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Zugzwang: What Is It And How To Get Out Of A Dead End: Advice From Psychologists

Dr. Cooney Blades
Dec 04, 20236529 Shares128010 Views
The situation in chess when a player is in a dead end and each move only makes the situation worse is called “zugzwang”. It’s not easy to get out of it: there are clear rules of the game on a black and white board. In real lifeeverything is different. It may turn out that you simply do not see the “exit” arrow.

Full Zugzwang: What Is It?

In life, the term “zugzwang” is used to describe difficult situations when any action of a person, in his opinion, will only make things worse. But life is more variable than a chess game. There may be not one or two ways out of the situation, but many more.
The term from checkers and chess “zugzwang” (from German zug - “move”, zwang - “coercion”) is also used in everyday life: political, professional, family and romantic. They denote situations when it is impossible to refuse a move, but any move only worsens the situation.
In the world of online casinos, for example, experiencing zugzwang can be akin to the strategic dilemma faced by sports bettingenthusiasts when they must decide whether to bet on the underdog or the favored team.
One-sided zugzwang occurs when only one of the participants in the interaction is at a disadvantage. For example, in a romantic relationship - when a woman is financially dependent on a man prone to cruelty (abuse). She is forced to submit to his will and is constantly at risk of not pleasing.
Mutual zugzwang can easily be imagined in the format of a family: husband, wife, children. Adults have not respected or valued each other for a long time and have been cohabiting only for the sake of children, a mortgage and a joint bank account. Any attempt to get out of an unpleasant situation is associated with losses during divorce, and living together leads to harm to mental health, even physical health(psychosomatics).
Positional zugzwang does not bring significant losses, although it worsens the situation. For example, a young couple finds out that a man cannot conceive children. Modern methods don't help. The woman decides to continue the relationship and gives up the role of mother with the thought: “This is not the most important thing, although it’s a pity.” This is how they live without feeling any serious losses.
Imaginary zugzwang occurs when a profitable, useful solution actually exists, but it is difficult for the interacting parties to see and implement it due to automatic thinking and excessive emotionality. Let's take the same family in which the husband and wife have already tired each other. They can try to establish contact through a family therapist if they give up mutual reproaches and accusations and attend several sessions.

How to Fix Everything? 10 Ways to Get Out Of a Deadlock

When you find yourself facing a closed door in life or at a dead end, the most important thing is not to slip into the position of a victim. This means you need to take responsibility for the situation.

Keep your eyes open

The ability to manage your attention is decisive in zugzwang situations. A huge number of events happen in the life of every person at the same time. If we focus only on those that seem problematic to us, we stop seeing othersthat can lead to a solution to the problem.

Develop Flexible Thinking

Flexibility of thinking is the ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances. Thanks to this skill, a person can turn difficult situations to his advantage. In the Covid year 2020, when the whole world had to go into home isolation, at first it seemed like a disaster. People with flexible thinking adapted to the situation the fastest.
Some took up self-development - they began to take various online training courses, others took up sports. And still others have opened up new business opportunities.

Explore Life's Zugzwang

Try to find out how real and serious the “trap” you are in is? Double-check the “introductory” information: ask clarifying questions, discuss possible solutions and concerns with other “players”. — It may turn out that your partner or boss sees the situation differently and is ready to change his “move.”

Accept Your Emotions

Any emotion is a short-term reaction of the body to an ongoing situation. It lasts 15-20 minutes. When a person understands and accepts his emotions, he can give himself the opportunity to let off steam in a crisis situation - wait, switch, move, do breathing practice. The person gradually regains control of attention, and he can switch to searching for solutions to the problem.
Practice mindfulness - for example, through mindfulness. These are meditations cleared of the religious context, aimed at the ability to be “here and now”, to be in the moment. The simplest thing: every day for five minutes in a calm environment, focus your attention on inhaling and exhaling.

Give up illusions

If a situation repeats itself over and over again, it is unlikely to change on its own and arose by chance. Therefore, you should not “skip a move” in the hope that everything will resolve. It is better to learn to live in a new reality, try to find something useful for yourself in it, rethink the actions and actions that led to it, and draw conclusions.

Give Yourself Time to Think

Explore the likely outcomes, use your mind and imagination.” Write down possible scenarios of events for each of the lines:
Decide slowly, not emotionally and automatically, but rationally, objectively weighing the situation. This will allow you to see new possibilities and, perhaps, the imaginary nature of your zugzwang.
Learn to notice positive lessons and benefits in seemingly negative consequences. Any event teaches us something, trains some of your survival skills.
In the future, try to write down every evening what resources you see in forced and seemingly unprofitable actions (inactions) as a result of zugzwang.

Find Motivation to Change

If a situation repeats itself over and over again, it is unlikely to change on its own and arise by chance. Therefore, you should not “skip a move” in the hope that everything will resolve. It is better to learn to live in a new reality, try to find something useful for yourself in it, rethink the actions and actions that led to it, and draw conclusions.

Give Yourself Time to Think

Explore the likely outcomes, use your mind and imagination.
Decide slowly, not emotionally and automatically, but rationally, objectively weighing the situation. This will allow you to see new possibilities and, perhaps, the imaginary nature of your zugzwang.
Learn to notice positive lessons and benefits in seemingly negative consequences. Any event teaches us something, trains some of your survival skills.
In the future, try to write down every evening what resources you see in forced and seemingly unprofitable actions (inactions) as a result of zugzwang.”

Find Motivation to Change

When making decisions, check your internal coordinate system. We are able to overcome even the most difficult trials if we find meaning in them, if they affirm our true values. What is truly meaningful and important to you in this difficult situation? What are you internally striving for? Psychologists have in their arsenal many techniques for “manifesting” meanings. But you can work on this yourself.
Write in the middle of the sheet your desire related to the problem. For example: “I want to quit/change this job,” then move the arrows up, answering the question “Why do I need this?” The answer must correspond to the question and begin with the word “In order to...” (not “because...”). As a rule, there are several answers. For example: “To have more time for family” / “To finally relax”, etc. Each of them should be asked again: “Why do I need this?”
The chain of answers ends when the ultimate meaning is identified, beyond which it is already difficult to advance. The answers are either repeated or “butted” into something meaningful and capacious - “To live and truly feel alive,” “To finally become happy.”
Conscious values give our actions motivational stability and inspire change, supporting our determination to move forward.

Take Action

American writer, game developer and researcher Jane McGonigal, who managed to recover from a serious illness and created a game that helps people cope with difficult situations, advises viewing future actions as tasks, not problems. To do this, make a to-do list and implement it.
This changes the internal feeling of “threat” to “challenge thinking” - “I can handle this!” And self-confidence and good motivation are almost a victory. All that remains is to strengthen your position and improve your life. Take action!
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