What to Do When You Feel Trapped

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With a stagnant economy, many people feel stuck in their jobs. They didn’t like their jobs much before the economy went sour, but now those jobs are an oppressive daily reality. When your options are limited, you lose hope, and without hope, we feel trapped. People need possibilities, and this economy isn’t giving us much to work with.

We make the situation worse by rationalizing our fears. When things seem risky, we stay put and avoid taking any risks. This is even true for people whose jobs are in demand; employers are having a hard time prying people loose from the alleged safety of a job they’ve had for a while.

If you feel trapped, logic is your greatest enemy. You’re probably in the situation because you have rationalized your fears and believe you’re taking the logical course. When you’re dealing with a chaotic reality, Mr. Spock is not going to be much help.

However, Spock would probably be helpful in pointing out that your logic is based on flimsy information having to do with our comfort with status quo. What we know seems safer even though the evidence would indicate otherwise. In a fear-driven economy, no job is safe. For example, nurses are always in high demand, but many facilities are cutting nursing staff as health care organizations restructure in preparation for the new post-reform reality.

So, if you can’t stay put and there’s nowhere to go, what do you do?

What doesn’t make sense is continuing to do what you’ve been doing, because all that has given you is stuckness. If your strategy is based on the eventual turnaround of the economy, then your strategy is based entirely on an unknown and uncontrollable variable. All you’re doing is waiting for the guillotine to fall, which I imagine is a very uncomfortable feeling.

Drop the logic and follow your instincts. Start dreaming of different possibilities. Learn about things you’ve always wanted to learn about. If you can afford it, take some classes; if you can’t, dust off your library card and check the online or newspaper listings for free lectures and seminars. Consider leaving it all behind and moving to another locale, or just hitting the road for a while. Whatever you do, start moving, either physically or intellectually. You can’t get unstuck if you stay in the same place. If you decide to embark on a path into the unknown, remember to trust your native intelligence. After all, you’re smart enough to have figured out that the current situation is a no-win scenario.

Take a look at the people in your life. They can be the greatest source of help or the heaviest weight due to the expectations and obligations they heap on you. If there are relationships that are holding you back from possibilities, phase them out and find people who will support you for just being you.

Look closely at your own stubbornness. Stubbornness is usually based on a fear of dealing with new situations. If you’re clinging to old beliefs and dreams that no longer nourish you, if you find yourself repeating old rules that have been stuck in your head for years, then you are probably your greatest obstacle. Identify your dogma and begin to let it go.

And don’t forget to ask others for help when you need it. All of us feel awkward asking for help, but the truth is that many people are willing to help, even in this me-first society of ours. 

By forcing yourself to rethink the situation, recapture your imagination and avoid the trap of perceiving the world as one of infinite limitations. There are always opportunities if you keep your mind open to them. They may be nothing like what you had in mind, but the last thing you need when you are looking for a way out is to try to control the situation. Even if it takes time for something new to come up, you’ll feel better that you’re learning, growing and considering the possible rather than stubbornly holding on to what you believe is impossible.

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