Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we feel stuck. You want to move to a better paying job but cannot just yet, you want to break free and pursue your passion but you need the stability of a salaried job, as a mother I have had moments when I wanted to go back to work quicker than I possibly could.
So, an adolescents conflict of enduring embarrassment at the cost of professing love, a couples conflict of pursuing a career while continuing a long distance relationship, a mother’s conflict of going back to work after a new born, these conflicts that we experience from within are called approach-avoidance conflicts. The approach-avoidance theory states that, in life, you will sometimes have two or more conflicting choices and, a decision to make; there will be several alternatives that you can take which will have several positive and negative repercussions to it which make it at once attractive and undesirable. The theory states that when you have choices like this, and you have to make a decision on what to do, you are as you can already tell, stressed out. So what you can do when you find yourself stuck in a place with no return:
1. Acceptance: The first step in doing something about where you are is plainly, to accept where you are. It does not mean knowing you are anxiously wound and yet being wound to knots wondering what to do. It does not mean being irritated and on the edge about everyday things because you are so preoccupied with what’s bothering you. It also does not mean feeling dejected and hopeless about what is to come. These however may be things one experiences before acceptance.
Acceptance is the next level of knowing. It is a calm understanding of where you are, a surrendering to the right now. It is acknowledging that you have a problem that you just cannot solve at this moment. You let things be. It is not a passive state of giving up but an active one of embracing the situation and being completely conscious of ending the cycle of frustration that comes with being stuck. It is choosing to, as they say, “go with the flow”; a flow of active acceptance and surrender. It is trusting in the basic premise that we move, we move from now to what-is-to-come. It is taking action when there is a need to but letting go and moving with the moment when there is no need to.
Release, breathe and let go of being wound in knots. Acceptance is certainly not easy, hence my struggle with just describing what it is. When I find myself conflicted I am definitely wound into knots, for days on end, until I am willed to accept. It comes as a pleasant release to all my anxieties and frustrations when I do.
2. Keep your heart open for windows of opportunities: Acceptance comes with constant awareness of where you are in the moment. How you feel, how you emote, and how you relate are at the forefront of your awareness along with the intention to change it. With this awareness comes openness to opportunities. The world opens itself to many possibilities, perhaps ones that you weren’t even considering. But then again, perhaps possibilities won’t open up, so what? The fact is it clears your mind to look at your problem through a new lens, a lens that you allowed to clear with acceptance. So yes, keep your heart open for windows of opportunities and stay spontaneous.
3. “Symptom management”: signs of anxiety can range from palpitation, anxious ruminations, perspiration, chest constriction, hyperarousal, restlessness, avoidance, hypervigilance, hyperactivity, or lack of activity and so forth. Signs of depression can range from sad mood, negative cognition, negative rumination, hopelessness, worthlessness, suicidality, helplessness, avoiding pleasurable activities, crying spells, anger, lethargy, poor appetite and sleep, lack of energy and so forth. Now, awareness of one’s inner conflict and acceptance of the same does not mean we stop experiencing symptoms of anxiety and sadness. We might have ups and downs of it despite how hard we are trying to “go with the flow”. So becoming watchful of these signs and managing them becomes important. How do you do that? In a conversation with my dad about distractions from our major anxiety provoking issues he said something funny, yet profound. In order to distract himself from pressing anxieties he faces at work he takes a break by thinking about minor anxieties such as what to cook when he gets home, or what to focus on at the gym, or how to help me with my pressing situations. So, distraction is a powerful tool to help you go with the flow.
4. Mobilize Support: When you open your eyes to what is in front of you and acknowledge it you become open not only to opportunities that present itself but also to people who are willing to be there for you. Think about who you can confide in? Who can you talk to in order to feel supported, comforted and assisted? Go talk to them.
Keeping it simple is a mantra we can chant during hard times. For it is in keeping things simple that we ride through our concerns smoothly.