Or: the difference between process and actual destuckifying.

When people set off on the trail of destuckification, it often happens that they hit the Grinding Your Wheels In The Mud phase.

What wheel-grinding looks and sounds like:

  • Looping conversations in our head, where we repeatedly run through all the things they did or said, and the things we could or should have.
  • Bringing this “he said, she said” cycle into other interactions and conversations and hashing it out even more.
  • Perceiving other people’s experiences (or reactions to our experience) as shoes being thrown in our direction.
  • Long, drawn-out assessments of the problem from different angles.
  • Soap opera reporting (“and then he did X and she couldn’t believe that I didn’t”).

Of course, the wheel-grinding isn’t necessarily the problem in and of itself.

Wheel-grinding can be surprisingly useful, which is partially why we do it.

You can have a long wheel-grinding session with a friend, or bring your wheel-grinding to your coach or tell the whole saga to a hollowed out tree in the forest.

And you’ll feel better.

Because it’s a form of release. And because the brain loves a puzzle. So the whole time that we’re process-process-processing the hurt and the pain and the stuck, the brain is hard at work.

At some point, whether you’re talking to a therapist or a wall, some sort of insight will emerge. Some pattern will reveal itself. Something will become dislodged.

So it’s not that grinding our wheels in the mud is necessarily the wrong thing to do. It’s just that (as the therapist knows — probably the wall knows it too), it’s not destuckification.

What destuckification looks like.

It’s about conscious approach.

It’s about being inquisitive about the pain and what it needs, without living in the pain.

It’s about giving legitimacy for the hard without believing that the perception of the hard is necessarily the full story.

It’s about owning your crap. And separating out what’s yours from what’s theirs. Asking compassionate questions and setting clear boundaries.

It’s mindful, playful, curious, loving.

It involves taking active steps to change things and not just repeating the loop.

It’s the difference between being in the loop and being someone who recognizes that she’s in the loop and can say:

“Oh, look at that! Huh. I’m in the loop. Okay. I know this loop. And even though I don’t know how to get out of this loop, I do know that I’m allowed to be here.

“And I know that every time I draw attention to the fact that I’m in this and give myself permission to not like it, I’m getting more room. I’m separating from the experience of the loop and becoming someone who is interacting with a loop.”

What “taking active steps” means.

Well, it means try something. It means doing something with the stuck whenever we catch ourselves chanting the stuck stuck stuck stuck song.

For example. You can:

Give permission and legitimacy: reminding yourself that there is always a reason for feeling whatever you happen to be feeling. And without knowing that reason, it is okay for you to be where you are.

Be curious about whose pain this is. Who is talking? How old are you?

Ask: Is this from now? Is it possible that something about this situation is reminding me of a past situation and I’m going there instead of being here?

Separate: Even if the perceptions and sensations from now are reminding me of then, what are ten ways that now is not then? What are some of the skills and abilities I have at my disposal now that I didn’t know about then?

Build safe rooms for your sad scared selves and find out what the monsters have to say. Bring in a negotiator to talk to the part of you who is feeling anxious.

Assess: is this mine? Or is it possible that I’m picking up on other people’s stuff?

Go into detective mode: What are the patterns at play here? What aspects of these patterns can I map out? Where are the gaps where I can introduce new elements so that the pattern has no choice but to begin to rewrite itself?

Bring someone else to the front of the V. Do five minutes of Shiva Nata to get your neurons out of the habit of following their favorite pathways.

Turn your attention to helping other people feel safe, welcomed, supported, or whatever the experience is that you want to be having yourself.

Destuckifying means having options.

It’s a bigger toolbox.

It’s a more detailed map.

It’s knowing where the edges are.

And it’s practice.

Here’s how we practice.

By noticing when wheel-grindy stuff shows up.

Stepping back and assessing the situation.

And then doing something to shake up the pattern.

  • A physical thing like changing how you’re sitting or easing into a yoga pose.
  • An energy thing like synching your breathing to a slower, more intentional rhythm or using acupressure points to access a state of calm.
  • An emotional thing like finding out what your walls think.
  • A mental thing like mapping the patterns or changing the video game.
  • An awareness thing like a meditation technique or prayer or observing your reactions.

It doesn’t really matter. It can be anything that appeals to you.

The point is that it’s something that takes us out of the struggle of the wheel-grinding and the mud, and into a conscious relationship. With the vehicle and the mud and ourselves and the path and all of it.

And comment zen for today.

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s an ongoing practice. We’re not in a rush.

We let people have their own experience, which means that we’re supportive and kind, and we don’t give advice (unless people specifically ask for it).

You’re more than welcome to share stuff you’re working on, things you’re thinking about related to destuckifying.

Love to all the commenter mice and the Beloved Lurkers and everyone who reads. Besos.

The Fluent Self