Do you ever feel like you are not where you want to be? Or somehow your life took a turn that you find yourself in a place- a job or career, with a partner, or otherwise doing something that does not feel quite right? Or maybe it feels like the decision “got made for you”; an opportunity opened up and you took it before you really had time to consider if it was right for you.
We’ve all been there. But we don’t have to stay there.
Often times there are stories or cognitive distortions at play, where the tapes playing in our mind keep us in the status quo, even when the status quo isn’t a benefit to us, or worse, when it is actually detrimental to our health, safety or wellbeing.
Many of our mind stories or cognitive distortions are born out of our past. We may be mindlessly allowing our brain to play and repeat a mantra or an early message we got growing up that serves to keep us stuck.
Here are six common stories… see if any of these give you that ah-ha moment where you recognize, wait, that’s me!
1. “You made your choice so that’s just how it is.” This story serves to keep us stuck by shutting down any real thoughts of doing something different. In this story, we are compelled if not driven by the mantra, you made your bed you lie in it, which many of us heard growing up. While natural consequences can and do occur, this message keeps us from doing anything to course correct a decision that is no longer working for us.
2. “We’re the Smiths- our whole family is lawyers” (doctors, carpenters, educators… etc.)This message can run deep in families and when a member of the family ( maybe you) does not want to do the chosen family profession, a lot of pressure may ensue from going off the beaten path. Only you can decide if and when you are ready to march to the beat of your own drum!
3. “My Mother Always Said…” this message or story is often followed by “and I can’t disappoint her.” I once had a client whose very controlling and abusive mother had passed, and my client was still frequently making decisions based on what her mother would want. Messages from parents can create deep roots that if we don’t have awareness of, can still drive our decisions well into adulthood. This is especially problematic when the messages are toxic, unkind, or just not beneficial.
4. “I’m not as good as so and so; I could never do that.” When people think about asking for that raise or promotion, starting a business or pursuing a talent, they often tell themselves a story that leads to comparing themselves or their talents against others. If your conclusion is inaccurately that you don’t measure up with the other person, this may keep you from pursuing things that would bring you joy, satisfaction, happiness, money or other benefits. Start focusing on your own strengths and talents and see how your mindset can begin to shift!
5. “Maybe if I did ______, he wouldn’t do _____.” Sadly, this is one I hear too often from people stuck in destructive, abusive or toxic relationships where their partner consistently blames them for every ill that the relationship suffers. When people are not able to take ownership for their actions, and they consistently blame their partner for everything they don’t like, or what does not go their way, that’s a big red flag to pay attention to. Your partner has 100% responsibility to treat you in ways that are safe and respectful even when you disagree. These relational dynamics do not get better on their own, so if you are with someone who is harsh, critical, controlling or blaming, time to rethink that relationship. Your health and wellbeing and emotional if not physical safety are at stake.
6. “I either have to do it all or do nothing at all.” This cognitive distortion often serves to keep people stuck in that they believe just about everything is either black or its white. They rarely if ever see the beautiful “gray” possibilities in the middle. This perspective keeps people stuck in that they don’t see a way forward with small steps and possibilities but rather this all or nothing thinking can keep them stuck in matters at home, work, in parenting, friendships etc.
The stories we grow up with are profound. They affect us well into adult hood, especially if we do not question them for accuracy or assess whether they are helpful ( or detrimental) to us now.
While none of us can change our past, by taking the time to reflect on these six ways we get stuck can serve to help you begin to practice questioning your thoughts, previous messaging and to notice where your thinking is stifling your growth, happiness and success.
Reach out for professional help to a competent life coach, counselor or therapist if you recognize you need help in this area.
Together, we can live well!