Feeding the Demons of Intrusive Thoughts

IMG_0648One of the key elements to breaking free from the grip of intrusive thoughts and, thus, the stronghold of relationship anxiety, is to learn how to stop feeding the thoughts. This is not an easy task. In fact, as anyone who works in the inner realms well knows, learning to work with one’s thoughts is one of the greatest challenges of being human, especially for those who fall on the anxious-sensitive-creative spectrum. But I also know, from working with clients and course members for many years, that it is entirely possibility to break free from the mental addictions that plague the anxious soul.

Whatever we water will grow, and whatever we stop watering will eventually wither and die. Intrusive thoughts are weeds in the garden of your mind. If you want to break free of them, you need to learn how to water the flowers and stop watering the weeds.

Like the shadow characters in fairy tales and mythic quests, the thoughts are like demons that vie for our attention. If you feed the demon, you’re sunk, dead in the water, and are perpetually beholden to do the demon’s bidding. In other words, the cardinal rule of encountering a dark character in the underworld is do not share food, for once you accept the offer of food (the apple, for example, in Snow White), you are forever bound to that person. The cardinal rule of effectively breaking free from the addiction of intrusive thoughts is this same: do not feed the thought.

There are many ways to feed the thoughts. These are the most common:

  • Talking about the thoughts (seeking reassurance)
  • Journaling about the thoughts (journaling can be a powerful tool if it’s used correctly, but if you’re journaling about the thoughts themselves, or any sneaky subsets of the primary thoughts, you will remain trapped).
  • Googling
  • Thinking/ruminating/obsessing
  • Researching
  • Meditating (like journaling, meditating can be used as a way to break free from mental traps or as a way to reinforce the thoughts by trying to escape from them).

When I work with clients, I often have some version of the following conversation:

“What tool are you using on a daily basis to work with these thoughts?” [journaling, meditating, yoga, breathwork, just to name a few]

“Well, I journal a lot. I have reams of notebooks filled with my journaling. But I often find that journaling makes it worse.”

“What are you journaling about?”

“The thoughts. My latest focus, whatever that may be [physical attraction, intellectual attraction, social attraction, should I stay or should I go? are we right for each other?]

“So you’re journaling about the thoughts themselves. Whatever you water will grow. If you journal about the thoughts, the thoughts will grow. But if you resist the compelling impulse to indulge in the thoughts and instead ask, ‘What is needed? How am I off-kilter inside?’, you will start to break free.”

Every time you feed the demon in any way, the demon grows larger and more powerful. The work, over and over again, is to acknowledge the thought, and then ask, “What is this thought protecting me from feeling? How would I be spending my time and energy if I weren’t obsessing on this thought?” Like all facets of anxiety, intrusive thoughts occupy inordinate amounts of space in our inner realms. When you find the courage and strength to break free, you release that trapped energy and find that life, instead of something to fear, is a gift to behold.

***

For a complete training on breaking free from intrusive thoughts, whether or not you’re suffering from relationship anxiety, please consider my Break Free From Relationship Anxiety E-Course.

110 comments to Feeding the Demons of Intrusive Thoughts

  • Liza

    So needed to read this today. I am 8 weeks pregnant and the hormones have caused a resurgence of anxiety and intrusive thoughts about my relationship with my husband. I spent hours yesterday googling for reassurance, which has only made things so much worse. Been battling relationship anxiety for 8 years and the intrusive thoughts still get the best of me at times. Thank you for reminding me to put the laptop down and focus on doing the work.

    • I love this: “Thank you for reminding me to put the laptop down and focus on doing the work.”

    • M

      Hi Liza,
      Would you say your anxiety has spiked since you got pregnant? I have been battling relationship anxiety for the past few years on and off. My husband and I are going to start trying for kids soon and I am scared that my anxiety is going to be very bad. I am currently on Efexor and that helps me get a handle on my anxiety and my intrusive thoughts aren’t as bad. I just know I won’t be able to be on my medication while pregnant and I am worried the relationship anxiety will come back in full force. How have you dealt with your anxiety while pregnant? Any tips for me? Thanks!

      • Lili

        Hi liza and m,
        I am in a similar situation, batteling with relationship anxiety for along time and planning to have a baby soon, any advice is appreciated! Maybe we can start a forum if ur on the ecourse?

        • M

          I am not on the e course I have thought about signing up but I have been doing better since I started taking medication, seeing a therapist and following this blog. Maybe we could start a Facebook group?

        • M

          The board sounds great. Did you want to create it? It’s so nice knowing there are other people out there who struggle with the same anxiety as me and I am not the only one.

          • Lili

            Hi Marelane,

            Thats cool. I am working on it now. Will let you know when I set it up. Yes its great…we are not alone in this 🙂

          • Lili

            Hi M,

            I haven’t been successful in setting up the website, its not very user friendly . I can add you on facebook, I wonder how we could exchange IDs other than here?

          • Lili

            Hi Lea,

            I know what you mean by becoming anxious with the thoughts, how long have you been in this anxiety?

            Also, I would say that the question is not really easy to answer, especially in the anxious state that you are in.
            And it feeds the intrusive thoughts. Thats the million dollor question we are all here for and obsessing over!! Have you read Sheryl’s book the conscious bride? I think its for brides who are in a similar position to you, who have anxiety before the wedding.

          • Lili

            Dear M, Sorry just realized I posted in the wrong place…please see my message before the last…

        • M

          Hi Lili,
          Maybe we can create a page and post the name on here? It might be easier than trying to find someone since peoe have the same names. And then we can add each other that way?

  • Rachael

    This is beautiful, I like to think of it as thoughts are building blocks. If you are building with crumbling bricks, the foundations will crack. If you build with strength, you will find it holds you up.

  • N

    I love this as well.. I keep telling myself to stop obsessing over the thoughts and to just call them out and douse with some truth water. It absolutely is hard, because you think they will never go away.. But I am trying my best to accept them and have faith that one day they won’t have that hold on me!

    Can there be times where a thought pops up and there be nothing behind the thought? Sometimes I think that they aren’t simply hiding anything, or they aren’t hiding one thing in particular.

    • Yes, certainly there are times when there’s nothing behind the thoughts, but I’ve found that even when we think there’s nothing, there’s usually a bit of something, even if it’s the catch-all core feeling of uncertainty that underlies most, if not all, intrusive thoughts. This is where learning to become more comfortable with groundlessness comes in (highly recommend Pema Chodron to this end). And this, I believe, is a lifelong learning process.

  • That’s saved me that phrase. Many times. ‘Whatever you water will grow’.
    It can be used in a really positive way too. Like imagining your love is a rose. You need to water rose, prune and take care of it. Take responsibility for its growth or demise.

    But it’s a killer question that one…What is this thought protecting me from feeling?
    Despite me genuinely trying…I often get stuck at this point and think…’I really need to ask Sheryl about this…!’ How do you answer it…well enough to believe…the thought is not the truth. More work for me…

    • Knowing what I know about you, my first guess is that the thought is protecting you from taking full responsibility for your own aliveness. Ring any bells?

  • Megan

    I haven’t got much to say just, thank you 🙏🏼 I needed this today

    • MaryMo

      Thank you for the post. I find that my anxiety is like an constant current just under surface. I was thinking it was only in my relationship, which causes me to focus on him, his choices, attitudes,but it comes up in all areas. Just about boils down to I don’t feel good enough no matter what I di, don’t do. I’m in two 12 step programs and I find I compare myself to people there , don’t feel worthy etc. when I don’t feel good about me , I don’t feel good or trusting of anything. It’s hard to turn it around. I’m grateful for the ecourse because it mentions that this takes practice and time. It s hard to treat myself with compassion and not lash out on my boyfriend whom is wonderful, trustworthy, hard working, intelligent, funny. All the things a person could want.

  • Celeste

    Thank you! I have been so worried about my adult children and obsessively thinking about it. The question “how would I be spending my time and energy if I was not obsessing them” literally stopped me in my tracks. I am stumped…..much to explore!

  • Kassie

    Hi Sheryl!

    I began today by starting to journal my fears as you mentioned. One fear that causes me a lot of anxiety is the fear of being “stuck, ” how do I address this with truth and move forward. I’ve been with my now fiancé for 16 years (since I was 20) and have been struggling with relationship anxieties for a few years now. I have a tendency to fixate on the things I don’t like about him and that as well bring me anxieties.

  • Nicole

    Sheryl,

    How I learned the hard way about journaling each and every thought!!! So glad you confirmed this for me. Every thought (good or bad), I wrote it down and tried to answer and dissect it, or prove it wrong. I even looked back at old entries to quote myself on a new question my mind would come up with. Thanks for this, I’m working on my new journaling skills!!

    • Yes, most people learn the hard way! As I responded to Meggan below, the ego pushes us to try to answer these unanswerable questions, twisting us into a pretzel mess until we finally, hopefully, learn a better way.

  • I feel so lucky that I stumbled upon your site a few years ago. At that time I was 22 and with a man who was really amazing in a lot of ways. We were a great match and if, at the time, I had been ready to work on my relationship anxiety I bet we’d still be together. But, it was so hard and I was so young. I wasn’t ready to face all the thoughts and what’s beneath them, so I often covered them or fed them by talking about them, googling, journaling etc. Eventually that manifested into frequent panic attacks, which I’d never experienced before. The relationship didn’t survive all my internal upheaval. I left and I still wish 3 years later I’d been strong enough to keep it togethBut I wasn’t, and I am working to forgive myself. I was alone for a very long time after that, telling myself that I can’t “do” relationships. Every time I approached trying it with him again or someone new I welled up with panic. I was panicked about the chance of becoming panicked. I’ve felt stronger lately, through reading your blogs and taking it a little at a time–not expecting change to happen overnight. I’ve begun a relationship with someone new and by taking it slow and following your blogs, I’ve begun to see the way I can manage my anxious thoughts before they boil over. I’ve still got a lot of work to do and have been considering taking one of your courses, but I’m doing the work, learning about myself, and risking my heart largely because of things I’ve read here. Thank you for what you do, Sheryl!

  • Meggan

    Thank you, Sheryl! This one really hit home. Not even 24 hours ago, I found myself seeking reassurance on my thoughts and then being told it can be exhausting have the same or similar conversation over and over again. I guess if I get it out it make it seem less real or likely to happen. I do all of the above things you mentioned. And it’s repetitive. If it its not one thought, it’s another. I’m trying to remember that I am not my thoughts and that they are distracting from an underlying issue. But sometimes, it feels so real. But your words are comforting. The blogs alone are helping tremendously until I enroll in an Ecourse. Thank you for all you do. It is very much appreciated and cherished.

    Have a great night!

    Best wishes,

    Meggan

    • You’ve named one of the most compelling reasons why people feed the thoughts: it’s the ego’s attempt to gain the illusion of control. As you said, “If I get it out it makes it seems less real or less likely to happen.” So the ego pushes us forward, convincing us that if we can answer this one question we will find peace and prevent the thing we’re obsessing on from happening. But there are no certain answers to these questions, and even if we can find some respite, the question changes. Ultimately it’s about finding peace with the mystery, the unknowable realities of being human, the one undeniable fact that most of life is out of our control. It’s no small task!

      • A

        I have this incessant need to get to the bottom of an intrusive thought and to find the “truth.” In all honesty, no matter what answer I come up with, the mind is never satisfied. It is so draining, terrifying, and deeply painful. Most of the time it feels as if my mind is betraying my heart. And I struggle to find clarity and peace. This is a vicious cycle. But when I visit here, and I see what everyone is sharing, it is so validating and comforting. I am not alone. Often times I have this horribly uncomfortable almost ocd need to confess all of my thoughts to my partner and I used to feel scared to even post comments on this site. Now I realize that this all comes from a good place in my heart and I shouldn’t judge myself so harshly.

  • Ng

    This was awesome. I have seen this in my old life and I am slowly coming back to loving my guy like I always have in the first place

  • Angela

    Hi Beautiful Sheryl,
    Another fantastic way of explaining intrusive thoughts. Since doing all the courses I have been doing the tools which are breathing, journaling,reading and literaly putting all the programmes into practice. One important question I have been meaning to ask you. I have been journaling daily and I remember you said there is no right or wrong way of journaling and you said no sensoring. This is what I have been doing. Can you give an example how to journal? The way i start journaling is : Today I feel sad because I fear of not becoming a mother, and that feels like the world is going to end this instant.

    • Yes, good start. And then continue to allow that voice to express itself until it feels complete. Once it’s complete, respond to it from your higher self, the part that has trust in the bigger picture and the invisible workings of the universe.

      • Newly Married

        Sheryl I was reading this about journaling, and today I wrote a letter to my mom, I told her many things and that I loved her but I was going to let her go because I wanted to be happy, but I just felt relief and I thought about journaling this way and imagine that loving self but imagine it as if my loving mom was there telling me that its ok and then imagine what would my loving mom-self be telling me and then start that way growing my inner loving mother but with her face in my head… I feel pretty good about this, what do you think?

  • Kayla

    I defintely do those things that feed anxious thoughts; which I never realized until now on some of them! So thank you for that insight! When it comes to talking about the thoughts, how can you know the difference between seeking reassurance or expressing your emotions so you’re not keeping it all in? I often talk about my feelings and thoughts with people I’m close with and I have trouble distinguishing if it causes more or less problems.

    Also, the words “Whatever we water will grow” really stuck with me! It’s a great phrase to keep in mind. 🙂

  • silver

    Hi,

    Everything is **** off I don’t know what to do. Everything feels forced, I keep delaying my replies to her, she doesn’t feel important to me, it feels that I want to get out of the relationship as soon as possible and that’s the only way to save myself and her from hurting anymore. I always fight or flight in our relationship even though I’m the one who causes our fights. I always want to be alone when we don’t see each other. I don’t always want to talk with her, I keep getting irritated and angry at very small things, I don’t always feel attracted to her and getting distracted at other girls. I don’t feel alive, happy and full and in love. There is no more spark unlike before I don’t get jealous anymore, it feels like I don’t care anymore and it even feels not home and just end it and call it quits leave the fantastic relationship. I always question myself every day!! It’s not healthy for her I’m being unfair to her for depriving her of someone who would love to hold her everyday, to tell her how beautiful she is without any hesitation and if there is any would not sway to show and demonstrate how he loves her.

    It’s my first serious one but I always disrespect and running when things go rough, I became abusive after the anxiety hit me few months ago, I consulted some other girls about it and made it worse for our situation. I keep telling relationship problems to other people rather than my girl. I made her insecure and fearful about me. I don’t even talk to other girls, it’s just my anxiety eats me alive that I keep having process addiction, such as watching tv, eating too much, wasting my time. She always accuses me of talking or flirting with other girls which im not. She cannot trust me. Sex doesn’t happen either cause she doesn’t want but I respect it.

    I just don’t know what to do. I’m losing faith in myself anymore nothing feels amazing. Help

    • Nothing will shift, silver, until you learn to take responsibility for your pain and attend inward using an effective tool, like journaling or meditation. Every week you leave a similar comment, and what I hear in the comment is your desire for someone to tell you what to do, to rescue you from your pain. I certainly understand this, as everyone has a rescue fantasy, but until you make this fantasy conscious and make a different choice inside you will continue to suffer. Please read or re-read this post:

      http://conscious-transitions.com/fix-me-save-me-help-me-rescue-me/

      • silver

        Thank you Sheryl, I tried alot of times however what I might be doing still isn’t effective or wrong. I don’t know where to start but I will watch some of your videos in youtube to help me.

        I’m starting to pray to my higher self and our GOD for guidance and strength and start to turn inward and fill my well of self to not put the blame on my partner.

        • Yes, good. Prayer and turning to God are powerful tools. Please make sure you read through my entire site, especially posts from the last few years, so that you can gain a good grasp on what it means to fill your well.

          • silver

            I’ve been wondering since I’m trying my best to battle and put up a good fight to fill my own well, I noticed that I’ve been copying other people and not having my own things to do that I love. One of the reasons that I don’t become happy that I don’t become honest or authentic with my self.

  • Ruth

    I’ve come to realise after lots of questioning and working what my intrusive thoughts are telling me, is that I’m scared of being responsible for our relationship. I want it so much, I want to marry him and have children and we’ve just bought a house together but I’m so scared that it’s down to me to make it work. When I spend time with my parents or sister at their house I feel relaxed because they’re in control and nothing can go wrong but with me, alone or just the 2 of us, I panic at all the things that can go wrong and my anxiety increases. It’s taken me 18 months to figure out what the real fear was and I’m just wondering if other people have this exact same fear of not being able to have a grown up relationship? I don’t know if it’s because I don’t feel good enough I just know there’s a fear there.

    • Yes, that’s a very common root cause, and it comes down to lack of self-trust. It’s great that you’ve been able to discover it, and now the work is to learn to fill your well of Self so that you can know yourself, love yourself, and then trust yourself. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to consider my Trust Yourself program at some point.

  • Stacey

    This was good to read as I am struggling right now with my relationship. I don’t journal, but I do google/research/talk alot/ruminate/obsess ALOT and I think has made things a lot worse with how I feel and its hard to turn around. He recently pulled away from me for a bit for upsetting him over something and then I suffocated him by trying to fix it because when you have an anxious mind and being pulled away from, all insecurities come to light. Before this happened, my mind was in constant chaos of a thought pattern of he doesn’t care, I am not important, this isn’t going to work, we should just break up. And I was pretty sure that was all my fear speaking. Now, with him pulling away (we have talked through it all and have talked about how to better handle this in the future) I am not recovered from this and am hurt. So with what I feel from that situation and my obsessive thoughts before that, I feel not good. I don’t know if this is worth it anymore. This was the first time I have upset him to a degree like this…and he didn’t communicate with me well at all what was going on. I think he understands now that I need to know that I upset him, he needs time to process and then we can talk about it instead of not knowing as my mind will just go places it doesn’t need to go. He is a guarded person due to something from his past I think, which is hard for me to navigate. I just can’t bring myself to break up with him though and its not for reasons of I don’t want to be alone, because I’ve done alone. I can do alone. I love him. And when I’ve felt in love with him, it was so great. That is where I would like to get back too.

  • Newly Married

    Hi Sheryl I just found out that my mother passed away and I wanted to write here in your blog…. I am feeling kind of guilty for the things I did not do do that I could had done better and at the same time I also feel guilty that I do not feel extremely sad about it, I feel like a sense of peace about it that she is resting and she is better because she had a very sad life, she was mentally ill and she made some bad choices that made her journey more painful and that makes me sad, I wish I would had been there better to her, then at the same time I laugh about things and then I cry, its not a bitter cry its a cry that I wish that she had a better life and I hope one day she comes back and I hope she can have a better life experience and one day see her again or see her being happy.
    She was quite toxic, both my parents were, my father has been dead for 9 years and when he died I also did not cry or felt anything, but I missed him I was closer to him, and I felt lost, but with my mom of course now I am married and I m older and I have a life of my own and more wisdom, but I just have that guilt that I am not devastated just like I felt when my father died and I wonder if its because I did not love them or its how maybe how I grieve…. I have decided that since she is already passed on, I will not have anything else to do with her family anymore because they were very toxic and never speak to them again, release them and let them go as an opportunity of my vulnerability being a little opened right now and try to forgive how they were with me, her, instead of talking to them and have them say hurtful things, this way if I take that opportunity I might grieve and forgive all of them and forgive myself as well and be compassionate about how they are without anger or judgment…
    I would appreciate some wise words.

    Thank you and God Bless you.

    • I’m sorry for your loss, and yet it sounds like it’s a loss that will not release great grief for you, which sounds perfectly normal given the circumstances surrounding your relationship with her and her own life. Please let go of the guilt and trust that your thought process is very healthy around this. There’s no reason to overly grieve the loss of someone with whom we did not have a close relationship just because she was “mother” or he was “father.” The grief, in these cases, is more about what was never there, the lack of closeness, then grieving the loss of the actual relationship. It does, indeed, sound like she’s in a better place now and has been released from her suffering around her very sad and painful life.

      • Newly Married

        Thank you Sheryl, I dont know what it is but it also seems like I grieve very little about death, when my father died I always thought I loved him so much and then I became numbed,and that thought that maybe I just dont love people enough to feel really sad has been there since my father died that maybe I just dont love people and thats why I dont feel their loss, now with my mom I feel the same, and I worry that one day if my husband dies before me I will feel the same and not cry or feel alot of pain and that its because I just dont love a a lot…..what if I feel exactly the same and it is because I just dont love the close people in my life… I wonder if its because I get closed off, or its a defense mechanism, or it is really that I am not a person who loves enough to be sad and grief a lot.
        I have had that though in my head that the reason why I dont grief a lot is because I did not love them a lot and I never loved anyone really a lot, and that makes me anxious and guilty and sad because I feel they deserved my sadness .

        • Newly Married

          or could it be that grieving can be different for different poeple and it can heat you at different times of your life…. I am scared that I dont get devastated because I have never loved anyone….

      • Newly Married

        Sheryl I am overly obsessing about weather or not I loved my mother or father, or even my husband or brother if they would die… Is it possible that the reason I am not grieving a lot too its because I did love them but I was not that close to my mom and because my dad too was not very loving?
        I am scared that maybe I just do not love anyone, and that if one day something were to happen to my husband or brother I will feel the same because maybe I did not love them.
        Or could it be that I just grieve differently by not feeling anything?
        I remember suffering or the pain in my heart when I would see my father suffering and I remember just before my mom dying how much it hurt to see her so ill in the hospital and I remember how I was so caring for her and how sad I felt about her sad life.
        I am just scared that I just do not love anyone or I am not a person who love deep enough to feel devastated about death…

        • It sounds like you’re spinning into an anxious space where you’re losing touch with your self-trust, which is easy to do in the aftermath of a loss. If you were to contact your most loving and wise self, how might you respond to this post?

          • Newly Married

            I think my loving self would tell me that all my life I been through a lot of pain which sometimes really confuses your truth and your self, but because love is all there is, even though I was not that closed to my mom and we had a difficult relationship, I loved her because I did loving things for her, and she knows that all the things I did and I did not do, are and were because of love and because of the fear of love and fear of being hurt. I think the little girl in me sometimes gets really confused and does not know because she was never though that love is many things and that love is not just pain and or a feeling and my ego jumps in to put me down or protect me with my intrusive scary thoughts…

          • Newly Married

            I was never shown to see life through the eyes of love, it was always through fear and being scared that I knew how to protect me and react.. I am learning that there is no need to be afraid or to judge yourself, ( still need to really sink in in my head) that no matter if you made mistakes because you did not know better or for whatever, of if I still make mistakes because I do know know better of because I am not perfect as I was thought to be, because all there is, is love, I can just learn from that and really forgive myself, and it does not mean that I am just being unconscious or that Im just being irresponsible, it mean that really all there is, is love and forgiveness and then love again.

  • Cristina

    Hi. I’ve been super worried and anxious over my health lately. I have a long background of anxiety and have pretty much experienced all the fears and what ifs. This one has really shaken me up being that I’m a 1st time mom. I’ve had blood work, x-Rays and scans done and everything had come back fine but I still doubt??? For the 1ST time I’m feeling physical symptoms of anxiety which is fueling my anxiety.

    • It’s the fear of loss, Cristina. We’re never so vulnerable and the stakes are never so high as when we become a mother. If you can attend to the core fear and create a faith/prayer practice, and also attend to the core grief that arises when we transition into a new stage of life, you will be able to get underneath the thoughts.

  • Marlene

    Sheryl,
    Thank you for this post and the one about taking 100% resposibility for our recovery. Truth is, its not an easy journey. I’ve recently begun to feel the shift from external focus(read relationship anxiety) to healing my own wounds and fears. Being on the sensitive-anxious spectrum (I prefer the term “hyper-aware”:) can seem to be a liability at times. I know that once I tip the scale enough in the right direction I’ll be able to harness it in a way that will serve me. I can’t thank you enough for your work. I suffered with relationship anxiety for over 9 years. I hope knowing that may comfort other readers who may begin to lose hope. Don’t give up! Thank you Sheryl. Thank you.

    • This is wonderful to hear, Marlene. What do you think is helping you make the shift?

      • Lili

        Hi Marlene,

        I understand about feeling the shift from external focus to healing your wounds, I have experienced that, but then its gets blurry sometimes and you need to get back on track, I am working on it too. Thanks to Sheryl with her great comments! Marlene, you said you have been in RA over 9 years, mine has been also quite long, may I ask if it was with one person or towards other Relationships too? The reason I am asking is because mine has been towards one (the same partner) but I keep thinking because I have been with one person only that its possible that I won’t be like this towards others….donno, just thinking…

  • Marlene

    It’s been a combination of therapies. I took the “Open Your Heart” course and I regularly read your articles. I also work with a therapist doing PRT: Perception Repatterning Therapy. It’s a way to change unhealthy perceptions that develop because of events that were “traumatic” or distressing in some way. Also, after reading about inner bonding, I frequently ask myself, “what’s in my highest good?” The combination of all of these things is helping me deconstruct the calcified walls that have keep me in a place of obsession and fear for a very long time. I know (with God’s help) I’m the only one who can change this. I’m not yet as healthy as I aspire to be but I now see light and hope. I also realize that marriage is the perfect environment for this necessary work. I believe I read the quote here that said ‘you can learn more in one week in a committed relationship than a lifetime meditating in a cave.’

  • Hi Sheryl,
    Thank you so much for your comforting words. I have been going through an incredibly anxious spell the last while and so, every time I see your latest post pop into my inbox, I dive upon it and devour it like a starved wild animal! I wanted to share something with you – and all. I’ve wanted to comment to your posts for quite a while now, but have been feeling so vulnerable…

    A friend of mine passed away two weeks ago. She had been battling cancer for a long time, but in the end she had to let go. She said goodbye to all her closest friends and family, to her three small children….I hear that in those last days, she felt so scared but with the help and support of a lovely doctor who talked her through all her questions and fears, she somehow found peace and acceptance. It was shortly after this conversation that she died in the presence of her adoring husband. That Friday morning at 4am, in the quiet of the hospice, he lost the love of his life.

    This is it Sheryl….this is what it is all about. The risk we take in choosing to love is almost too much to bear. The thought that one day, this must happen to us all, too much to endure. I am really touching it right now, really feeling my way to the heart of everything I have learned from you over the past two years. The reality of my friend’s death is plunging me right into the core of this truth. It’s so so hard…..but I know I have all the wisdom and guidance I need to move through…..And simultaneously move forward with our IVF treatment which has just begun. Thank you so much Sheryl for holding the torch for me…for us all.

    Much love to you and all,
    Zoe xxx

    • For anyone who is suffering from relationship anxiety, please read Zoe’s post above. It contains so many pearls of wisdom that can be lifelines for you if you’re stuck in the trenches of the fear and intrusive thoughts. Thank you, Zoe. You are a gift. xo

  • Newly Married,
    I wanted to write a little note to you separately here just to say how sorry I am for your loss and for the fear and anxiety you are experiencing right now. Are you on Conscious Weddings forum by any chance? If so, I could send you a personal message. Let me know. Sending you so much love, Zoe xxx

  • Newly Married

    Hello dear Leah 77 ( Zoe) I am not in conscious weddings, but I am in the open your heart forum June 2015 if you are there 🙂 if not I would be more than happy to send you my email… Thank you for your comforting words…. I am glad to hear that you are finding truth, its so scary but once we start to open it and see it its not even what we were afraid of but our perception to it that scares us…
    God Bless you dear and thank you

  • Hi Newly Married,
    I have done OYH (3 times actually!!) but not that same round that you did. I think the only other way we could connect would be via the dream forum which is available to all course members? Otherwise maybe Sheryl could connect us more privately? Look forward to getting in touch. Sounds like we both need a virtual-hug! 🙂
    Zoe xxx

  • Newly Married

    Hi Zoe, for sure 🙂 I dont know how to connect via dream forum but it would be great to 🙂
    Vitual hugs!!!! 🙂

  • Lili

    Hi sheryl,

    Thanks for the blog great as always. I am now in my vulnerable depressed self…upset, thinking about why i feel lonley…i have purchased your r-anxiety e course and am doing much better…one thing that really bothers me is the fact that my husband is quiet and i feel like we dont have much to talk about..i dont think we are connected in that way….i did not notice it before we got engage as i didnt see it as a problem( i did notice it but didnt think it would bother me later),he is a good person and he loves me, but its the one that has been with me all these years …and when i see couples who chat together or have these fun conversations i get jelous and now i am in my very deep upset mood and don’t knw what to do about it…am tired of geting involved with the thought but at the same time im thinking its important…do u think this is an important problem? To not have much to talk about? Of course if we do a mutual activity like cooking or watching a movie i usually feel ok…but other than that not really….do u recommend any readings about this? I dont recall seeing anything directly about this issue in the ecourse. Any advice is highly appreciated, many thanks

    • Have you read First Comes Marriage? It addresses this very common – and NOT deal-breaking – fear.

      • Lili

        Yes i have, i read it a while ago and helped me to some extent to know that we cannot expect everything from our partner, and that we are responsible for fulfilling own needs, but t then it comes to my mind that this must be an important need for me, because i am not in other ways dependent on my husband (e.g financially, which many eastern women are infact dependent) and this is triggered everytime i see a happy couple, laughing but then on other hand it doesnt bother me all the time, so its just there sometimes and in my dark days it highlighted.

  • We're in this together

    Can I just say…incredible! So much truth to this…in fact, I threw out my old journal in January because it just brought on too much stress, it was an ugly hole that stored some ugly thoughts that I could read anytime…bleh who wants that! This post is so incredibly validating on so many levels.

    Note to other bloggers: try writing in a journal instead some kind words like: I am courageous (anyone going through this has more courage than they realize) or I am capable (heck yes…this is everything that you, Sheryl, are telling us through your amazing wisdom and openness).

    We’re in this together everyone. No matter what anxiety you, me, we are facing, Sheryl is offering us insight and wisdom that will lead anyone who is struggling, to a brighter more positively managed future!

  • Angela

    Hi Everyone,
    What I discovered the last 3 years is when you express your fears, anxieties and concerns on this forum.,your actually journaling and this is acknowledgment if that makes any sense. This is where change begins. I feel like a knew woman even if i feel the anxiety today. I feel moody and frustrated. I try to attach to my higher wiser self.
    All you guys are so brave and special. Checking inside of ourselves daily is a gift.

  • Theboxer

    Hi Sheryl, beautiful post as always. I’ve finally saved enough to buy your break free from relationship anxiety course. Can I pay with MasterCard too? I’m from Italy. Anyway, do you think with this course I’ll be able to overcome the attraction issue? I have no other problems really, he’s my best friend and we are always happy when together. However, I often worry that we should just stay friends because I never feel like having sex. Intimacy in other forms is fine (holding hands, kissing, massages, cuddling) but sex itself feels like a chore to me. He says he doesn’t care but it bothers me so much. To be honest I’ve never felt a strong attraction for anyone, so it’s not like I would like to have sex with someone else… i just don’t care about intercourse really. I also have hocd and I think if I were with a woman I’d want to have sex more often. I’m young (23) and he’s my first bf so that adds to the anxiety as well, since it makes me think I’m too young to commit. Will your course help? I rarely have access to internet so this course seems more suitable for me than your 30 days courses for that reason.

  • We're in this together

    Thank you Sheryl!

  • Hi Newly Married,
    Perhaps you could contact Sheryl via the contact form on her site? That way, I believe you can get set up on the dream forum as I think it’s available to anyone who has participated in an online course. It never really took off unfortunately, but it’s still a space where we could connect and hook up privately……
    Hope to hear from you soon. Love, Zoe xx

  • onedayatatime

    I don’t understand why sometimes I think of a life/me without worry that is full acceptance and love and living with peace, and then it doesn’t even feel like I want it or that it will feel good. Like it will actually be less exciting. Like that concept itself is just an ideal or a fantasy when truly it’s a pretty devastating world. Then I have little motivation to continue to do work and pursue this lifestyle. I want to feel this passion and determination for these things.

  • Lea

    Dear Sheryl,

    Thank you for being the only reasonable voice in this crazy and confusing journey. I know I haven’t had the courage to take the course yet but I feel that I’m stuck in this in-between space where the question should I stay or should I go is driving me crazy. I Literally feel like I’m going crazy. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been engaged to my fiance for a almost a year and half now and we’ve been living together for more than two. He proposed and all my fears immediately came to the surface. I’ve experienced the deepest kind of fear and depression so far. Sometimes, I feel like I’m living somebody else’s life and not mine.My problem is that I don’t know how to make the difference between real fear and anxiety based fear. He’s kind, caring, he’s reliable and allows me to be myself so he’s not the problem. When it comes to me, since the proposal I’ve become judgemental to the point of resenting his actions and decisions at times . I deliberately cause fights and feel guilty after that, I speak all my fears to him knowing that it will hurt him , sometimes I take him for granted. I’ve become the unhealthy red flag in our relationship. I just can’t seem to be able to give my heart to him. Now, we’ve got to the point where he can’t tolerate this anymore. He asked me to decide whether I wanna marry him in this following period of two months or I need to leave because I’m just wasting our time. My mind went spiral. I feel dizzy I can’t breathe I feel like I’m unable to make any decisions. I can’t leave him either. Oh it’s so hard…….

  • Justine

    Such a beautiful analogy. Every blog gives me a little reminder of where to focus my energy, and gives me permission to be happy in a way, I still struggle to accept that intrusive thoughts are just that, a sort of guilt that I “should” be looking at them and logically resolving everything. I am overly conscientious to the point of ridiculous (I once found an ant had got into our car from the park and tried to keep it alive to take it back to the park as I heard (after googling with the ant in the car) that ants won’t be accepted into communities other than their own, I pick up sticks on the pathways and plastic bags on the beach – and if I don’t I end up going back 10 minutes later to do it because it sticks in my head. Although tiresome these thoughts lead to a good outcome generally, but I am the same with everything else in my life too, and feel I have to listen to, address, fix intrusive thoughts- but some of them- such as the “you’re a failure” and “your partner is … Not good enough” are not helpful. But I don’t have to listen I (me, because I get lost and trodden on by such thoughts) don’t have to water these thoughts. What a burden taken care of! And even better I am allowed to water the other happy plants! And I can allow myself! Give myself that permission, even better! I know the harder burden is my own issues, but they are a lot clearer (and therefore less scary) without he murky water of intrusive thoughts.

    Thank you so much for this blog x

    • Beautiful, Justine. I LOVE that you bring ants back to their home habitat. It reminds me of this post:

      http://conscious-transitions.com/every-living-creature/

      • Justine

        Thank you Sheryl, I hadn’t read that post. So nice to see such sensitivity embraced, where some others have judged it as annoying or silly. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story of the dragonfly!

    • A

      Thank you so much for your perspective Justine. You have given me some clarity on intrusive thoughts. Often times it feels like a daily struggle to not give in and dissect every little thought and feeling I have. It causes me so much pain, distress, guilt, and it’s exhausting! And no matter how much I ruminate and obsess, the mind is never satisfied. Nothing new is discovered, I haven’t “solved” anything. In the end I feel worse, I’m depressed, frantic, and desperate for reassurance. This whole time I’ve taken intrusive thoughts at face value and I assumed that by not fixing them or finding an answer, that I was simply in denial and not wanting to face something. But that’s not the case. This has been a breath of fresh air 🙂

      • Justine

        Hi A, I am glad it helped! I remember that fear of being in denial if I didn’t listen to them, but just like you I never got anywhere with them and just went in circles (and stil working to overcome this more and more)! I strongly recommend doing one of Sheryl’s courses to learn more about this stuff- I have previously and it really helped me a lot. Therapy can also help 🙂

        All the best on your journey A, I hope you can give yourself some more intrusive thought breaks! Go you!

        • A

          Hello Justine!
          I would love to take one of Sheryl’s courses! I’m hoping once I have the extra money I can sign up for one. For the meantime I have a great therapist and I am SO grateful for her! I’m also grateful for this online community that has been a lifeline for me. When I’ve tried explaining my anxiety and intrusive thoughts to others, they usually respond with judgement. Which only makes me feel worse! It’s so wonderful to share my experiences here and I feel reassured knowing that there are people like me who have gone through it too and they aren’t going to judge me either. I’m not alone and we are all in this together. I sincerely wish you all the best Justine and thank you for your kindness and understanding. You rock! 🙂

  • Savannah

    Hi Sheryl, I’ve been taking your relationship anxiety course and I’ve been learning how to deal with my intrusive thoughts more. The only thing that’s been bothering me is sometimes when I’m with my partner, I feel distant or I feel like I don’t feel anything for him while I’m with him. It’s the same way an intrusive thought would make me feel even though no particular thought is popping into my head. On the drive over to his house, I’m excited to see him. But once I get there and see him, I almost feel an emptiness. I can’t tell if it’s just because maybe I’m looking to feel something when I see him and you can’t force feelings, or if my intrusive thoughts are still floating around in my head but not a particular one is showing itself. Please help!

  • Northernlass

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’ve been looking for one of your posts that I always go back to at cerain times which has really helped me. I think it was called, ‘The Fear of Feeling Too Good’ or ‘The Fear of Being Too Happy’ or something like that. I can’t find it. Has it been removed from your site for some reason?

    I find myself at both a wonderful and terrifying point in my life. My partner and I are 3.5 years into our wonderful relationship, and about 1 year out of a ‘terrible dark night of our souls’ as you like to call :-). It was painful and hard and we thought we would lose each other. But we both did the inner work and now our love and relationship is stronger than ever, and we both know what we want out of life. The fantasy of the everlasting honeymoon (luckily) has been shattered, and we are both prepared to do the hard work to grow in love and grow up as individuals, too.

    Life is going very well. We have both landed in jobs we love and yesterday I was promoted to a full-time, permanent position. It’s what I was hoping and praying for, but I feel it has somehow helped to awaken this dark monster that is somehow always lurking in the shadows. It’s this strong fear that if things are going too well, they will be taken from me. That somehow being too happy is only asking for disaster. (I think it might be like magical thinking?)

    I’ve done some introspection on this and feel it may stem from my traumatic childhood. My dad became very sick,losing the use of his arms and legs when I was 9, then he passed away when I was 15. To top it all I was going to a horribly restrictive, legalistic, religious cult where I was taught that ‘God’ was very jealous and sent suffering to bring you closer to him. The more suffering you had in your life, the more ‘God’ trusted you and made you holier! Having come out of all that now, thank God, it sounds crazy to me. But I think it has somehow all left it’s mark on me.

    I know suffering can make you grow and become stronger, and it has certainly made me who I am today, but I don’t believe that’s what life’s about. I believe now that there’s a loving force behind all the good that comes into my life, and that the same force is happy when I’m happy, and only wants me to be happy and content in the true sense of these things (not a shallow happiness like temporarily pleasures, but the deeper joy that comes from following your heart, discovering real love, growing your own ability to love, pursuing your creative gifts etc.)

    I hope this all makes sense. I’d appreciate any imput.

    • As always, you have a clear and insightful handle on your inner world, and I encourage you to honor and trust what’s coming to you. As for that article, I did remove it from my site and is now included in my Break Free course. Do you have that course? If not, please email me directly.

  • H

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have come quite far recently with tackling my anxiety, I am even saving for a wedding with my partner and this does not scare me in the slightest like it used to! Now that I know what the reasons are as to why I should marry my partner and knowing that I am in control of this anxiety planning a wedding does not scare me anymore. As you can imagine my fear has been trying to pop out even more sneaky because I have made progress but it hasn’t really worked. But I will say that I have noticed that I have been a bit irritated by my partner recently, he is just annoying me sometimes. His sense of humour can be very immature and annoying and I have had massive fights with my brain to say that it isn’t a red flag, is irrigation a form of grief? I’m not sure if I’m at the last stages of grieving or am just actually irritated by my partner.

  • yurski

    This lesson to not fight with the thoughts themselves but to look at yourself as a whole is brilliant. It is so terrifying to do at first, but once you turn your back on the intrusive thoughts, you can learn to see that they are just shadows and that your attention is needed somewhere much closer to your heart. It’s both simple and hard to do, but so very powerful. Thank you for this reminder Sheryl!

  • M

    I read somewhere that the better the relationship the more relationship anxiety it can create. I am just wondering why this is? It seems like the better the relationship the happier a person should be. In my case I am in the best relationship I have ever been in and that is when my relationship anxiety started. Thank you.

    • It’s because when we’re in a great relationship, we feel safe enough for our shadows and demons to emerge. It starts out projected on to the relationship, but soon you will see (hopefully) that the projections are indicators of inner work that needs to be done.

      • Anna

        Wow! That sounds paradoxical but it makes so much sense! How funny that I knew about this principle with regard to my depression and anxiety in general, but I never even considered that it works that way for relationship anxiety too. Thanks so much for your blog and this golden piece of insight!

    • M

      How can you tell if it’s a projection and not a sign that you are on the wrong relationship? Thank you for all you do Sheryl I am so greatful!

  • D

    I struggle with relationship anxiety and my biggest fears in terms of thoughts is that will these thoughts causing me discomfort always be there forever? how will i possibly be with this girl if all i feel is discomfort? been 2 years with this amazing loving girl but i cant seem to believe that these thoughts will subside. once I feel them intesnsely i consider ending the relationship but after they pass i realize thats the last thing i want to do.

  • Anastasia

    Hi Sheryl!

    I’ve been doing your break free from relationship anxiety e course and it’s been helping me
    Tremendously! I am so grateful for that, but when you say as long as your partner is
    Supportive in the e course, what more can you ask for? I get an intrusive thought
    That really terrifies me and it’s hard for me to shake.

    Sometimes when I see my male best friend and we talk about different issues or if I even bring up what I’m learning and self growth, he is very intrigued and has a lot to say. I feel like he understands me sometimes and feel momentary closeness but then my mind goes into over drive and I feel guilty. Thoughts come up like what if my friend is more supportive of me or understands me more than my partner because he has more to say or what if I feel closer to my friend than my partner some days and then it spirals into omg what if he’s a better match for me than my partner is.

    I know this is silly but random thoughts like these can hook me and I get scared. I tell myself that you can experience momentary closeness with anyone if you’re telling them something very personal. And also that my partner is very supportive of me too, it’s just sometimes he may not have much to say some days because he’s tired or of work or on the issue or maybe he just isn’t feeling it that day and that’s okay. That that is the norm with anyone you’d be dating and seeing often. And that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

    Im not sure if I’m handling this the right way. This thought really scares me even though I really do care about my
    Partner and don’t want to leave despite thinking this. I feel guilty.

  • Lea

    Dear D
    That is my fear too. How can a relationship be healthy when all you feel is discomfort. I have always thought that when you will find the perfect guy you won’t have any doubts.
    Sheryl,
    I read an article which said that if you feel emotionally drained, sad and depressed then it must be a toxic relationship. That really spiked my anxiety

    • Lili

      Hi Lea,

      I am also wondering about this point. I have been really bothered by the fact that I am emotionally drained most of the time, but if I guess sheryl would say this is coming from inside of you and you are projecting it on your partner, in that case I wonder if we would have experienced a similar feeling had we been with another person (I mean another partner instead of the current one). Sheryl would you say most of your client had this issue with their previous partners? or if they left, they still had the issue with the next partner? Thanks again for all your support throughout this tough journey.

      • Anna

        This is something Sheryl said in response to M, a few comments above yours:

        “It’s because when we’re in a great relationship, we feel safe enough for our shadows and demons to emerge. It starts out projected on to the relationship, but soon you will see (hopefully) that the projections are indicators of inner work that needs to be done.”

        I found that really nice to hear, and I can personally confirm that it is so true. I never had any doubts about my love for my ex-boyfriend, because back then I was emotionally closed off myself and I never felt that I could let my guard down 100% with him. When I got together with an amazing man with whom I have a great connection, I had (and sometimes still have) relationship anxiety like crazy. At first sight, it doesn’t seem to make sense, but like Sheryl says, it actually makes a lot of sense that a great relationship can give you relationship anxiety 🙂 and I truly believe that when you do the inner work, your relationship anxiety can go away. It’s work in progress, but I feel it getting less strong (and less frequent) as I accept myself, my fundamental fears and my past more 🙂 So I am sure that for you guys it could get better too – with your current partner.

        • M

          Just have to say thank you for saying this Anna. I never had relationship anxiety in the past but as soon as I met my husband it just came out of now where. It makes me feel better knowing other people have experienced this as well when they are finally in a good relationship.

          • Anna

            I’m so glad it made you feel better 🙂 Yes, that is exactly what happened to me! It made me feel so guilty and confused because I never had it in my other relationship. I am also glad to know other people have experienced this, and for me it is comforting to see the logic behind it 😉

          • M

            I think the hardest part for me is not knowing if it is relation anxiety or a sign I am with the wrong person and if these thoughts will always be there. Have you taken the break free from relationship anxiety course?

          • Anna

            I understand completely, I used to feel exactly the same only a couple of months back. Now I only think like that when I get stressed and anxious, and I am able (though not very quickly) to bring myself back from that. One thing I definitely know is that those thoughts will not always be there if you want to do the work to make them go away, like Sheryl says in this blogpost. 🙂 And it is really hard not to know if it’s real or just anxiety, you get stuck in a loop that always comes back to that question. But I think the only way to get rid of it is by looking at your inner self. For me, the way to get past the anxiety was to address my deeper issues, by asking myself: why am I so scared that I don’t love my boyfriend enough? What do I think will happen if it’s true? That helped me to see what I was really scared of: I am scared of uncertainty, of the future, of change, of pain. These are really deep fears for me that reflect everything I do in life, and these fears also take shape as relationship anxiety. That helped me turn it around; it is not my relationship that has issues, but I do. I hope my example makes sense to you. The only way to find the answer to the anxiety or wrong person question is by doing inner work, so I guess the Break Free course would be perfect for you to figure all this stuff out 🙂 I haven’t taken it. I am seeing a psychologist and she gave me all the tools to figure out this anxiety, and I feel that’s enough for now, but if I can’t figure it out with her help after all, I would do the course. But from what I have read in the comment sections under these blog posts, people find them really helpful! Good luck, M 🙂

  • Lea

    Dear Lili,

    Yes, sometimes I just get curious if I would feel this way with another partner.
    My wedding is in a month and a half, and I am in terrible panic and anxiety. There’s one thing that my sister asked me today : “Do you see your future with him or is it just that you have fun with him, because sometimes you can enjoy somebody’s company but you know deep down that that’s not the man for you.”-It really spiked my anxiety that I couldn’t answer her question because that’s why I feel anxious in the first place, I have doubts! Everything seems to be intensifying my fears now that the wedding is approaching.

  • Lili

    Hi Lea,

    I know what you mean by becoming anxious with the thoughts, how long have you been in this anxiety?

    Also, I would say that the question is not really easy to answer, especially in the anxious state that you are in.
    And it feeds the intrusive thoughts. Thats the million dollor question we are all here for and obsessing over!! Have you read Sheryl’s book the conscious bride? I think its for brides who are in a similar position to you, who have anxiety before the wedding.

  • Lili

    And this one of Sherly’s blogs related to the question you are obsessing over:
    http://conscious-transitions.com/relationship-anxiety-and-the-million-dollar-question/

  • Lea

    Oh dear Lili,
    thank you so much for this, it’s exactly what I needed to read..It describes everything I’ve been struggling with..I haven’t read the book or taken the course yet but I’ve read every blog on this website and it has been helpful.It’s so good to talk to someone who understands you without being judged.

  • Eileen

    Hi, this is my first time on the forum.I am currently participating in ‘open your heart course’. I was reading on one of Sheryls Blogs earlier about how Fear and Love live in the same part of your heart. Well for me Grief also lives there. My mum who was my constant passed away Jan 2015 she is together again with my Dad but the pain of this heartbreak gets mixed up in the fear and love salad of that part of my heart. I feel my heart is open due to grieving but it also feels closed because I am stuck on it so Im not sure which one it is. My reality of loss and subsequent fears of loss) now incorporate the possibility of loss from my loving partner. I know this is fear and he’s not going anywhere but this is only my 2nd relationship ever (I was on my own for 20 years before meeting him at 44). Guess all this speaks of fear I closed my heart to be on my own and then met him and opened my heart, then my mum died. Sounds like such a ramble I apologise.

    • Thank you for sharing this, and no need to apologize. Life throws us curve balls in every turn, and the work is learn to keep meeting ourselves in these places of grief and fear. It can be BOTH grief and fear, and also many other emotions. We don’t need to name and understand all of it; we only need to meet ourselves with compassion as we learn to walk through the storms of life.

  • Sophie

    Dear Sheryl,
    This is my third visit on your web and I’m very glad I’ve found it. I find myself sitting here and can’t stop reading everything that’s here.
    I’ve also finally felt that I’m not alone. But lately I’ve been through a very tough period of my life and it affects my relationship too.
    I’ve been with my partner for a year and a half now (I’m 27 and He’s 30), and lately I keep having these big heavy doubts about whether or not we should be together.
    The problem is, that even if I am able to convince myself that we are not right for each other, what I cannot explain to myself is how the hell I managed to be so amazingly happy with this guy, like i’ve never been in my life? How is it possible that I want to leave the only man I’ve ever felt normal with, the only man that I’ve ever felt that I’m on the right way for stability (something that I lack ever since I was a child when my parents got divorced).
    I’m so scared of making a mistake and leave him but yet I’m also so scared of staying with him and being miserable my whole life. What you said about the “not being X enough” keeps haunting me all the time, especialy being a perfectionist. Please please tell me what I should do because I don’t want to lose him.