3 Factors That Will Keep You Stuck If You Let Them

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All therapists know that people can change. We know this because we have been party to so many remarkable transformations made by so many people.

We see people change their habits, their ways of thinking, work through feelings, and make durable adjustments in themselves and their relationships.

I have seen countless people alter their lives from the inside by overcoming the effects of their Childhood Emotional Neglect. I have seen people heal their depression, learn to manage and defeat their anxiety, and improve their marriages and parenting skills.

But let’s face it, change is not usually easy. It takes courage, motivation, and perseverance. But so do most things of value in this life.

Watch for a future article about the specific challenges that are built into the process of healing Childhood Emotional Neglect. But there are certain challenges that derail many people as they try to change many different parts of their lives. I have seen countless good people derailed from their heartfelt efforts to grow and change by three very predictable experiences that they encounter along the way.

3 Factors That Will Keep You Stuck — If You Let Them

1. False Beliefs Set You Up For Disappointment

  • The belief that change should be linear: It is natural to expect that, once you start working to make a change, you should see success that gradually builds upon itself, getting better and better over time. Picture a staircase that you are climbing, taking one step at a time, with steady progress upward. Most real change does not work that way at all. Instead, it comes in fits and starts. Two steps up, one step down. The real key is to just keep working through the backward steps, consistently and persistently, until you take another step forward.
  • The belief that setbacks are failures: The danger of feeling like you’ve failed when you have a setback is that feelings of failure can easily turn into self-anger. And self-anger is the enemy of progress. It can freely send you off track or backward.
  • The belief that if you get off track, you may as well give up: Getting off track is built into the process of making a change. If you are trying to eat better, exercise, or change any longstanding behavior or habit, there’s a very high probability that more than once you will get off track. It is absolutely OK if it happens, and it’s immaterial to your ultimate success, as long as you don’t give up.

2. Avoidance Beckons

Change is difficult in four specific ways.

  • You have to make yourself do something that feels foreign and new
  • You have to be able to make yourself do something that’s difficult
  • You have to be persistent, as described above
  • You have to do a lot of work

A natural reaction to all four of these challenges is avoidance. Isn’t it pretty tough to take on all of those? Wouldn’t it be more comfortable to simply put it out of your mind and not worry about taking on those battles? Of course, it would! But avoidance is the enemy of progress. Avoidance may beckon like an oasis in the desert, but it will leave you parched.

The only way to deal with a natural pull toward avoidance is to face it head-on. Take notice of those moments when your avoidance kicks in, then turn around and challenge it.

Remind yourself that avoidance will take you down a one-way street to nowhere. Remind yourself that all things worth having require effort. Then pull yourself back on track.

3. Discomfort Takes You Down

Change can be a very frightening thing. When you start to feel different from your old self, or when people start to react to you differently because of the changes you’ve made, it can feel like you’re living in an alien world.

It can become hard to know how to behave and how you should react. Suddenly, things don’t feel as safe as they once did.

In my experience, most people are unaware of their discomfort. But they feel it. And then they naturally want to retreat from their new selves and go back to where they were before.

This desire to retreat is a completely natural feeling and a very normal response. But it’s just as dangerous as any of the factors above. It definitely has the power to send you right back toward square one.

For example, many dieters, after they’ve lost their first few pounds, suddenly feel different. Even if it feels better, it also feels strange, and that’s uncomfortable. So they lose momentum and their efforts fade. Be aware of the strong possibility that this will happen to you. Watch for it. Recognize that the feelings of discomfort are normal but destructive. Don’t let them take you down. Just keep going, and eventually what feels so uncomfortable at first will become your new normal.


If you are in the process of growth, I hope you will pause for a moment and give yourself credit. Many, many, if not most, people give in to the avoidance that feels so much easier than fighting for improvement.

Giving yourself credit for your efforts will keep you energized and motivated to keep advancing. Watching for small changes instead of demanding dramatic steps from yourself will prevent you from being disappointed. Be prepared for the uncomfortable aspects of change.

Whether you are recovering from Childhood Emotional Neglect or changing some other aspect of yourself and your life, be ready. Keep at it. Don’t give up.

That is the way to make sure you won’t get stuck.

Childhood Emotional Neglect is often invisible and unmemorable so it can be hard to know if you grew up with it. To find out, Take The Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, see my first book Running on Empty. 


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Ashley - October 11, 2018 Reply

Somedays I ignore what I read, maybe not today. I no longer list what is wrong but do mention a copule things. Only because the challenges will go away, except for these: Lost Mom and DAd so I was a 40 year old orphan. Never had cousins that cared about anything I do. Shy but friendly, being pretty would help or just being somewhere with real ppl not fakes.Many days are like middle shcool over and over. I’m 53, I don’t want to hear gossip or who is divorcing!!

Krissy - September 28, 2018 Reply

Oh, my gosh. This article is extremely helpful.
Can’t thank you enough!!!

Jeannine Johnson - September 26, 2018 Reply

Golly, You Nailed it
At a young 66 old and once very active, popular, & graced with fairly nice looks..
I have so retreated inward . Not wanting to see anyone. Staying home as much as possible, with no family left .In shock maybe..loosing them; mom, brother & sister…all in 18 months. Then, add on my husband, my best gal friend and my beloved cat within the same time period ! Good lord, I am lost & feel like a old mare & ready to be shot. (Just a figure of speech) . My hair has thinned, my confidence disappears & no one knows what to say to me. I find it hard to get out my Kitchen door. This article is encouraging & It spoke to me. I shall try “really hard” the suggestions as I take baby steps at 66.
“Action proceeds motivation”.

    Jonice - September 26, 2018 Reply

    Dear Jeannine that level of loss would knock anyone for a loop. You clearly have a good deal left to live and give. I hope you will indeed fight hard for yourself!

Joanna Rushton - September 26, 2018 Reply

I have taken avoidance to a new level, having spent the last 2 years unable to force myself to deal with the outside world. I live within the constant distraction of my iPad, and not paying bills, taking action to solve day to day or long term problems has caused a build up of negative consequences..but still I cannot face any responsibility for managing my life. I can feel a tangible mental and physical block if I turn my attention to reality, and have been looking for a reason/diagnosis of why so that I can overcome it. The mental health disorders focus on only social avoidance, not total life avoidance! I would love to get things in order, get my car MOT’d taxed & insured, get my TV working again after a year broken, get my bills paid and my house sorted out, get a hair cut! I can relate how my childhood (and adult traumas) have badly affected me, and need to find a way to overcome this to be able to have any quality of life.

    Jonice - September 26, 2018 Reply

    Dear Joanna, it sounds like you will need to re-parent yourself. It’s not easy but it is possible! Try my 3 Things Exercise from Running On Empty. It will help you retrain your brain. All my best wishes.

    Beverley Mills - September 27, 2018 Reply

    Joanna I could have written actually what you have but with a few added things such as not just my tv broke months ago but my boiler isn’t working and hasn’t been for 3 years now so I have no hot water. I have a leak in my toilet pipe so have been turning the water on just once a day. This has been going on for over a year. I just sit on my computer on online sites or YouTube and ignore it. Talk about Avoidance. My flat is a filthy hole and I’m avoiding sorting that out too.
    You are not alone.

      Jonice - September 27, 2018 Reply

      Dear Beverly, I can hear your anger at yourself coming through in your short comment. That anger is getting in your way of changing and learning the skills you missed in childhood. Accept that you missed learning some important skills and that it wasn’t your fault. That will free you up to start taking the steps to become self-disciplined. All my best wishes.

Karen Graff - September 26, 2018 Reply

Great motivation! Thank you!

    Jonice - September 26, 2018 Reply

    You are welcome Karen!

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