What Should Love Feel Like?

At least once a week, a client asks, “I know that love isn’t all butterflies and fireworks, but what should it feel like? Since I’ve never seen a healthy relationship and I’ve never been in one, I have no idea what it should be like.”

I usually balk at the word “should”, but I know what they’re getting at. They want me to offer some kind of template or description of a healthy relationship so that they know if they’re on the right track. How sad it is that most people are bereft of this model! How tragic, really, that because our culture doesn’t offer these templates we’re left groping around in the dark, grasping at some idea of “healthy” and most often left feeling like we must be doing something wrong or that our relationship is wrong in some way. As Alain do Botton writes in The Course of Click here to continue reading...

A Root of Anxiety

One of the spokes of the relationship anxiety wheel – or any type of anxiety, for that matter – is the question of where were we hurt. Psychology has done an excellent job of attributing the majority of this hurt to our primary caregivers (usually parents), but it’s not that simple. In my work with clients, I see over and over again that one of the major sources of pain and often the moment when we stop liking ourselves happens at the hands of our peers. I’m talking about overt bullying, yes, but also much more subtle and often overlooked forms of social pain that include ridicule, criticism, and attack on physical and character features and learning styles/challenges. Even one moment of this kind of ridicule can lead to a shattering of self-esteem.

Thankfully, bullying has received a lot more attention these days than ever before. When I was … Click here to continue reading...

Caught in the Story

Our stories form a crystal cave of stalactites and stalagmites in our minds, a cool chamber that seduces us with the promise that if we spend enough time there we will divine our answers. How beautiful this cave looks! How many promises it offers! And how familiar this cave becomes when we’ve spent thousands of hours there seeking safety from the vulnerability of childhood. Each stalactite tells a story. Each stalagmite offer the infinite details that need to be figured out.

It’s very easy to become caught in this cave of stories, to fall prey to the widespread belief of the culture and the intrinsic ego belief that we can solve our anxiety by figuring out the “answers” to the conundrums and riddles that occupy daily, human life. Yet as Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” This means that the … Click here to continue reading...

Birth Trauma and Anxiety

When working with anxiety and intrusive thoughts, the essential component is to resist the gravitational and habitual pull to attach onto the stories that appear like planets in our inner galaxy and assume that they’re true.  The story of the day – whether it centers around your relationship, your fertility, your job, your health, or your children – occupies so much space and presents its argument with such conviction that the untrained mind will naturally attach and interpret in a lightening flash second. That’s why the first step is to name all of your go-to thoughts so that when they appear you can immediately identify them for what they are: flares from psyche that come bearing gifts in the form of the alarming story of the current thought.

Once we detach from the thought-sphere, we must then ask, “What is this thought protecting me from feeling? What is the … Click here to continue reading...

Moment By Moment

Life is a series of micro-moments. Most of the time, we’re floating along in the fast-paced current without self-reflection. But inevitably, at some point, we will get snagged on a branch of anxiety or intrusive thoughts, an uncomfortable feeling, an illness, an argument with a loved one, or a season of depression. The habitual responses to these gifts-disguised-as-snags are to protect in some way: to attack outwardly through blame or withdraw into stony silence. We also gravitate toward habitual mental defenses as a way to protect against the soft feelings that live in the underbelly of the heart: we worry, we ruminate, we distract, we check, we watch television, we surf the internet, we shop.

We aren’t taught this anywhere in our early life, but the conscious path is largely about slowing down those micro-moments so that we can observe our habitual response, ask if it’s a response that serves … Click here to continue reading...