We all feel stuck occasionally. We might feel in a rut, or unable to figure out our next step in our future plan or even in solving a small, seemingly manageable issue (where did I leave my keys?). Often a chat with someone for new perspective, a quick rest or break or a new hobby might move us past this sticky point. But when the stickiness is continual and to a point of excess, it may actually be perseveration. Perseveration can present as being stuck on a certain memory and trying in vain to "play it out" differently. It can look like a conversation with someone that seems to go nowhere, or a problem that you keep trying to solve with the wrong answer. It may even present in a physical sense, getting stuck on a word, activity or process and not able to move out of that pattern. People who preservate may also experience a sense of a foggy lens on their past, a "bad memory" or an inability to move forward in their physical and emotional lives.
Perseveration is not a sign of an obsession, but more often a coping mechanism for trying to process big events or feelings, past emotional trauma, or trauma related to physical injury. It can appear in adults and children and can have varying degrees of intensity. When related to emotional or psychological trauma, the cognitive mind may block memories but the subconscious and the body still remember. This can cause a lot of confusion for the conscious self, especially when unaware of the triggers or the reasoning behind the experiences igniting this cycle.
When a person becomes aware they are struggling with this issue, it is often because someone has brought it to their attention. Traditional treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CPT), with a licensed practitioner. CBT is not easy and can be uncomfortable, requiring you to put in some serious work and explore vulnerable feelings. When this path doesn't feel right, other options or even complementary therapies can be helpful. Some options include hypnotherapy, support groups, or working with a spiritual advisor on finding purpose and faith through adversity. One especially powerful tool is rebuilding self-regulatory strength with the help and accountability of a coach who can facilitate goal setting and finding the things that rekindle passion and pride. Understanding what fuels feelings of success can help move us forward, out of these intense ruts.
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