Esther Bleuel’s new book Getting Unstuck is an amalgamation of memoir and personal development, the one supporting the other. In twelve chapters, Esther describes her life story, from a father who rejected her, a largely absentee mother, and a hurtful stepfather to a failed marriage, and finally, finding happiness, contentment, and a meaningful career as a therapist.
Each chapter of Getting Unstuck is offered as an example of the difficulties we all face in life. Difficulties that tend to make us get stuck in dysfunctional relationships and unhealthy patterns that keep us from reaching our full potential. Each chapter also offers tools to help us get unstuck so we can, as the book’s subtitle proclaims, experience the “joy of finishing strong.”
Early in the book, Esther tells us that we will accomplish three things when we read and apply the tools offered in Getting Unstuck:
1.You’ll become more self-aware . . . .
2.You’ll develop a relationship with yourself . . . .
3.You’ll begin to create a life that’s meaningful, fulfilling, and joyful . . . .
What goals could be better than those? In each of the twelve chapters that follow, Esther provides a tool to focus on. For example, in Chapter One: A Child Trying to Cope, Esther tells us that the chapter’s life lesson is: “We can’t always believe what people say, but we will always believe what they do.” This chapter provides examples of faulty parenting and how it affected Esther’s life. It also asks the reader to reflect upon the adults the reader knew as a child and what behaviors those adults modelled.
Each chapter is sprinkled with thoughts for reflection. For example, in Chapter One, we are offered, “Perhaps you are thinking of the first time in your life when you felt blamed for something that was not your fault. For me, this time could not have come earlier; the moment of my birth set me on the path to being unwelcomed.”
Each chapter also ends with several reflection questions, as well as additional passages to read in the “Learning Specific Skills to Become Unstuck” section in the back of the book. Chapter One refers the reader to the sections on “Manage expectations,” “Exercise self-control,” and “Trust myself or others.”
The successive chapters follow the same pattern, but a further explanation is worthwhile for the “Learning Specific Skills to Become Unstuck” section. Here an alphabetical list of skills is offered on topics such as Anxiety, Boundaries, Depression, Emotions, Mindfulness, Perspective, Self-Control, and Stress. Each skill offers dos and don’ts relative to the topic. For example, one of my favorites is:
Don’t be a Tumbleweed:
Recognize the need to . . .
be intentional and purposeful about my choices.
have something specific in mind for myself.
Don’t . . .
allow the chance of how the wind blows to determine my life.
just wait to “see how things go” with my life.
Do decide . . .
what I do not want.
to create a life that’s about me that’s meaningful.
Getting Unstuck reveals all the dysfunctional behaviors we struggle to overcome. Esther discusses how nice it would have been if we had come with a manual to teach us life’s essential lessons, but unfortunately, that’s not the case, and as she says, “When we failed early in life to learn essential lessons, we, no doubt, learned unproductive coping skills.”
Those coping skills helped us at the time in specific relationships, but they do not carry over to making productive relationships or a happy life as we get older. We need to learn to master the essential twelve lessons Esther now offers in this book if we want to be productive and well-adjusted human beings.
One point of Esther’s story that really resonated with me was how she struggled with overcoming her victim mentality. Because of the hurts of her early childhood, she developed low self-esteem and also an inability to take a compliment or to celebrate or even recognize when she was successful at something. Esther’s journey to realizing her self-worth is inspiring and will help many readers on the path to finding their own.
I also really appreciated her advice about starting with the end in mind. She provides tips for setting a vision or goal so we know what outcome we want before we start worrying about how to achieve it. Other tips involve learning about the importance of delayed gratification, learning how to believe you are worth more than you think in terms of your hourly rate, and how to deal with conflict.
For me, learning to say “No” to things has always been a struggle. I loved Esther’s advice here: “If you mean yes, say yes. If you mean no, say no. Oh, and one more point: If you say yes, you have to be nice. It’s no fair agreeing to something that you don’t mean, and then being grumpy about it later on!”
How often do we do that? I know I have, only to make myself and others miserable. I’m going to make a point now to only say yes to what I really want to do, and if I do say yes to something I’m not excited about, not to take it out on others.
As is probably obvious by now, Getting Unstuck is packed with tools and information. I think you’ll be surprised by just how many ways there are to be stuck and how many of those ways are part of your life.
This is the opportunity to free yourself from all that is holding you back. I invite you to read Getting Unstuck and apply what you learn. A better freer life is available. I know because I’ve used many of the tools in this book myself.
For more information about Getting Unstuck and Esther Bleuel, visit her website