The Need for Certainty

IMG_5883Last Tuesday we were riding our bikes in gorgeous, 70-degree spring weather. On Wednesday we woke up to a foot of snow and a power outage. There’s a saying in Colorado that goes, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait fifteen minutes.” This is true every day of the year, but it’s never more true than in spring.

I find the temperamental weather here both fascinating and disconcerting. Growing up in Los Angeles, where it’s 65-70 degrees practically every day of the year, I came to rely on the consistent weather as a source of comfort. If I went to school wearing shorts, I knew I would come home wearing shorts. But here, we can leave for the day wearing shorts and come home wearing full winter gear.

Yet when I drop into the teaching, I know that living with these weather patterns has furthered by ability to deal with the disorienting ambiguity that defines being human. When anxiety flares up and someone asks, “Am I with the right partner?” (see last week’s post), they’re trying to sidestep this ambiguity and seek a guarantee for success. Nature teaches us to stand as solid as a tree in the midst of the fluctuations of wind and sky. This, of course, is a metaphor for our inner worlds: if we think we can rely on our thoughts and feelings as consistent sources of truth and guidance, we’re setting ourselves up for a very insecure existence.

Just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Feeling aren’t always a reliable source of guidance.

These two phrases, combined with the messages I teach about love and relationships, form the basis of much of my work.

So when I hear, I had the thought, “I don’t love him.” That must mean it’s true. Or ” I don’t feel anything for my partner anymore. That must mean I don’t love her,” I know we’re working in the territory of dismantling faulty wiring about how we regard our thoughts and feelings. Some of these thoughts need a big dose of truth-water (Love is not only a feeling; it’s largely a choice, an act of will, and an intention), and most of them need the attention of a mature mind that can learn to sift out the faulty messages and replace them with the truth. Above all, the anxiety sufferer needs to learn, like the Colorado resident, how not to attach to every thought and feeling that runs through the landscape of the mind.

Once this layer of the work is addressed (the process of which I teach in depth in my Break Free From Relationship Anxiety E-Course), I’m often asked, “If we can’t rely on our thoughts and feelings to determine what’s real and true, what can we rely on?” The next step is to learn to cultivate a deeper sense of knowing, to connect to the space between the thoughts and the place beneath the feelings. We must learn to cultivate and rely on something solid and unwavering. Some people call this place refuge. Others call it higher self. I call it home.

We’re conditioned in the culture to think of home as something outside of ourselves. We cling to illusions of consistency, like the weather, as anchors for our inner world. We believe that if we can answer the litany of intrusive thoughts that parade through the brain, we will find peace. The only place we will find true peace is when we learn to rest in our inner home.

I have some suggestions for where you’ll find home, but let’s start with where you will not find home.

You won’t find home in Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

You won’t find home watching television or mindless movies.

You won’t find home at a bar, in marijuana, at the shopping mall, or in the refrigerator.

You won’t find home at a loud party.

You won’t find it in screens of any kind.

People find home in many different places. Some people find home in nature, while sitting at the water’s edge or in the middle of a silent forest. Some people find home while playing or listening to music. Some people find home at the art museum, standing in front of a piece that sings yes to every cell in their body. Some people find home while writing in their journal, connecting to the deepest part of their psyche called soul. Some people find home through a dedicated meditation practice.

What I know beyond doubt is that we all have access to this place called home. Every single person on the planet has free access to an inner sanctuary more beautiful than any church, synagogue, temple, or mosque. When we remember to cultivate our relationship to this space – and it does require a consistent practice of cultivation – we walk into a garden where the roses of wisdom can tolerate a spring snow, a place that remains changeless even amidst the abrupt winds of change.

79 comments to The Need for Certainty

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, Yesterday I spent the day with my family, and they live near bondi beach. Its now Autumn in Sydney but we are still having the warmth and humidity which I can not tolerate for one second. My sister inlaw sweats profusely just like I do. So we decided to sit along the beach where the fresh wind was blowing all over our bodies.It was such a refreshing feeling. I did feel anxious, moody, frustrated, nervous, because I felt out of control. I thought why me to myself but i didnt indulge into the intrusive thoughts. When I got home, my hubby noticed I was feeling moody and I was. Its also the time of the month and my hormones were haywire. IVF failed once again so I feel angry, dissapointed, envy of mothers but also happy for new mothers. I journaled last night and let out my emotions. I cried a bit and I went to bed. I noticed that I dont believe my thoughts even more now, I feel too tired to even care anymore.. I dont see why I should question my every thought when anxiety hits. I know and truly believe their illusions, not real. I cannot tolerate my moods Sheryl, how do i Control it?

    • It sounds like you’re meeting yourself as best you can, Angela, during the VERY challenging time of trying to conceive. You took care of yourself at the beach by allowing the wind to blow over you. You’re allowing yourself to cry. You don’t need to question every thought; you only need to make space for them, and then let them pass by until you can access the well of pain and discomfort that live underneath.

  • Clara

    Love this! And I agree with you that ‘home’ requires constant tending and cultivation. I’ve had periods where I have had the space, made the time, prioritized my inner world and very much rested in that home you speak of. But now, as a mother of twin babies, juggling work and study, I’m finding it impossible to maintain a daily meditation / reflection practice… And I can feel that inner home receding from reach. But I trust I can return, when life opens up a little in the future and I can tend to my home and rest.

    • My advice to new mothers is generally not to expect to have any time to turn inward. With babies, home is in the moments that you can slow down enough to stare into their gorgeous, angel-faces and allow the vessel of self to be filled with the elixir of gratitude. Home is getting enough sleep to function. Home is washing the dishes, folding some laundry, creating some semblance of order amidst the chaos. Sending you love –

      • Clara

        Thank you Sheryl. That really helped actually. Finding home in being present to the small dayly acts of tending to my little fellas. There is ample opportunity for ‘dropping in’ while washing nappies, folding clothes, and rocking babies. Than you for this insight. Sending you love too.

  • N

    This post came as I have been battling with uncertainty as engagement is becoming more real for me. I even purchased Pema Chodrons “Living Beautifull with Uncertainty and Change” today in hopes it will help.

    Sheryl, how do we find this “home” you speak of? Especially in relation to our relationship and learning to be “okay” with uncertainty… I so want to find it.. I don’t know where to start!

    • It’s through everything you’re already doing, N: the Break Free course, OYH, journaling, mindfulness. It’s through taking time each day to attend to the four realms of self and making sure you’re being a loving inner mother and inner father. And it’s about bringing patience to the process of cultivating true home. When everything in our culture pulls us away from our inner compass, we have to work hard to re-ignite those inner spaces. You’re doing great work. Just stay the course and keep going.

  • Hi Sheryl,

    This is why I love getting your ezine. This topic about going beyond thoughts and feelings is just what I needed to hear (again) today. Thanks so much. Very helpful.

  • Mr_B

    Hi Sheryl,
    Great article for the mind train. Love the blog and the eCourse. Thank you for your wise words and the blog that you reply to.
    Mr B

  • Ashley

    As always, today’s post hits home. I’ve been filled with anxiety today, which is particularly upsetting because it’s been better lately. I’ve been hard at work reviewing my “open your heart” material, reading “why talking is not enough” by Susan Page, and putting my loving actions into practice. I have managed to pull back the fear projection off of my partner and embrace his beautiful soul. But today my anxiety latched onto something new. Something it used to focus on when I was single, my career. I have a constant fear that I’m going to lose my nursing license ( usually due to crazy hypothetical situations). I make myself sick thinking of all the things that may ruin my happiness. But then I had and “AHA! moment,” this anxiety is not about my nursing license, or my partner, or my imperfect physique or any other fixation. It is about the overwhelming feeling of worthlessness that hides under the surface. It’s the fear of the shame that comes with possibly losing my career (where I assign my self worth), and the dread of potentially losing a loving and present partner. When I dig deep and turn inward, I see a scared girl waiting for someone to say “it’s all going to be okay.” A certainty that I don’t have, and I find it difficult to hold that uncertainty in my heart amidst the fear. I can see now that I need to work on cultivating that place of unwavering refuge. Thank you for your beautiful words, Sheryl. They always come at just the right time.

  • Lily Simmons

    Dear Sheryl,
    I have been reading your articles for over a year but have not commented on your site until now. I am getting kinda desperate! I love my boyfriend so much and want to marry him, but there is one thing that drives me absolutely crazy and has made me doubt whether he’s right for me. It’s not something I believe he can really change. It’s his voice! There is partly the higher register tone, and then there’s the way some of the words inflect, these qualities can be so triggering to me. I understand that learning to love is a courageous process where there is dignity and wisdom in learning to find peace with my triggers, and yet, there’s something in me that wonders if I can respect myself to stay in the relationship when I’m being triggered every ten words or so.
    Any words of wisdom would be so appreciated.
    Lily

    • Focusing on any perceived lack that isn’t a core value is an offshoot of relationship anxiety, which means that you’re in a projection. Have there been any significant stretches of time when you haven’t felt triggered by his voice? In the beginning? When you’re feeling good inside yourself?

  • Amanda

    This, like alot of other people have come at the most perfect time for me!
    the last few days have been anxious, my feelings are numb and i cant seem to stop negative thinking. Im on medication for my anxiety and i was wondering if anyone else as this empty emotionless feeling while on anxiety medication? sometimes i think ” i dont feel hope anymore or anything so that must mean that im not inlove” but then reading this blog has helped me soooo much! thank you for you sheryl! what a amazing women you are!

  • Want my home back

    I so desperately want that feeling of ‘home’ back with my partner. I was so deeply in love and then about a month ago I had an intrusive thought about not loving him and since then it’s felt like my world has crashed around me.

    I feel I am getting better but I feel so far away from my boyfriend and so desperately want those feelings to come back. I don’t know how to get them back. I feel so disconnected from him, everything feels all wrong.

    How could I have gone from so so in love (more in love then i have ever been) to feeling like this? I just want to feel the way I did again. Please help, I feel like my heart is broken 🙁

  • Sheryl – my friend Barb Prindle introduced me to your work. As a writer and transformation coach, I SO resonate with your writing. It’s always so refreshing and inspiring to find a fellow traveler on the path. Keep up the great work and thank you for sharing your gifts with us!

  • Carolyn

    So interesting Ashley to read how you connected your anxiety with issues around worthiness and shame. I think thats where my a lot of anxiety has always come from too. The need for certainty seems to be important to me to avoid the shame of being considered a fraudster or a failure in some way if things change / don’t work out. I think i probably need to do some “mastering my mean girl” bc as they say its always what you’re telling yourself that creates the problem / anxiety rather than reality itself. Surrendering into and trusting the process of life can be hard sometimes. Yoga is the most powerful way I know of to go home. And nature. Thank you Sheryl.

  • Hannah

    As everyone else has said, your posts are always timed so beautifully.

    I read a quote this morning that I thought might speak to you and your blog readers, Sheryl, because it definitely spoke to me and the journey I have been on with my engagement anxiety.

    “Feeling lost, crazy, and desperate belongs to a good life as much as optimism, certainty, and reason.” – Alain de Botton

    Many blessings and so much love.

  • Stephanie

    Hi Sheryl-
    Very well timed article for me! Through the Open Yout Heart course, individual counseling, and inner work I have finally started to feel like myself again. It took a lot of time and work for the truth that “thoughts are just thoughts” is indeed correct and it has helped me immensely when I am having negative thoughts. However now I find myself having anxiety over positive thoughts! I have been feeling very loving towards my boyfriend for the past two weeks and having positive thoughts such as “this is right” and “I really love him” and I honestly feel this is the truth. Then I remember “thoughts are just thoughts” and they may not be the truth. Then I get nervous because how do I know that the positive thoughts im having are the truth? Any insight?

    • It’s about connecting to the space below the thoughts, so that when you hear, “I really love him,” you trust that it’s actually not just a thought but it coming from the deep place of knowing that I talk about.

  • Alissa

    I have worked so hard to let go of the need for certainty and to cultivate trust in myself and my intuition. Thank goodness. The need for certainty was anxiety provoking. To that end, I feel at home in nature and also on my yoga mat. Even the thought of my yoga mat as I close my eyes and visualize it triggers calm, increased ability to let go and presence. It’s been such a long road to get to this place. Namaste.

  • Alise

    I have worked so hard to be ready and emotionally present when my boyfriend proposes. I had been looking so forward to it, and suddenly, out of nowhere on New Years Eve, I put up this guard that I had never had with him before. We’ve been dating over three years and I knew from 6 months in that he was unlike anyone I’d ever met. I thought he was going to propose in the week leading up to New Years, and when he didn’t, I didn’t even know at the time why I was scared. This lead to a month of paralyzing anxiety if the relationship was right, if I wanted to get married, if I could move forward at all. I had been dying to marry him before. He’s so sweet, kind, genuine, hardworking, reliable, and we match up on our core values and beliefs. As I’ve worked through my anxiety (thanks to your book and articles, which I have been pouring over daily for reassurance), I have come to have moments of clarity where I want it. Deeply. When I talk about marrying him, I cry. Not out of anxiety, but out of almost what feels like a fear of losing it. Then my brain will tell me I’m going to leave, and that I don’t love him, that I’ve been so wrong and that it’s just because I don’t want to hurt him. But my heart feels like it’s ripped out of my chest if I ever even think of him not being there. It’s killing me. This is relationship anxiety, right? I’m not just thinking I’m suffering from this and am ACTUALLY the exception? That question keeps popping up and spikes me so terribly. I’m so sorry for the long post.

    • Classic relationship anxiety. To a tee.

      • Alise

        I cried tears of relief when I saw your comment. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

        How do I get to a place where I am not so scared of him proposing? What can I do? Thank you for your work. I’ve been on your site daily since I found it. Your blogs have gotten me through this so far and I honestly don’t know where I would be without your words speaking to me through these pages. I want to keep going but I feel stuck where I am.

        • Have you considered the e-course? It will teach you, step-by-step, how to break through to the next level of serenity.

          • Alise

            Yes. But I’ve been scared that it wasn’t really relationship anxiety and that I was going to find out I needed to leave him. And I couldn’t deal with the possibility. I know it’s common to think that. But idk. I was scared.

          • Yes, that’s the number one reason why people don’t sign up for the course. My question for you is: What’s the risk of NOT doing the work? And the simple fact that you don’t want to leave a loving relationship indicates that you’re suffering from relationship anxiety.

  • Lili

    Beautifully written, thank you so much! I needed this 🙂

  • Mary

    Beautiful as always Sheryl! I have one question though: I haven’t been so clouded by anxiety lately, and I see that I love my partner. Not only that, but I also happen to see home in his eyes. Not that I’m not fine alone or feel like I need him to be whole, but I truly find his soul to be a safe place of refuge for me in the world. What is your take on seeing home in your SO’s eyes? I know it was impossible for me to see home in his eyes when I was extremely anxious, so please no one get spiked!

  • Len

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’m only on Lesson 4 of break Free, and I can already feel a small shift. Thank you so much for putting this course together. I hope I will eventually be able to break free!

  • too late?

    Sheryl,
    I have suffered from relationship anxiety for years. My loving partner just ended our relationship. It was stated that I needed to grow on my own and that perhaps the relationship was hindering my process. The weight of my doubts and projections became too heavy I imagine. I hesitated to purchase break free because a stabbing sensation in my chest screamed at me that I had to let go, that the universe had placed an inevitable fork in the road. This sensation completely paralyzed me with unimaginable pain. Of course now that we have broken up, the sensation is worse… I know we still love each other very much. The possibility of reconnecting after i have made progress was also stated. Is it bad that I want to attempt to work things out? Is it bad that I still have hope?

    • too late?

      Just to further clarify my question… is being hopeful or motivated by the prospect of reconnecting an avoidance of pain?

  • alison

    I really needed this today. Unfortunately I’m in the midst of fun monthly hormones and have been acting out in anger and majorly pushing my husband away over every perceived slight. It’s really hard to see through this fog when I’m in the middle of it–like part of me is really starting to believe that we just don’t fit well together and I need to run in the opposite direction if I ever want to be truly happy. The worst part is that this occurs almost EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH. The frequency of these thoughts and feelings makes me afraid that maybe that’s just my truth speaking up. Also I have been having chronic back pain since our marital issues came to a head 6 months ago and we started working through it with counseling. I keep wondering if this is my body telling me to cut and run, even though our relationship is much healthier than it has ever been. Anybody else experience any of this and have any way of working through it?

  • A

    Hi Sheryl,
    This post (as do all of your writings) resonated so much with me. The need for certainty and “truth” are at the root of my anxiety. As well as the fear of abandonment. It’s such a raw, ugly feeling…to be terrified that your partner, friends, family, would turn their backs on you if they saw who you truly are. Which is why I struggle with ocd type obsessions and the intrusive thoughts. An intrusive thought I’ve been having lately is that I’m simply attached to my partner because we’ve been together for so long. And that’s the only reason why I’m still with him. I really don’t think we’re in a co dependent type of situation, but my fear of abandonment makes me think “you stay because you’re afraid to be alone” “these thoughts are a sign that this relationship is over” “don’t lie to yourself or to him…that’s not right” “you don’t deserve him.” This is incredibly painful for me and I really don’t want to leave him. We do love each other so much. Our core values line up for the most part and there are no red flag issues. The lack of sex/attraction has been reeking havoc on me and the intrusive thoughts have been relentless. Today I found myself zoning out and I thought of exes, previous crushes, and if I see anybody attractive recently, and it sends me in a downward spiral. Like I mentioned on your last post, it’s as if I fantasize about them and what they would be like. And I hate this. It’s so uncomfortable and I feel like a horrible person…like I’m doing something wrong. Even though I haven’t actually done anything.

    • A

      I also wanted to add that while my partner and I do share common interests, there are some personality traits that are very challenging, but aren’t exactly deal breakers. So I’m trying to be patient. Another thing I realize is that these intrusive thoughts/feelings are perhaps coming from my egoic self and there’s definitely a disconnect within myself and perhaps with my partner at times. The constant obsessions and ruminations leave me feeling numb, exhausted, and terrified most days. So I know I can’t blame all of this on my partner or the relationship. It’s crazy how once you become so comfortable with your partner and they feel like home, once anxiety is thrown into the mix, this sense of security and calmness is questioned, scrutinized, and becomes almost scary.

      • Beth

        I honestly feel like I could have written your comment myself. I feel exactly the same way.

      • Krista

        I can completely 110% relate to this. wow. I understand how hard it is A trust me. Ive struggled with these thoughts for almost 2 years. They are petrifying. If you need someone to talk to I would love to talk!

  • Beth

    The underlying existence of the part of me that just KNOWS, despite my thoughts/feelings and is a scary concept to me. Sometimes I wrestle with myself when thoughts of: “You know this isn’t going to end well,” “You should end it with him now before he gets even more invested,” etc. It’s like I’m afraid that I do know deep down he isn’t the “right” one for me. But I tell myself, “If he isn’t, why hold on this long?” And I remind myself that we are so, so good for each other, and he’s such a wonderful individual. And even if we aren’t meant to be, what’s so terrible about having someone by my side who is as loving and good as he is? And then the thoughts come back: “God is trying to tell you he isn’t the one,” “You’re trying to fit a triangle into a circle,” “You’re a fake,” and it goes on and on. I hate the thought that I might just “know” he isn’t the right person for me. I don’t want him to be the wrong one. Not sure if that was just a bunch of rambling, but it’s a genuine concern of mine–the one that is the heaviest burden during all of this anxiety/uncertainty.

    • A

      Hi Beth,
      When you said “I hate the thought that I might just know he isn’t the right person for me. I don’t want him to be the wrong one.” That right there tells me that you still want the relationship. Perhaps in wondering if he is right for you, in a way you already know that he IS indeed the right, loving choice. When I’m not stuck in a bad rut of anxiety, I will say to myself that if wanting to leave my partner and no longer being in love with him were my truth, then maybe I wouldn’t be fighting the intrusive thoughts as much as I do. And for as many things I find challenging about my partner and our relationship, I know I can list twice as many reasons why I love him and why I chose him in the first place. We fell in love…and I never over analyzed why I did…or if we were the right match…or had enough chemistry. It just was. That was us. Anyways, I understand how painful and scary this can all be. I hope this brought you some comfort and reassurance 🙂

      • Beth

        Thank you, A. 🙂 That makes so much sense to me. I wish we could tell ourselves that once and our minds would just get it. This blog is so wonderful because along with Sheryl’s support comes the comments from fellow sufferers, and that is one of my biggest comforts, that I’m not in this alone and there are actually those of you who totally understand my situation and don’t seem confused and suggest breaking it off with my boyfriend, like those people around me that I’ve confided in have advised. Thank you.

  • Silver

    Hello,

    The need for certainty really is a huge thing for me. Many of us here also look for black/white area not some kind of “I don’t know” “I’m not sure if I love you”. I have constant reassurance of lacking of my feelings, looking minute by minute what does my inside really says. My partner told me that I don’t love her like my previous crushes that I love someone else or might be cheating behind her back, she tells me that It’s my job as a man to help her reduce her insecurities. She also tells me that she deserves to be loved by me. I know that but I’m trying my best to meet her, be with her in the moment, do what makes her comfortable without complaining even though I sometimes want to go home as soon as possible. There are things that we can’t tell each other like very deep feelings since it triggers my anxiety and fears but we try our best to tell it to each other. I always get irritated with my partner when she repeats my mistakes or accuses me of meeting or talking other girls and I’m not afraid to show her to the world that I love her. I’m also getting tired of having high sex urges whenever I’m with her, maybe I’m just staying because I want to have sex with her or I’m just lusting for her not in a deeper state or sense.

    I keep reading in the site, saving up money to purchase the e-course and rewiring myself. I’ve found out fears that makes my situation worse, fear of having mistake and fear of intimacy. I’m also worried that my lack of feelings could cause me to meet someone and have an affair. I have no current friends now, and sacrificing things that I want to do becuase my partner might get angry at me or cause any problems. I’m having a hard time trying to understand the feelings of my partner trying to be there for her when situations are hard. Fight of flighting when we fight and ignoring and still doing silent treatments. I want to leave now and stop being selfish to let someone love her and stop hurting her like me. I’m the most stupid, ignorant, selfish, immature and unconsiderate of feelings. Narcissistic too.

    • Silver

      I am also reading 5 love languages by Gary Chapman and Why talking isn’t enough by Susan Page

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, there are so many books that you have read, which book would you highly recommend for me?

  • We're in this together

    “we walk into a garden where the roses of wisdom can tolerate a spring snow, a place that remains changeless even amidst the abrupt winds of change”

    What a profound statement Sheryl. I especially love in this piece how you mentioned where we will NOT find home. So true, and so quickly forgotten in moments of anxiety.

    Thank you, as always, for educating the public with your accessible blogs!

  • Really anything and everything on this page that you haven’t read yet:

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

  • AJ

    Hi!
    I’ve been suffering from relationship anxiety the last two months, and I was lucky enough to find this website relatively quickly after it started. It’s been a huge help, and I’ve spent many nights reading through many of your blog entries. I feel like if I hadn’t found this page, I might’ve made a huge mistake and broken up with my amazing boyfriend of almost two years. The anxiety hasn’t entirely passed of course, but I’m moving forward, and I’m currently saving money to be able to buy the e-course.
    The way my anxiety works is that once I work through one intrusive thought, another one comes shortly after. It started with the fear of me and L breaking up in the future, that maybe we’d grow apart or that we were just meant for different paths in life, no matter how much we love each other. Before my anxiety if I had any similar thoughts, I was always able to walk my way through them, knowing that we love each other and we’ll fight for each other, and that would be that, the thoughts would pass. But this time it wasn’t that simple. It felt like I was hit by a truck of fear and anxiety. The anxiety went from “Do we have to break up?” to “Do I wanna break up?” to “Do I not love him?” to “Am I not in love with him?” “Do I just love him like a best friend?” and so on and so on for weeks. It completely took me over, it made me be able to feel nothing but fear and negativity, making me believe that maybe I actually didn’t love him – which is crazy, because I do love him very much and he’s everything I want, kind, loving, loyal, honest, clever, funny etc etc. This was very hard to see in the middle of all the anxiety, but I had moment of clarity where I knew that it was my anxiety, not our relationship.
    It all effected me very much and my school work suffered, and I was unable to do much more than lay in bed watching TV trying not to
    Now that I’ve been able to walk through the intrusive thoughts about wether I love him or not and wether I wanna stay in a relationship with him or not, other intrusive thoughts have started – still in the relationship area. Now it’s thoughts like “What if I’ll get a crush on someone else” and stuff like that. Which feels crazy, because in the two years we’ve been together I have never even been close to having a crush on anyone, I’ve never even seen it as a possibility. Like you wrote in another blog A Watertight Marriage, ever since I got into a relationship, the way I related to men changed, I never considered liking them to be an option, the door that would allow a spark to be created with another guy has always been firmly closed. Sure I could find other people attractive, but never in a wanting way. Now, I’m having so many intrusive thoughts making me feel like I’ll meet some guy and get a crush on him, and it really scares me and makes me wanna isolate myself.
    I knew had thoughts like this before the anxiety, so is this just another intrusive thought that has no basis in reality and is just connected with my fear, like my intrusive thoughts about not loving L? Please help

    • AJ

      I meant “I never* had thoughts like this before the anxiety”, not I knew had thoughts

    • AJ

      I’m so terrified of losing him. I love him so much. I never want to love anyone but him. Is that what my anxious intrusive thoughts about falling for someone else/crushing on someone else is about? Fear of losing him?

  • A

    I just wanted to share that after commenting here yesterday, I can feel this shift in me. The intrusive thoughts seem to go away for a moment and I am calm. There’s a bit of clarity and I don’t hang my hat on every thought/feeling that’s experienced. My world isn’t complete chaos and I am able to move towards my partner with love and openness. Last night as I watched him sleep next to me all I wanted to do was hug him, kiss his cheek, and stroke his forehead. This morning felt just as good as we kissed and hugged before heading to work. These are only some of the moments where I’m reminded that yes I love him and I do want to be with him. These are the thoughts/feelings that I want to hang my hat on 🙂

  • EFitz

    Dear Sheryl,

    Your site has been a blessing. I’ve been trying to learn to trust myself and not attach to every thought but some thoughts I can’t get rid of and then they spiral beyond my control and rational processing until I feel powerless and hopeless and confused and lost and desperate. Not long ago I felt my anxiety stuck on not dating enough in my youth despite the amazing man and life I have. I worked through it but it has returned full force and I don’t know how to shake it. I talk to people to try to get some distance and reason and clarity. It works for maybe an hour. I cannot shake this terror feeling of waking up in my 30s or 40s and regretting marrying the second guy I’ve ever dated. I didn’t spend my early college years single and carefree. I spent them with my man and developing our relationship. I’m grateful for it. I love him unbelievably. He makes me so happy. But this terror of regretting not spending any time really single is crushing me from the inside out. I feel torn in half between leaving my love and our future to spend time single and available until I meet the next guy or take the leap with the man I love and deal with the regret when or if it comes. But I only get one life and I only live my early 20s once. I feel this NEED to know I’ll be happy and okay if I stay with my man. This desire for certainty. I want to know I’m making the right choice for me that I’ll be able to live with but I don’t know what that is. I know I’m more terrified of breaking up with the man I love for something that seems so superficial. It doesn’t seem worth it when I take a step back but I can’t break free of the intrusive fears of REGRET REGRET REGRET! I feel so trapped and depressed and anxious and desperate. I truly want to just live my life with my love and not look back but I feel like that’s impossible in my present climate. I try to answer the regret thoughts or you should be single thoughts with truths like I have a wonderful man; I’m not going to really gain anything; I’ll regret losing him more; etc. But they don’t seem to do the trick. It’s so exhausting. Anybody help, really, please!

    • AJ

      I’ve gone through the same thing. I’m with the first guy I ever dated and I have been for 2 years. A month ago my intrusive thoughts were focusing on the fact that he’s my first love too, that everyone always says that you should play the field and date around while your young. I couldn’t let it go. But then I realized that that’s a part of what our culture tries to force into us, and that if that’s not what I wanna do, if I wanna stay with my man – even though he’s my first – than that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m afraid of waking up when I’m a bit older and feeling regret too, but then I’ll just have to sort through my intrusive thoughts again and work through it. Who says you’ll be happier with someone you met when you’re 30 than someone you met when you were young? The media, our culture etc. Not our hearts.

  • Lea

    Hi Sheryl,

    I’m out of control….I can’t live this way anymore, my wedding is in a month and I’m falling apart…everything makes me anxious and sick, my head is going to explode, I keep blaming myself for taking this so far. I shouldn’t have accepted the wedding date feeling this way. I thought that it would be better to face my fear but I was wrong…now all I feel is terrible pain and the feeling of being out of control…How can I get married like this? I make everyone around me feel terrible, nobody can actually enjoy the wedding planning knowing that I’m falling apart. I keep thinking that I was just pushed into this because it was his wish…and i was scared that if we hadn’t planned the wedding I was supposed to leave which was also very scary for me….O my God, how did I let things get so out of control…I’m beyond repair…Is there anyone who had a similar experience about their engagement/wedding ? Everyone seem to be so happy around their weddings. This must be a sign that something is terribly wrong and I’m in denial…I might have accepted just to please him and our families, but then when I think about it I didn’t want to leave him either because he’s sooo good to me…Please any advice to sooth my fears. All I can think about is how to get away from all of this mess…..but now it’s too late….I really need to take the course and I definitely will, but somehow I think it’s too late… 🙁

    • Kpham

      HI, Lea, just wanted to say that i was in your place, and i think the self-hating just paralyzes you and makes it harder for you to think clearly. When you notice yourself blaming yourself, take a deep breath and imagine that you have a friend who is going through this. What would you say to her? Would you be so judgmental and harsh? Then don’t do it to yourself. Having that compassion for yourself might give yourself some space to breathe and think more clearly.

      • Lea

        Dear Kpham and Just me, thanks for the support, I can’t tell you how lonley I feel in all this,I feel like an awful person, I can’t even talk about the wedding, I dread my wedding day.Kham, did you heal the pain and how?

    • just me

      I want to send many hugs to you Lea ♡ be kind to yourself and take good care about you. Everything is going to be just fine.

  • Miau

    Dear Sheryl, please correct me if I misunderstood? “Love is not only a feeling; it’s largely a choice, an act of will, and an intention” – when I don’t feel like doing something for/to my partner or if I choose not to do some of the loving actions because I don’t feel like it – does that mean that I don’t love him?! Sometimes I just don’t feel like helping him or doing something for him because “it bores me and I have done that a million times in the past”, what does that mean?
    Thank you!

  • Silver

    How do we I know if I’m just with my partner because she’s pretty and alot of people want her or if I’m with her because of her? How do we differentiate lust between love. And how do I know if my partner isn’t just a rebound for me.

  • Andrew

    Sheryl,

    I cannot begin to tell you what a wonderful blessing your blog has been for me. I recently got married in October to my wife and best friend. During our engagement I suffered with the symptoms of relationship anxiety discussed by your students and followers and I’m almost ashamed that it nearly got the best of me. I still suffer from it even now but with the blog and support of my loving wife I am pleased to say that I have persevered and allowed myself to settle into what I am sure will be a wonderful adventure.

    While I hope to be able to afford the ecourse soon I want to just thank you for your insight to this illness and please keep the posts coming. I know that I have indeed made the “loving choice” every day and intend to continue to access my “fear warrior” whenever this illness rears its ugly head!

  • EFitz

    Hello Sheryl,

    I recently bought the break free course and I’m starting to go through it but I feel like my issues have morphed into something different. I feel like that in order to have a successful relationship and marriage, I have to get out and spend time alone, spend time single so I don’t feel lien I didn’t do that enough once I’m fully committed. My mother recently went through this kind of upheaval after 24 years of being with the same person. Talking to some friends, expressing my deepest fears that my thoughts are sayin I HAVE to do this to be sure my relationship will be successful, they express that maybe that’s true. And when they said so, the anxiety I’ve been harboring disappeared, but all I felt was intense depression and grief because it meant taking a break and leaving behind the man I love. But I felt convinced that in order for us to have a chance of success, I have to leave to find myself. To spend some time single so I know what it’s like.
    However, I’m so terrified of losing him in This process, that he won’t wait, or I won’t achieve what I need to, or I don’t know how long I would need, or what if I make him wait to discover I don’t want to choose him anymore…. And on and on until the anxiety was full blown again and I decided I wouldn’t leave just yet.

    I guess my point is I’m scared to go through the course and actually discover that I DO need to leave to develop myself to satisfy the burning curiosity and need to know I can and have been single long enough to feel I’m not missing a part of human experience. BUT I’m am so TERRIFIED to lose the man I love. I can’t see how to reconcile this. I’m hoping the course can still address this and help me through it. I feel Like the exception, but my feeling of relief when I made the short decision to leave scared me. Like that’s what I really should do. For now, I’m still with him and fighting. I’m so unsure and so plagued by intrusive thoughts that I have to leave or take a break, that I owe it to myself or else I’ll forever wander… But so scared to lose the man I love. Will the course address this issue??

    • Yes, it will address all of your fears. Gather up your courage and dive in.

      • EFitz

        Thank you so much for your reply. This terror is unbearable. The anxious limbo is just as bad. The feeling of grief should I choose to leave was crushing. My hope for the future is clouded. Your reply gives me more hope that I can make it through this a stronger person and make a decision I can live with in satisfaction and happiness. Thank you.

        • You absolutely can get through this, just as thousands have before you. But you MUST do the work in the course, and commit to one or more of the daily practices that I teach there. And patience is key. This works takes time.

  • Tom

    Hi Sheryl,

    I hope you are doing well 🙂

    Great post, It really hit me hard reading this because I know i’ve spent a great deal of time staring at screens searching for certainty on the unanswerable questions my mind throws at me. ‘If I could just answer these then I could finally go and live my life!’ and sometimes they do get answered but it never takes long for the mind to come up with another question that creates even more uncertainty hah!

    One thing i’ve recognised this same pattern with was the actual work of feeling feelings and turning towards my own pain. I find my self constantly researching ‘acceptance’ and ‘How to feel your feelings’ because a lot of the time when these feelings are coming up I become hyper vigilant on making sure I’m not suppressing or pushing away feeling. thoughts keep coming up like ‘What if I’m not doing it right?’ ‘What If I’m not feeling this properly?’ and then I’m constantly checking to see if I’m resisting anything thats coming up and it usually feels like I am. its almost like one part of me wants to embrace whats happening and the other half is too afraid to look at it incase I discover that I don’t really love my partner or that I’m an evil person deep down (I read one of your blog post about that which was enormously helpful and It seems like everyone has that similar thought process)

    I’ve started meditation recently which has helped a lot and its really given me the chance to actually just be with myself and what i’m feeling but I’ve noticed when I do this that there is still that knee jerk reaction to push away whats happening, is this normal to experience in the beginning?

    Thanks for all you’re help and support 🙂

    Tom.

  • Dedra

    Hi Sheryl,

    I was just getting around to reading this article more closely. Beautiful words! Again, you are truly a blessing and give great guidance for those suffering with anxiety. I have struggled on and off with anxiety for a few years. It didn’t control a lot of my life, but it controlled enough for me to want to fix it. No one should have to live in fear or doubt of their true selves. The important thing for the anxious mind to remember is that our thoughts are just thoughts. Our thoughts do not define us. Actually, everyone has the same thoughts. The only difference is that an anxious person sees them as their truths and not an irrational fear. If only we could answer these thoughts, we could move forward with our “perfect” lives. In working through my anxiety, I have discovered that the root is a fear of uncertainty and perfectionism. However, in my healing process I have found acceptance of myself for the first time and this has helped me not be so afraid of uncertainty. In fact, I have made friends with it 🙂 I felt that because I have had intrusive thoughts that I am no longer perfect or deserving of the life I have built for myself. Now am I happy in being perfectly imperfect! It feels so good to have reached a place of absolute serenity. Meditation, exercise, journaling and yoga have help me achieve the space between my thoughts to allow them to pass like a cloud in the sky. A positive attitude and determination are also what got me to this place along with the support of my family and loving husband. For all of you who are struggling, hang in there and believe in your true self. Sheryl, thank you for helping solidify my journey to peace and serenity.

  • hayley

    Hi all. I’ve recently come out of a depression and terrible anxiety, this page really helped a lot honestly. However sheryl if you see this. I believe i have abandonment/intimacy issues from being left at my grandparents while parents attended to my brother in hospital as a child. He had 31 operations. Mum always feared it would damage me in the long run. Also from a painful first love and being dumped for a bestfriend, that messed me up for awhile. And most recent. Being left in my extreme depression by my 2 best friends of 6 years, who basically replaced me. I also have a history of extreme self esteem issues. I believe i love my beautiful boyfriend but i might be afraid of being vulnerable. Please help i may be over analyzing :/

    • hayley

      I also have history with Eating disorders, if theres any relevance to what I’m saying. Please help! 🙁