How to uncover more choices, when you are stuck

Many clients, when they first come to see me, feel they are stuck. There are so many different situations in which you can find yourself where there just doesn’t seem to be any choice.

Here are just a few examples:

  • being in a co-dependent or abusive relationship;
  • doing a job you don’t like;
  • unable to lose weight or get healthy;
  • lonely, but too shy to make friends;
  • lacking the confidence and self-belief to do what you really want to do.

Phrases that I hear frequently are ‘nothing will ever change’, ‘there is nothing you can do’, ‘there is no point in trying’, ‘there is no way out’.

When I was a little boy I once went for a walk across a beach in my wellies and got stuck in some mud. It was that thick, treacly sort of mixture of mud and sand you find in estuaries and I really shouldn’t have been there. I tried to move, and the more I moved, the more stuck I became. I don’t think I was in any real danger, but I cried and struggled until my Dad came to my rescue. He simply picked me up bodily, leaving my wellies behind in the sand and carried me to safety. It never occurred to me to take my feet out!

When you have been doing things a certain way and not getting the results you want then logic suggests that you need to find another way, but when you are stuck, often all you can see is the mud that holds you tight.

Having a choice is better than not having a choice

One of the central tenets of Neurolinguistic Programming is the presupposition that it is always better to have choices. Often, early in my conversations with clients I will ask them what are the choices they have, and they may be able to list 2 or 3 at best. Often none of those choices are palatable to them.

So I get them to come up with 10 more choices, or 20 or 30. These may be things that are so absurd they haven’t even considered them before. Or they may be things that they know, on an unconscious level, are options, but which they do not want to face thinking about.

They may even be choices of attitude, rather than action. Choices to see things a different way, or think about things differently.

Once you know you have so many choices, you become aware of the choices you are already making.

So if your stuck, try listing as many options as you can. The answer may not be any of these but you open up the possibilities to new solutions and new ways of thinking.  To get further ideas, you could also try asking yourself some questions like these:

  1. If it were my dearest friend in this situation, rather than me, what would I advise them to do?
  2. What is one thing I could do that would make me very slightly less stuck?
  3. What if I became physically incapacitated today?
  4. What would happen in the musical of my life?
  5. What is the benefit I am getting from this that means I want to remain stuck?
  6. What is the worst that can happen?
  7. What is the best that can happen?
  8. What would I need to believe for this to be ok?
  9. What is important about this?
  10. What will be the consequence of always having things be this way?

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Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.

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