Feeling trapped in life? What to do

person feeling trapped sitting on woodland path

It is very normal for us to at times feel trapped in life and ask what to do? How do you get mentally unstuck? What does it mean to feel trapped in your own body?

In the fast paced nature of life we can often not realise that we are all in some way interconnected as human beings. We can also be blindsided to the real choices we have in our hands and fall victim to external pressures. Tension from our managers to get a task completed without the help of resources; arguments in relationships focussing on the surface context and not the deeper layers of reasons behind such a dispute and also cultural, media and societal pressures can all leave us feeling trapped from time to time.

We do not want to control our mind and thoughts but we want to understand the dynamics of emotional intelligence and be the observer of what is happening in order for us to walk freely into an open plain once more.

It is very common for someone who feels trapped for their self-esteem to decrease, to withdraw from social settings and the present moment. It is also common for such individuals to feel restless as they are conflicted with internal chatter and a struggle to change the status quo. This is perfectly normal and you are good enough.

In this article we will learn how to work with our thoughts and emotions in a healthy manner and give you a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play. Meaningful Paths can further help you with emotional intelligence, resilience, to find meaning and much more. Feel free to sign up to our newsletter for further learnings.

Butterfly on window to signify feeling trapped

Different Types of Feeling Trapped

When a negative thought occurs the cognitive functioning of a brain narrows which can in turn result in further negative thinking patterns and less creative thinking.

It is important for us to pause and stop ourselves in our tracks when a negative or group of negative thoughts come forth. We can pause, take a breath and use an anchor thought based on mindfulness practice and then think of a past positive memory. This in turn can help us counter negative thinking patterns. Resilience Coaching and teachings and Emotional Intelligence Coaching and teachings can help further with these concepts. Mindfulness based stress reduction techniques can help us assess our thoughts ad emotions.

Feeling trapped can be linked to anxiety and depression and this can create a cyclical nature of further anxiety and negative emotions due to exhaustion and frustration within our minds.

A lack of meaning in challenging situations can result in us feeling lost and entrapped. As anxiety and other negative emotions ensue, we can withdraw from the present moment and feel trapped. A good metaphor for this would be Ariadne’s Thread and the Maze whereby every corner we take we are lost further. With the thread we find meaning and consequently no matter what the situation is we are not lost. Our free eBook on Ariadne’s Thread can be found here (https://www.meaningfulpaths.com/free-self-help-ebooks/?swcfpc=1).

Pressures in life and a heavy load of amalgamated situations can take their toll on us. Combining financial stress, job pressures, relationship challenges and more can combine and cause us to feel entrapped.

A concept called learned hopelessness can also result in us feeling trapped as we try to get to an end result several times and ‘fail’ to do so. When this happens our mind can train itself to think in a hopeless manner. This often happens when we try to ‘over control’ situations.

Feeling trapped in a relationship

Couples should enhance each other, rejoice in similarities, but ensure the differences are complimentary. Couples should be a team, make each other feel loved, alive and supported. No relationship is perfect and there will be days when things don’t feel as good as others. Each week won’t be a Hollywood romance either. Dedicate time to start new hobbies together, ideally of a similar level of starting point, so that you can both grow as a team and help each other. Create fun date nights and be creative and have fun with ideas. Physical touch is very important, even a hug each day and a gentle arm touch when walking by. Spend quality time with your friends and on your own activities as well, which will ensure you come back fresh and energised to one another. Go jogging on your own, meet your friends on one set night per week and nourish your own soul. If we fall into too much of a routine, if we don’t support each other and if we don’t look after ourselves as well, then we can start feeling trapped in a relationship. You don’t need every week to be a wild romance; but it is important to try new hobbies, plan lots activities and mix things up a little, even if it is just one or two weekends a month.

Feeling Trapped in a Marriage

We can often desire things at a young age and assume when we achieve such things our life will be close to perfect. We may think when we have the dream house or meet our future partner we will be happy. Of course many of things bring happiness, but like anything in life we can have low days and high days and many days in the middle. Whether this is in relationships, our career, sport ad more, we will go through an admixture of emotions and no day will be the same. Yes we can be filled with many varied positive emotions for most of our life and we can learn how to handle the challenges in life in the healthiest way possible, and yes we can have very happy long term and loving relationships. It is thought that after around 2 years of marriage, the initial ‘glow’ begins to reset to a medium again. Unless we keep pushing our boundaries and work on our personal growth, unless we keep making the time and effort to work on our relationships, we can start to feel trapped. If we try new hobbies, exercise regularly, see our friends, support one another on new ventures, spend quality time together with fun dates and activities, then we can feel alive again and move away from feeling trapped. We need to find our inner child and curiosity again, we need to go on dates like it was a first date, we need to make an effort with how we feel, how we look, and push our boundaries in our relationships.

Feeling Trapped as a Mother

Similar to the above, feeling trapped as a mother can come from many years of hard work as a loving mother, and neglecting our own needs. If you do not exercise regularly, if you do not see your friends several times per week, if you do not partake in new hobbies, and if in the main all you do is the work in the household, then you may begin to feel trapped a s a mother. Take the time to make a list of your dream life, and make small steps each day to incorporate one small thing; start reading a new book, join a gym, text a friend to meet for coffee, join a hike for a day. Self-care and self-love is not selfish, you are a human being and being a mother is not your only role in life. The more you take care of yourself in a compassionate way, the more love you can share with your family. Dedicate set times each week for you and only you.

Feeling Trapped in my Body

It is easy to feel trapped in our body and compare ourselves to magazine covers, social media posts and the idea of perfection. Choose several health related activities and ensure that the only outcome is how you FEEL not how you LOOK. Strength training in the gym is fantastic as you get stringer and stringer and you feel more empowered and begin to love you body more. This is very different to focusing on how you look, instead focus on increasing your strength each week, one more rep, one more pushup, and begin to love your body and find a sense of freedom and empowerment.

Feeling Trapped in Parents House

The world has changed since our parents and grandparents generations. Many people do not leave home to buy their own home at the age of twenty, and many people go through a wider array of career and educational paths. Housing prices have increased and the cost of formal education has soared. It is completely normal as someone in their twenties to desire their own space, their own home, and their independence. This can cause us to feel trapped and we can get under each others feet. It is also normal for people to move back home in their late twenties and in their thirties in the modern world for varying financial reasons.

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Most Common Reasons we Feel Trapped in Life

Aside from the the circumstances explored for reasons you might be in a situation where you are feeling trapped; what are the most commons reasons people feel trapped in life?

Autonomy

As human beings we have the need to have a sense of freedom, we are not designed to be placed in a box. If we feel that we are being suffocated in our home life, our job, or smothered in a way in a relationship, then we may feel that we do not have a sense of autonomy. In relationships we should be growing as a team, and this means that we should spend quality time on our personal growth and also on our self-care. Our partner should also do the same. This also relates to feeling trapped at home, as a parent, at work and so on.

Responsibility

A parent has a duty to care for their children and show them unconditional love. A romantic partner should support their other half. A boss should treat his staff with integrity. Having said this, we are responsible for our happiness. We cannot control other people, and we cannot control certain things that happen to us in our life; but one thing we can always do is CHOOSE OUR RESPONSE. We can choose to be happy, we can choose to surround ourselves with supportive, positive and loving people. We can choose to start new hobbies, we can choose to change our mindset. This is not easy, but we have the power to create the life that we desire.

Our Lens

We all have a lens that we look through each day, the way we view the world, the way we view others, the way that we view our current situation. In truth the reality is much much broader than the lens we see things through. We may feel trapped in life as we are viewing things from a negative stand point. We may say things like, ‘I am a failure,’ but in reality you are not a failure at all, you have simply got one thing wrong. Successful people often fail 10 or more times, but they view stumbling as progress, and they assess calmly what went wrong and how they can improve next time. We may say things like, ‘I wish things were different,’ but in reality have we actually made any changes? When we choose to change ourselves and grow as a person, we then have the foundations to create the life that we want. Of course others have a responsibility to also be supportive and kind to us, but we can only control ourselves.

What to do when you Feel Trapped?

What tangible steps can we take when we are feeling trapped? What steps can we take when we are feeling trapped in a relationship and in other areas of our life? Many of the below steps overlap and work in all areas of feeling trapped.

Positive Emotions

There might be many reasons for your current situation but it is important you take responsibility for the next actions you take and responsibility for taking the first step. A great way to begin is to choose to help another person. Earlier we spoke about stopping negative thinking patterns that can cause a downward spiral. Text one person and tell them why you are grateful for them in your life. This could be something along the lines of; ‘I am practicing gratitude at the minute and I just wanted to send a quick message to say that I am grateful to know you. Thanks for always being there.’ You can be more specific and speak from the heart. The key here is refocusing your mind on something positive and away from focusing on escaping the trap. Once you focus on positive aspects and also be kind to others then organically you will begin to free yourself from certain negative emotions and thinking patterns.

Values

Following on from point one we want to begin exploring our values and finding meaning in our own life. This is incredibly important as once we begin to find what we value in our life and we the align our actions with such values we will always have a buffer to bounce off and understand negative emotions and also actions for positive emotions. We do have a free course on meaning which you can explore. A good way to start is with a walk in nature. Do not force emotions or judge any of your thoughts. Simply breathe in the fresh air and soak up the beauty before you. Concepts of meaning will begin to naturally fall into place.

Human Connection

A vast number of studies show that engaging with others and social interaction improves our well-being. You may or may not wish to share your current challenges with a certain individual or social group. However in addition to doing so embracing deep conversations, shared activities, laughter and positive emotions will also assist you in escaping the feeling of entrapment. Good hobbies to have or to start would include anything social. Volunteering to help others can be great too.

Skills

Although face to face engagement can be very rewarding and can involve increased empathy and connection; online social engagement can also be very helpful in organically moving away from negative emotions. Using your skill sets and combining this with online connection can combine volunteering to help others, and in regaining a sense of identity. For example you could volunteer a skill such as writing, graphic design, and more to help a small charity or even a start up business.

Positive Pillars

Begin to build your own world and create an environment purpose built for you health and well-being. Working on our mindset and inner peace is absolutely invaluable. The outside world is a reflection of our internal world. Having said this the combination of practices such as mindfulness and emotional intelligence in addition to a purpose built environment for our well-being will help us to feel in control. When we suffer a job loss, financial pressures or a break up we can lose our sense of identity and who we believe we are. If we begin to build our own world of positive constructs we can maintain our sense of identity. For example if we went through a break up but we had multiple income streams, we volunteered and project managed a local homeless shelter, and partook in local sporting events, you could maintain certain pillars that help with your resilience, well-being and sense of who you are. Match this with finding meaning in challenging events and emotional intelligence and you will have many positive constructs to help you.

Meaningful Paths Community

If you are feeling lost or feeling trapped in life we can help you with your health and well-being and help work with you to use your skill sets and strengths to help others. We offer a one month free trial on our App and our Resource Guide and Charity Action Guide can work with you to help you find purposeful living, health, and connect you to meaningful projects. Once we begin to find more meaning in our lives and we understand our strengths we can move away from feeling lost and move towards the life we aspire to live.

Please learn more here – Meaningful Paths Memberships – Meaningful Paths

A conclusion of thoughts

We can all feel lost and feel trapped within our life time many, many times. The first step is to take responsibility and find the strength and courage to do one nice thing for another person. The process of past positive memory recall can help provide a strong emotional shift to begin. Having a deeper understanding of our values and balancing negative events and negative emotions against such values, allows us to find meaning in given situations. By finding meaning we never feel completely lost as we always have a guide of values to help us on our journey. We can all enjoy quiet moments of contemplation and downtime; albeit by mixing harmoniously with other individuals and communities our positive emotions, well-being and also moments of meaning can flourish. By creating positive pillars in our life and building our own world we can have many pillars of strength and resilience that are purpose built for moments of meaning and positive emotions.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to explore Meaningful Paths further.

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References

https://www.bluezones.com/2012/04/friends-nourish-the-body-and-soul/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908186/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131205220031.htm

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-put-down-the-self-help-books-resilience-is-not-a-diy-endeavour/

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