I was in a session with a client, and she’d had a bad week. A really bad week. But not a surprisingly bad week. She’s been in a job she finds frustrating, in a company she dislikes working for, with a boss that she clashes with. Every day. So, it wasn’t surprising to either of us when she explained all the things that had made her feel exhausted and down about the week.

This is hard to cope with. Living for the weekend isn’t even a viable strategy in lockdown.

Did she want to leave? No.

She couldn’t quite understand this conflict that she was experiencing. Despite all the negativity, the ongoing impacts and the consistency of dealing with crap every single day, knowing there was no change coming, when it came to walking away, it was a no.

What makes it so hard to say no? This was the question that floored her in the end. What IS making it so hard to say no she reflected?

As it turned out, all the reasons to go were fundamental to this particular job – the company values, the boss, the nature of the work, the culture of the departments. All the reasons to stay were fundamental to a job in general – the comfort within the discomfort of routine, of financial security, of not being unemployed in the middle of a global pandemic and national recession, of the unknown of what the next job, company, industry would look like.

“It sounds like you feel trapped?” I said.

“Yes. That’s it. I feel trapped. I am trapped.”

And there it was, like a bad relationship. Knowing it wasn’t doing any good, affecting happiness, affecting the ability to be successful in the job and chipping away at confidence every day, fear of the unknown and the uncertainty of having no job without the energy and motivation to look for a job, left her trapped in a bad relationship.

It’s not uncommon. It’s also surprisingly easy to convince ourselves that it’s ‘not that bad’, ‘it’ll get better’, ‘change will come’ and the rest. And whilst sometimes this might be true, I think there’s always an important level of awareness to reach in these moments, and that is: How else could it be?

Evaluating the quality of something against versions of itself – with however much hope and optimism you have, is very limiting. It’s like looking at a restaurant menu and ordering the same thing every time thinking it might be a little better this time, and just ignoring the rest of the menu, all the other options to find something that you might really enjoy eating, if only you made a conscious choice and turned the page to take a look.

My point here is this – make a conscious choice to take a look. Inside and out.

If you’re in a similar situation, look inside first. What are all of your fears, worries and concerns? Think about them, write them out. What do you know to be true? Capture facts and rational thoughts. Stay in the reality of the situation. Not as the personal pessimist or the hopeful optimist. Just as it is. Without any back and forth in your mind, without any agenda or any attachment to what’s coming through, just capture it for what it is.

If you find this harder to do on your own – it’s not easy, then get someone you are comfortable with involved, someone who is a good listener and will let you explore and talk it through.

There’s no answer here by the way – I don’t have a magic solution. But I do know that if you start to think about things, raise your awareness of your situation, understand why you’re feeling trapped, what’s trapping you, what’s real, what’s not real, what’s stopping you, what’s holding you back, what’s scaring you, you will start to unravel the thoughts and emotions that are keeping you trapped and then you can turn that menu over and start to understand and explore more about how else it could be.

Releasing yourself from a trap is all about real awareness of your situation and understanding of your options so you can make change happen.



Photo by Kirill Sharkovski on Unsplash.