Where Anxiety Hangs Its Hat

Anxiety can hang its hat on almost any hook. It can focus on relationships, fertility, parenting, health, the world, money, career, death. Within each of these topics, there are endless sub-topics that lure anxiety into its lair. If we’re talking about relationship anxiety, for example, the hook can be: lack of physical attraction, lack of sexual attraction, focusing in any area of perceived lack (education, intelligence, social fluency, humor, wit, height, ambition), religious differences, we never had an infatuation stage, or just a pervasive sense that the relationship is “wrong”.

But what if I haven’t listed your particular hook? Does that means this work doesn’t apply to you? That’s the classic response from the anxious mind!

So when I receive emails like the following…

Have you written anything on being in a relationship with significant age gaps, socioeconomic differences or previous marriage and kids in the picture? I’m curious about Click here to continue reading...

Breathe It In

These are words I find myself saying multiple times a day: to my clients, to my sons, to myself. Breathe it in.

We see a prairie dog hit by a car lying on the side of the road. I turn to look at my son’s face to see if he sees it. As we live in a rural area, he’s learned over the years of seeing too many dead animals to look at the fields and mountains instead of at the side of the road while we’re driving, but sometimes his eyes veer to the telltale lump of fur.

“A prairie dog, Mommy.”

“I know, love. Breathe it in.”

We watch a snippet of news and see the devastation in Texas (or wherever the current devastation might be), and I see their faces fall. As I’ve shared in other posts, my sons try to avoid the sadness by asking, “Why?”, … Click here to continue reading...

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...