What Should Love Feel Like?

At least once a week, a client asks, “I know that love isn’t all butterflies and fireworks, but what should it feel like? Since I’ve never seen a healthy relationship and I’ve never been in one, I have no idea what it should be like.”

I usually balk at the word “should”, but I know what they’re getting at. They want me to offer some kind of template or description of a healthy relationship so that they know if they’re on the right track. How sad it is that most people are bereft of this model! How tragic, really, that because our culture doesn’t offer these templates we’re left groping around in the dark, grasping at some idea of “healthy” and most often left feeling like we must be doing something wrong or that our relationship is wrong in some way. As Alain do Botton writes in The Course of Click here to continue reading...

Who Sits at the Head of Your Table?

In last week’s post, I wrote about the essential task of attending to our four realms of Self in order to find wellness and equanimity, and that in order to do this we need to have a loving, competent and clear inner parent at the helm of psyche. Just as kids feel safe when there’s an attuned parent sitting at the head of the metaphoric dinner table, so our inner characters – our Anxiety, Judgement, Fear, Jealousy, Critic, Taskmaster, Good Girl/Boy – feel safe when there’s a loving, clear, attuned parent at the head of the table of psyche.

Just as a loving outer parent listens to and honors a child’s needs yet pushes them past their comfort zone when necessary, so a loving inner parent brings compassion and intense curiosity to our inner world while making sure that we don’t fall into the realm of indulgent pain.

Just … Click here to continue reading...

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...

Leaf in the Wind Syndrome

“I’m always comparing my relationship to other people’s relationships. Why does everyone else look like they’re so in love?”

“I have such a hard time making decisions. Sometimes I can’t even decide what to order at a restaurant!”

“I worry about whether or not my family likes my partner. I always care so much about what they think.”

“I believe every anxious thought that enters my brain. It’s exhausting.”

“What if I’m gay? What if I’m a pedophile? What if I have a terminal illness?” 

All of these statements are symptoms of the same core issue: lack of self-knowledge and self-love which result in a lack of self-trust. In other words, when we’re filled up inside – when the waters of our well of Self are full – we have a strong and solid sense of ourselves and so we naturally stop caring what others think, stop comparing, stop needing … 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...