When Anxious, Start at the Beginning

Anxiety is a messenger, a symptom, and a gift. I know that statement flies in the face of everything we learn about anxiety in a culture that is pathologically obsessed with eradicating shadow at every turn and consequently attempts to “get rid of” the symptom of anxiety as quickly and cleanly as possible, but I carry a vastly different approach. Instead of immediately medicating anxiety and its cohort of symptoms away, I seek to understand the messages encoded in its underlayers. Instead of viewing anxiety as a sign of disorder or dysfunction, I see it as a normal, human response to this life that includes stress, fear, risk, and ultimately, death. Can anxiety spiral out of control and make our lives a living hell? Absolutely. I’m not trying to place anxiety on a throne or in a position of worship. Rather, I’m bringing it out of its role as the … Click here to continue reading...

Am I Only With My Partner Because He Makes Me Feel Safe?

There are so many ways the ego tries to dismantle real love, and it’s favorite is to perseverate on a single question until it tires itself out, then jump to the next story. I’ve dissected many of these questions on this blog and in my courses, approaching each in the same way: name it as an intrusive thought, douse it with truth water, then ask: What is this thought protecting me from feeling? The current thought-story that seems to be making the rounds of the collective unconscious, meaning I’m hearing it through all of my channels – from my clients, my readers, and my course members – is the title of this blog: What if I’m only with my partner because she or he makes me feel safe?

Let’s dissect this intrusive thought and douse it with some truth water. The statement implies that feeling safe is a poor … Click here to continue reading...

When Love Makes You Flinch

One of the common fear-lines that arises when the ego is trying to deconstruct the idea of relationship anxiety and convince you that your truth is that you’re just with the wrong person is: “If what Sheryl says is true, why don’t more people talk about it?”

It’s an understandable question, and I have many responses to it. But the best response is to inform the person who is questioning that those who are intimately familiar with the ins-and-outs of relationships do, in fact, talk about the interplay between fear and love in a very similar way as I do. Clergy, couple therapists, longtime married couples, and anyone on the front lines of real relationships know that love includes fear, that certainty is often followed by doubt, that love is action, and that falling in love isn’t a prerequisite for having a great relationship. It’s only the mainstream media – … Click here to continue reading...

If I'm Calm Now Is It Still Relationship Anxiety?

There is often a predictable arc to relationship anxiety that includes three stages.*

The first stage is characterized by typical symptoms of anxiety and panic:

Can’t sleep Can’t eat Tearful Depressed Bolting awake in the middle of the night Difficulty functioning at work Fluttering stomach Racing heart

On a purely physiological level, we can’t maintain this state of high anxiety for very long. Eventually the alarm will simmer down to something that feels like calm. This isn’t the true calm that arrives after working long and hard facing our fears. Rather, it’s the calm that follows the dramatic and intense storm of the first stage. It’s where psyche and soma settle into a manageable state that might be characterized more by numbness or indifference than true calm. You can sleep now. You can eat. You can function. But you’re just not that excited about your relationship. At least when you … Click here to continue reading...

When Will I Feel Better?

When you’re neck-deep and soul-soaked in anxiety, when you’re having trouble eating, sleeping, and basically functioning, when the love you formally felt for your partner has been eclipsed by indifference, doubt, or numbness, when intrusive thoughts invade your brain day and night, you will inevitably ask, “When will I feel better?” This question hits at the onset of anxiety when the symptoms are full-tilt misery, it hits when the excruciating first set of symptoms starts to abate, and it hits when people find my work and sign up for my courses. “When will I feel better?” they ask, with desperation in their voices.

My response: It takes time. As we live in a culture that conditions us to expect immediate results and relief this is soften a difficult concept to accept. Hungry? Order fast-food. Lonely? Send a text. Need a sexual release? Watch porn. Have a headache? Pop a pill. … Click here to continue reading...