On Stuckness

On Stuckness

I’ve become interested in stuckness… It’s a phenomenon that I experience in myself from time to time – as a corrosive inability to make progress in a chosen direction of travel. Stuckness is also something that – as coaches and consultants – we often hear new clients describing when they come to work with us. Of course we hope to add value by providing professional support, yet how easy is it to ‘unstick’ someone?

I am often impressed by the creativity with which we can all remain stuck in patterns that no longer serve us, despite devoting considerable effort, time, money and resources to our stuckness. When clients turn up describing themselves as ‘stuck’ we can be sure that we are the latest in a long line of other coaches, consultants, trainers, therapists, shamans, spiritual teachers, friends and family who have provided insight, motivation and help over many years… So how do we orient to this issue?

Fundamentally, I believe stuckness is about hidden loyalty. We cannot, as coaches, enable someone to move forward in the direction of their dreams, unless we can help them understand the nature of the blind loyalty to a person (or event) from their past, to whom they have a deep and unconscious affiliation. Until we see and work with the underlying pattern of our loyalties, we are not free to move on…

For example, a client recently came to me saying that he was stuck in a pattern of self-sabotage at work. Although quite senior in his organisation, he avoided communicating with people in authority and so was being overlooked for promotion and advancement. He would go to enormous lengths to avoid more senior people, even spending months overseas in remote areas with limited internet access! This way his bosses could not interact with him!

Using systemic constellations work, we explored his patterns of relationship as a child, and he saw that while his mother wanted him to be sociable and independent, his father seemed to be almost a recluse. He was stuck in the middle of them – seeming to love his mother more, he would be adventurous, to a point… But his heart’s hidden loyalty to his father’s way of being, meant that he would withdraw from the world at the same time… he felt terribly torn. Closeness to one parent felt like a deep disloyalty to the other, so he could not allow himself the fullness of his own ambition without self-sabotage. It’s often the case with stuckness – with the loyalty issues that come up when we explore this experience – that behaviour that makes no sense to us from one perspective, makes perfect sense when it is seen in the context to which it belongs.

Where do you feel stuck in your life and work? And which ghost would smile on you, seeing you not do the things that you would wish for yourself?

Posted in Change Coaching Compassion Work on Sunday, Nov 29th, 2015