How to Get Out of a Rut

When I was a kid, the fire swamp scene in The Princess Bride scared me half-to-death–especially when Princess Buttercup falls into the Quicksand. It was an invisible death trap. Not to mention the R-O-U-S’s!

With quicksand, the harder you struggle, the more impossible it is to escape. As an adult, the experience of “being stuck” emotionally is just as frightening. Emotional quicksand is a reality for all-too-many people.

In my marriage and family therapy practice, located in Salt Lake City, I hear this trapped feeling described in many ways:  I feel stuck.  I’m in a rut.  I’m going around in circles.  When I take one step forward, I take two steps back. I’ve painted myself in a corner.

You probably identify with this state of helplessness in some area of your life: Financial, Emotional, Social, Mental, Physical, Spiritual, or Occupational.

I recently read “An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson. She compared feeling stuck to a Hole in a Sidewalk. It illustrates what leads people into the hole, what keeps them stuck, and the different ways to get out:

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There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

~ Portia Nelson ~

Self-awareness and taking ownership of your situation are two of the first steps to getting out of your rut. You can get out of your hole! I have seen many people do it! Take ownership and try something new until you find a solution.

My fear of quicksand went away when I realized there wasn’t any in my backyard.

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