Risk Aversion and Anxiety

img_4332I’m standing on the edge of my life, as if on the shores of a cold but beautiful lake. I want to dive in but I’m scared, only the fear doesn’t sound like fear as much as doubt, anxiety, uncertainty, and ambivalence. What if I make a mistake? What if the water is too cold and I can’t breathe? What if there’s a better lake out there: warmer, smoother, less dangerous? I’m here but I do not move, too scared to fail, too scared to risk, too scared to live. 

One of the hallmark characteristics of being on the sensitive-anxious-creative spectrum is the tendency to lean toward safety and away from risk. As sensitives who can see and imagine all possibilities, we’re constantly scanning the horizon and imagining everything that can go terribly awry in any situation. As I’ve written in other blog posts, this quality served us very well when we were living in the wild and had to be constantly on guard for physical threats like predators, enemies, and natural disasters. But as modern humans living in relative safety, this primal brain pattern harms us more than it serves. In fact, the more we try to safeguard against the risk of loss, the smaller and more narrow our lives becomes and the more we eclipse our capacity to feel joy.

Nowhere does attempt to avoid risk harm us more than in intimate relationships. Yes, there’s a time and a place to “scan the horizon” and make sure that you’re with a loving, honest, well-matched partner with whom you share values and vision. But beyond the initial and thorough check, the anxious mind often spins into overdrive as it looks for a guarantee that the relationship will not end in failure. The anxious thoughts jolting you awake in the middle of the night and causing the squirrel of doubt to gnaw away at your serenity is likely what brought you to my site. If we could simmer relationship anxiety down to one sentence it would be this: The need to find certainty and avoid the risk of loss that causes incessant doubt in an otherwise solid, loving intimate relationship.

Of course, it’s not just relationships that suffer from risk aversion. When people find their way to my virtual doorstep, even if the initial cause is relationship anxiety, they quickly realize that they fall into the common mold of personality that underscores my work, and they see that their aversion to risk has caused them to have difficultly making decisions and committing in many other areas in their lives. I’ve worked with clients who suffered over everything from deciding which college to attend to what to choose from the menu at a restaurant.

Let’s drop down out of the thought realm and ground this in one of our greatest teachers: animals. A few weeks ago, on a brilliant autumn day, I was observing our cat in the yard. As both predator and prey she’s on high alert for the hunt and the danger, and I watched her vacillate easily from sheer, embodied delight at chasing a leaf or a squirrel to ears-pinned-back alert every time a car passed or a dog walked down our road. She understands viscerally, beyond the realm of conscious mind, that a full life moves fluidly between joy and fear, excitement and anticipation. Or maybe it’s all joy, for as a creature who doesn’t split and compartmentalize into the duality of good/bad and right/wrong she only knows one state of being: the present moment. 

As her human caregivers, we know the risk involved in letting her adventure daily in our yard and beyond. We live on the edge of open space and a few miles from the mountains, and we’ve seen predators of all kinds exploring our property. Just last weekend, in fact, we saw a coyote at our back deck. While we hear them howling nightly, we’ve never seen a coyote so close to the house, but with summer’s bounty waning and winter’s scarcity just around the corner, they’re searching more intently for food. My husband and I ran outside to scare it away and then spent hours looking for our cat. She finally sauntered nonchalantly over to us as my little one was swinging on the rope swing, perfectly fine and without a fur out of place. 

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After the coyote incident, I saw some neighbors walking their dogs as I was getting into my car. They asked me to thank my husband for posting about the coyote on the neighborhood email group and asked if our cat was okay. “Yes, she’s fine, thank God! I don’t know what our boys would do if anything ever happened to her.”

“Well, keep her inside!” the neighbor replied.

“We can’t do that. She gets so depressed and it’s against her nature. She has an amazing life on our land.”

“Better depressed than dead,” the neighbor remarked as she continued down the road.

Those words stuck with me: Better depressed than dead. And I had to wonder, “Is that true?” When I shared the exchange with my husband later he said, “Eventually the depression might kill her anyway. We can’t keep her in.” And our boys concurred.

Our cat isn’t interested in living a narrow life, and we’re not interested in cramping her style. Every few months we we hold an informal family meeting to make sure we’re all on the same page regarding the risk we take letting her roam the land, and every time the vote in unanimous: Despite the danger, we must let her live her life fully. When my older son expresses concern, I say to him, “You love flying, right? Can you imagine if I said to you, ‘I’m not going to let you become a pilot or fly in airplanes because it’s too risky?’ I would be crushing your passion, which would crush your soul. Despite how scared I feel every time you go up in a Cessna with a pilot I’ve never met before, I will never stand in your path. You have a passion, which is such a gift. Your dad and I will do everything we can to support you, which means working with our own fear that wants to keep you on the ground. The same is true for Tashi, yes?”

(By the way, by no means am I suggesting that all indoor cats are depressed, nor am I suggesting that everyone should or can let their cat outdoors. What I’m sharing here applies to our cat, and I’m simply using it as an inroad to talk about the connection between risk-taking and joy.)

He nods his head vigorously, imagining what a frustrating and ultimately soul-crushing existence it would be if we tried to clip his wings.

My son is in his highest self when he’s flying, which, of course, is a risk. Our cat is the embodiment of joy when she’s prancing and prowling around the yard which, of course, is a riskier life than keeping her inside. The willingness to take risks comes from self-trust because in order to risk you have to be willing to make a mistake, fail, or even die (if not literally then metaphorically).

We know that one of the attributes of happy people is the willingness to take risks. As an article from Psychology Today entitled “What Happy People Do Differently” reports:

Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the fact that sustained happiness is not just about doing things that you like. It also requires growth and adventuring beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. Happy people, are, simply put, curious. In a 2007 study, Todd Kashdan and Colorado State psychologist Michael Steger found that when participants monitored their own daily activities, as well as how they felt, over the course of 21 days, those who frequently felt curious on a given day also experienced the most satisfaction with their life—and engaged in the highest number of happiness-inducing activities, such as expressing gratitude to a colleague or volunteering to help others.

Yet curiosity—that pulsing, eager state of not knowing—is fundamentally an anxious state. When, for instance, psychologist Paul Silvia showed research participants a variety of paintings, calming images by Claude Monet and Claude Lorrain evoked happy feelings, whereas the mysterious, unsettling works by Egon Schiele and Francisco Goya evoked curiosity.

Curiosity, it seems, is largely about exploration—often at the price of momentary happiness. Curious people generally accept the notion that while being uncomfortable and vulnerable is not an easy path, it is the most direct route to becoming stronger and wiser. In fact, a closer look at the study by Kashdan and Steger suggests that curious people invest in activities that cause them discomfort as a springboard to higher psychological peaks.

If our cat were to run a cost-benefit analysis about going outside versus staying in (which she seems to do every morning in a split, nonverbal moment as she lingers at the threshold of the door) the benefits would clearly outweigh the costs. Yes, coyotes and cars lurk as fatal risks, dogs cause the tail to bush in fear and alarm, and stray cats pose the riskiest danger, but how can she resist the chase of the squirrels, the hunt of the mouse, not to mention the fresh air and pure sunshine? (Luckily she doesn’t seem to have knack for hunting birds.) Her entire life is motivated by her curiosity! And I’m remembering the common adage: Curiosity killed the cat. Satisfaction brought it back. We must become curious if we’re to live fully, which involves pushing ourselves our of our comfort zone and becoming vulnerable. 

As our wonderful current forum moderator, Ekeko, shared recently in response to a member’s question about ROCD and HOCD:

As someone who has struggled with intrusive thoughts about my relationship as well as being gay, what I’ve come to realize is that my mind was looking for ANY WAY that it could find to minimize risk. I was recently talking with Sheryl about this, as people on the sensitive-anxious spectrum we’re often severely risk adverse and we want to cover all of our bases in order to insure that we won’t get divorced, break-up, etc. The problem is, when your mind is asking questions like “What if I’m gay?” or “What if I don’t love my boyfriend enough?” those questions can never be answered with 100% certainty. Because of that it’s extremely easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of anxiety if we allow ourselves to be hooked by the question. At a certain point you have to breathe and come to peace with the fact that you will never know any of the answers to these questions with 100% certainty… and then you have to leap and trust that it will all be okay.

How do we leap and trust that it will all be okay? By cultivating a practice of self-trust, which connects us to the well of our deepest knowing where the answers to the unanswerable questions live. And these aren’t answers so much signposts or hints at the paths we want to walk, the decisions we want to make, the risks we’re willing to take. Because death exists life cannot be anything other than risk. Because loss exists relationships are the ultimate risk to our hearts and how can we do anything other than forgive our ego – that part of us that desperately attempts to safeguard against pain – for trying to protect us in the only way it knows how? 

But risk we must if we’re to live a full life (like our cat). People who take risks are happier because they live their lives more fully, without fear at the helm of their ship charting the course (which means they venture out to open seas). They not only jump out of airplanes and off mountaintops – as my son is itching to do – but they dive into the murky waters of the greatest emotional risk of all: relationships of all kinds. They risk their hearts (which do not heal as easily as a broken bone). And they do so from a platform of self-trust, which is the launching pad for all of life’s decisions, big and small.

If you would like to learn how to dive more fully into your life – whether your relationship, your work, or your own skin – please join me for my next round of Trust Yourself: A 30-day program to help you overcome your fear of failure, caring what others think, perfectionism, difficulty making decisions, and self-doubt. The course will begin on Saturday, October 22nd, 2016, and it will be last time I will run it this year.

 

37 comments to Risk Aversion and Anxiety

  • Melanie

    Hi Sheryl. I used to read your blog often when I was having a lot of anxiety in my past relationship, as my therapist recommended it. Despite therapy, I just always felt there was something missing in my relationship and ended it many months ago. I’ve always missed my ex to some degree since but haven’t been able to picture myself happy back in a relationship with him. A few weeks ago, I went on a 10 day silent meditation retreat and during/after that time, I felt a knowing that we were meant to be together. I felt confident and happy about it. I contacted him shortly after I got back and let him know I missed him and wanted to see him. As he is away for work, we haven’t seen each other since but been talking on the phone. Not sure if it’s just the reality setting in or if it was just the intense meditation that has stopped since, but I am already back to feeling unsure about this. I still miss him and care for him deeply, but the feelings I felt have since faded and the thought of getting back together is unappealing again. I just don’t feel that desire anymore and feel like I should maybe let him know before seeing him? Not sure what this all means?

    • It sounds like you connected with your clarity while in a meditative state then had a hard time maintaining that clarity. This is the work of our lives! Have you taken the Break Free course? I hear a lot of cognitive distortions in your comment – like we have to feel “desire” in order to choose a loving relationship – that would likely be cleared up and reinforced with the course material.

  • Nikki

    Hi Sheryl,

    I haven’t been on here in a while.. I am happy to say that I did have over a month of clarity which felt pretty good, so I felt like I didn’t need to read the blogs or hop on the forum, or do any of the work really, BUT I am now learning (again) that this anxiety ebbs and flows and that this work is not just about our relationship, but about us growing and learning.. so we cannot stop the work!!

    This blog came at a perfect time as I have started to become a bit anxious over the last couple of days of searching for certainty as a way to answer the many questions.. “Do I love him enough?”, “Do I want to spend my life with him?”, “Is he the one?”, “Am I attracted to him?”.. the list is endless! I am making some strides, and am hoping that with more focus on the work (and getting back into it) that I will get passed this ebb again!

    Always nice to read your work!!

    • That month of clarity is your baseline regarding your relationship, and yes, the “work” – which is really just a commitment to turning inward and engaging in self-reflection (which, as you know, is what I teach in Trust Yourself) – is lifelong. At some point it’s not “work” as much as a way of leading a healthy life, much like eating well and committing to regular exercise.

  • Ashley

    WOW! I was just thinking today how I really, really want to take this class (and need it), and here it is! Signing up now. Thank you Sheryl, you’re a gift

  • Nicole

    Wow, another post at the perfect time! I seem to be on the same page as Nikki right now. After a year of wondering if I love J, I now know I do and it’s turned from, “do I love him?” To, “do I love him enough? Do we have what it takes to get married? Do I wanna spend my life with him? Do we share the same values and visions?” All of the future based questions are stemming from my fear of uncertainty. I don’t know if we will work out, get married, or last forever. I do know that my thoughts are preventing me from enjoying my loving relationship, and that all I can really count on is J’s willingness and openness to learn and grow with me, grow our love, and strengthen our relationship. Funny that you mention risk this week, bc lately I’ve had an intense fear of death. Seems like I’m hearing more and more about people dying doing every day things (driving, eating, playing sports.) I love that you address that we cannot live in fear! Thanks again for this great article

  • Megan

    Hi Sheryl,

    I love this post. I took your course “Open your Heart” last year at around this time, and since then my life has truly changed for the better. I am so “in love” with my partner of almost 7 years, and we’re getting married in June of next year. Everytime the anxiety spikes up, which it still does from time I recognize it as fear, and am able to reflect on the moments of clarity. When I’m thinking clearly, our love is so deep it’s something so beautiful and spiritual. I know I was meant to be on this path to really understand and learn about love.

    I say this now because I have been having a tough week! The weather hasn’t been nice here, I’m adjusting to getting back into the swing of work after vacation, and the anxiety has been coming on strong. I noticed though, my anxiety would deflect on something in my life,I would breathe through the pain, feel it in my chest, remind myself that I am loved, I am enough, I am safe ect. When I felt better, it moved onto the next seemingly “rational” fear. With all of these anxious thoughts though, I never doubted my love for my partner. This was big for me, because it was just another reminder that that’s all it was, fear and anxiety. There is no truth to my worries of the week and I know that, and I know that about my relationship too. Now that I have really worked through this fear in my relationship my mind stops going there and tries to find other protections. I understand that these are the unhealed parts of myself that need to be met with compassion, and given time to heal.

    I am so much more aware of my “Self” now, and see the bigger picture of life and my anxiety. I can observe amxiety as a blessing. Without anxiety in my relationship, I wouldn’t have dug this deep down and learned about what true unconditional love is. I have been slowly breaking down the false teachings of society, in more ways than just my relationship. I will always still be growing, loving and learning to trust myself in all areas of life. I look forward to taking this course sometime in the future to deepen this knowledge!

    Thanks for everything you do.

    • Beautiful, Megan! It sounds like you have a clear and solid grasp of this work, which is, indeed, the work of a lifetime. Thank you for sharing your experience here.

  • Mia

    See my current fear/”what if” is that by being in my relationship I am in fact staying within my comfort zone and afraid to take the risk of being single/alone. That my life in the relationship is “safe” and not taking risks. Yet when I didn’t have relationship anxiety I can remember thinking he was someone I could see myself taking scary “life risks” with (marriage, having children etc). Does this resonate with anyone else? I’m finding it hard to get past this thought. I never had it with other relationships, as I was often “chasing” my partner. In fact I remember when my last relationship ended, I thought how cowardly he was to leave everything we had behind so he could go off and “travel the world” (this never really happened from what I’ve heard!). He even told me he had “got everything out of me that he could” hmmm.

    • Isn’t it amazing how fear can latch onto any storyline and twist it around to serve its purposes?!? Yes, what you’re describing is a common fear-line and a very powerful defense against taking the risk of loving: I’m staying because it’s safe and the true risk would be to leave. This cognitive distortion is best met with the truth, which is that there is truly no greater risk than being in an intimate love relationship. All great thinkers, including Freud and Jung, are quoted to have said that to love is to be vulnerable and nowhere are we more vulnerable than we’re in a loving relationship.

      • Stef

        I am having a similar trigger that Mia is having to this blog! Although I understand the context i an anxious about the curiosity part of this blog.
        During my anxiety i have had curiosity about what it would be like to be alone or what it would be like to be with a man instead of a women.. so much so that I have struggled to feel in the moment you could say.
        If I’m curious about this should I act on it or is it just my anxiety and fear trying to give me other options and illusions as to how my life might be different if I choose a different path without my partner..? Is it trying to get me to avoid a life with my partner..

      • Theboxer

        I was thinking the same thing as Mia! As I read about getting out of our comfort zone and taking risks I said to myself “he’s my comfort zone. He is my safe place, and the true risk would be admitting I don’t love him and breaking up with him, even though being single again is scary”. Lately everything’s a trigger: whenever I hear people talking about happiness I wonder if I’m truly happy; if someone talks about being honest with ourselves, of course I have to ask myself whether I am being honest or I’m just in denial. I’m trying to breathe through the anxiety though.
        It’s just that sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s worth it… having all this anxiety 90% if the time, waiting for that one blissful moment of clarity and happiness

      • Mia

        Thank you Sheryl! Your response certainly calmed me and for the past day or so I have been enjoying my relationship a lot more!
        Stef and Theboxer – I absolutely know how you 2 feel!
        I personally feel the fear is trying to get me to look at alternatives/”other lives” I could have led.. but there really are loads of options, you can’t stay stuck and not move forward at all, so why not focus these energies on the life you are living now? Also Sheryl wrote an amazing post about different lives we could lead 😉
        It’s difficult when people say “your partner should make you feel safe” then another train of thought screams “you should leave your comfort zone! You shouldn’t feel safe!!). It’s like what on earth are we meant to do with that?!
        Stef – I have/had those thoughts a lot about whether I’m in denial. After a while though I’ve got fed up of those thoughts and turned my attention away from them rather than indulging them and running down the rabbit hole.
        It’s hard. But we can get there xxxx

  • Hannah

    When you wrote about how we constantly check for things in our mind to avoid the fear of loss it kind of made me chuckle. Not in a horrible way but because we do all this checking to avoid the pain of losing our relationship as our only way is to shut down or look for a way out but surely we are more likely to head for a break up and have the pain of a break up if we are constantly checking our feelings and looking for ways to run, eventually we will listen to that silly voice and give up and then have the end result that we feared the most. So really, we just need to try and stop some indulging in the thoughts – sounds easier than it is though.

    I believe if you have a healthy relationship with no red flags and a friendship then it can work! But we have to be willing to understand that sometimes it will work effortlessly and sometimes it will not, relationships are hard we cannot give up on someone amazing just because of our thoughts and feelings. I do believe love can also be grown, I was not sure if this was true a while back but when I look at my relationship, all the things I do everyday even in the depths of my anxiety, love still grows over time! I feel the longer me and my other half have lived together, the closer we are, the closer we are the more love we share, the more risk there is and the more anxiety there is, but I am choosing to trust that I love him and we will make it through whatever with compassion and love. Thank you for all your work, you really are inspirational!!

    • Well-said, Hannah. I’m delighted to hear that the work continues to deepen for you. Yes, not indulging the thoughts is easier said than done but is a big part of the healing process.

    • J

      “we cannot give up on someone amazing just because of our thoughts and feelings” – this really hits the nail on the head for me, Hannah. Thank you.

  • M

    I was doing well with my relationship anxiety for a good month or so. Two weeks ago I went off birth control because my husband and I want to start a family. Now the worries and fears are returning along with new thoughts of do I really want kids? What if I am making a mistake having kids with my husband? What if I don’t like being a parent? Any advice is appreciated.

    • choosehappiness

      I have the same fears, married as well. TTC totally spiked me. Now that I have been TTC for awhile and no luck I wonder if its a sign that Im with the wrong partner

  • Melanie

    No I haven’t taken the break free course yet. Would you recommend that one over the trust yourself course for my situation? I guess i don’t understand how to choose a loving relationship that i don’t desire to be in the way i feel i should. Will any of these courses help to possibly increase that desire so i know how to move forward?

    • I would suggest that you start with the Break Free course, but if you’re hoping to receive guidance from me directly then I would suggest signing up for this round of Trust Yourself.

  • choosehappiness

    Hi Sheryl

    Your articles speaks of characteristics of truly happy people., they are naturally curious, are giving and grateful to others. Any recommendations for books/articles/courses on finding happiness and your own aliveness?

    My issue is that I’ve been depressed, and I am unsure if my depression is due to my relationship anxiety or if Im just depressed and lacking aliveness, and blaming my partner. How do I know which is causing which? I guess part of my problem was always thinking growing up that when I found my match, my problems/doubts would be solved and I would feel alive and inspired. Now that Im married and feeling down, this expectation causes me great grief. It makes me think I missed my destiny

    I’ve taken trust yourself which helped spark my creative soul. Reading books on mindfullness and not responding to thoughts (ie untethered soul, guide to living in the present moment, eckhart tolle etc). Ordered books on curing depression and learning to love by giving (ie “why talking is not enough, 8 loving actions”). Would love any other recommendations

  • Rachel

    Oh Sheryl. I’m still stuck after so long. Lately the story in my head is that it’s not about fear of risk but that plenty of people in long term relationships really do say that it’s easy and you can still be so “in love” if you’re with your “soulmate” or the “right person” and that there’s still easy attraction…I think that, particularly as women–sometimes we choose a basically good match who’s not a soulmate (in the traditional sense of the word) because “it’s time” to have kids/family…and what if those marriages are just harder/less satisfying to maintain a spark of in-love-ness? If marriage seems to be changing so much in this culture, maybe it’s better to move on to someone with whom we can have an easier connection and attraction…a more rare soulmate…i have arguments against all these wonderings but there’s a strong voice that thinks those arguments are just excuses…and so many people who make comments on other blogs or articles seem to reiterate that they’ve found relationships where the love and passion continue to flow “easily” and that the argument to stay and slog through to MAKE a soulmate is an excuse….? i’m so tired of this.

    • It’s very, very rare to have a longterm relationship, especially with kids, and have easy flow and passion. Even the most passionate couples lose each other somewhere along the way and have to learn how to find their way back. And those who never had strong passion must learn to open those channels that allow for more flow and connection. Have you read Sue Johnson’s work, Rachel? Hold Me Tight and Love Sense? I highly, highly recommend it, and highly recommend getting into couple therapy with an EFT-trained therapist. You’re living in illusion, Rachel! That fantasy you’re longing for is possible but not in the way that you think. What I mean is that, at some point, nearly everyone has to work at their connection and relationship. Of course you can find RARE examples of people who don’t have to work at it, but they are far and few between.

  • Katelyn

    Oh, how I wish I could take this course so very badly!! It is like I know I don’t love him, but then I don’t know. I am more unsure than I am sure and everyone of you help me and don’t even know it! Intrusive thoughts are buttholes! These past few weeks have been rough, we’ve been arguing a lot lately which brings more intrusive thoughts! Someone comment and tell me your story, I love to hear them!!

    • Katelyn

      But I do have my moments of clarity and oh how I wish it could last forever!! He truly is my bestest friend! We aren’t always nice to each other and we don’t always get along but he is the best.

  • Paige

    Hi Sheryl,
    Mostly I just wanted to let you know how important your weekly newsletters, your break free course and just overall presence is to me. I’ve never commented or reached out before after about of year of reading your work and doing the Break Free course, but I’ll probably talk to you in my head at least once a week (“Thanks Sheryl”, “Thank goodness for Sheryl”). Sounds weird but true.
    I have an amazing relationship of 3 1/2 years with waves of anxiety since year 2. However, things have been tough lately with my parents who,now after 30 years of a not so pretty marriage, are finally divorcing (again not so pretty). After reluctantly spending the weekend with my parents, my relationship anxiety was high- questioning whats the point of marriage, ill just turn out like my parents, etc blah blah intrusive thoughts. As much as I have significantly improved managing intrusive thoughts, this past letter about taking risks brought a lot of clarity to my chaotic brain.
    Finally wanted to say thank you out loud,
    Sincerely, Paige

    • Thank you for this, Paige. I’m so glad this post brought more clarity, and there’s nothing like spending a weekend with one’s parents, no matter the circumstances, to stir up all kinds of dust that settles into the crevices of psyche! From the tone of your comment, I have no doubt that you’ll be able to reel yourself back in and come back to center.

  • agnes

    hi Sheryl & everyone. I’ve been following this blog for a long time but this is my first time posting. The anxiety, partner-focused intrusive thoughts, and numbness have all faded to the background and I am enjoying sweet clarity. It was hell and I’m so so grateful to be on the other side. I know the dark cloud will return one day, but I’d like to believe I’m battle-hardened. The feelings of appreciation and care I feel for him are wonderful, but there is also an ache of vulnerability there most of the time. I miss him and worry about him leaving me constantly. It’s important to note here that it’s me that’s changed, not his behaviour. I’m certain it’s me feeling more vulnerable and finding reasons to feel inadequate and undervalued, rather than him suddenly treating me badly. I was so consumed with guilt and anxiety before that I could never feel hurt or hard-done-by, as it was me who was the one having all the horrid thoughts (and the rest). I have a few ideas about why I’m expressing these needy feelings and behaviours lately, and I’d really appreciate some feedback – my initial thoughts were: is this the serenity on the other side of turmoil? Do pain and vulnerability inevitably accompany it? I know I struggle with a ‘lack of aliveness’ as you say, Sheryl – am I creating problems as a way to inject some ‘excitement, without meaning to? Am I looking for a reason to get out due to fear of commitment, by looking for ways in which he is treating me unfairly? Although our bond is wonderful right now, we are arguing a lot and this theme of my inadequacy keeps cropping up. It may be important to mention – I am currently out of sustainable work, am fully financially supported by my parents and don’t have the money to go out much/visit friends right now. I’m not really looking after my body very well, either. He’s just started a new job and is working away for a month soon – the first time we’ll have been separated for a significant amount of time.

  • Wow what a wonderful, uplifting piece. It seems to me to combine all the most heartfelt aspects of the world you describe: your children, nature, our relationships with ourselves, with others, your work as a therapist. It is such an incredible blessing to read your blog. I love the work you do and I am so grateful that it can cross the world’s oceans with relative ease and land on our screens.

    • Thank you, J Rose. Thank you. Every time you comment I click on your website to read about your latest insights and musings on Oman. What a fascinating adventure you’re having!

  • Kate

    Has anyone ever experienced a pain in they’re heart? It comes mostly when I think of opening up. I ask what it wants and it’s usually something a long the lines of it’s not your time to love, there’s a voice that when I say I’m scared to love she says then don’t and I feel like it’s coming from my heart but I know fear can be tricky, can fear wrap it’s voice around our heart and try to convince us that our soul wants us to leave this loving relationship?

    I also know I’m so afraid of loss, at 20 my path has taken a very deeply spiritual turn and my partner fully supports and encourages it but I think by following this path I’ll loose him or hurt him or my soul will make me leave someone who even through the fear when I touch him something within my ignites. This is true hell, I don’t want to leave but I’m worried my soul is using this anxiety to make me.

    Anyone have anything they can help with? I’m too scared to dive down because I’m too scared I’ll have to leave. Also does anyone have a voice that says things what start with “you” I.e. “You need to leave” “you’re not worthy” e.t.c it’s really strange because if she uses the words “you” then that’s a voice which is clearly separate to myself? It’s all very confusing.

  • Angela

    Taking risks is something most people struggle with. They just want to stay in their comfort safe zone. What i have really struggled with is social connections with friends, family and strangers when Im ANXIOUS. I become this frightened, fearful child. I get thoughts which make me feel nervous and I panic. My husband suffers social behaviour and he avoids meeting new people. He thinks he is going to say something stupid and then he will feel ridiculous. We are so alike. But I am more confident and a risk taker to do things. I dont care as much what peoples reactions would be only when I am carefree Angela. I still feel I have to do some inner work. Im ok with it the marjority of the time. Sheryl your my medicine.
    With love Angela 💕

  • Zoe

    Hi Sheryl,

    I thought I would add that, if there is anyone like myself, I struggle to actually stop. I always take on too much (currently now I am doing my 2nd degree in mental heath nursing and doing level 3 in personal training) as I always feel like I want more and that there is more out there. There is a genuine reason why I am doing both of them however I do tend to overload myself and I feel part of this is to avoid the mundane. How could I explain this as technically I am being very risky at the moment however I struggle with stopping and living in the moment as I get unsettled. I wish I could be happy doing less but I am struggling to do so.

    I am not sure if you had any ideas?

    Much love and thank you for this lovely article

    xxx

    • Hi Zoe,

      Perhaps the risk for you is in cultivating a relationship to stillness. Risk doesn’t mean action and certainly not achievement. It means turning toward the places that scare us, and most often that means places in the heart and spirit.

      xo