Getting Unstuck

November 4, 2010

Personal Growth and Healing

Anne Bryant, MA, LPC
www.annebryantcounseling.com
abccounseling@pobox.com
503-442-6392
Anne has thirty years of experience offering practical skills and support to people experiencing transitions in their careers and personal lives. Openings are available for individual and group sessions.

Getting Unstuck!

Most of us have something that we know we should either start or complete, and yet we don’t do it.  If you are bogged down in the search for your next job or career, maybe you have some task that brings up fear and loathing whenever you think about it.  It might be that application waiting to be completed, or a reference you just haven’t got around to asking for, or the prospect of an information interview that makes you suddenly feel shy.

You might find yourself checking email or Facebook repeatedly, or suddenly feeling compelled to exercise, or snack, or even do chores.  As a technophobe, this is true for me whenever I need to change applications on my computer.  In the past, aspects of this have been creative fun and might improve my business, but I’m just scared to mess it up.  Do you have something important you are avoiding due to worry? What’s going on with us humans?  Are we all just lazy?

Well, I think maybe it’s more than that.  There is a part of procrastination we can blame on anatomy.  Deep in our brains lies a component that we have in common with the most primitive animals.  It’s called the amygdala, otherwise known as the Lizard Brain.  It reacts to perceived threats in the environment with the arousal to fight, flee, eat, mate, or freeze.  All of these reactions are designed to ensure our safety and survival.

Have you ever drawn a blank when you were called on in class, when your boss asked you about a mistake you made, or during a job interview?  What you experienced is an example of an “amygdala hijack” This is a term invented by Daniel Goleman in  Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (1996).  This hijack might either cause you to freeze when you need to act appropriately, or it might cause you to react before you have had time to think things through.  The lizard is very quick, which can be a good thing when your survival is truly threatened.  However, it lacks finesse.

The amygdala is part of the hypothalamic-pituatary-adreanal (HPA) axis.  When we perceive a threat, real or imagined, and feel anxious or stressed, the amygdala sends out hormonal secretions that make it harder to access the more evolved parts of the brain responsible for reasoning, logical problem solving, creativity, and intelligence.  That’s one way we get stuck in our old ruts, even when they aren’t serving us well, rather than risk following our dreams.

When the Lizard Brain takes over, should you fight back or tame it?  I have turned to Barbara Sher, author of I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was (1994).  I recommend her blog, http://theresistancewhisperer.blogspot.com/, where she shares her perspective about the three stages of resistance.  Her talks on YouTube may also provide you with suggestions for whether or not to fight back or tame the lizard.

When my Lizard Brain shows up, here are some things that soothe her.  I remember to breathe deeply, check in with my body and heart, express to someone safe how anxious I feel, listen to music and let it move me, practice T’ai Chi, play with the cats, or make something with my hands.  What works for you?

Next time you are stuck with an aspect of your career process, note what is scaring you. Take a walk and talk to yourself in a non-judgmental way.  That gives you a choice to think more clearly and rationally about what you really want, what might you do about it today.

One of my clients who becomes easily hijacked has found a helpful way to settle down when feeling overwhelmed.  She does a hard workout before returning to her job search.  She has a clear goal to go back to the work she loves, and she has it written boldly above her laptop.  Next to the goal, everyday she writes a sticky note with a specific, high priority task to move her closer to her dream.  She is more able to focus on completion of her tasks because she has found out multiple ways to tame her amygdala.  When you get bogged down, check to see if the lizard has claimed your brain, and attend to calming it in order to get unstuck.

Advertisements

8 Comments on “Getting Unstuck”

  1. Catherine Sills Says:

    Thanks, Anne, for the informative and encouraging article. Best wishes to all of you on your blog endeavor!

    Catherine

    Reply

  2. Tim Says:

    Thanks for giving a name to this part of my brain, which froze during the Q&A session of my economics class (not good when you’re the presenter).

    Here’s a take on fear you might enjoy. The key idea is that few things in life are truly risky:

    http://www.soulshelter.com/fortune/youve-gotta-jump/

    Reply

    • Anne Bryant Says:

      Thanks, Tim
      I enjoyed reading ‘You’ve Gotta Jump’. Yesterday the people in my weekly Job Search Support Group were talking about how timid thoughts and fear hold them back from taking the next step. I will share this link with them.
      Anne

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Tap Dancing Monkey (When You’re Trying Too Hard) | Career Transition: The Inside Job - April 13, 2015

    […] aren’t materializing (despite your efforts), take a pause to take care of yourself. This article on getting unstuck by Anne Bryant may be of help.   This is not giving up!  Think of it as giving […]

  2. The Tap Dancing Monkey (When You’re Trying Too Hard) | - April 29, 2015

    […] aren’t materializing (despite your efforts), take a pause to take care of yourself. This article on getting unstuck by Anne Bryant may be of help.   This is not giving up!  Think of it as giving […]

  3. The Tap Dancing Monkey (When You're Trying Too Hard) - - March 16, 2016

    […] aren’t materializing (despite your efforts), take a pause to take care of yourself. This article on getting unstuck by Anne Bryant may be of help.   This is not giving up!  Think of it as giving […]

  4. The Tap Dancing Monkey (When You're Trying Too Hard) - coaching for clarity - March 26, 2016

    […] aren’t materializing (despite your efforts), take a pause to take care of yourself. This article on getting unstuck by Anne Bryant may be of help.   This is not giving up!  Think of it as giving […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: