The clock just struck four in the afternoon. My cat’s sitting purring on my lap, where she’s been for the past half hour since I fed her some tuna. She lapped it up with delight. Now she’s sitting happily. It’s as though she’s never faced a negative emotion in her life.
I wonder whether she’d get off my lap if she knew that right now, my entire gut is cramped. It’s not because of the hour of yoga I did at 6am this morning. It’s a physiological response. My stomach is rebelling against this dread in my mind, the dread that I am stuck in this rut forever.
I flip to the internet, desperate to see Facebook to see what everyone else is doing with their perfect lives. But I’ve set up an app that disallows me to idle on Facebook and Twitter ( I wrote an article about making Facebook less annoying the other day). So instead I type in “Why do I feel stuck in life.”
Thousands of search results.
Guess I am not the only one feeling stuck in life.
An article on Forbes tells me that more than half of the entire US workforce feels dissatisfied at work. Technically I’m not one of them, because I don’t “work”. Well, I do, but ever since my dad died after years in a stressful job, I promised myself that I would work for my passion (because in my opinion it is better to be happy and poor than rich and unhappy).
Sounds great, doesn’t it, working for your passion?
And it is, at times, as Tony Robbins has no doubt told you.
But it isn’t all gravy.
Some of it’s like the cruddy lumps of flour you get in home-made gravy: hard, tasteless, and unsatisfying.
Sure, being an actor and writer is a wild ride at times, but other times it’s a nightmare, wondering where the next pay check will come from, wondering whether you’ve made the right choice by not doing what everyone else does, by not getting a safe 9-5 that might suck, but at least at the end of the day your career is resting safely like a baby in a crib.
The more stuck I feel, the more that cramp in my stomach builds, the more I want to solve the problem, and not just for myself but for everyone, you included. That’s my style. I write from my life experience. Every time I face a problem I research the solution extensively, and then I hop on here and write about what I’ve discovered, hoping that it helps you as it will help me.
The first piece of research I come across is on PsychologyToday, an article by Leslie Becer Phelps, Ph.D. The letters after her name intimidate me, make me feel a little inferior, but they promise insight too. So I read.
“I was walking a main trail in New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch State Park when a staff member pointed out a small path off to the side. He suggested that I check out the ‘wolf den’,” says Phelps. “It consisted of a few boulders wedged together, leaving a small covered opening to squeeze through. When he mentioned that a number of people have gotten stuck in there, I asked how he gets them out. He chuckled and said, “Well, we can’t move the rocks.” Then he explained that he just waits. After about fifteen minutes of struggling, they give up… their bodies relax and they can slip right through.”
How remarkably like the philosophies of the Buddha.
Relax and accept the present moment, and you will be freed. That’s pretty much the entire philosophy of Buddhism. (And it’s also the philosophy I wrote about in my article, “How To Feel Free In Life The Zen Master’s Way“).
What Buddha knew is that it’s humanities curse to constantly put ourselves in a mental prison.
We construct nightmares for ourselves that aren’t real. A few years back I went through a serious bout of depression and thought that I was severely ill even though there was nothing wrong with me. Self-constructed nightmare.
I’m aware that this feeling of being stuck might be only that: a feeling. I mean, my Google search is staring me in the face right now: Why do I feel stuck in life. Interesting. I didn’t type “Why am I stuck in life.” Nope. I wrote why do I feel stuck in life. Feeling.
Feelings aren’t reality. We forget that. Our thoughts do not make reality. We trick ourselves into believing that what we feel is true is true. And that is rarely the case. It’s not the case because feelings are not founded on logic.
Scientific studies have proven that emotions don’t stem from any sort of rational interpretation of the facts. They’re just emotion. In 2004 scientists asked members of the electorate how they felt after hearing a negative comment about their favorite politicians. The results showed that emotions flared after a negative comment even if that comment was founded in truth and even if it was a trivial, and ultimately unimportant opinion being expressed. In other words, we get emotional about abject bullshit.
So this feeling of being stuck in life, the feeling I’m experiencing right now, it doesn’t actually have anything to do with reality. It’s just a feeling.
So why does it feel so real?
Thanks to science, we know the answer.
Emotions create feelings that in turn create thoughts. Those thoughts in turn created beliefs. And what we believe we actively and forcefully try to protect, even if those thoughts are negative.
Let’s put that into perspective.
Right now I’m feeling stuck. That feeling is created by an emotion. And the feeling leads to thoughts about my being stuck, which in turn shapes the belief that I am stuck, which I then fight to uphold even though it’s a very negative belief.
Great, so we can track all this back to emotion.
And suddenly I feel a little ting of optimism because if I can change the emotion I can change the feeling, and if I change the feelings I’ll change the thoughts, the belief, and then the actions.
So, what is causing the root of the problem, the emotion?
Honestly, I really want to know how this works. So I’m just going to hop over to HowStuffWorks. Logical. My emotions weren’t involved in that decision.
HowStuffWorks tells us, “Your brain is a complex network that processes vast quantities of information every second. Part of the brain’s information-processing network includes neurons, or cells that transmit signals throughout the brain. Neurons send signals through neurotransmitters, which are chemicals some release and others receive. These chemicals essentially let the parts of the brain communicate with each other.
“The three most commonly studied neurotransmitters are dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Dopamine is related to experiences of pleasure and the reward-learning process. In other words, when you do something good, you’re rewarded with dopamine and gain a pleasurable, happy feeling. This teaches your brain to want to do it again and again.
Serotonin, meanwhile, is a neurotransmitter associated with memory and learning. Researchers believe it plays a part in the regeneration of brain cells, which has been linked to easing depression. An imbalance in serotonin levels results in an increase in anger, anxiety, depression and panic. Norepinephrine helps moderate your mood by controlling stress and anxiety.”
These chemicals are incredibly important. It’s probably worth you taking a look at how to control brain chemicals like dopamine, because those chemicals are affecting your emotions, and, as we’ve seen, your emotions are affecting everything else.
That’s the answer, the root cause we’ve been seeking.
The key to how to not feel stuck in life is to overcome the emotions, and the way to overcome the emotion is to take control of your brain chemicals.
So. I;m going to do just that. And to do that, I am going to snuggle my cat, Willow. Which is just as well, because snuggling a cat makes your brain release serotonin, which is one of those brain chemicals controlling your emotions. That’s just one of the many ways cats benefit your health.
So to stop feeling stuck in life do 3 things:
- Snuggle a cat (or something else that is fluffy)
- Control your chemicals
- Read my guide to feeling free in life.
Thanks for reading.
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