Nod your head if this sequence of events describes your daily life at all:
You wake up in a bad mood or somewhat angry for whatever reason, maybe the mere fact that you have to get up.
You go to work and do your job but you're not excited or super engaged. You just do it.
You start to daydream about the vacation, job, or life in general that would make you feel happy again.
Pressure on you increases because you are not productive while you are daydreaming...
...which increases your stress about your responsibilities
You go home and eat, drink, or watch netflix to hopefully numb out the stressful thoughts and feelings that you predict the next day will bring
You wake up again the next morning even more bitter because the coping skills did not erase the stress.
It becomes a vicious cycle as one day compounds on the day before and affects the next day in an endless loop of dissatisfaction and increasingly detailed daydreams of a different life.
We all fall into cycles like these.
Similar to how chaos in the universe eventually organized itself into a steady flow, human beings seek and then fall into cyclical patterns all the time even when we do not know it. Patterns create predictable routines for our brains to think "Okay cool, everything is organized" such that our survival is streamlined to the best extent possible. The problem is when we settle into patterns like the one above and call it "survival" when really it is disintegrating our souls and leaving us stressed, angry, restless, and unhappy.
How can your survival be streamlined if the routine you put yourself in is severely unhealthy?
The above flow is just one example of someone's cycle. It happens to be an unfortunately common one.
Identifying my clients' unique cycles was one of the first things I learned how to do when I entered this field. Not only did I learn how to identify them, but I would easily draw them out on a whiteboard in front of the client.
Their minds would be blown because their brains would be illustrated in an simplified six-step circle. They say "if it's that simple, why does it feel so much bigger and intense and scary?"
And there is the segue to talk about the emotions associated with each step of the cycle.
I refer to these cycles as cages because they are mental flows that we get trapped in, often without knowing it.
We even often walk ourselves into our cages. But why do they exist? How do they come about?
Here is why: other than our brains' tendency to do what it can to streamline our survival and create consistent thought patterns, we are all taught different versions of a certain way that we "ought to" live life. Our parents, society, social media, and pop culture all love to teach us that one way of living will lead to success and happiness, but it is also an attempt to ensure that we stay in line with everyone else and do not veer off of their controlling course.
It is not their fault, of course. Their brains want the same consistency so they will teach what has seemed to work well in the past because why divert?
As what we are taught about life gets reinforced when we are little, the steps of the cycle - also known as the bars of your cage - are formed.
Have you ever started to question the path of your life?
SPOILER ALERT: everyone does and, even though a lot of thought is put into it, very few people in the world do anything about it.
Very few people in the world do anything about it because they have become comfortable in the cage that has become so familiar and routined for most of their lives. The idea of breaking out of the cage is far too uncertain and scary.
That is for another article. Staying on point, you start questioning your life path because you realize that you have strengths, skills, and interests that pull you from the unquestioned routine you have been in for so long.
This pull creates the tension we feel between what we are doing and what we want to do. The stress of realizing that you are actually free and allowed to make a change.
But what change do you want to make?
These cages most often are seen in relationships and career, but they can happen in all sorts of other ways and times.
THE FIRST STEP
My clients come to me most often presenting in two ways:
the sensation of feeling "stuck" and conflicted
some version of the phrase "I don't know what I am doing with my life."
So let's start with the simple question: IN WHAT AREA OF YOUR LIFE DO YOU FEEL STUCK?
What part of your life causes you to feel angst, restlessness, and frustration on a regular basis?
About what aspect of your life do you feel most often tempted to complain?
Seeing our cages is a difficult process. If you are able to answer these questions, you will have taken the first step to identify yours.
Get ready to change your life...if you want to...