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Feeling Trapped? ... Free Yourself

Updated on May 31, 2015
Dr Billy Kidd profile image

Dr. Billy Kidd was a psychotherapist and researcher for 20 years. He has also studied history, religion, and has been active in politics.

Modern Life can make People Feel like they are Stuck in a Trap

People react to feeling trapped by becoming depressed, anxious, agitated, angry, and by gaining weight and becoming non-sexual. Some just decide to do nothing, or as little as possible, on the job in reaction to feeling snared by contradictory demands.

People also become addicted to watching TV or fiddling with their smart phones—blotting out the world with their earbuds. All this in an effort to escape the often unrecognized or unnamed feeling of being trapped.

Fight or Flight Response Repressed

The fight-or-flight response is activated by many situations in modern life. So you really want to flee or stand your ground and fight, but it’s not allowed. You’re taught to stuff the fight-or-flight feeling down and ignore it.

You are expected, for example, to suppress your anger about your dictatorial boss, who takes credit for your work and then criticizes what you do. Regardless of how you sit and take it, your flight-or-fight stress hormones are activated when you are mistreated.

This reaction changes your physiological processes, raising the rate of your heartbeats and increasing your blood pressure—preparing you to fight or to run. This keeps a person’s stress hormone—cortisol—elevated and raises the set points that govern bodily functions. That causes some people to overeat, as if they were preparing for a long, hard, stressful winter.

What to Do if You Are Feeling Trapped

The lists below can give you ideas for several ways to break out of feeling stuck or trapped.

Self-Enhancement: You can

  1. be open to the world with a smile rather than closed with a frown
  2. learn to make the right commitments and let go of and forget about the wrong ones
  3. stop making big sacrifices for other people, including coworkers, lovers, and spouses—instead, give reasonable help when asked
  4. relieve yourself of the pressure of being forced to make a quick decision, forced on you by others, through saying that you will have to sleep on it and will get back to the other party tomorrow
  5. learn to understand what your real needs are and when and how to assert yourself in any given situation
  6. join a communications skills group specializing in self-assertion
  7. take your dream vacation—sober—remembering that getting in a rush with spoil it—and when you’re at home, be sure to visit a park or rural area as often as possible to let nature heal your mind and soul
  8. cut back on TV viewing and take an online college course or read a self-improvement book
  9. understand that an attitude is the easiest part of your personality to change, and realize that the best place to start when you are unhappy with who you are is to change your personal attitude towards other people and yourself
  10. believe that in the end it will matter that you try to do your humane, best action rather than your evil, worst, exploitive feat

Romantic Relationships: You can:

  1. stop having negative interactions with your romantic partner and learn to make five constructive, positive comments for every criticism that you make
  2. stop trying to change your partner—find a new one if you cannot handle your partner faults and all
  3. don’t slave for your partner or your kids—divide the chores at home evenly
  4. realize that you won’t be happy if you marry someone who isn’t your friend and who doesn’t feel like family, or whose future you do not care about
  5. know when to tell yourself you are not ready for a romantic relationship regardless of the fact that there are good potential partners available
  6. realize that crazy love is never a good enough reason in itself to get married
  7. learn to be friends with your partner’s children before, not after, you start a blended family
  8. get a psychologist to help you if you feel trapped by always getting into dysfunctional relationships over and over again
  9. stop viewing internet porn and learn to be more sociable and more openly sexual
  10. get help from a sex therapist if you constantly get sexually aroused in public by watching or following people

Work: You can

  1. work smart, not long and hard
  2. start looking for another job if you always feel emotionally and physically exhausted when the work day is over
  3. stop being the go-to person for the whole crew—unless you’re paid extra for it or that it truly enhances your self-esteem
  4. understand that if you do twice as much work as everyone else on the team, everyone will expect twice as much work from you—and they won’t increase what they do and probably won’t give you extra credit for your extra work
  5. realize that if your boss takes credit for the good work you put in, and you hate that, you need to get a new job because you cannot change the boss
  6. start looking for another job while you still have one rather than waiting until you’re laid off or your position is eliminated
  7. realize that if your boss has a mental list, and treats one person as the best worker and one as the worst worker, one day you’ll be at the bottom of the list and will be bullied
  8. stop working so much overtime and work towards getting a job that pays more
  9. don’t volunteer for anything at work unless there is an implicit reward in it—meaning, it’s something you really want to do
  10. ease your troubled conscience by finding someone in your field to talk to about ethical dilemmas related to your job

Finances: You can

  1. stop feeling guilty about your need to wait to get married until a time when you can afford it
  2. stop from buying a car if the interest on the loan is high—rather, go ahead and argue for a lower rate, go elsewhere, or put it off until later
  3. keep credit card balances below 10% of your take home pay
  4. give up the idea of buying a house until you can put at least 15% of your own money down on it
  5. drop the idea of buying property with a loan that has a variable interest rate or which has a balloon payment
  6. skip buying a condominium or loft that does not have an association contract that clearly states that owners must sell their property if they are a nuisance to their neighbors—which includes loud noises, irritating smells, illegal drug use, display of weapons, and admitting repugnant, threatening visitors onto the premises
  7. take college classes and get a degree online from a regionally accredited university in order to advance your career without moving your residence
  8. say no to the car salesperson who tries to sell you a different car—at a higher price—than the one you came in to see
  9. recognize that sometimes you go shopping because it is an activity that simply allows you to escape your dull routines for a little while
  10. change your attitude on the job from “what a drag it is” to “yes I can move up or move on and get paid more like what I’m worth”

Health: You can

  1. stop eating fatty, salty, and sugar-filled foods and start working out (and stop feeding your toddler salted French fries instead of real food)
  2. join a fitness club and work out twice a week
  3. if you feel trapped in an obese body, get your doctor to write you a prescription for warm-water therapy sessions for over-weight people
  4. change your lifestyle by trying new things and new foods, as well as going new places
  5. slow down in traffic and let the other car go by rather than speeding up to get ahead of it—which is a choice not to waste your energy fighting traffic and roadway congestion
  6. if you’re a woman giving birth in a hospital, bring an emotionally involved assistant to stand up for your rights and to help you keep your sense that you are in control of the birthing process
  7. get a psychologist to help you if you have feelings of being afraid and are paranoid, or if you are depressed, have thoughts about suicide, constantly have nightmare, or are always anxious about your life
  8. move if you are living close to a freeway in order to avoid pollutants and noise—because if it causes asthma in children, it must cause problems in adults
  9. learn to not feel trapped by an aging parent—he or she made his or her own decisions in life and this has a lot to do with where he or she is at now—and don’t let your parent’s case of Alzheimer’s drive you crazy, too
  10. Learn to be gracious and thankful, as these are the keys to good mental health and wellbeing

Doing some of the things mentioned above will let you create a healthy safe zone. That will cause you to attract people who lead fulfilling lives. All you need to get started is an optimistic attitude that you can change your life and your future

Dr. Billy Kidd can be reached at

Permission is granted to use the text of the above post in any therapeutic setting.


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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Doc, you give very good counsel. I especially like number 9 under Self-enhancement. Number 9 under Health is also written for me. My mother is an Azheimer's victim. Thank you for all the details. Voted Up!