In many individuals, the psychology of feeling stuck is pervasive. What makes a person feel stuck is often related to a combination of situational and psychological factors. Hurting individuals may ask, why do we psychologically trap ourselves in situations? The reason is simple – we are bound by shame.
Thankfully, with the work of a qualified therapist, individuals can work to examine the psychology of feeling stuck plaguing their lives and reach a better place.
Reasons for feeling stuck
All individuals experience shame. It can be a helpful emotion, serving a valuable purpose for our society. A healthy level of shame lets individuals know when they’ve made mistakes and need forgiveness or help.
But some people may secretly carry toxic levels of shame, believing they’re a failure or a plague on humanity. Toxic shame is frequently passed from parents, guardians, or teachers. It is abusive, traumatic, and inherited through extreme criticism. This baggage associated with shame keeps an individual from moving forward in life, making them feel stuck.
Individuals who encounter harmful degrees of shame tend to over-apologise and are generally excessively compliant. These people assume, typically, that others are correct and they are wrong. Additionally, they are uncomfortable in conflict settings and look to diffuse tense situations by apologizing. These individuals withdraw from interpersonal relationships because shame has diminished their sense of self.
On the other side of the spectrum are the individuals who will resist apologizing at all costs. These people are ruled by an unconscious level of shame and believe exposing themselves with the act of an apology will invite humiliation. Instead, they prefer to act as if they never do anything wrong. Both types of people will struggle to move forward in life, finding themselves in intractable situations.
The act of being defensive is another means to protect against toxic shame. One becomes defensive when they don’t want to assume responsibility for behaviour. If a boss tells their employee this is the third time this week they’ve been late, and the employee responds with a litany of excuses and proceeds to blame their boss for the criticism, this is an example of defensive behavior.
Essentially, individuals who avoid taking responsibility for their actions transfer their shame upon others in the process of attacking and criticizing them. If these people weren’t paralyzed by toxic shame, they could understand the criticism was merely feedback and an opportunity to grow as an individual. These individuals will continually struggle to make any progress in life, choosing to sabotage themselves emotionally.
Many individuals who struggle with feeling stuck arm themselves with perfectionism. The goal is thus: if an individual becomes perfect, no one else can issue critique or harm. Perfectionists aim for the impossible, the feat of being flawless. Whether one spends countless hours practicing one’s speech before an important event or meticulously grooms oneself for the ultimate level of appearance, it’s impossible to be perfect.
It also takes significant energy to craft an ideal yet inauthentic image. Using perfectionism as the mechanism to keep shame at bay will have individuals feeling stuck and disconnected from their authentic selves.
Most people might not know why they procrastinate. However, toxic shame is likely the driving factor. Many individuals feel the desire to work on an article, polish a resume, or start a new art project, but they worry about the possibility of failure and are riddled with shame. To protect against these feelings, people procrastinate against starting the projects they wish to work on.
However, if people wish to make progress on any creative pursuits, they need to address the shame in their lives. Rather than fear failure and give up before trying, individuals should examine their shame, perhaps with the experience of a therapist. This process allows them to notice their shame, address it, and begin the process of healing.
Move forward today
For individuals who struggle with feeling stuck, understand the true root of the issue: toxic shame. Consult a therapist, examine the psychology of feeling stuck, together, and begin to heal.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.