that clients come to me when they feel frozen and stuck. Stuck in a career that’s too much of a gilded cage to leave. Stuck in a relationship that would break too many hearts to depart. Stuck in a country they don’t want to be in by legalities. Stuck in a lifestyle that is ruining their health. That feeling of being trapped is hard. When we feel we are out of choices we feel truly out of joy, momentum and the happiness tank rapidly drains to zero.
Thing is, it is a fundamental truth that the only thing we HAVE to do is breathe, so we actually DO always have a choice.
Hideous and hard choices may be but there are always choices. Choices you may not want to face but choices that will break the inertia that is creating the paralysing stuck-ness. The key is to force movement (however small) and start the process of unsticking. Lift the paralysis by moving from freeze into fight or flight. The movement inherent in both those choices will feel hard but liberating.
When we perceive we have no power in a situation we inevitably feel trapped. I have clients step back and treat it like a creative brainstorming exercise. Take away any expectation of action and just be creative.
If this was someone else’s issue, what possible options could they have? Brainstorm as many as you can. Options A through G, H and so on. Sell the house, make a huge loss. Get a bank loan that takes years to pay off. Hire a private detective. Put Dad in a hospice. Take a 3-month sabbatical. Ask Aunty Carol for a loan. Let them leave the country without you. Take a rental even though you have always owned your own place. Brainstorm the hideous options out. Take your power back by acknowledging that you DO have choices, you are never completely stuck, there are always options. List as many as you possibly can, no matter how hard or crazy or tangential.
Just the action of doing this will make you feel freer and more able to see the way forwards.
Gradually one option will start to feel less onerous than the rest, and a way forward will become clear where you can step back into your power. It was there the whole time, you just needed to step back and let the solution emerge from the knowledge that you do have choices.
We are only ever as trapped as we think we are.
Grab a white board marker, get brave and step back into your power.