Just Because You Think It Doesn't Mean It's True

IMG_3998The mind is a fascinating, complicated, and mysterious place. Sadly, and often to the detriment of well-being, we learn virtually nothing about our inner world when we’re growing up: not in school, home, or even a religious institution. What becomes apparent later in life is that if you don’t understand your mind you become a complete victim to your thoughts, which then often creates a negative cascade of anxiety where you’re stuck on the spin-cycle of intrusive thoughts and prone to believing each thought that pierces consciousness.

I used to think that Eastern philosophy and practices like mindfulness and meditation were focused on eliminating all thoughts, or at the very least learning how to allow thoughts to pass by like clouds in a sky: to observe them but not get hooked by them. After reading Mindsight by Daniel Siegel I understand that a tool like mindfulness can be used to strengthen the mind muscle so that, while you’re observing the workings of your inner world, you develop greater capacity to choose which thoughts, feelings, or sensations you want to explore or follow and which you choose to allow to pass on by.

For example, you may have a creative thought while lying in bed that you want to follow. Perhaps the seed of a poem or the first line of story has just landed in the soil of psyche, and you choose to get up and write it down. This is a productive and positive thought, and certainly not one that you would need to brush away. On the other hand, you could be lying in bed and the thought pops into your head, “What if I have cancer?” That’s obviously not a creative, positive, or productive thought and bears no other purpose other than to alert you that something may be off-kilter inside.

In other words, intrusive thoughts often point to needs – sometimes a simple, physical need like needing to get to sleep and sometimes a bigger, spiritual need like learning how to allow thoughts to pass on by or find more comfort with uncertainty. It may even point to a practical need like remembering to book your annual check-up. When you understand that there are types of thoughts – creative, spiritual, practical, intrusive, and fear-based – you have a starting place from which to work with the thoughts when they arise.

Yet most people who come my way believe that if you have a thought it must be true. They believe this because they haven’t been taught anywhere along the path of life that it could be otherwise. So when a fearful thought like, “What if I don’t love my partner?” or “What if I hurt my baby?” enters the mind, they believe it.

It’s important to understand that there are also nuances of thought, which means that perhaps there is some truth but it may not be entirely true, as I wrote about in my blog post entitled, “What if I’m only with my partner because…?” Once you’ve developed a stronger mind muscle that allow you to discern your thoughts and choose which to follow and which to allow to pass on by you’ll be able to respond to partially-true thoughts with more inner strength.

The bottom line is: just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true. So when you bolt awake with the thought, “I don’t love my partner,” that doesn’t mean that you don’t. Or thinking, “What if I hurt my baby?” doesn’t mean that you will. What has been scientifically proven, in fact, is that people who have intrusive thoughts like, “What if I hurt my baby?” of “What if I’m a pedophile?” are among the most thoughtful, sensitive, kind, open, caring people on the planet; in other words, they’re probably incapable of executing any of the fear-based what-if thoughts that plague their mind.

The reality – the truth we’re not taught somewhere along the way – is that we have thoughts all day long that are bizarre, dark, weird, and untrue. I’ll never forget the day my older son approached me in the yard and whispered to me, “Mommy,  I just had a bad thought about Asher [his little brother].” I asked what it was and he said he thought he wanted something bad to happen to him. I could see the absolute horror in his face that he could think such a thought and I said, “Sweetheart, we all have thoughts like that. I’m sure every big brother on the planet has had that thought about his little brother. It doesn’t mean you really want that to happen. It’s just a thought.”

Sometimes a deeper truth is encased in a dark thought. My son was probably expressing his jealousy of his little brother and it came out as a desire to inflict pain. As parents, we need to make room for these darker thoughts without assigning meaning to them (ie, my son is a terrible person for thinking such things) so that the more vulnerable feelings can be revealed. The dark thought in this case is a cover-up for the vulnerable feeling, and we need to be able to guide our children toward those feelings so that they can be attended to at the core. In other words, if I can help my son say, “I’m feeling jealous of Asher,” the dark thoughts will dissipate.

But sometimes we just have random, senseless, meaningless thoughts parade through our brains. If you know that, you can more easily assess which thoughts you can brush away and which you can explore at a deeper level. But the work begins with making room for all of the thoughts, for welcoming them in without judgment or fear, and from the vantage point of a clear and anchored Self, discerning which need more attention.

37 comments to Just Because You Have a Thought Doesn’t Mean It’s True

  • ML

    Hi Sheryl,
    Thank you for that post. I’m finding that I’m much better at identifying thoughts as just thoughts and therefore not reacting to them with such fear. However they still just keep on coming! I’m sure its different for every person but do they eventually die out because I’m getting a bit bored of them!

    • Yes, ML: the less attention you give to the thoughts the less they’ll grow. Whatever you water will grow, and when you stop fueling the fire of intrusive thoughts by not giving them attention they will run out of fuel and eventually wither away. But you’ll also need to learn how to fill the waters of your well of Self with good, nourishing attention, which means learning to become your own best friend. This all takes time, but healing is possible.

  • Lifelines

    Thanks so much for this post it came very timely. I just had a question, has I have been having really vivid dreams about my relationship and my up incoming nuptials-3 months away. I have been on the e-course for a bit, so I have been able to develop a pretty strong practice of journaling and mindfulness. However, I cannot seem to let go what these dreams all mean.
    Can the phrase also go, “Just because you dream it doesn’t mean it’s true?”
    My dreams have been centered around not being ready for my wedding, feeling abandoned, ext..

    • Dreams rarely mean what you think they mean, so yes, “just because you dream it doesn’t mean it’s true” may also apply. However, your dreams could also be pointing to some way in which you’re abandoning yourself or some part of you that’s not ready, and that would be interesting for you to explore.

  • Sarah Jean

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now. It is really helpful for soothing my worries when they’re strongest. I’m hoping to be able to afford your conscious weddings e-course soon, but right now money is tight. I have a question about thoughts/worries/obsessions. I’m just coming out of a MAJOR spike of HOCD–the worst I’ve had in a few years. It lasted about a week and left me feeling exhausted and numb once I managed to clarify the thoughts and worries for myself. The issue is that towards the end it started to blend in with my ROCD concerns. I have suffered from ROCD for most of my 2 year relationship, and one of the best markers for me that my thoughts were relationship anxiety was the fact that anxiety accompanied them. But now, after this week long spike, I have just the relationship anxiety thoughts remaining and very little anxiety to accompany them. I feel numb, and I’m sort of in that place where I feel “disconnected” or “weird,” and other things, like my relationship, can feel or seem weird. Then I start to interpret it as feeling off, I start to feel like I don’t love him, etc. But rather than my thoughts coming as “what if” thoughts, like they typically do, right now they’re more like statements. “You don’t love him.” “You’re going to break up.” “You’re too young to know whether or not you want to marry him, or maybe you want to explore with other people.” “It could be better.” I do not like, or agree with these thoughts at ALL. But they feel so real, and different, and I feel calmer than usual when I worry about this, so I’m worried that this means I finally feel these things and I just don’t want to be with him anymore, which makes me incredibly sad. I love him. I love spending time with him, and when he holds me I feel so safe. But lately when he holds me I fear that I am creating these feelings, or that I don’t really feel safe, I just feel comfortable, and I’m afraid of realizing that I just want to leave.

    I’ve heard of the “backdoor spike” with HOCD, but I’m wondering if this can happen with ROCD, too. I don’t want to break up with my boyfriend. We are seriously perfect for each other. I know things have been going well lately for us but I have also had worsening depression, so maybe I’m creating “chaos” and stuff to worry about in my life because I’m bored and I don’t know how to be happy. I grew up watching my parents’ very unhappy and abusive marriage and I think I get scared when I realize just how blessed I am to have him. On top of everything, the depression has completely depleted my sex drive, so I worry that we’re just good friends or good roommates but with the sex absent, we won’t be great partners anymore.

    Everything just feels so real now without the mind-numbing, constant anxiety that I used to feel with these concerns. Could this still be relationship anxiety? If so, is this something that your e-course(s) could help me with? One thing I think I’ve noticed is that my obsessive thoughts have transformed lately into worries or concerns that aren’t typical of my usual worries/concerns, even though they’re in the same category, so they FEEL real and not obsessive. So it’s so hard lately to sit back and realize “this is anxiety.” It more just feels like reality crashing down on me. I feel so numb at this point that I don’t know what to do with it anymore, and I used to be so on top of things.

    Has anyone else experienced this? I’m sorry for my long rambling. I just don’t know what to do and I fear the only answer is to run away/leave my partner, even when I don’t think I want to.

    • Sasha

      Dear Sarah,
      As I read your comment I was astounded by how well you’ve described MY OWN feelings. I completely understand your panic over the classic presentation of anxiety you were used to turning into the “calm” thoughts. But do you think it’s possible we’re just exhausted, after all the self-inflicted torment? I believe that the constant doubt, self-iquiry and panic may be forcing the entire system to shut down and just protest any more torture, as if going “Here! There’s your answer! Are we done now? I am TIRED of the questions! It’s too much”.
      I, too, have had this crippling rOCD for most of my relationship and that’s more or less 1.5 years. Do you think it’s possible for the psyche to get completely drained after such a long time? I bet it is 🙂 That’s why I am not surprised that my animal instincts are pushing me towards a break-up, because my brain sees it as the only way to relieve tension at this point. But there are other ways out there!
      I hope my answer was somewhat useful. I’d be happy to talk to you via sasha.johnson222 at gmail dot com. Stay strong, Sarah!

    • mpt

      Yes!! I’ve had the exact same thing happen to me lately. It started with anxiety, and now two years later it just feels calm, like a sad cold truth that I’m not in love with him anymore, though I’m not sure why. I’ve even had some feelings for someone else, though it makes me sad not happy–when I look at just rational facts, I think I would rather be with my boyfriend and that we have more in common. But I’m just not sure of anything anymore! I can’t tell if I should take the ecourse or just try and move on…

    • Hi Sarah, I’ve suffered with hOCD for the past 11 years. It is so horrible I know! I also have rOCD but didn’t realize what it was until I broke up with greatest guy ever. The anxiety hit not even a month in. Everything was perfect, then bam. That’s when hOCD spiked pretty bad. We dated over 3 years. I knew deep down I had to love him but I had a false belief about love. Because my Father never showed me real love, my wall came up with him & my heart shutdown. I had constant intrusive thoughts I was gay all the time when I was with him. I felt so numb, I would bawl at night on his chest because I just wanted to feel what was robbed from me in a single night. I know your pain. I go through the whole “numb” thing now with him & were not even together. This time I don’t have anxiety. When I’m not numb I feel all this love & it’s amazing. I think I had to fall out of love to learn what is was all about & it was hell going through it all. I came out stronger though & I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the anxiety like Sheryl says. It’s just all fear based. I’m an infatuation junkie so I expect to feel all those feelings all the time & when something feels off I worry like you said. Also when I go numb it’s way worse than the time before & when the feelings come back they are so much stronger. Stay strong. I know how hard this can be & especially having OCD! You’ll get through this & you’ll come out stronger! 🙂

    • Sarah Jean

      I want to thank everyone for their responses to my issues. Unfortunately, as someone else mentioned in their responses here, I was really giving in to the fears/thoughts and I SPIRALED. BADLY. Part of it was PMS (I had a cyst removed from my ovary–the only remaining one I have after ovarian cancer in 2009) in February and since then my cycles haven’t been regular. I don’t know about any of you other ladies on here, but my OCD increases 100-fold when I’m PMSing, especially if my PMS isn’t exactly scheduling itself properly due to a messed up menstrual cycle. So after posting this, I pretty much forced myself into a major bout of crippling, hysterical anxiety, probably because that anxiety was comfortable to me and I just didn’t want to handle the backdoor spike I was having. On top of that, I started Zoloft and it may have exacerbated my issues. So I was at work on Thursday and started having panic attack after panic attack. I have never wanted to run away so badly in my life, and I couldn’t understand the constant body shakes and chest tightness that I was feeling, and the urge I had to burst into hysterical tears. I couldn’t stop thinking about this urge I had to call my boyfriend and break up with him, and the thought of that horribly upset me. It felt so REAL, like this nagging, tugging feeling inside me telling me everything was ruined, we were doomed, I couldn’t picture forever with him anymore, etc. I could barely function at work. I got home and tried to sleep, but wound up waking up with panic-induced tremors all night. I would look to my boyfriend peacefully sleeping beside me and feel like I was looking at a stranger, and just seeing him made me panic more, feel disconnected from him,and the feelings to run away became stronger. Keep in mind before the HOCD issue I had the week before, I hadn’t had an ROCD spike in at least a month. But this spike was different than my last spike (that focused on a lot of his “faults”), so it felt real to me. I wound up going to the doctor and calling off work because I was positive I couldn’t function. I was throwing up, crying and crying and crying, and calling my mom for reassurance that I didn’t need to break up with him and that things were okay.

      Last night I spent some time with a girl friend, because I had spent a lot of time with my boyfriend and was worried that spending too much time with him triggered my OCD (because at this point I can’t even be sure what my trigger was, which of course makes me worry that it’s not OCD at all this time!), but at the same time I felt guilty for not missing him or not wanting to spend all my time with him. And he is ALWAYS supportive about me seeing my friends and all that, and encourages it. After I spent some time with her I felt a little better, and was finally able to sleep (I had also stopped the zoloft, so not dosing up helped I think). But I woke up this morning to panic once again, and this time I just had more of that “feeling” rather than repetitive, DEFINED obsessive thoughts, which scared me. I would read up on ROCD on the internet to make myself feel better, but I felt myself unable to relate to some things and then I would worry more that it wasn’t anxiety, that I was just using OCD as a crutch, that I was lying to myself and needed to break up with him, etc. Even writing this now, I feel like I’m “lying” and just reading this site to keep from facing the truth. UGH.

      Anyway, I didn’t mean to ramble. I really want to look into the Conscious Weddings e-Course. I spoke to my mom and we both feel that a lot of my panic is coming from some serious fears of happiness and love. I have always felt unlovable, even as a child, because my father was a raging alcoholic, bipolar/BPD, and extremely abusive. I know because of this I probably have some attachment issues, as well as issues accepting love. So maybe the fact that Hugo loves me so unconditionally, and that I know we’re probably going to get married (something I’ve wanted for over a year now), and the fear of the unknown of our future and my future, combined with a fear that we will become my parents, or that I don’t have a guarantee that we will be together forever, or even a FEAR of “forever” because I don’t know how it could possibly last that long (given that I have never really seen healthy long-term relationships?), maybe these things are fueling my OCD? I hope so. I feel like a cop-out any time I mention OCD, like it’s something I’ve just invented for myself and latched onto because I’m afraid of my real feelings or the need to leave my boyfriend, even though I love being with him. I also recently moved across the country to be with him (IL to TX) after graduating college, and in the 5 months I’ve been here with him he’s lost his job, I started my first FT “adult” job, I moved, we moved in together, we got a dog, and I had major emergency surgery. So I know I’m in “transition” right now, and so is he, but I’m terrified it’s not transition at all and I’m just needing to leave. 🙁

      I was kind of hoping Sheryl would respond to this, but I know I’m doing a lot of reassurance seeking and I’m probably rambling like crazy. I just feel so lost. It’s like every time my ROCD spikes it’s worse than before, and more subtle or manipulative than before. So the things that I used to easily identify as OCD I can’t anymore because I’ve evolved in my worry/intrusive thought process, and the reassurance I sought before no longer works for me. It’s like NO reassurance calms me anymore, and I spend hours googling ROCD to make sure I can relate to it but I no longer feel like I can relate to anything anymore because my worries have advanced so badly–this, of course, fuels everything further. I haven’t eaten much at all this week, I can’t keep food or water down, etc. I feel like I’m losing my mind. Can anyone else relate to me?

      I’m really hoping to be able to afford the e-course. I don’t have a lot of money right now because the BF just started a new job and has only received one pay check, but I desperately want to do it. I’m just terrified it won’t work or I’ll wind up realizing my truth is to leave him, or that I’ll realize it doesn’t apply to me because I’m not actually OCD (in spite of my diagnosis), and that it was all lies I told myself to avoid leaving him. I feel like getting better in that regard scares me almost as much as the current bout of anxiety does.

      • Sasha

        Hi, Sarah! I’m so sorry to hear you haven’t been feeling better lately. Please don’t think you’ve been dealt the worst case scenario for anxiety. I, too, have lost a lot of weight because of being unable to eat. I’ve been waking up in fits of panic and felt unspeakably distant from my boyfriend. For a while my only support was coming from this blog, but lately I have been getting worse for some reason (non-stop intrusive thoughts and obsessive thinking and googling for answers), so yeah – this reassurance hardly works for me too. I have finally decided that it was time to seek help from a professional and I am currently in therapy. It helped TONS to be told by my doctor that he is 100% positive that what I am experiencing has nothing to do with my relationship. I know money are tight for you at this point, but may be there are some free councelling options in your area? Or you could ask your family to help you pay for a couple of sessions? I promise you, it is vital in your condition. And also – please don’t discard anti-depressants as your aid. Just because Zoloft didn’t work for you doesn’t mean that there isn’t a med that won’t. I have started my AD and I couldn’t believe the effect: my obsessive thoughts dialed down significantly, my anxiety became more manageable, but most importantly – i now feel strong enough to do the mental work, whereas before I felt depleated and hopeless. Sarah, please take good care of yourself. You’ve been through SO much in the past year that you just need a little extra help to make it through. But you ARE gonna make it!

      • Valerie kontos

        Holy mole. Reading what you’ve had to say just made me break down and sob. This is exactly what I’ve been dealing with for months now. It’s amazing to me to see the history of childhood trauma, just like myself. So, the fear when getting into a relationship is so real. Recently unearthing my childhood trauma all while being in a relationship has been so hard. So much of my messed up feelings and PTSD has been directed at him. Ugh. I’m still battling these feelings of super irritating anxiety and doubt regarding our relationship. But it’s so good to hear that I’m not the only one with these stuuuupid and annoying thoughts. Anyway. Just thank you for sharing.

    • Layal

      Sarah Jean, you explained exactly what im going through, but i have only been with my boyfriend for 9 months. I get these numb feelings on and off and i dont know what to do with them either. I try not to feed them or confuse them for ‘i dont want to be with him’ but it is very very hard to accept them. I ask myself where did the love disappear to? Where did the emotion go? I was loving and feeling and giving a week ago? It is crazy! And this discinnection! I have that too! I know what youre going through. Thanks for writing exactly what i ak going through. Talking to a counsellor definitely helps.

  • mare serenitatis

    I’ve suddenly fallen into old ruminations, reading this post was a blessing. I’ve spent most if my adolescence struggling with OCD, from intrusive thoughts about everything. It’s no surprise that it’s affected my relationships to the nth degree. Now as a young adult I’m able to find that my feelings are not a product of anything more than my anxious mind. It’s freeing in the sense that I’m no longer searching for a disorder, but scary, too. It’s like suddenly the fear is trapped within a much smaller realm, and making the fear seem less large helps make it less daunting. Thank you.

    I love your e-course, and I’m very glad that I’m a participant. I spent time journaling (admittedly I need to do this more.) and reading the forums. I’ve had an especially hard time with “feelings”, I assume that my psyche is either trying to tell me something, or that it must be how I “actually” feel.

    There have been plenty of times where my “gut” was right, but I’m certain of even more when my “gut” was wrong. I’m learning to let the thoughts go, and to simply say “so what?” It’s really helped with most of my rumination problems. It’s the relationship anxiety that I’m afraid of the most, so it’s hardest to keep at bay.

    Thank you for your article, I look forward to Monday mornings because of them.

  • Dear Sheryl,

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I have those same moments, when “uncharacteristic” thoughts enter my mind. First they scared me just like your son, but then I learned to let them pass by me, like drops of water. And it’s so true, it’s usually during the moments that I feel completely vulnerable, or just not in harmony. This is the time, I know I need to connect, and start taking care of myself. Now, I look at them as little signs to tune in, and give myself TLC.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    Natalie

  • “You’re a beauty!” Now that’s a thought I will hold onto for all of time.

  • Anna

    Hi Sheryl,

    I often find myself thinking one thought, and then it snowballs into something else entirely. For example, if I have a fear that my partner is upset with me or for some reason I’m not feeling loved, my mind automatically goes to, “He doesn’t love me,” or “He doesn’t care.” Which then eventually lead to me thinking, “What if I don’t love him?” or “What if I don’t want to be with him anymore?” even though most of the time I can identify those thoughts as anxiety. I just get scared because the initial thoughts aren’t even true, yet my mind still goes there and I’m scared its going to make me want to leave even though I’m basically making the things up in my head. I do have a question, do you think anxieties about other things (i.e. I’m donating my kidney to my Mom tomorrow!)can target things that aren’t actually a problem instead of truly acknowledging themselves? I’ve been extra anxious this weekend and I’m wondering if that could be why.

    I read your posts whenever I feel extremely anxious about my relationship, and it usually helps me calm down. Thank you!

    – Anna

  • Jeanine

    Sheryl, wonderful post! I’ve been doing really good with handling my thoughts & feelings. Just sometimes it creeps up on me. I hate feeling numb, it’s the absolute worst. I’ve been struggling the past month, I’ve been doing everything to accept it & it just seems hopeless. I’m trying to figure out what’s blocking me from all of this joy & happiness I was feeling before, trying to talk to my WS. I’ve commented on your posts before about how much better I am today because of what I went through & anxiety & all. Just can’t get through on this one, but I won’t give up. You’re very inspiring your blogs always help me! 🙂

  • Me Myself and I

    One thing I’ve also realized is that when we keep telling ourselves, this is so hard, It’s so scary?, Do I really want to do this?, I must not want it enough if I have to endure all this suffering and anxiety?, Maybe I’m just not cut out for this?, etc. etc. All of this thinking is so self defeating because we all want, crave, and deserve a healthy love but choosing it is incredibly scary because you have to delve deep and deal with a lot of pain and misconception. I truly expected this all to “come easy” but romantic/committed relationships have always been hard for me for some reason that I do not quite understand yet. I just keep everything so tightly wrapped up and am afraid to feel stuff. Then when I do, it feels good but it’s like I’m still scared to feel it because I don’t want anyone else to see me or hear me crying in our apartment. nor do I want to go wail in the bathroom with fear others will see. Learning to grieve and feel stuff is something I still battle but it is certainly getting easier little by little to just cry and feel my emotions.

  • Angie

    Hi Sheryl ,
    I’ve been dealing with what I believe to be engagement /moving anxiety I’ve wanted these things for so long and now that they are actually happening I’m scared and feel like running away … I really think I am going to take your online course but I was wondering if there was any way I could do an email consultation with you first? I would like to purchaser it this week … ?

    Thank you Sheryl
    Angie

    • I don’t offer email consultations, Angie, but if you read through my site and the e-course page – and sign up for the sampler – you’ll have a good sense of whether or not the course is a match for you.

  • onedayatatime

    First it is so amazing that your little boy can come to you with these thoughts that obviously cause him fear and distress and how lovingly you care for him and teach him!

    I have a long way to go to practice what you are talking about here but I am slowly learning this. How do you know when a thought is something that requires you to dig deeper and underneath it? For example I was out last night at a live music venue and had a moment of thoughts out of no where: “what if there is a fire here? Where would I get out? What if it was around those stairs? These are the people I would die with. Who would I call first?”. A little morbid, maybe pretty normal, and slightly unrelated to your relationship anxiety work but I caught myself giving this thought attention and I was wondering why? Is this just a type of thought to let pass through? Just wondering if anyone has any perspectives.

  • Candie

    Sarah I thought I should reply to you as you seem to be struggling a bit. You can get the back door spike with any anxiety thought. It’s best to not even seperate them into sectors as a thought it just a thought and it doesn’tayter of the content it’s how you respond that gives it meaning. From what you have described its a very common back door spike. When the anxiety goes people often worry it means they believe their thoughts. Everybody ponders their relationship at some point. Mothers often question if they are cut out for motherhood etc. it’s fear that causes this, but some people are frightened of the unknown and they want to make sure it’s not true. They torture themselves endlessly questioning until the questions no longer make sense yet they feel the need to escape. The trick with any thought or doubt is to be ok with not knowing all the answers. You already know what you want, you have said it over and over in your post- you will never out smart fear.. You can only down tools and decide your ok with the doubt, uncertainty and be willing to let the question arise as much as it wants. The mind will always produce uncomfortable thoughts, you can’t protect yourself from uncertainty you have to embrace it 🙂

  • Hi Sheryl, Brilliant article! It’s so liberating to finally be aware of the fact that thoughts are JUST thoughts, not our totality, not our truth. 🙂 Sarah Jean….I wanted to reach out to you as I can feel from your words that you are letting your thoughts really take control. Believe me, we have all been there – and it’s not a nice feeling! I have just completed two rounds of Sheryl’s Open Your Heart programme – it was an incredible experience and one I highly recommend! If there is any way financially you can offer this (or the weddings ecourse) as a gift for yourself…please do so. You deserve it. We all do! 🙂 Much love, xx

  • NYCgirl988

    Sheryl,

    Thank you for not only this but for your work. I am, what seems like ever so slowly, while going through the course these last 9 months; am learning, growing and most of all, feeling. It’s scary, frustrating, stressful, overwhelming and gratifying all at once. It seems like each week you read my mind with your blog. As intrusive thoughts are at the center of this, this article really helped me to further understand my thoughts and my mind. My question is – how do you know the difference between different types of thoughts – creative, spiritual, practical, intrusive, and fear-based ? I know this may be a stupid question but I am curious your response or anyone’s response to this. Thank you!

  • “My question is – how do you know the difference between different types of thoughts – creative, spiritual, practical, intrusive, and fear-based ? I know this may be a stupid question but I am curious your response or anyone’s response to this.”

    Not a stupid question at all (no such thing as a stupid question 😉 ). As you learn more and more about your self through turning inward and approaching your inner world with genuine compassion, you grow your well of self-knowledge and you’re better able to discern between positive, life-enhancing thoughts and negative, life-depleting thoughts. Then, as you tune in and listen to your body’s communication in response to a thought (do you open and feel inspired or close and feel tight and scared), the differences between the thoughts will become increasingly more evident.

  • Hi Sheryl,

    First of all I’d like to say that I always enjoy reading your posts, they are so eye opening and uplifiting. They always seem to arrive in my mail box just when I need them too^_^ , just the right words at the right time! Thank you!

    About thoughts: Sometimes I get so caught up in the vivid images my mind produces that after a while I struggle to distinguish the thoughts from what is actually happening. My thoughts become so overwhelming and controling and often start influencing the way I feel and react. Especially if they aren’t too positive.
    I am a higly sensitive person, maybe that explains a bit more..

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, I always can relate to your blogs! I’ve had feared based intrusive thoughts pop into my head, what if I don’t love my partner, and does my husband genuinely love me. I guess these thoughts come from past relationship experiences. Lately I have been having this thought that a past neighbour wishes things to go bad for me. I don’t know why it gets me feeling un easy. I was bullied in high school from girls I didn’t know and maybe that’s why I think some people don’t want me to be happy??

    • Being bullied as a child can have long-term repercussions, and your fear that others don’t want you to be happy is likely a direct result of the bullying. The work for you is to attend to the scared and hurt place inside of you and recognize that when you fall prey to the belief that others don’t want you to be happy you’re in a projection based on past experiences.

  • Melissa

    Hi Sheryl,

    I always love your blog posts. I have struggled with anxious/intrusive thoughts for periods of time on and off throughout my life. I think often they can come in times of transition or uncertainty because the mind loves something to grasp onto so it can feel in control and solid. Something that helped me a lot years ago when I was seeing a therapist was that she pointed out to me that when I spoke my distressed, circular thoughts aloud, I did not sound like “me”–as in the real, true, grounded, & loving me that could discern what thoughts were helpful and what was just not true or helpful at all. I know that you refer to this as our own Inner Loving Adult, which I love. It really is about tuning into how you feel when you think the thought and if it is tremendous discomfort, perhaps your body/higher self is trying to tell you it is not helping you. We have to get out of our heads in order to feel the truth, and that can be weird if we are not used to trusting the process. It’s amazing to me that we don’t trust in our goodness more…I guess that is a Life’s practice, and no one is perfect at it 🙂 Thank you for your consistent insights on this…the world needs more light and love with these topics!

  • Ashley Chapman

    Hi Sheryl,

    What do you do when intrusive thoughts have exhausted you to the point that you are tired/numb of the relationship and just want a break? You know you love that person but the ruminating thoughts have made you tired and you believe and just want to be alone and focus on yourself.

  • Ashley Chapman

    How do you deal with your ego when you are tired and numb and cant keep going? My ego tells me nothing is working you are tired and bored just let him go.

  • Macy

    Sheryl, either I have arrived at the root of the problem or my anxiety has hung its hat very tightly onto a thought/feeling that I cant rationalize enough to let the anxiety pass. In one of your previous articles, his spiked my anxiety “deep-down sense that you’re not ready to get married because you’re too young, haven’t lived enough live on your own”. This is exactly the problem I have in my relationship, I am 18 and have been in my relationship since I was 13. We have an amazing relationship and can have a good future together, but I never had those in love feelings because in the beginning of our relationship I stayed for wrong reasons. But the love ended up growing and today we have, like I said a good relationship. We are best friends, he would do anything for me, he is committed respectful, smart…and many more amazing qualities. Although we aren’t getting married the fact still is that I am afraid of never living those butterflies/attraction if I stay in our relationship which will at a very serious level since we have been together so long. Please, if only I could have an answer to this thought, it would alleviate my anxiety so much….

    • I wish I had a magic answer for you, Macy, but one doesn’t exist because it comes down to knowing yourself well enough to know what is true for you. There are many happily married couples who have been together since they were young, and many others who started young and decided to part ways. There isn’t a right answer; there’s only what’s right for you.

  • Hannah

    You always help me with your posts. I really appreciate having this site as a resource and help during my engagement. I was wondering if you can recommend any wedding readings that are on the conscious side. I’ve had trouble finding some that talk about real love with darks and lights. Thanks Sheryl.

  • ML

    Hi Sheryl,

    In relation to this post, when I read about anxiety which manifests itself in other forms, lets say social anxiety – there is a corresponding avoidance behaviour, an action – avoiding social situations. Am I correct in thinking that for those who experience this relationship anxiety the thinking in response to the seemingly intrusive thought, not necessarily worrying, just thinking, is the avoidance behaviour itself?

  • Mac

    I have had anxiety for about 10 years now, not just relationship anxiety. The topic of choice changes like the seasons.
    I still get tricked into believing it, but it is much less often and i now see where im going wrong when it sucks me in. I have one book that i really identify with, which is a mindfulness based anxiety help book. I then use this website for relationship focused anxiety combined with my book.
    I find having too many things to turn to when i feel bad, too overwhelming. This may not be the same for everyone but i think anxiety pulls your mind all over the place, so using one specific book or website helps much more than searching for a holy grail. There is no holy grail, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel better. Its the searching to fix the problem that is so exhausting. When its a relationship that is right there in your face you feel like “i just want to disappear i feel so shit and confused”.

    A few things that really help me when i realise my brain is going crazy trying to figure something out.
    1. If you are searching searching searching for the answer or ruminating on the same topic or in a low after doing either of these things, you ARE dealing with anxiety. There is no doubt about it. Once you can see this pattern no matter how painful it is you are already on the right track

    2. Once i realise how much my brain is working over time, say im wondering.. maybe i don’t like my boyfriend, maybe we don’t get a long enough. I STOP TRYING TO CONVINCE MYSELF OF ANYTHING. I don’t try to prove that i love him, or hate him or that i have indifference to him. Start to look at your thoughts, which can be hard if you have a million. But look at them like this post says, i don’t convince myself they or right or wrong, but i do say to myself.. from the way you are thinking you are probably thinking quite negatively right now, so this isn’t very reliable. I then go back to not convincing myself of anything either way, this can be quite BORING.. this i have noticed as an over thinker. But that is too bad, you’re not solving the world today. This might not be very helpful
    The book i use is “the mindfulness & acceptance workbook for anxiety” i have used it over the last 3 years and my life as improved tremendously. That is not to say it wasn’t hard. Breaking patterns of behaviour is hard.