I've seen it time and time again.
I get on the phone with a person who claims to be really stuck. She's tried a bunch of different things, but nothing much is happening except the same merry-go-round (which is not so merry) of thoughts and problems, would-be solutions and discouraging outcomes.
Is she actually stuck? Do I believe her?
Well, I believe she thinks she's really stuck (which is just as good as being stuck—because, let's face it, there's no objective way to measure stuckness; it's a feeling, and as with any feeling, it ebbs and flows with little to no intervention).
Her thinking is, truthfully, her only problem.
So, where do we go first?
Do we unstick her? If so, how? (Asking for a friend, right? ;-)
Do I try to convince her she's not actually stuck, she just thinks she's stuck? And will that be enough to unstick her?
What we do together is explore the thinking that's behind the feeling of stuckness.
Questions I might ask her include:
How do you know you're stuck?
What does 'stuck' mean for you?
What's an indication that you're stuck?
Could that be an indication of anything else, or does it always and absolutely point to stuckness?
What are some of the thoughts you find yourself thinking about being stuck?
Why is being stuck a problem for you?
What if being stuck wasn't a problem? What would you do (or not do) then?
Once we can begin to see how her thinking has created the problem (or the problematic feeling of stuckness), we recognize that nothing more—no outward action—is necessary.
It's an inside job, you see.
And when she comes to understand that her thoughts are the only obstacle between her present stuckness and her future ease and flow, she sees that the power to unstick is and always was hers and hers alone.
So, her first insight might go something like this: Wait a minute—there isn't an actual problem here!
Followed by: I thought myself into a problem...so, I can probably think myself out of it!
Then: If my thinking about a situation is the only way a problem is or isn't created for me...then, nothing is truly an obstacle for me except my own mind!
And there you have it. That's the insight that everyone, without exception, is always on the brink of when she presents me with her unique stuckness (that's not tongue-in-cheek: The individual flavors of stuckness are absolutely unique in that each person who experiences being stuck is unique; what isn't unique is the gorgeous insight that sparks to life, the one that teaches each person just how powerful her thoughts are in creating her reality).
The reason why coaching might carry on for several sessions is because the above insight is surprisingly difficult to apply, contextually, when folks have (for so, so long) believed their problem of stuckness (or fill-in-the-blank with your particular problem) was an externally-created problem, or an internally-created problem requiring an external fix. Sometimes it takes us a handful of sessions together before we've properly and thoroughly established that nearly all of our perceived obstacles are inside jobs.*
And to understand on a cellular level that we're always only one thought away from having an entirely different experience.
*I hope it goes without saying that I absolutely believe in the existence of true obstacles, including but not limited to: grave illness/addiction, homelessness and/or dire poverty, war, abuse. The obstacles I'm referring to in the blog post above are of the thought-created variety—how we see ourselves in the world and what we believe about ourselves—though they almost always feel as if they're true obstacles.