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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Getting Unstuck: Changing How We See Difficulty

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 11th 2011

emoticon anxiousOne thing we can count on in life is having difficult experiences. These are the arguments with a friend or loved one, a disappointing interaction with a colleague; getting cut off on the freeway, being overtired and asked one more thing to do, the list is endless. In those moments of our lives the feelings of irritation, sadness, annoyance, fear, or downright hate are major burdens on us and keep us feeling stuck. But what if we could learn to use those feelings as supports to helping us be more present to our lives?

This is exactly what longtime mindfulness teacher Pema Chodron suggests we do in her CD program Getting Unstuck. She says we can use the physical sensations from the emotion and bring our attention to that so now instead of a burden it becomes our friend, our anchor into this present moment.

I liked the way she phrased this because it can absolutely be true.

What we’re encountering any difficult experience, various thoughts, emotions and physical sensations arise. What if we reframed the way we look at those physical sensations as something that is arising in our experience, almost like it is reaching out its arms to have us take hold of it.

The alternative is to fly off with our thoughts letting them take us in a tornado of future worries, past resentments, or regrets.

Sometimes we feel like there’s no choice, our minds just want to swirl around and there’s no awareness of the body at all.

The next time a difficult experience arises, see if you can pinpoint where it is arising in the body. Imagine it is there reaching out to you as an anchor to keep your mind from drifting off into Never Neverland.

If you’re mind is fighting this idea with judgments such as, “I can’t think of difficult emotions as supports,” Or “this could never work for me,” see if you can just allow those judgments to pass on by and allow your direct experience to be your teacher. These judgments may be arising out more from fear of the difficult emotions than from actual reality.

As the old saying goes, “what we resist persists” and this may be a way to see what is difficult in a new light that allows you to approach it, be with it and Get Unstuck, instead of letting it control you and staying stuck.

Give it a try.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.  


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

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