The Two Approaches to Getting Un-Stuck

pixelated deer

I’ve never been stuck in quick sand, but as a child I watched enough cartoons to know it’s not exactly a pleasant experience.  You’re literally stuck.

While you may never be strolling the dessert and fall into a pool of wet sinking sand, you just as much as myself and everyone else will regularly face inner quick sand—places where we get stuck.

Maybe it’s a bout of anxiety or having to do a bunch of things you don’t like.  Maybe it’s low motivation or hearing some bad news.  So when you’re stuck in your quick sand,

What to do?  What to do?

Imagine for a moment we pixelated your self-structure, like an old school television—not just one coherent picture, but 1,000 little colored pixels that make up the screen.

In your self-structure, some pixels are your good qualities, such as kindness or patience.  Some pixels are your “difficult” qualities, such as depression or self-judgement.

For some rare souls, getting stuck in a tough situation is a time that brings out their best qualities.  They become extra courageous or enormously loving.

However, most people are not like this.  For most people, quick sand means stuck.  STUCKKKKKKKKK.  It can feel like the difficult qualities magnify and the good qualities dwindle.

The depression just gets stronger and stronger and stronger.  Maybe they shut down, freeze and pull away from the things that would get them out of it.  Or maybe they lash out and create even more problems.  Who knows.  The point is they’re stuck in it.

What to do?  What to do?

Imagine for a moment we quantified those pixels.  At your baseline state, maybe you have 600 good-quality pixels and 400 difficult-quality pixels (ever realize how in the big picture, good is always a little stronger?).

Now, when most people are stuck, it might be more like 300 good quality pixels and 700 difficult-quality pixels.

For example, have you ever been irritated at your partner or roommate or friend or co-worker, and been unable to see past your irritation, unable to treat them with the usual degree or respect or friendliness?   

If so, you were STUCKKKKK.  Your difficult-quality pixels outweighed your good-quality pixels.

What to do?  What to do?

For getting unstuck, there’s two basic approaches:

1) Boost your good-quality pixels.

It’s not as hard as it sounds.  You utilize your inner tools or do tangible things that “pick you up.”  For example:

One tactic is sincerity: tell the truth.  If you’re frozen, confide to someone, “I’m frozen.”  If you’re anxious, confide to someone, “I’m feeling a little nervous.”  There’s a surprising power in truth.  It gives you, say, 50 good pixels that also build momentum and give space for other good qualities to come out.

Another tactic is mindfulness.  Direct your attention to your body (or any of the senses).  It brings you away from your difficulties and temporarily boosts wherewithal.  Again, this very act of directing your attention to the present gives, say, 50 good pixels while also building momentum.

There’s loads of other tactics to boost your good qualities (even when some part of you is stuck).  You could outright do something nice for another person, or maybe exercise or engage in self-care.  You could even just adjust your posture to a more upright and dignified position.

The point is that if you boost your good qualities enough they will “overtake” the difficult qualities and you will be able to pop out of the quick sand and take back control of your life.

2) Minimize your difficult-quality pixels.

This is often a little harder (and scarier).  You have to face your stuckness directly.  You can either do inquiry or mindfulness.  This is often the work of therapists and spiritual teachers.

Inquiry probes your self-structure deeper than ego.

— what is it? say, anxiety.
— why is it?  say, fear I’ll be alone.
— so what if I am alone?  just sit with your inherent aloneness.
— who would I be without this fear?  whoa.

Mindfulness probes your self-structure as it appears in this moment.

— What does the anxiety feel like?
— Where does that feeling happen in the body?
— How does it change?

Study the feeling.  Study how the thoughts emerge from it.  Observe with awareness how it’s just a feeling.  Just a feeling.  Just a feeling.

In truth, inquiry and mindfulness are two sides of the same coin—they both entail fully experiencing and feeling whatever it is you’re going through.

This simple method slowly decreases the difficult-quality pixels from 700 to 600 to 500 to a point where they’re lower than the good-quality pixels.  You stop feeling so stuck and can take control of your life.


For most of us 21st century urbanites, getting stuck in quicksand will probably never happen, but getting stuck in our difficult emotions and our reactivity is a daily affair.

What to do?  What to do?

Now you know: either supercharge some good qualities or look directly at what’s sticking you.  A great garden of authenticity awaits you on the solid ground.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *