Stuck in Life and Lacking Motivation? How to Overcome Stagnation


Feeling stuck in life and lacking motivation is a common experience. Understanding the underlying causes of this stagnation can provide insight and pathways to overcome it. This article delves into the concept of “white depression,” characterized by an unconscious identification with a depressed or narcissistically preoccupied caregiver. This type of caregiver is physically present but emotionally unavailable, leading to a sense of futility and stagnation in life.

Recognizing White Depression

When a caregiver is emotionally detached, they fail to provide the necessary emotional resonance and affective attunement that is crucial for healthy development. Emotional resonance is when a caregiver’s response mirrors the child’s emotional state, while affective attunement involves a caregiver tuning into, responding to, and validating the child’s feelings and behaviors. The lack of these elements results in a child internalizing a caregiver who lacks vitality and denies the existence of affectively alive experiences and relationships.

How to Overcome Stagnation

The Impact of Early Caregiving

Growing up with an emotionally unavailable caregiver can deeply affect an individual’s interpersonal relationships, sense of self-worth, and their ability to derive meaning from life. For example, a young man might carry a deep sense of meaninglessness, struggling in relationships, work, and life in general. When exploring his feelings about his lack of employment, he might express a pervasive sense of futility—questioning the point of working when he derives no pleasure from it.

This sense of futility and emotional numbness can lead individuals to withdraw from life, merely floating through it without conviction. They might appear functional from the outside, but closer examination reveals their difficulty in experiencing pleasure or staying emotionally connected.

Emotional Resonance and Meaning

To understand how lack of emotional resonance affects an individual’s sense of meaning, consider a child whose parent values cleanliness. When the child cleans their room and proudly shows it to their parent, a healthy response involves the parent showing genuine interest and pride. This positive experience gets internalized, contributing to the child’s sense of worth and motivation.

How to Overcome Stagnation

Conversely, if the parent’s response is lackluster or forced, the child begins to feel that their efforts are futile. This persistent lack of genuine interest gets internalized, leading to a chronic sense of futility and an inability to invest in or derive pleasure from life activities.

Addressing the Core Issues in Therapy

In therapy, the goal is not to push the individual into more activities or hobbies but to address the underlying sense of futility. This involves acknowledging and reflecting on the individual’s subjective experience of feeling that their efforts are for nothing. For example, helping someone realize how they feel they can’t win over their father’s approval and support and therefore why try at all.

As the therapeutic work progresses, it’s beneficial to explore the significance of stagnation in their life. Encouraging individuals to recognize that they carry the emotionally detached caregiver with them wherever they go is crucial. This realization helps them understand that by relinquishing hope and expectations, they maintain a deep, albeit painful, connection to the caregiver.

Overcoming the Narcissistic Wound

Underneath the surface of these futile feelings lies a profound sense of worthlessness. The child begins to believe that they are not worthy of attention and recognition, this is a deeper narcissistic wound. This emptiness and lack of affect may also function as protective measures, shielding the individual from the intense pain associated with early unmet needs and the sense of not being valued or loved.

In overcoming the narcissistic wound, it is crucial to address these deeply ingrained beliefs and emotions, often necessitating a therapeutic environment where the individual can safely explore and process their early experiences. Through this process, they can begin to rebuild a sense of self-worth and cultivate healthier, more authentic relationships.

How to Overcome Stagnation

Pathway to Change

Therapeutic change involves helping individuals feel deeply understood and appreciated. This restoration of emotional vitality is crucial but also involves mourning the loss of the emotionally detached caregiver. For instance, a patient named Sarah, who always felt invisible to her emotionally unavailable mother, might begin to confront her feelings of abandonment and worthlessness in therapy. Through the therapist’s consistent affective attunement and emotional resonance, Sarah starts to experience a sense of being truly seen, and her own inner work begins to feel ‘alive.’ She feels valued for the first time. This therapeutic alliance allows her to grieve the nurturing she never received, paving the way for developing a more secure and positive self-image. Developing a new way of being and relating can feel alien and terrifying, but it is necessary for overcoming stagnation and finding meaning in life.


In addressing white depression, it becomes clear that overcoming stagnation involves more than merely increasing activity levels or adopting new hobbies. At the core, individuals must confront and heal from the deep-seated feelings of futility and worthlessness rooted in their early caregiving experiences. Therapeutic interventions that provide consistent emotional resonance and attunement are crucial in this process, helping individuals feel genuinely understood and appreciated for perhaps the first time in their lives. By acknowledging and processing the pain associated with emotionally detached caregivers, individuals can begin to dismantle the protective mechanisms that have kept them from experiencing genuine connection and emotional fulfillment. Through therapeutic change, they can find a renewed sense of vitality and purpose, breaking free from the confines of the internalized emotionally absent caregiver and embracing a more fulfilling future.



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