No Escape Hatch From Life

DSCF3026We are not taught to meet life on life’s terms. Left to ourselves, we have this nifty little defense mechanism called an ego that will shift and move and invent and convince in order to remove us from meeting life square in the eye. All of the ego’s intrusive thoughts and fear-based schemes are, in fact, finely crafted and often convincing escape hatches designed to remove us from touching the raw places that define being human: our loneliness, pain, fear, uncertainty, and transcendence.

I work with pregnant women who have the thought “I don’t care about this new life.” I work with people in loving relationships who are dragged down the rabbit hole of anxiety by the thought, “I don’t love him/her.” I work with new mothers who become terrified by the thought directed toward their baby, “I hate you.” Because we’re not taught how to work with our thoughts effectively in this culture, the only choice the untrained mind has is to believe the thoughts and take them at face value. None of these thoughts are literal. They’re like dream symbols that have to read as metaphor. They’re sneaky defense mechanisms that protect us from the profound vulnerability of loving someone as fiercely as we do, sentries that try in vain to protect us from the uncertainty of life.

Quite often the defenses are so thick that even upon reading that last paragraph the ego pipes up with, “You don’t love your partner fiercely.” Yes, I know. And I also know that every time I ask a client why they haven’t left yet, the tears of gratitude and connection start flowing. We protect those tears like a sacred, untouched spring that lives at the center of our hearts. We build walls around that spring, then appoint an army to stand guard. It’s a miracle that anyone gets inside, ever.

Alongside our thoughts, we also use the myth of “I’ll be happy when…” as an escape hatch. We fall prey to the insidious cultural message that says, “You’ll be happy when you graduate from college, land the job, get married, buy the house, get the dog, have the baby…” But when each of those milestone or events occurs and you still feel restless and uncertain, you wonder what’s wrong. There’s nothing wrong. It’s just that there’s no escape hatch for life, meaning we can’t avoid the inherent loneliness, pain, uncertainty, and transcendence of being human. Let’s explore some of these states a bit further.

Life can be a lonely journey. This loneliness is heightened during initiatory times – getting married, trying to conceive, having a baby, losing a loved one – as this is when we’re most vulnerable and are being called to the next stage of growth. Like the young boy who is sent into the forest alone as part of his rite of passage, we are sent alone into the dark regions of mind and left to learn how to grapple with the forces we encounter there: our fears, our thoughts, our pain, our uncertainty. The boy-becoming-man must be alone for it’s in his loneliness that he cocoons into himself and discovers latent resources that are waiting to come alive. Likewise, the woman-become-wife or the man-become-husband must journey the path alone, recognizing that it’s when we meet the feeling of loneliness itself instead of trying to escape it that we surrender into what is meant to be learned.

But of course it’s not only during initiations that we feel lonely. Loneliness seems to be part of the human experience, for it’s an undeniable fact that nobody, no matter how close they may come to our hearts, is living inside of our bodies and seeing life through our lens. One of the most common intrusive thoughts that plagues the mind struggling with relationship anxiety is, “Does my partner get me? Do we have enough connection?” One of the unspoken diamonds embedded inside these questions is the invitation to embrace our fundamental, existential loneliness. When we’re hooked on these questions we’re fixated on the ego’s convincing escape hatch that we wouldn’t feel lonely with someone else. When we recognize, on the other hand, that loneliness is part of the human condition, we can learn to meet our fundamental solitude, and perhaps even become friends with it. Then the solitude changes, paradoxically, into friendship – but it’s our own internal friendship instead of expecting another to fill that place of longing.

Life can be a painful journey. For some, especially the highly sensitives, pain is a part of daily life. We don’t even have to know why we’re crying, but when we slow down and soften we find that a layer of sadness sits in the middle of an open heart. I’ve shared this quote from Pema Chodron many times as it expresses so beautifully the inherent pain of life:

“Bodhichitta is our heart–our wounded, softened heart. Now, if you look for that soft heart that we guard so carefully–if you decide that you’re going to do a scientific exploration under the microscope and try to find that heart–you won’t find it. You can look, but all you’ll find is some kind of tenderness. There isn’t anything that you can cut out and put under the microscope. There isn’t anything that you can dissect or grasp. The more you look, the more you find just a feeling of tenderness tinged with some kind of sadness. This sadness is not about somebody mistreating us. This is inherent sadness, unconditioned sadness. It is part of our birthright, a family heirloom. It’s been called the genuine heart of sadness.”

We try to escape this genuine heart of sadness. We try to escape largely because we haven’t been taught that it’s normal, that the only response being asked is to meet the sadness, to hold it as we would a child. We’ve been taught to judge the sadness, to equate it with weakness, to “buck up and get over it”. Get over what? That life includes pain, and that if you’re a sensitive being you will be highly attuned to this pain on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis? There’s no getting over life. There’s no escape hatch.

Life can sometimes be a transcendent journey, but which I mean there are moments, minutes, perhaps when the soul expands, when not just the physical body breathes a full breath, extending beyond the familiar boundaries, but the soul does as all. Transcendence is when the soul recognizes itself, when the infinite part of me remembers itself by seeing itself reflected somewhere in this finite world. The quest for transcendent experiences is not a way to bypass the inherently uncomfortable fact of being a human in a physical body. But we can seek transcendence as we seek oxygen for these moments in time where we are simultaneously lifted out of ourselves and remembering ourselves oxygenate our souls and make life worth living.

Where do we find transcendence? There is no formula. We find it by following the faint whispers of yes until the quiet song awakens into full chorus, until the transcendent moments aren’t isolated experiences but mark out daily and even hourly life. This may happen when you’re hiking in the hills, sitting in prayer, looking at art, writing a poem or memorizing one, working a dream, climbing a moubtain, sitting on the beach, or petting a cat. We leap from lily pad to lily pad of yes until they string together to create one green path that guides our days and nights.

We must make space to invite the yes. We must carve out a quiet room in some corner of our busy lives to hear the insects singing. And we must know that transcendence is not the goal, and is not, in fact, separate from the pain and loneliness, the fear and vulnerability that define being human.

Transcendence is meeting life on life’s terms, putting down the armor, stopping the fight, and simply saying, “Here I am. I allow life to flow through me and with me. I say yes to life in all of its varied expressions of pain and beauty. Here I am.”

54 comments to No Escape Hatch From Life

  • Erika

    Dear Sheryl,
    I have been an avid follower of your site and blogs for some time now. I have been trying to work through my anxious thoughts–I’ve had so many different ones that I know it’s not about my relationship but about something inside of me. It’s hard to address them all sometimes. But I feel like I recently relapsed. I have a couple months of no serious anxiety, some of the numbness, but some good as well. Moments of “yes, I do love him and could marry him and be happy and alright,” which were blessings.
    But then in a moment of peace, I realized the anxious thoughts weren’t there and I was surprised and that the was the opening the fear needed. They reappeared in full force. Lately, they’ve been about being too young (just turned 21) to consider marriage, to know what you really want in a man, to make a relationship last, etc. I have these mainstream societal messages that your twenties are for singlehood and exploring yourself and meeting guys and dating and basically everything I’m not doing now. I’ve been with my wonderful man for 2 1/2 years, fighting myself and my fear for most of it because I saw something worth fighting for. However, I’ve hardly spent any time single since turning 16. I dated a guy from 16-18. Spent 9ish months “single” but still emotionally close to the ex, and then met the man I’m with now. I guess my fear is telling me that I haven’t dated enough guys to know what I want or to be successful. And it’s telling me I’m too young to be this serious about a relationship. We talk about getting married a lot. It’s something I really want and used to look forward to.

    These thoughts about dating and singlehood and experience and youth aren’t manifesting in the normal “what-if” format that I’m used to, so it’s hard for me to label them as fear. Do they appear to be fear based? Is youth really a factor? Is the amount of dating experience matter? Will I regret not being single or dating lots of guys in my twenties if I stay with the man I have now? There are what swirl in my head. And they cause so much pain because I’d love to just be happy with who I have now. He truly is someone I deeply love. I know that. I choose that. That’s why I’m still fighting. I guess I just haven’t found anything addressing the “fears” I’m experiencing now to help me work through them.

    I’m hoping to someday afford your courses, but a broke college student’s budget is no laughing matter.

    I appreciate all you do Sheryl. Your work is a blessing.

    • Erika: The fear of being too young is a common one, but the fact that it’s become an intrusive thought indicates that the anxiety is currently hanging its hat on that story but that the roots of the anxiety have nothing to do with your relationship. The work for you now is learn how to work with your thoughts, and the blessing is that your anxiety has brought you here so that you can learn this at age 21. It will serve you for the rest of your life. Have you read “The Untethered Soul” and the other books on my recommended reading list?

      http://conscious-transitions.com/books-that-have-changed-my-life/

  • N

    Hi Sheryl,

    How long does it take you to write such beautiful blogs? You truly are a writer.

    I am one week into the Break Free from Relationship Anxiety course and I can say that I am in a better state of mind, mentally, physically and spiritually today compared to a week ago. Finding your work is the only thing that has kept me calm and sane (for the lack of a better word) during this period of my life. I have gone to two counselling sessions and a therapist session in less than two weeks and I am hoping that I am on the road to really diving inward to seeing what is off-kilter inside.

    What really boggles my mind about this anxiety is that it happened overnight, or what appeared overnight. I know my first intrusive thought happened a few months ago, but two weeks ago when it came back with a vengeance it hit me full force and it has been the toughest two weeks of my life so far. I have cried every day, and have been constantly trying to turn inward to ask myself what is going on.

    One of the fears that appeared last week (and was NEVER a thought or concern before) was that “I am only with my boyfriend because I don’t want to hurt him, and because he is soo close to my family.. that they would not understand why we broke up”. I cannot seem to find out what or where that one is coming from. I was able to indicate that one of my fears is the fear of uncertainty, being that I don’t know whats going to happen in the future, if we get engaged and then get married, will we divorce etc. (although, I was so easily able to talk about my future with my boyfriend so easily before, now the thought scares me), and because my boyfriend is my first and only boyfriend, I am afraid of not knowing if there was someone else out there for me.. or if I should have dated more.

    For the last 8 months I also have been battling an eating disorder (purging), and for the last two weeks have been the first time that I have not purged… I have always been heavier all my life and I have lost weight in the last few years, but I think I purge because people (including guys) will comment on how good I look..so I purge to lose weight…. but this anxiety around my relationship has had me so focused on that, that purging does not really cross my mind.

    Sheryl, I keep telling myself that this anxiety is a gift and that I need to have compassion and be kind to myself, and above all be patient, I am just so scared that I am going to put in the work and I am going to still feel this way.

    Thank you for being my only source of comfort in the last two weeks (other than my amazing mom and boyfriend).

    xo N

    • Give yourself time, N. You just started the course and are embarking on a completely new leg of your healing journey. The fact that you’ve been suffering from an eating disorder is further evidence that this anxiety lives inside of you and has nothing to do with your partner. If you stay with this you will learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible, and you will turn over a new leaf in your life. Hang on!

      • N

        Thank you Sheryl.

        I do my best to hang on. I just find it hard when I used to be able to easily talk or picture myself marrying my boyfriend, or talking about things to do in the future, but now the thought of planning something in the future (even going to a concert in a few months) scares me and I get anxious because I wonder if we will be together by then… I don’t know why I am doing that.. it scares me!

        *Breathing into this feeling and fear of the ego trying to get me to run*

        • Nikki

          Sheryl,

          I have also realized that I have tremendous lack of self-trust and self-love. I would really be interested in your course, but I don’t know if I can wait until the spring. Is there anyway you can squeeze me in? I started meditation, listing what I am grateful for and am going to start into mindfulness. Anything that will help me on this journey.. I am doing! I am soo impatient, but I need to learn to be patient.

          • Please stay with the course you’re doing, Nikki, as it will take you a couple of months to work through it. Also, the current round of Trust Yourself is full and we’re coming to the end of the thirty days.

  • Liz

    Beautifully written, as always, Sheryl. I took this past weekend while being snowed in to start reading your blog from the beginning! “I couldn’t put it down” so to speak! After 3 days (I’ve only gotten through September 2010), I feel like I’ve grown more than I have in the past two years. Through, which I was able to come to these conclusions:

    Love IS absolutely a choice, and that it IS hard work, that you MUST communicate, and that you do HAVE TO try. I’m learning life doesn’t always go according to plan, and you can’t predict or ever be 100% sure about anything; contrary to what I used to think was the case. These past few years (since breaking up with my wonderful, loving committed boyfriend due to intense anxiety and the all too familiar questions we often pose) have been a struggle. I thought they might be, but I didn’t know how much so. They’ve also been very good. As hard and lonely as they’ve been, I definitely think I needed the time to grow alone. In my past relationship, I was extremely selfish and disconnected. And angry after the fact. I think a lot of the reason for that was because I didn’t know who I was. While I thought I knew, and what I wanted in life, I wasn’t ready to love or commit to someone else because I didn’t yet love myself. I now realize I went through so many tumultuous transitions (I now know this because of your writings) at once: (1) leaving a job in advertising to (2) move to a new city to (3) start a new job, (4) starting a new relationship, (5) leaving the new job to (6) start another new job In advertising where I thought I’d be moe comfortable and happier, (6) us moving in together after only 4 months,, (7) me leaving my “comfortable” job in advertising to (8) start a new job nannying, (9) my boyfriend losing his job, (10) me leaving my nannying job all so we could (11) move to a new state, where I mistakenly (12) took another job in advertising, only to (13) leave it for another job nannying and finally, (14) breaking up with my boyfriend… And all in the span of less than 2 years! It’s no wonder I was an utter and total mes)! I guess at the time, I just didn’t know how to handle it in a healthy way. I felt like I had no identity, and that’s something I’ve always struggled with in and out of relationships. Anytime I’ve felt that way, I’ve wanted to bail and “start over”, and that’s exactly what I did with my boyfriend at the time. It’s not the first time, as I’ve been known to cut people (friends included) out of my life (all while thinking they are the problem, when in fact, I am just not happy with myself; something I’ve come to learn, but couldn’t clearly articulate was driving me and my boyfriend apart back then).

    Phew! That was a lot. But, I can’t tell you how eye opening! Thank you for all that you do! I wanted to email you personally, but felt that this post might help someone else so I chose to comment.

    If you haven’t already, would you please consider writing a blog post about your experience with people who have left good, solid relationships like I did? What have those clients’ experiences been like besides finding themselves feeling the same way in the next relationship? I haven’t seriously dated anyone since my ex, or been able to get close to anyone (instead I push them away) out of fear that what happened to us will happen with someone else. I’d love some advice on how to move forward. Also, anything on self-trust would be great! You can tell us 10x over that anxiety is telling us all these things, but I’ve always been afraid to go against my gut and not listen to my body and what my mind is saying. It’s almost as if I ignore it, I feel like I’m not being true to myself. Thank you in advance! I know that was a lot, but you truly work miracles and I had to let you in on this one.

    • Wow, thank you, Liz! I’m so glad you chose to post this here instead of as a private email and I think others will benefit from your words. I love that you’re reading my blog from the beginning! It’s often what I suggest to those who can’t afford my courses. Thank you for your blog suggestions. As far as writing about self-trust, have you considered taking my Trust Yourself course at some point? It would be great to get to know you better there, and I have no doubt you would benefit enormously from it.

    • Rebecca

      Hi liz
      This post makes me feel a little anxious in the sense that ‘what if this happens to me?” ” what if i need this too” id love to hear back from you and in no way am i saying that this post is bad in anyway its actually great id just love to hear about your experience and anit more of why you broke up with him? I have been with my bf for 8 years. Since i was 15. We want the same things in life ans have the some morals and values.

      Thank you in advance xo

      • Liz

        I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Of course, I don’t know your situation and I definitely do believe in getting out there and experiencing different things and different people so that you can learn more about yourself, what you like, who you like, etc. At the same time, as they say, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”. If your boyfriend is a good person and treats you well and you don’t anticipate any “make or break” issues between you two, I wouldn’t walk away. At least not yet. Give it a good, solid try before you leave him for the unknown. Sure, the unknown could be really great, but it can also not be as good. With me, and probably many others, the grass seems to always been greener on the other side. Sheryl writes about this quite a bit.

        Maybe all you need is new experiences in your life such as a trip alone or with girl friends, more responsibility in a job, a new hobby, etc. Before trying to figure out the answer from leaving your current relationship, try to find it by doing a bit more self-exploration, while incorporating self-love and compassion. I’m always happy to talk with you more!

        • Liz

          Also, to answer your question about why I broke up with him…

          I was pretty depressed before and during dating him. Meeting him and thinking I’d found the love of my life helped pull me out of it a bit, but I fell right back in months later because ultimately, I wasn’t happy with who I was. I didn’t realize the real issue at the time, so I just thought us not communicating or connecting like we did in the beginning was a sign that we didn’t belong together and that I didn’t love him. After months of a decline in our sex life and my general excitement for life, I woke up one morning and looked at him still asleep and thought, “Oh my god, I don’t love this person…” and I ran with that. I let it consume me. I got debilitating anxiety. I talked to friends and rehashed things over and over and over. I ate, lived and breathed the idea of it. And I never once talked to him about it. I just harbored a secret that just one day I spewed from my mouth. And that was it. I was so far gone that I didn’t want to work it out. Why would I try to do that when I “knew because my body was telling me” that I did not love him. And I walked away. And I was kind of okay, to be honest. I was happier because my anxiety just disappeared and I didn’t have to worry anymore about trying to make something work that, in my mind, “just wasn’t going to work.” I really regret not trying and not talking to him about my fears long before I just gave up. It makes me really sad to type all this out, but it’s the truth and how it all happened. And if my story can help someone else maybe not make a similar mistake, I’m happy to be able to help. All the best to you!

          • Thank you very much for sharing this, Liz.

          • Andrea

            Yes thank you so much for sharing Liz!! I allowed myself to be consumed by this thought and then found this website and bought the conscious bride course and it made a world of difference and I was able to see things in a new perspective and the anxiety faded away. Well it just made a very sneaky and vengeful return this past week and I know it’s because I haven’t been diligent in working on my self and on being my own source of happiness, but these thoughts are just terrible. I just got back from the most amazing vacation with my boyfriend, whom I’ve been with for almost 4 years and who absolutely worships the ground I walk on. I think that’s when it actually gets worse, because I begin to feel guilt for not being as passionate, as in love, as selfless in the relationship as he clearly is. While I should have been on cloud nine (and don’t get me wrong I enjoyed it thoroughly and had an incredible week) I spent most of the trip home crying because I was sad to come back. And reflecting on how amazing the trip was made me more depressed and heightened the anxiety. We also finally decided to move in together and these big steps always tend to trigger these feelings more than anything else. You mention wishing you had talked to him about it… I want to do this but I’m also terrified that he will only hear “she doesn’t love me” and never be able to see me the same. Or will always wonder in the back of his mind how I feel… but I broke up with him once (for about 2 days) and never stopped crying or feeling more miserable than I had before I did it so we got back together and I tried to explain it to him but I have never been able to fully articulate any of it. Any suggestions or advice on how to talk to him about this?
            Sheryl, thank you so much for saving me a few times already! Your writing is so wonderful and true – I’m very happy I stumbled upon this site. Do you have any advice on how a conscious girlfriend should discuss these feelings with her oblivious boyfriend?

          • Charlotte

            Thank you thank you thank you this is such a good post. I could have written this myself xx

  • delphai

    The idea that you post about the sadness being sort of inherent to the soul of life is astonishing to me. I have always been in touch with that expansive, achy feeling of life’s beauty and mystery and I was just thinking the other day how strange it is that that feeling is always a sad feeling (when I’m in touch with it). I thought that was something due to childhood or other wound, the idea that it may be the nature of life at its essence is an interesting thought to me. Thank you for that.

  • Ai

    @Erika, Even if the thoughts are not coming in “what if” forms, it sounds like they are what if questions: what if I’m supposed to be dating more in my 20’s? What if I’m settling too soon? I think if you have a comfort and ease with this man, trust, respect, ability to be yourself, open communication, feel you’re able to grow together, able to get through the tough parts together, you’ve got what people who are dating are trying to achieve. Learning to trust yourself and not compare yourself to societal or peer expectations is going to be lifelong work, sometimes it will be easier than other times. But if you are able to recognize when you’re struggling, give yourself a hug and a pat on the head, or ask someone close to you to help with that 🙂 and keep reading sheryl’s blog. That helps a lot 🙂

  • Rebecca

    Liz why did you break up with your boyfriend if he was loving and sweet? Reading your post makes me feel anxious like ‘what if this happens to me?’ ‘ is this something im going through?’.
    Id love to hear back from you.

    Thanks

  • Erika

    I have not read any of them yet. Being a student leaves little time for outside reading, but I am planning on it very soon. It’s a cheaper option for now to start helping myself.
    I had a thought while I was siphoning through my intrusive thoughts that perhaps I’m afraid because I don’t know how to trust myself. That I’m still searching for what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” and hoping to come to some sort of certainty and truth. That yes, early 20s are for exploration and growth, or No, there are plenty of 19, 20, 21, 22 year olds getting married and living their lives. I’ve always been one to be a bit more mature that those around me, living with an “old soul” and ready to start my life–find my man, get married, start my “life” so to say. But now that it’s all becoming a reality, the fear and doubts and possible regrets are settling in like never before. I think there’s grief and dealing with uncertainty of my future no matter what path I choose that I must address.

    Some part of me KNOWs that the man I am with and love is someone I will and can make a wonderful life partnership and friendship with. The thought of not being with him, despite my fears of regrets, is much worse than the thought of having regrets. Its about losing him in the future because I didn’t “possibly” explore enough now.

    I can see that it’s all about fear. It just is unfortunate how it manifests. I really need to begin some soul searching and inner self work. I really hope the books you recommend will get my started on that journey. My boyfriend and best friend is what is at stake and losing him over trifling details of a lifestyle I’ve never really wanted feels foolish when I stand back. But that, of course, doesn’t stop the thoughts or fears because I still have to find their cause.

    Thank you, as always.

  • Sharan

    God I absolutely love this and needed this. I just need to stop fighting with life sometimes. At the moment i am resisting a new job and now i realise i am meant to be here. Just right here. Thank you xx

  • dee

    Hi Sheryl,
    I have a question about relationship anxiety and separation anxiety. Is it possible to suffer from both in an intimate relationship? I often find myself in projection keeping my partner at a distance, however spending time away from him makes me restless and easy. I enjoy being alone and spending time with others, but it’s as if I’m afraid that our connection will be sucked up by the ether. I feel strange when I don’t miss him, as if the feelings we share can just dissolve. Paradoxically, being around him triggers anxiety and intrusive thoughts. Growing up I do remember I spent a lot of time dwelling in my fear of my loved one’s passing and was often preoccupied about their health, safety and whereabouts. I feel I love my partner very much, but I’m worried that perhaps I’m confusing love with emotional dependence. We are currently hanging on a thread and I am in a lot of pain. I am planning on purchasing the break free e course this weekend. Any insights would be much appreciated.
    Thanks
    <3/dee

    • Healthy love includes emotional dependence otherwise there wouldn’t be any attachment. And yes, you can definitely suffer from both separation anxiety and relationship anxiety (and most people do). You’ll find yourself in good and familiar company when you join the course ;).

  • Angela

    Thank you for your reflections. They always talk of our most vulnerable and delicate, yet most sincere, places inside ourself. I always feel that you give voice to and put into words feelings that I would otherwise not be able to understand this well. Many thanks for this work you do.

  • albert

    Hi Sheryl! Hi Guys!

    Thank you for the website, for helping other people.

    My question is: is your course from the other website (mbg) which is more affordable for me right now, going to help in any way with relationship anxiety?

    I am in yet another relationship in which intrusive thoughts appear. We started by being friends and a few days after kissing anxiety kicked in. We’ve been together for more than a year now, because I realised the problem was in me (after escaping from relationships few times, I was getting quicker at doing this) and I had decided to deal with it.

    I have better moments. We laugh, we’re a bit crazy when together. I feel I love her from time to time (altough then I think it was a lie). To be honest I sometimes think my girlfriend and I match each other, like – I’m sure we could build a serious relationship. I’m not sure about it all the time, but sometimes I am. Or it appears I am. However intrusive thoughts are overwhelming. Do I love her? Is she attractive enough? Sometimes something is wrong, like I feel she’s totally different.

    The worst thing I would say is the thought I’m lying to her. How could I be with her when I’m not sure about it? Is that fair? Shouldn’t she find a better less anxious guy? (On the other hand I’m afraid sometimes that the new guy could be worse than me :)).

    The other thing is that we live in different countries but I’m trying to get a job in hers. So it’s another transition to bear with. New life, first real job, different state. One of the things that often gives me some hope that I always cry when we split for some time. So that must mean something. I can’t help myself, even if I have an anxious period at the moment I cry when we say goodbye.

    I used to go to a psychotherapist for a couple of months which was fine but I don’t have enough money to continue. She sometimes said to me “wouldn’t that be easier to have a girlfriend in your own country?” which spiked my worries of course. I also have some experience with meditation, now I’m trying journaling as you advise.

    Sorry for my English, it’s not perfect, I know:)

    TL;DR And I know I had only one question but suddenly I started writing my story, I guess to feel better. I’m sorry 🙂

    Best wishes to all of you people
    albert

  • Bra77

    Sheryl, my partner and I may be long distance next year and k keep having thoughts of I can’t do it, that I’ll meet somebody else, or that I can’t handle it and we’ll break up and my body tells me to leave every time she says it, but I don’t want to. She’s the best thing that has ever happened to me and I can’t lose her. Is this fear or is this reality?

  • Elizabeth

    Sheryl, I love your writing and find it very inspiring!

    I am curious, where do you see humor fitting in with anxiety? By that I mean, what if us anxiety “sufferers” (myself included) were not so damn serious about life? I often find when I am in a anxious or depressed state, and looking for comfort, blogs such as these are so helpful, but they can also be really, really heavy… almost dragging me further down into a negative space. Perhaps they throw me further out of balance by allowing me to put even more focus on my feelings, when I probably need to focus LESS on them! In other words, I am likely making my problems out to be way more important (=SERIOUS!) than they really are, in the big picture of life.

    In reality, when we do step back and take a look at the big picture of this universe, we can see our lives are so fleeting and insignificant. I personally find that very comforting. It gives me an immense feeling of freedom to not have to get life all PERFECT all the time. Instead, maybe I can lighten up and ENJOY this life! What harm can actually come from life not being perfect? What will the impact be in our lives and in the universe? Very little! What if the only result is that we actually learn more and have more FUN experimenting with life, instead of being fearful of it?

    I know all of that is easier said than done, when you’re physically in the grips of anxiety… But during those times we must remember to just take a step back, and remember that we have a great ability to become so obsessed with our selves that our lives take on an importance that is way out of scale, in my opinion. Anxiety almost feels like a selfish indulgence of our ego. I think our higher selves could benefit from some sense of perspective, and maybe a more humorous approach to life. 🙂

  • FinallyGettingThere

    Hi Sheryl,
    Do you have any good articles or books about dreams? I had a dream the other day that I cheated on my partner and I really wanted to leave him and I didn’t love him. I then finished with the guy I was cheating with and went back to my partner because I felt guilty and realised I wanted to be wth him still. This has caused me major anxiety. My anxiety has dropped lately but this has really made me panic because now I am worried I do actually want to cheat and don’t actually love him. There is nothing wrong with him, he is lovely and supportive and everything I want in a future husband & father but I get swept away by all the anxiety and intrusive thoughts into thinking this is really real. I can’t help but overanalyse my dreams, is this a bad idea?

    Thank you kindly x

  • NewlyMarried

    Hi Sheryl
    I been dealing with this feeling for quite a while, my husband and I married not too long ago and we had dated before and we ended up splitting apart because of our inmaturity. Anyhow I ended up really wounded after that and we got back together after 5 years and he is the most amazing loving man there is now that we are here and he shows me that every day….. My problem is because I got very wounded of our past I cant seem to be able to move forward and open my heart and accept his love, sometimes I get very lovy and other I get very cold because I get all these thoughts of how he had been with other woman and then I start imagining him with them and when he kisses or touches me I feel like thats what he used to to do to other woman and I get this intrusive thoughts of him, it closes my heart and makes me feel cold towards him, even when he does nices things to me I get like that and all these thoughts come and I get so jeleaus and angry, not because he had a past but because our past wounded me feeling like he never loved me… there is other times that I get so afraid of loosing him too, I want to be with him but this is driving me crazy and I think my ego is preventing me from opening my heart to him, and I want to know that I have been what he has loved the most and yet even when he tells me that he is here to fight for us and to show me all the love I have never seen and how he really loves me I get still angry with him. He is wonderful let me say this and what I have always wanted in a man and he is the sweetest person Ihave met in my life. It saddens me to read that my love for him maybe is not comming from the heart but from the ego and I feel like then I am not a good person or worth his love because of how much he is really there with his guard down to open his heart to me with his faults and yet willing to fight with love and vulnerability and I am all closed up angry and hurt.
    I would appreciate your thoughts please.
    Thank you….

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl,
    I love all of your blogs, this one included. Im sitting inside a cafeteria inside a hospital, having my lunch and I hear people talking doctors and nurses also having their lunch. I normallyexternalise in crowded places. Well, today I am looking inside of me and sitting with the thoughts of just being. Acknowledging and enjoying the nice thoughts I am having. Thinking about life the beauty and also the pain that comes with it. I am waiting for my mother to come out of surgery. Its been a hard week. Watching my mum suffer is hard, she has done so many tests and the doctors dont know where the pain above her stomach is coming from. We cannot escape pain, we can take pain killers but its no resolution to the pain. Only temporarily. I believe pain makes a more stronger person.

  • R

    Wow! Again articulating some of the deepest thoughts known to the human condition. The things we all ponder over, yet can’t quite formulate in such a cohesive collection of writing as you have here Sheryl! Thank you.

    It’s very true that loneliness is part of this life. We can all do everything, and sometimes do, to ensure that it isn’t, but it will always be a part of us. I just watched a TV episode about this very thing. The show itself contains too many triggers for those dealing with heavy intrusive anxiety at the moment, so I won’t mention the name, only that the character is dealing with infidelity and asks an older person in confidence who had been in the same position at one point in his life. He said that he learned, no person can cure loneliness. We carry it with us. They can help ease it, and make life better. But not cure it. We are lonely creatures. We must carry our weight with us daily and live. Don’t expect magic love to take away that weight.

  • ub

    Hi sheryl,

    Do you think escaping from commitment altogether would be something reasonable? Being single forever, not needing a man. Only Children. Escaping from all the relationship anxiety. And living life chasing restlessly after your illusionary dreams because you like running, or chasing things. Why do we have to have a marriage? This intrusive thought has been bothering me for a long time. Perhaps I am young and my mind fools me into thinking that loneliness can be an answer. I can’t believe my intrusive thoughts get so bad that they make me want to leave my loving partner and choose some sort of a lonely life.

    I wish I could be less complicated and ungrateful. I wish this anxiety stops. I wish things get better. I wish I could smile at my beautiful life. And NOT push my blessings away.

    Do you think these thoughts are only intrusive or are they actually making sense and I should follow them?

  • Rachael

    Hi Sheryl,

    Loneliness is something I face quite a lot in my day to day life. I realise as I get older, loneliness is something you have to face; whether it’s something you’re pushed into (from a break-up, loss of friends), or it’s something you choose. I’ve always struggled to be alone, however, I’ve found that distractions are a main key into being alone. Although, at the moment I’m struggling with how to be alone and find myself whilst with my current partner.

  • Stef

    Hi Sheryl,

    I am still going through the break free course very slowly.. I seem to be doing okay for the most part but I’m afraid it mostly just me getting used to living life with the anxiety rather than it fading away.. I guess I’m not quite there yet..

    I wanted to ask you about some thoughts and feelings I’ve been having in the past week that were a little more specific to the section I’m up to in the course.
    I sometimes have compulsions where I’ll ask myself why I am truly with my partner to see what comes to me when I ask that question.. Lately the answer that comes is that I’m only with her because I’m afraid of letting her go and afraid of going through a break up. I also have thoughts that I’m only with her because I don’t want to see her happy with someone else.. It’s almost like I wouldn’t be happy for her if that was to happen one day.. And I know that if you love someone you should be happy for them..

    I’m not sure if these are just intrusive thoughts but when I try to tell myself ‘no, you love her for all the good qualities she has and the person she is’ I feel I can’t connect with any of these qualities and to me it doesn’t feel real that I’m with her because I love her.. It feels like maybe I’m just attached instead and I’m too afraid to let her go..

    Can you shed any light on these thoughts and feelings?

    Stef xx

  • Stef

    Another thought I forgot is that I’m only with her because of the history we share.. Such as the honeymoon phase we went through and the good time we had back then..

  • Stef

    Sorry I accidentally pressed submit without finishing..

    I meant to say what about if now that we are well and truly in a long term relationship way after our honeymoon phase, it’s not what I actually want anymore? Maybe I’ve grown out of it?
    Or am I looking for that ‘loved up’ feeling again maybe with a someone else. I had thoughts that maybe if I was with someone else and after that loved up feeling faded what if it felt more real and natural with them rather than my partner now..

    • If you’re still hooked by all of the “what-ifs” then you still have plenty of work to do with the course. Hang in there, keeping going through the lessons and, most importantly, practice whatever Daily Practices you choose to commit to.

      • Stef

        Thanks Sheryl,

        The what ifs are defiantly one of the hardest parts of anxiety to deal with and heal through!
        I get worried that I might have went from infatuation then straight to insecurtites rather than going from infactuation to real love.. Makes me wonder if I actually ever truly did really and truly love me partner or was it always just my insecurities confusing me for love.. And how do I get to a place of real love after being in an insecure place for so long..

        I will keep going with the course and try harder to take more responsibility in my healing!

        🙂 x !

  • Emily

    How exactly do you determine whether or not you have relationship anxiety? I’ve suffered with something for a year, constant anxiety for most of it, but a few months ago it just kind of stopped. Now I feel irritated with my partner and sometimes don’t feel like talking to him. I thought it was ROCD at first, but what if it’s just me not being as interested in him and not wanting to be alone? Typing that would have made me hurt months ago, but it’s like I don’t feel anything. I feel like a big pretender and it makes me so sad. He deserves someone who is sure about loving him, so why won’t I leave? Not that I haven’t considered it, but when it comes to it, I just won’t.

  • N

    Hi Sheryl,

    I was wondering if you could possibly shed some light on something as I am working through this course. I find that I constantly need reassurance from others (which I now know is not good.. I should just trust myself). As I mentioned in my above post I grew up overweight, so before I met my boyfriend I rarely dated guys… my boyfriend is my first serious relationship. Since I have lost weight in the last couple of years (especially this past year), I notice that guys will look at me.. which is something I am not used to, but I like it. I figured out that guys looking at me is reassuring and acknowledging that I look good, since I spent so much of my life not happy with how I looked (it was also a reason to purge even more). When guys check me out, I feel good, but I always want to tell my boyfriend about it after.. I never have the urge to cheat. But, since I started getting intrusive thoughts my mind now shifts it to the “what if…. I am supposed to be with that guy”. I am able to acknowledge the thought and use the techniques to make room for it. Is this normal behaviour? Is this related to the fact that I am looking for constant reassurance from others about my body?

    I am also struggling with the fact that a couple of months ago I was sooo easily able to talk about getting married to my boyfriend and about getting engaged, but now anytime the idea comes up I get scared!!! This upsets me because I know it is my ego trying to get me to run, but sometimes it is SOO believable. How can I go from being able to talk about getting married to now being uncertain? I know there is a possibility that because getting engaged could happen in 2016 and because the anxiety hit so I am worried when he does it I will still feel like this, but I am trying to work through this and am hopeful that when the time comes I will be ready. I used to be ready… but now I find that I am not 🙁

    • N

      I meant to add… That a part of me is afraid that I didn’t date enough or that I am missing out on experience of dating or being with other guys prior to my boyfriend.. So I think that’s why my “what ifs” sometimes wanders and I’m almost curious to see it a good looking guy would ask me out, but I would turn them down with me being taken.. It would be flattering, but I don’t want to NOT be with my boyfriend.

      • It sounds like one core feeling that’s embedded in this intrusive thought is the grief about letting go of being single. My guess is that if you were to approach the thought with curiosity you would find several other core needs/feelings that are asking for attention as well.

  • N

    Thank you- that makes complete sense and is something that I have thought of as well. Do you suggest I approach it through checking in on the four realms? I know one of my issues is that I NEED to take full responsibility for this anxiety as it is something in me and not have to do with my partner. It’s crazy how believable the ego can be.. So I’m having a hard time convincing myself that it’s ALL me.. But I’m working on it!

    Thank you!

  • Savannah

    I have been dating my boyfriend for 4 months now. When we met I knew right away that he was special and like no one I’ve ever been with. I’m 21 and I’ve never been in a serious relationship, mainly because I never let my relationships last long enough because I break them off. My boyfriend now is my best friend, he’s the sweetest person I know and I know that I love him. The only problem is that my anxiety started kicking in again after a month of dating and I was able to push it away. Now it has gotten so bad that I get confused if I really love him and I think about it constantly. When I’m with him it’s all I can think about so I’m just so quiet with him. I want to fight this because the last thing I want is to break it off. He means so much to me and I know if I lost him I would be devastated. How can I go back to my normal self again? How do I get back to being happy and just enjoying him?

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have just discovered your blog and it’s giving me that tiny bit of hope to carry on. I’m now in my second long term relationship. My first was 5 or so years long and anxiety-filled. The anxiety started about 6/7 months in and although i can’t remember what triggered it to begin with i know that the anxiety centred around me not loving him or not wanting to be with him. This relationship ended over 5 years ago now and i always had the idea that when i met the ‘right’ man that i would be anxiety-free and be able to have that loving relationship without the pain or doubts i felt before.
    Following that relationship i spent 5 years dating a lot of different men. None went past dating stage. They either weren’t interested in a serious relationship or i’d get too anxious about 3 dates in and call it off.
    Now after 5 years i finally met a great man who makes me laugh, thinks the world of me and wants the same things i do (to settle down, children etc) I knew it was something special after the 2nd date. There wasnt any guessing, we were both honest about our feelings and that we could see a future for us. But this sparked some anxiety which almost made me call it off. I don’t know how but i got over that spell and just got to enjoy the first 3/4 months of our relationship. It was so easy and comfortable. Now about a month ago, my boyfriend asked me to move in with him, my lease was up on my current place and i was moving closer to him anyway to reduce the commute. Obviously i said yes as he makes me happy. But ever since then i’ve been my anxiety has reared it’s ugly head once again and is draining the joy out of the relationship for me. I have moments where i’m fine and just function normally without thinking too much but then i have days (like the past few) that are absolutely horrible where i think i’ll never feel the love or the comfort i had before again.
    I don’t want to give up on this because i knew from the very beginning it would be something special and i was the first one to bring up the L word because i know i felt it. I just feel like i’m going to end up wanting to escape a relationship and hurting both myself and him for no real reason.
    But on the other hand, i wonder if i’m just scared of hurting him by ending it. He’s a sensitive guy and i love him dearly. But is it enough? Am i missing something vital with him that i could get elsewhere?
    Any input from anyone would be massively appreciated!