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Getting Unstuck from Undesirable Situation

By Carol James
January 12, 2001



Do you feel trapped in an undesirable situation where it appears that you lose if you stay and lose if you go? Thinking from a lose/lose perspective can be disempowering, even paralyzing.

This Damned if I do, damned if I don't. scenario often occurs in career and relationship situations. For example, if you're in a job you can't stand, you might:

  1. Resent your boss because he won't give you work that is more challenging and rewarding (point of focus).
  2. You believe that it is your boss' fault that you are not enjoying your work, (perspective).
  3. Which causes you to feel unappreciated and unfulfilled (emotional response).
  4. As a result, you become ineffective at work and grumpy at home (diminished personal effectiveness).

At the same time, whenever you consider quitting and finding a job more suited to your preferences, you might:

  1. Think about potential financial hardships you might inflict upon your family or about your wife's or husband's possible reaction (point of focus),
  2. And assume there will be a huge argument (perspective),
  3. Which causes you to feel worthless (emotional response),
  4. As a result, you decide not to take that route and instead stay stuck in your undesirable job, unable to make any changes that might improve the situation (diminished personal effectiveness).

The good news is that you don't have to stay stuck in an undesirable situation. There are alternate ways to handle this situation. For instance, following through on the above job scenario:

  • Find a way to enjoy the situation.
  • Change the way you view it so it no longer feels undesirable. What about the job DO you like?
  • Question the evidence that makes this situation seem undesirable. For example, is it really true that it's your boss' fault that you are unhappy with your job?
  • What do you believe about the situation that causes you to feel trapped? For instance, do you believe that you can't talk to your boss about how you feel because your boss will dismiss you or discount your feelings? Or do you believe that your boss doesn't care that you are feeling bored?
  • Are your beliefs about your boss necessarily true? How can you know for sure that that is your boss' perspective?
  • What initiative have you taken to improve your workload and job?
  • How could you gain/learn/grow as a result of this experience?
  • How could you make this situation fulfilling even though you may not like certain aspects of it? What perspective would that entail?
  • What is good about your workload or job?
  • What can you do to make it less stressful and more enjoyable?
  • Find a way to leave the situation.
  • Change the way you view your job so you feel empowered to walk away from it. For instance, see the job as a stepping stone that helped you clarify what you DO want.
  • Question your beliefs about why you think you have to stay. Are they necessarily true?
  • What are you afraid of losing by leaving the situation?
  • Do you necessarily need what you might lose?
  • Could you get by without it if you were free of the situation and felt better about yourself? If not, then where else could you get what you think you might lose?
  • What is staying in this situation costing you (emotionally, financially, socially, mentally, spiritually, etc.)?
  • What do you stand to gain by leaving?
  • How are you benefiting from staying?
  • Do the benefits of staying justify the costs?

Enduring stressful situations leads to mistakes, arguments, exhaustion, sickness, accidents and, eventually, to melt-downs. So when you find yourself stuck in an unpleasant situation, remind yourself that you always have choices. Stay centered, keep an open mind and look for solutions that offer relief, whether that be questioning your perspective, focusing on the good aspects of the situation or looking for ways to change your present situation. Otherwise, you'll be a candidate for burn-out.


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