Sticky is a useful term for experiences that leave a deep impression, because they stick around and at the same time stick like glue. If you find yourself feeling the same emotion over and over again—for example, frustration, anger, anxiety, or depression—you are not living in the present. Instead, the past is coming back for an unwanted visit.
Here are three practical ways to get unstuck, each one suited to a specific issue:
1. Be Present
The present moment is creative, because it opens the way for new thoughts, feelings, and inspiration. Your mind naturally wants to be in the now unless it gets distracted. If you find yourself feeling distracted, stressed, or disengaged, the best thing to do is to center yourself.
The practice is quite simple. Find a place where you can be alone, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths.
Now center your attention on the heart region in the center of your chest. Breath in deeply by filling your belly region so that it pushes outward. Now breath out, pause for a count of 2, and repeat. This style of controlled breathing is one of the most useful quick ways to become centered, relaxed, and back in the moment.
2. Release Negative Old Beliefs
People very commonly get stuck on beliefs that are discouraging, self-defeating, judgmental, and generally negative. For example, you might find yourself thinking:
- Life is unfair.
- The world is a threatening place.
- To get along, you have to go along.
- No one will look out for number one but me.
- I’m not really lovable.
- I’ve never been all that attractive.
These beliefs get stuck in our minds without knowing where they came from or why we believe them. The way to get unstuck is to do a little investigation. Take any negative belief, and you will see that it lodged in your mind because of the following general conditions:
- We believe the first person who told us something.
- We believe things that are repeated often.
- We believe the people we trust.
- We didn’t hear a contrary belief.
When you find yourself stuck on a negative self-belief, something that makes you feel bad about yourself, pose the following questions:
- Who first told me this?
- Was it repeated a lot?
- Why did I trust the person who told me?
- Is there reason to believe the opposite?
In other words, you turn around the experiences that made your belief sticky, and by turning them around, the belief becomes less and less sticky. If your mother told you that you aren’t pretty or your father said that you are lazy, why should you automatically trust them? It doesn’t matter how often you heard their opinion. Now that you are an adult, you can separate opinion from fact. Think of experiences that indicated how attractive you are in other people’s eyes or how diligently you applied yourself to a task.
3. Discharge Bad Memories
Perhaps the most common way of being stuck occurs in memory. Old wounds and traumas return, warning us not to repeat something bad that happened in the past. The stickiest part of a memory is its emotional charge, which some psychologists have termed our emotional debt from the past. We stubbornly hold on to old resentments, grievances, fears, and wounded feelings.
This gives us a clue to getting unstuck. Instead of trying to un-remember the time nobody came to your birthday party, focus on the feeling this memory brings up. Memories are hard or impossible to erase, but emotional debt can be discharged.
How to Discharge Sticky Emotions
The following techniques for discharging sticky emotions are easy and natural. Emotions by their very nature rise and fall, and most of the time a cooling-off period suffices to return you to a settled state. But sticky emotions don’t fade away on their own. They ask you to assist by discharging them through various practices.
Technique #1: If you feel an uncomfortable emotion that persists, center yourself and take slow, deep breaths until you feel the emotional charge start to lessen.
Technique #2: If you recognize an emotion that has been around a long time, notice its return, then say: “This is how it once was. I am not in the same place now. Go away.”
Technique #3: With a particularly stubborn emotion, sit quietly with eyes closed and let yourself feel the emotion—do this lightly, not sinking deeply. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly, releasing the emotional energy from your body. It might help to see your breath as a white light carrying the toxic feeling out of you.
Technique #4: If you feel no specific emotion, but rather a general mood of being down, blue, or out of sorts, sit quietly with your attention placed in the region of your heart. Visualize a small white light there, and let it expand. Observe the white light as it expands to fill your whole chest. Now expand it up into your throat, then your head, and up out of the crown of your head.
Take a few minutes to carry this technique through until it feels complete. Now return to your heart and expand the white light again until it fills your chest. Now see it expand downward, filling your abdomen, extending down to your legs, and finally out through the soles of your feet into the earth.
These four techniques can be applied separately or one after the other. But it is important to be patient. Once you use a technique, it will take time for your whole emotional system to adapt to the discharge.
In short, everyone suffers from some kind of stuckness, but now you are in a position to be aware of what is happening and to take steps to get unstuck and live in the now, where reality is renewed and refreshed.