Elisa A. Escalante, LMSW, 9-15-2020

“Not all choices are made with logic. Some are made during fear, some stem from pain. Some are made due to the lies we’ve been told. Some choices are forced upon us. Before you judge a person’s choices, recognize that you really don’t know why they made them.” -EaE

    Unfortunately, humans can find themselves trapped in many ways due to many different reasons. They start the path toward something they believe they want, and it turns into a lifestyle that is consuming and miserable. Trapped physically, mentally, emotionally in something that they no longer want. The classic line of “you knew what you were getting yourself into” is often wrong. How often do we ever really know what we are getting ourselves into…? Especially if… we haven’t done it before…? Humans are often lost creatures searching for ‘perfect’ solutions to never ending problems. Entrapment is associated with heightened obligation to a life that we do not want but feel ‘stuck’ in for a variety of different reasons. Often the terms “I have no choice”, “I have to”, “I must” come up time and time again. Then, although there are options to making changes, the options often seem less than ideal at any given time.  “A divorce might make me happier… but then I would have to deal with X,Y,Z.” “Quitting this job might be good for me, but then I would have to worry about X,Y,Z.” In other words, we do tend to get comfortable in our misery of entrapment due to the fear of what’s to come if we try to escape.

     Examples of circumstances that lead to feelings of Entrapment:   

  • Children in abusive households
  • Abusive marriage
  • Living within community violence
  • Prison
  • Military contract
  • Financial provider of a household
  • Parent of the household
  • Hospitalizations (medical or mental health)
  • Homelessness/ homeless shelter
  • Jobs that cover the bills, but barely
  • Owing debt
  • Legal obligations
  • Physical & Mental disabilities

          Often, the above list are different situations in which people may report feelings of entrapment. It often feels hard to see a way out when you’re literally or mentally stuck, and the obligations are so high. Did we over promise? Did we get ourselves into something we were not ready for? Maybe we didn’t want it, but now it is what it is and it’s too late to back out. Can we even back out or are we bound by parents, sentencing or contract? Must we just ‘do our time’ until the nightmare is over? Will it be over? Is it my fault? What did I do? Life is terrifying when we feel stuck and unhappy with the day to day. What makes matters worse is, people are rarely sympathetic. “Kids stressing you out?? Guess you shouldn’t have had kids”.  “Military sucks? Well you knew what you signed up for!” “Jail sucks, well maybe you shouldn’t have committed the ‘crime’.” “The hospital sucks? Well maybe you should take care of yourself better”. “Stressed about debt? We all are, everyone is dealing with it, spend less money.”

     The blame always gets shifted back to the individual. You did this, you, you, YOU. Regardless of fault or lack of fault (because it isn’t always an individual’s fault; especially children that are in abusive households), we are entitled to our emotions, and emotions never lie. Maybe we had a foresight of something beautiful, maybe we were overpromised things. Maybe we were misguided, maybe we were… simply desperate. Maybe it literally was out of our control at the time. One theme I have found certain in almost all situations of entrapment, is the heightened sense of obligation, shame and misery that comes with it.  It’s not to say that you cannot be happily trapped in something. If someone is happily ‘trapped’ in a situation they love, then technically that’s not entrapment, that’s a healthy/ happy lifestyle and routine they have set up for themselves. Entrapment is about those ‘stuck points’ where the days are hard to get through, and the way out of it seems to be getting slimmer and slimmer.

     What can help when we are ‘STUCK’ and entrapped?

  • If it’s a dangerous situation and you’re consistently feeling threatened mentally and physically, GTFO. Seek safety, seek help, seek resources. It may be uncomfortable, but in order to accomplish this escape plan, you must get comfortable with asking for help and leaning on a support system, temporarily of course. If someone only wishes to diminish, minimize or deny your feelings or deny you access to help, find someone different, they are not the one that can help you. You deserve to be heard and validated.
  • Evaluate what you are actually ‘obligated’ to. In most cases we are NOT obligated to do as much as we think we are. The lines “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done” “I must”, “I have to” need to be reevaluated and reframed. Self-care must come first. Replace obligatory lines with lines such as “Somethings got to give”, “It’s okay not to feel okay”, “sometimes we all need breaks”.
  • Do what you love when you can do it. Regardless of the situation we find ourselves in, there are often at least small slivers of time that get to be ‘for us’. Do not waste that time on self-pity alone. You’re allowed to cry about how shitty your life is while you’re doing something of joy too. At least that activity can help alleviate some of the build up of stress and frustration. (Yes, I have done martial arts many times with tears streaming down my face either before, during or after the training session. Never a single regret.)
  • Visualize and plan the future lifestyle that you are devoted to making better than your present. This is crucial and involves a lot of ‘guided imagery’, hope, objectives, goals and planning. If you are trapped in something that makes you miserable, it’s imperative to actively look at how to change the situation in the future. This process involves a lot of self-motivation, as no one will do it for you. Toxic people and uncomfortable symptoms often sabotage this journey, boundaries will be crucial. As well as the unconditional acceptance that your life will not change overnight.
  • Stop Racing & Chasing. This means, stop being in a hurry to be first, or to accomplish what everyone else is. Live for you and be honest with yourself. Maybe you don’t want that job, maybe society pressured you into it. Maybe you don’t want kids yet, but everyone is telling you it’s the next step. Maybe you don’t want to reenlist in the military, but you do not know another life and are anxious about the next step. Entrapped people are susceptible to this theme as they live their life believing that the ‘next thing’ or ‘next person’ will make all their problems go away. However, working toward a goal or different lifestyle is only ever worth it, when it’s something that YOU want.


       In many cases, there is an embarrassment associated with entrapment. As stated before, society shames those who find themselves in positions that are difficult to deal with. Unlike the rest of the world, I like to take the approach of empowerment vs the approach of shaming. I will empower you with the reminder that you can do great things for yourself, even when odds are stacked against you. In general, most people are capable of more than they realize, the key is always hunting down those crucial timeframes where we are free with time, and free of symptoms. (Yes, sometimes these moments are slim, but they count) The only thing we may have when we are in situations of entrapment is the daily tasks that we can do that will make a difference in our futures. (Delayed gratification) Do not let those moments pass you by. If this article is relatable to you, it means you deserve to be happier than this.

Published by functionallymentall

Social Worker, Writer, USAF Veteran

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