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Posts Tagged ‘stasis’

My patient was telling me about his new job.

On the face of things, there was nothing to complain about. He’d hated his old firm — a Biglaw institution that he called “soulless.” The new place, a New York City-based securities boutique, was different. The people were smart – practically cosmopolitan by comparison. And for the first time, he wasn’t being treated like a junior. They respected his judgment – no one was correcting his work.

I offered congratulations.

He looked thoughtful, and I asked what was wrong.

“This is going to sound crazy.”

“Crazy is my business. Try me.”

“I didn’t want to get this job. I was hoping the old place would fire me.”

“Okay. Why?”

“I wanted to be free.”

He’d gone so far in pursuit of his secret fantasy of getting fired that he’d planned a trip to India and investigated moving to Oregon, where an old friend lives. He had money saved up, and was ready to apply for unemployment and sell his apartment. It was all worked out. He was going to escape – to chase a dream of living near the mountains and surrounding himself with laid-back, creative people.

Now – by a stroke of luck – he was sitting in another big city law firm, earning a large salary, continuing with his career.

He had nothing to complain about – but he was crushed.

The problem was simple. He was going nowhere – or, at least, nowhere he wanted to be.

This guy could stick around at this firm for twenty years and end up a senior securities attorney – maybe even a partner. He’d be wealthy. He’d attend bar association thingamabobs and sit on panels. He’d have his own clients and bring in business. That was where he was headed if he stayed on his current track, passively charting the course of least resistance.

But he didn’t want any of that. He didn’t like securities law. He didn’t really like law, period. He just fell into it because he needed something to do and stayed for the money.

Now he sat in my office, crying – talking about what might have been.

“My friend owns a restaurant, in Oregon, on an old wharf. They specialize in organic, locally-grown food. I was going to move to Oregon and manage the place for him. I wouldn’t earn much, but my friend says I have the personality and the talent to run a restaurant. And I love Oregon – living near the forest and the sea.”

I asked him what was stopping him from quitting right now to pursue his dream.

“I’d never have the balls. I couldn’t give up this money.”

“Not even for your dream?”

He shook his head. That was that. It was decided.

Stasis is a trap between anger and fear. Anger that you aren’t living the life you want. Fear that if you let go, you’ll lose everything.

(more…)

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Patients often arrive at my office complaining of feeling “stuck.”

“Stuck” means you’re caught in a stasis, balanced on the fulcrum between anger and fear.

On one side, there’s anger – frustration at not pursuing your dreams.  We all have dreams – that’s what drives us forward.  It is the most human thing in the world, and what makes living possible.  In the end, we all know where we’re headed (oblivion).  But we have the amazing human ability to ignore that, for the time being, and concentrate on that carrot dangling from a stick.  We want to chase it.

On the other side, there’s fear – old predictions from our past that warn us not to take risks.  Sometimes it’s what psychotherapists call an “introject” – an old voice, probably a parent’s – telling you that you can’t do it, that you shouldn’t expose yourself to the possibility of failure.

So you freeze up.  Stuck.

If you want to get un-stuck, it’s time to take a reckoning of your life.  Sound daunting?  Let’s make it easier.  Every life consists of three elements:  playing, working and loving.  We’ll take them one at a time.

Playing:  this is the fun stuff – enjoying yourself and relaxing.  Your hobbies.  The major challenge here is making friends – overcoming social anxiety and building a support system of people you trust and respect.

Do you have a network of friends you can count on?  Are they truly friends – people you can say anything to, and who feel the same way about you?

If not, social anxiety could be the issue, and it’s time to start thinking about becoming more conscious of your feelings around being with other people and sustaining an authentic contact with them.

Working:  despite rumors to the contrary, work is not something you do for money – you do it because it is a fundamental part of human life.  Your work reflects your essence.  It is what you “do” with your life, and what you leave behind you when you’re gone.

To know the work you want to do, you have to know who you are.  Discovering your work can be one of life’s most difficult challenges, but it must be tackled head-on.  Only you know who you are, and only you know your true calling.  Making that discovery can be the result of a long, honest conversation with yourself, and an exhaustive exploration of the world outside.  Eventually, when you find yourself smiling, and getting excited about getting down to work – you’ll know you’re on the right track.

Loving:  A satisfying relationship must be balanced – two whole people, not two half people, walking down a path together as equals, toward a mutual goal.  There must be attraction, trust and respect.  If you don’t have the relationship you want, or simply aren’t having fun in your current relationship, there could be a problem.  It might be time to ask yourself why you are where you are, relationship-wise, and whether it’s more about being stuck than addressing your needs.

Ironically, one of the reasons people get stuck is that they rush things.  Playing, working and loving are best addressed in order.

Your play – your hobbies and interests, and your friends – will lead you to the work you love.

Your work will help you discover who you are, and build your confidence to go out into the world to meet a partner.

If you try to skip a step – rush into a career before you’ve discovered what you enjoy doing for fun, or hurry into a relationship before you’ve found a satisfying career and know who you really are – it could contribute to feeling stuck.

Where can you get un-stuck?  Psychotherapy is designed to get you talking to yourself, hearing yourself, responding to your own needs.  If there’s anyplace in the world where you can get down to the work of breaking a stasis, it’s sitting in your therapist’s office, putting your thoughts and feelings into words.  If you’re feeling “stuck” – it’s probably time to call your therapist.

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