Robert Pirsig wrote about this many years ago in his classic book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I wasn't very old when I first read the book, but I felt he was talking about me when he addressed the issue of "stuckness." From an early age I have been an expert at creating stuckness and being frustrated by it.
Using an example from motorcycle maintenance, Pirsig explains the essence of stuckness...
A screw sticks, for example, on a side cover assembly. You check the manual to see if there might be any special cause for this screw to come off so hard, but all it says is "Remove side cover plate" in that wonderful terse technical style that never tells you what you want to know. There's no earlier procedure left undone that might cause the cover screws to stick.
Your mind was already thinking ahead to what you would do when the cover plate was off, and so it takes a little time to realize that this irritating minor annoyance of a torn screw slot isn't just irritating and minor. You're stuck. Stopped. Terminated. It's absolutely stopped you from fixing the motorcycle.
I've been there so many times. I had a wiring problem. I tried one thing to fix it and broke something. I tried something else to fix it and broke something else. This is always the way when I try to fix something. Eventually I end up with a worse situation than when I started, without the right part, or the right tool or, more often, without any clue as to what to do next.
Back to his motorcycle example, Pirsig writes...
This is the zero moment of consciousness. Stuck. No answer. Honked. Kaput. It's a miserable experience emotionally. You're losing time. You're incompetent. You don't know what you're doing. You should be ashamed of yourself. You should take the machine to a real mechanic who knows how to figure these things out.
It's normal at this point for the fear-anger syndrome to take over and make you want to hammer on that side plate with a chisel, to pound it off with a sledge hammer if necessary.
I have what is effectively a small sledge hammer in my tool box. It's amazing how many times I reach for it in such moments of frustration. If something is stuck, surely beating it with a hammer will unstick it?
It's not that I'm stupid or incapable of rational thought. It's just that my brain freezes up in situations like this.
I am also a very impatient person. When I get stuck I become even more impatient.
I should have learned by now that the secret in such situations is to take a deep breath, slow down, go for a walk, have a beer, maybe sleep on it, and eventually a solution to unstick the stuckness might appear.
But often it doesn't.
The fear of stuckness is needless because the longer you stay stuck the more you see the Quality-reality that gets you unstuck every time. What's really been getting you stuck is the running from the stuckness through the cars of your train of knowledge looking for a solution that is out in front of the train.
Stuckness shouldn't be avoided. It's the psychic predecessor of all real understanding. An egoless acceptance of stuckness is a key to an understanding of all Quality, in mechanical work as in other endeavors.
I don't begin to understand what those last two paragraphs mean.
I didn't understand them when I first read them almost 40 years ago. And I don't understand them now.
If I did understand them, I might be a much better person.
If I did understand them, I guess I might not have missed the regatta because of my bloody trailer problems.