You need to do a task. If you do the task, you will reduce your anxiety. You will be able to get back on track. Not doing the task is keeping you stuck. You don’t understand why you can’t take action. What is blocking your initiative?
Does this sound familiar? People with ADHD get stuck in this mental spin all the time because they have executive function deficits that manifest as problems with initiating action. But, you can have this type of problem even if you don’t have ADHD.
Past traumas held in our unconscious mind can block productivity. If you had a difficult experience in your past, one that produced a strong emotional reaction like terror, fear, shame, or overwhelm, the unconscious memory of it can still be affecting you today.
My client, “Ellen,” was freaked out about how much money she had spent on renovations on her new home. A call to her banker would have provided her information she needed to accurately assess where she stood financially and be equipped to make good decisions going forward. She knew she needed to call her banker, but just could not make herself pick up the phone.
At first I thought perhaps she was avoiding the call because of fear of finding out that she was in big trouble financially. However, when we explored the issue in coaching, our conversation led us back to her childhood where she had experienced extreme feelings of hopelessness, embarrassment, fear and shame in school whenever she had to deal with numbers.
Her past experience with struggle and failure with math had caused her to avoid proactively dealing with her finances as an adult. Because she felt flawed and inadequate when dealing with numbers as a child, she avoided circumstances and tasks that could cause similar feelings. Her avoidance of the phone call was resistance to exposing herself to an experience that could cause all those uncomfortable feelings to resurface.
Once we uncovered the roots of her resistance, Ellen got off the phone and called the bank. Seeing the block, acknowledging it and its origins removed its emotional hold on her.
If you are stuck and can’t take action, check your past. Is the task you are trying to do similar to something you were unsuccessful at doing earlier in your life? Does it take you back to a difficult time in your life or a time when you felt inadequate, experienced failure, were shamed by others or felt alone and helpless? Identify the time. Acknowledge the source of your block. Replay the experience and remind yourself that you are older now with many more resources and sources of support available to you. Then, take action.