Part 2: How Did I Get In This Rut?

Only dead people never get stressed, never get broken hearts, never experience the disappointment that comes with failure. Tough emotions are part of our contract with life… Discomfort is the price of admission into a meaningful life.
— Susan David, PhD. “The gift and power of emotional courage.” TED Talk

PART 2: What started the downward spiral?

The first time I acknowledged being in a rut was when I could give names to the range of emotions I was feeling. Upon recognising them, I believed something was essentially wrong with me. My negative self-talk (what I have learned to call my Nitpicker) was doing a cabaret in my head.

Luckily I had some tools of Raja Yoga to rely on, so instead of engaging in the self-judgment, I came to appreciate my ‘Nitpicker-on-overdrive’ as a signal from my inner voice that something was out of balance. Like most people in ruts, once I recognised that I was in a rut, I wanted to do something to get out of it.  However, I lacked the energy to change anything, simply because I didn’t know where to begin.

So then I had to dig deeper and figure out what caused my rut in the first place. And so began an honest conversation with myself that uncovered the root cause of my pain. Once I recognised the symptoms, I had to face myself and it wasn't pretty.

The second step to pulling ourselves out of a rut is finding any possible cause AND facing your negative emotions.

There are many reasons and situations that could cause a person to fall in a rut. I’ve listed some below. Go through the list and check off any that could possibly be a cause of your downward spiral:

  • Having an illness (acute or chronic)
  • Grief; losing a loved one by death or break up
  • Being overworked and underpaid / under-appreciated  
  • Putting your needs on the back burner and attending to everyone else first
  • Lifestyle factors that put our body and minds out of sync (e.g., unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, addiction, etc.)
  • Making a mistake and punishing yourself for it (no matter how long ago the mistake was)
  • Fear of failure or looking bad in front of others
  • Comparing yourself to others and feeling bad if your life seemingly comes up short
  • Being betrayed by someone
  • Dealing with changes so big they overwhelm you
  • “Should-ing” on yourself (I should do this… I should do that… etc. )
  • Other reasons not listed above

So many times we avoid going within out of fear of what we will find. Usually when we recognise a fear or have to face the emotions that come with challenging life situations, it can be a source of great emotional release. Many of us avoid having this release, so it stays inside.

Ask yourself: Do any of these reasons resonate with you? Could they possibly be a cause of your rut? If you are journalling, then for your next journal entry, create a dialogue with yourself about things that make you feel sad, mad or bad. Be open, be honest. Write knowing that no one will be reading. This is a practice of Jnana Yoga — the yoga of wisdom though non-judgemental self-analysis.

Emotional release is hard for most of us. We may feel like we are weak or lesser people for having negative emotions. As psychologist Susan David puts it, “When emotions are pushed aside or ignored, they get stronger.” Uncovering them is the beginning step to healing and pulling yourself out of a rut. Face your negative emotions and don't judge yourself for having them. We can only move forward (Part 3) once we have faced this part.