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:
Bolting awake in the middle of the night
Difficulty functioning at work
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 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...
Our stories form a crystal cave of stalactites and stalagmites in our minds, a cool chamber that seduces us with the promise that if we spend enough time there we will divine our answers. How beautiful this cave looks! How many promises it offers! And how familiar this cave becomes when we’ve spent thousands of hours there seeking safety from the vulnerability of childhood. Each stalactite tells a story. Each stalagmite offer the infinite details that need to be figured out.
It’s very easy to become caught in this cave of stories, to fall prey to the widespread belief of the culture and the intrinsic ego belief that we can solve our anxiety by figuring out the “answers” to the conundrums and riddles that occupy daily, human life. Yet as Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” This means that the … Click here to continue reading...
On a daily basis, my assistant and I receive the following email: “Can you recommend a therapist in my area who is familiar with your work?”
Sadly, I don’t have a database of like-minded therapists, and, even more sadly, I know that many therapists fall into the “doubt means don’t” mindset and end up creating more anxiety for their already anxious clients. As such, I can understand the reluctance to start therapy with someone who could very well tell you to walk away from your loving, honest, trustworthy, like-minded partner as soon as you hint at doubt.
However, I do have some concrete suggestions for how you can avoid falling onto the couch of an uninformed therapist and hopefully find someone who can help walk you through your relationship anxiety (and anxiety in general). For there can be no doubt that we’re not meant to do this work alone, and … Click here to continue reading...
A subset topic of the million-dollar question – is my anxiety/doubt evidence that my truth is that I’m with the wrong partner or does it mean something else? – is the issue of intuition versus anxiety. In other words, embedded inside every question of the mind suffering from relationship anxiety is, “Isn’t this anxiety really my intuition telling me to leave?”
That’s certainly what the culture says. That’s what most of your well-meaning friends and relatives will say. That’s even what many therapists will say. The mainstream message about anxiety in a relationship clearly reads, “Doubt means don’t.”
But that’s not what people say who are well-versed in the language of fear, those who know how it can sneakily show up in relationships through the back door and masquerade as doubt, anxiety, and numbness. That’s not what people say when they’ve traveled the dusty back roads of relationships, the ones … Click here to continue reading...