Getting Unstuck Responses

Laurie Arndorfer is a psychiatrist at Western Washington University as well as treasured woman on the Collide team. She brings a spiritual wisdom and human understanding that is invaluable. As we plan the next day for women coming up on the topic of Getting Unstuck, Laurie lays out some really interesting responses we often when we are stuck and how to combat them. I encourage you to read this! – Willow

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” John 5:8

As I have been preparing my heart for the upcoming Collide on Saturday, I have been thinking about what it means to be stuck and what it means to get unstuck.   There are so many ways that we women can become stuck, and these can be subtle or not so subtle.  Some ways that come to mind are the comparison trap, negative thinking about ourselves, isolation, being too busy, people pleasing, trying to fill a hole inside that only God can fill with things like relationships, focusing too much on our children, sexual choices, an eating disorder, or an addiction.  Most of us don’t want to be “stuck” in painful living.  But despite wanting to get well, a lot of things might get in our way.

Sometimes we start off with a lot of energy toward something, then realize how much back-breaking, soul-stretching work it is going to take, and stop moving forward, feeling paralyzed by all that lies ahead.  I think that’s the “fear” response.

Sometimes we say we want to get well to please someone, but in truth we aren’t ready to get off the mat for ourselves.  I think that’s the “wrong motivations” response.

Sometimes we want to get well but other priorities take over and choke the life out of our good intentions.  I think that’s the “life strikes” response.

Sometimes we want to get well but we don’t think we are worth what it will take to get there.  We become comfortable in our old habits and hang-ups. Those feel easier than the unknown and we don’t think we are capable of more, or don’t think God is really offering full forgiveness and healing.  This is the “broken” response.  

With so many distractions, how do we get unstuck?

If “fear” is the culprit, it may be to take the next small step that God puts in front of us.  Pray, read and meditate on scripture having to do with fear.  Surrender all cares to Jesus.  Look at the problem in small chunks instead of one big overwhelming situation to deal with.  Ask the help of trusted friends or seek counseling for ways to combat fear.  Write out the long-term goal and the short-term steps to get there.  Consider a book such as “Mind Monsters,”  “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway,” or “A Better Way to Think” to combat negative thinking that gets in the way of taking a leap of faith.

If “wrong motivations” are the culprit, perhaps we aren’t quite ready to do what we know needs to be done.  Here I think doing some journaling or talking to trusted others or a counselor to discover what it is that we really want is the first step.  Perhaps what we are really stuck in is people-pleasing rather than what we originally identified the problem to be.  If that is the case, the first step is to build our own voice/assertiveness and learn to trust our own judgments. This can be accomplished through counseling, prayer, and/or utilizing various resources such as the books “Your Perfect Right” or “When I say no, I feel guilty.”

If “life strikes” then perhaps the best thing to do is to address the immediate crisis first.  Even though we know that we have to deal with something in order to follow God’s call, we may have to deal with what He puts in front of our face first.  So, if someone needs treatment for depression to get unstuck, but then finds out that their child is critically ill, they naturally must deal with their child’s issue first, then wait to hear from God about next steps.  The depression goes on the back burner for the time being, but can’t be ignored entirely.

If it’s the “broken” response, the need is to learn to see our significance in God’s eyes prior to being able to get off the mat.  Worthlessness is a heavy rock on top of us, keeping us down when we want to get up.  People use so many ways (avoidance, gambling, sex, drugs/alcohol, eating disorders, busyness) to ignore the feelings of worthlessness, but they will only go away with the light of Christ.  Suggestions for getting unstuck from brokenness are again counseling, utilizing tools such as the book “Search for Significance” by Robert McGee, again “Mind Monsters,” or pouring over scripture and memorizing what God says about us rather than the negative messages we may be telling ourselves.  

The process of getting well and getting off the mat is a marathon, not a sprint.  I think that is the key.  We can’t do it alone.   We must realize that in our own strength, we cannot get well. We need the power and the presence of God to go with us on the path to get well.  Only in asking God to take charge, daily, sometimes multiple times per day, can this begin to happen.  

God gave us particular issues to deal with, which can feel overwhelming, but he has also equipped us to deal with those very issues.  He wired us a certain way for a reason.  Whatever keeps us stuck holds within it the key to how we can get unstuck, and in turn, help others to get unstuck.  We are all bonded together in Christ’s family.  We weren’t meant to go it alone.  We can help each other!  And He will help us to overcome whatever it is that is keeping us stuck, if we will only ask. -Laurie


This post was written by a counselor or therapist for informational use only and is not intended to replace advice from a professional who is working directly with you as a patient [or client].

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1 Comment

  • Diane Reardanz says:

    Thank you Laurie for those wise and encouraging words and resources. I loved how you broke it all down to figure out our personal “unstuck route”!