I have a friend who is looking for a new job. She’s very frustrated by her current job, and wants something new, but feels stuck and trapped and in a rut. “I just can’t see myself getting a new job in this economy,” she said.
“So, can we look at what you are getting by having that belief?” I asked.
“What I mean is,” I continued, “what does believing you won’t get a new job allow you to do? What does it get you off the hook from having to do? Is it keeping you feeling safe? I mean, sure, misery’s misery, but is comfortable misery better than uncomfortable uncertainty?”
(I can be kind of a pain sometimes.)
Another friend told me she was furious at a co-worker. I asked, "what does being mad at this woman give you? A feeling of righteous indignation? Power? Superiority?"
(Sometimes I'm lucky to have friends.)
Here's why I do this: whenever I’m in a place with a Severe Yuck Factor™, I try to find out what good is coming from that situation – or, really, what benefit I’m getting that is strong enough to explain why I’m letting myself sit in the Yuck™.
(And when I say "benefit," I don't necessarily mean something actually good or helpful in my life. I really mean something more like an Avoidance Enabler or a Safety-Seemer or a Stuck Maker.)
For example: I’ve been eating a lot late at night. It’s a habit I wish I didn’t have, that I know how not to have, that I have control over having, and yet I’m feeling powerless to it and allowing myself to eat late at night. So what does my purported powerlessness mean to me? Well, it means I can eat instead of feeling lonely. It gets me off the hook from having to explore feelings of Cosmic Pointlessness that make me unhappy. Basically, my wafers are keeping me safer and the box of raisins gives me a raison d'etre. (ha!)
When things are miserable (or even just Yucky™) it can be really valuable to explore what good you’re getting from the yuck. Be honest. Go deep. Cry if you have to. Because knowing what your protective self is getting from the situation might just be the difference between getting out, or staying Stuck in the Yuck™.