Feeling Stuck? Some Choices Can Never Be Taken Away

Jul 29, 2016 | Stress

The power and freedom of choice

Feeling stuck? Recognizing your choices retains your freedom and eases your stress.


Feeling stuck

Backed into a corner. Fenced in. Between a rock and a hard place. Stuck.

However you want to say it, feeling that you are in a situation in which you are – pardon my language – screwed, is hard to handle.

It’s absolutely stressful.

When we feel that we have no choice in a matter, we tend to feel cornered. Like a caged animal, we may act out or give up. But either way, the response in our bodies and minds is one of stress.

The corner place

In this corner place, we feel stuck and unable to escape. We get there when we feel that events and life are happening to us, and that we can’t control them.

It’s understandable how we get there. We can’t control how others think or act, and many circumstances are simply beyond our control, like the weather.

But when we truly believe that we have no choice – whatever the situation – then we become a sort of victim, like the caged animal.

And then the stress response occurs. The cortisol level rises, the heart beats faster, the breath gets shallower. But all that the body does to help us fight or flee doesn’t help us if we think that fighting or fleeing would be futile.

There’s always a choice

It’s easy to get lost down the road of simply reacting to others, feeling like you have no control over what they do. We have all been there.

And it’s true, you can’t control others. Sometimes when you recognize this, it can cause a lot of stress.

In my family this month, we’ve been handling or helping with the negotiations of 2 home sales and 2 home purchases, all coinciding around the same time. I’ll be honest with you, it has been stressful.

Though it may be hard to recognize sometimes, however, there is always a choice.

In fact, whatever the situation, you always have control over over your own priorities, what you do, and how you choose to respond.

You always have a choice.

You may choose to agree or not, to take a risk or play it safe, to respond a particular way, to take the easy or hard road, to ignore or to walk away.

Sometimes your choice may simply be in your own attitude or perspective on the situation.

Even when something doesn’t turn out as you had hoped, you can think that it was a failure and a disappointment, or you can think that it may have been for the best in the long run, that you grew from the experience, or that there is some lesson to be learned.

This choice, to be in control of your actions and your perspective, is much less stressful than simply reacting or believing that you are powerless.

Choice is freedom

You always have some choice in a situation, even if it’s simply over how you want to view it. If you can exercise this choice, then you retain your freedom.

And this freedom will ease the stress of feeling trapped in that corner place.

In my coaching, I do a lot of work with clients around recognizing choices and moving into more powerful perspectives. It can totally turn a stressful situation around.

Consider these powerful words from the Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

What’s your choice?

So the next time you are feeling trapped and stressed, consider what choices you have in the circumstances. How do you want to act, to respond, to be?

What attitude do you want to choose for yourself? Because that choice can never be taken from you by anyone but yourself.

Do you know of a situation where you or someone you know chose a different and powerful perspective? I’d love to hear it. And if you liked this post, I hope you choose to share it via one of the icons below.

Photo by Sultan K. at unsplash.com


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Jen Riggs Blog

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Jennifer is the creator of Pathways to Change, a framework for mindful leadership development that integrates coaching, neuroscience, mindfulness and mind-body principles.

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