A Brief Guide on How to Grieve

by | Apr 21, 2019 | Anxiety, Health anxiety, Intrusive Thoughts | 31 comments

A significant and essential component of any healing process is learning to feel the emotions that were shut down and stuffed away in the dark recesses of childhood long ago: The tears that were squelched under the message of “too sensitive”; the fears that were sequestered away into the cubby of “too weak”; the disappointment that was glossed over with a fresh scoop of ice cream cone or a shiny new toy.

At some point along the way, you realize that the pathway to joy must include reconnecting with the lost pain and learning how to tend to it like you would an abandoned child. Nobody wants to feel pain, and it often feels counterintuitive to move toward the places that scared you and hurt you, but when anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and panic reach a breaking point you realize that that’s exactly what you must do. As I teach repeatedly, one of the primary messages of anxiety is to tell you that there is old pain that needs attention.

Daniel Siegel in his book Mindsight explains that when we grow up emotionally impoverished we learn to “lean to the left”, by which he means we spend time in the left hemisphere of our brains where the messiness of the emotional realm can’t find us. Anxiety and intrusive thoughts are, for many children, the brilliant defense mechanism that allowed them to survive childhood. Even if your childhood wasn’t abusive or neglectful, because you were likely raised by parents who were emotionally disconnected and wounded themselves, they had no idea how to guide you through the terrifying landmine that defines the emotional realm of childhood.

We tend to think of childhood as a happy and innocent time, and to some extent it is, but there’s nothing happy about being in a small body with torrential emotions flooding through you and having no way to handle them. The wise response is to grab the rope that dangles down from the left hemisphere – the cool and safe place of thought – until you’re big enough to climb back down and begin to repair.

Yet, because we’re a culture terrified of the feeling realm, we’re offered little guidance on how to re-enter our bodies and our hearts. Even many therapist and healing modalities seek to bypass the emotional realm, likely because they haven’t ventured back into that territory and done their healing work themselves. As such, it’s not easy to find the roadmap for how to feel your feelings. This is why one of the top questions I’m asked in both sessions and on course calls is, “How do I grieve? You talk about how important it is to feel our emotions, but I don’t know what that means?”

Here’s a brief guide to grieving:

Obviously, I can’t offer a comprehensive guide to feeling your feelings in a 900-word blog post, but I can offer some basic points to help you get started.

1. Start by becoming curious about the messages you received about your emotions. What were you told, either explicitly or covertly, about emotions? How did your parents manage their big feelings? What was the message you received from other sources, including media, peers, and religion?

2. Next, ask yourself what your biggest fears are around feelings your big feelings. What are you afraid will happen if you let yourself touch into your pain and grieve?

3. When you’re ready, start to notice where pain lands in your body. If you’ve been disconnected from your body for a long time, this seemingly simply task can be challenging, so be patient with yourself.

4. Once you locate the pain, slow down to be with it. By this I mean: notice it, be curious about it, wrap your breath around it, soften into it. Ask what the pain needs. Sometimes it will need to be released in some way, like crying or moving or screaming. Know that crying is one way to grieve, but it’s not the only way. Grieving, especially in the beginning when the channels have been frozen over for years, is more of a soft noticing and gentle allowing.

Being with pain is a process best described through metaphor. And here I turn to the poet Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening. He’s describing physical pain but the same principles apply to emotional pain:

“A most profound and helpful learning came to me when struggling with the pain of having a rib removed. For weeks I felt a corset of pain girdling each breath, But watching the winter water of a stream begin to thaw and flow, over and over, I finally saw that to make it through the pain, I had to be more like water and less like ice.

“For when the trees fell into the ice, the river shattered. But when large limbs fell into the flowing water, the river embraced the weight and flowed around it. The trees and winter water were teaching me that the pain was more pointed and hurtful when I was tense and solid as ice. Then, each breath was shattering. But when I could thaw the fear and tenseness I carried, the pain was more absorbed, and I could, like the thawing stream, move on – not pain-free, but no longer shattered.”

How can you be more like water and less like ice when tending to your emotional pain? Share in the comments below.

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31 Comments

  1. Thank you for your message, Sheryl. I have some emotions that I definitely need to grieve so I can move past them and move on with my life and let go of my ex and be present in the new loving relationship I am in. I was wondering if you could provide some insight for me. I have had RA for a few years now. It started with my ex of 7 years and I was working hard on it until we broke up. He ended up cheating on me with his friend’s wife (if this spiked you – know that just because it happened to me, doesn’t mean it will happen to you). We have been broken up for just over a year now, but I still have so many nightmares about my ex and his new girlfriend (who was my friend) and him choosing her. I took the high road the entire breakup and kept my mouth shut. I don’t want him back, but am looking for some closure to move on because I am now in a new relationship (for the last 6 months) with a guy who treats me much better. What I struggle with is opening my heart completely again because of my history (due to my ex and due to sexual abuse by the hands of a parental figure), but I also need to grieve the life I thought I was going to have. My new boyfriend is European and a life with him would be totally different than the one I imagined with my ex. The one I thought I wanted for so many years. How do you let go and how do you open your heart again after so much pain? How to you grieve the life you thought you were going to have to open to something new and exciting? I feel like I get stuck on the fact that he’s an immigrant (although I find this totally exciting at the same time) and he’s not as successful as my ex yet and how everything is totally different and not what I’m used to (life as a “traditional” Canadian)? I’m even not used to a guy who vents to me about life when my ex would NEVER communicate anything with me. On one end I see him as being imperfect and flawed, but on the otherhand I’m grateful he vents and communicates with me because I’ve never had that before.

    Reply
    • First off, I’m so sorry for your loss and betrayal. It’s crushing to be betrayed in this way, and it takes a long time to learn to trust again. Please be patient with yourself as you’re grieving and rebuilding a shattered heart.

      As far as how to let go of the life you thought you were going to have, that’s all part of the grieving process that comes with a break up. Have you taken my Break Up course? It will guide you through the process thoroughly:

      https://www.mindbodygreen.com/classes/how-to-heal-from-a-breakup

      Reply
      • Thank you, Sheryl. You are wonderful!

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  2. Wow Sheryl and thank you! I’m in your Trust Yourself course and this comes just perfectly as I know deep down that this is what is calling my attention right now. To grieve. To grieve all the things I never experienced before in welcoming, allowing and accepting All of my feelings. To grieve the loss of connection with my mother who should have been there for me, but couldn’t for her own stuff was in the way. And to grieve so much of what I have been stopping myself from welcoming, like love!, out of fear that this would never taste as sweet as what I didn’t have; yet I have full confidence that it will, because I can taste it already in small moments of peace and joy and presence with myself. So thank you for these helpful and insightful pieces of the grief puzzle that I can now put into my heart and hear with new and curious and compassionate and loving ears (and feel this into my heart too).
    And part of the reason I am writing this to you, is to also move beyond the shame of my feelings, including my feelings of grief. I share because I am writing this to myself as much as to you. And I share because I love.
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Beautiful, Julia! The pieces are falling into place. Keep going and I’ll see you on the course :).

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  3. This post couldn’t have come at a better time, Sheryl.

    I have struggled with relationship anxiety, a more subtle form in the last years but I’m moving through it and constantly learning.

    Just in the last couple of days I have had severe anxiety and couldn’t figure out why. The feeling was familiar to me as I’ve had it multiple times in the past including in childhood. The anxiety comes with such dark intrusive thoughts that even as an adult it stops me in my tracks and terrifies me to the core.

    Just last night I laid awake absolutely terrified and couldn’t go to sleep, I became curious about why the anxiety was so bad. All of a sudden it hit me. I was terrified of death and the fact that nothing in this life was permanent. I sobbed for a good hour and something in me lightened up.

    It occurred to me that once I felt a shift with my partner embracing our relationship on a deeper level, this anxiety came. As if my subconscious knew I had even more to lose and it triggered that pain. Those moments of release are so therapeutic and I was just thankful that even amidst the terror I was able to see that little bit of light and release.

    Thanks Sheryl for the work that you do.

    Reply
    • Amanda: Thank you for sharing this here. The fear of death is at the heart of the fear of loss and most fears in general, and when we can tap down into that core fear and allow ourselves to crumble into it, something is lifted, as you experienced. It’s terrifying to allow ourselves to go there but there is so much healing that happens once we do.

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  4. Timing for this one is good for me too. Tomorrow would have been my 1 year wedding anniversary. We are separated and will soon be divorced. I’ve been practicing sitting with my feelings and letting them in, which has been good, but I know there’s more in there. Despite knowing this is the best decision for both of us, it still hurts. We both care about one another very much, but he’s just not willing to do his work and I’m not willing to spend the rest of my life with an emotionally unavailable husband. I am sad for me and for him.

    Next for me is to determine when it’s time to date again. I’ve done some dating, but I just feel uncomfortable. The statement “he’s not my husband” keeps coming up. I’m not sure if I’m just no ready yet, or is it just plain resistance due to fear and discomfort. It’s very confusing for me, but I know I will figure it out at some point. I don’t want to be in a hurry, but I’m 42 and REALLY want a family, so it’s hard not to feel a sense of urgency.

    Reply
    • Of course it hurts; you’re in the depths of a great loss and it can’t be rushed. I hear so much growth in you, Danielle, including your willingness to be with the difficult feelings and trusting that you’ll figure out this next stage. Sending love.

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  5. Like some people said above, this post came at the perfect time. I’ve felt very sad, lonely, and afraid the whole day. I haven’t really been able to shake it. I watched one of your Break Free videos and cried, which was good, since I’ve been needing that. The sense of heaviness and grief I still can’t shake, but maybe that’s our cultural conditioning coming in–“feel the feelings and get on with it.” I suppose I just need to allow myself to feel sad.

    The relationship anxiety is so difficult on me and my fiance, and it’s hard not to feel discouraged, especially when the media is saturated with happy, seemingly effortless relationships. I know this is comparing, which I’m not supposed to do, but it’s easy to fall prey to it.

    I think I just need to be compassionate with myself and not expect an easy fix to a habit that’s been long in the making.

    Reply
    • Yes, the last line is key: being compassionate and knowing there’s no easy fix to a long-standing habit. Also, stay away from the media! Most relationship require great effort, so whatever images you’re seeing of happy, effortless relationships is a fantasy and exposing yourself to these images unnecessarily will not serve your aim to grow a more realistic view of love.

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  6. Dear Sheryl, Thank you for this most loving gift to us all. I hold so much gratitude for you, your work, and your courage to share it with us. I have felt more like water in my pain since I took your trust yourself and sacred sexuality courses in that I now have a deeper understanding of what/how to tend to my whole self since I learned to tend to my well of Self. I find that I have a road map for how to be with the full spectrum of my emotions, especially grief, when you invited us to practice a new way of making time to nurture our well of self through journaling our dreams, plugging into the wisdom of our dreams and anxiety, and also through your invitation to trusting our spirit animals who are angels and messengers conspiring for our well-being. So when I am in pain and I open to curiosity in my anxiety and pain and trust myself and nature I am more like water. I am also more aware of when I resist and cling to being ice. I now see nature and animals as co-parenting with me my tender and deeply loving/feeling soul. You, your teachings here, and your courses have truly been a most loving guide for my unfolding into a deeper and abundant intimacy with myself and in turn more presence with my loved ones and the Divine natural world. In deep gratitude for you, -Patricia

    Reply
    • Dear Patricia: This was so beautiful to read – like sunshine in my soul. Thank you for sharing your experience with my work, and most especially for your willingness to DO the work and learn to show up for yourself in these loving ways. This is how we will heal our planet: one brave person at a time. Much love to you.

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  7. This was a timely post for me, and, as always, Sheryl, your words are like a balm that softens the parts of me that need it. I received a healing session this week, where it was reflected back to me that my grandmother is a narcissist, and my father has been deeply entrenched in denial. I’ve always been a feeler, and as a child I was deeply depressed and suicidal. I always wondered why. It became clear that the complete dismissing and lack of awareness of emotional reality, and a veil of perfection, was more than I could handle. I’ve felt vindicated after these truths became clear, but I’ve also been feeling an immense amount of grief. As you said, I feel like I’ve repelled down a rope to my 10 year old self, and I’ve been feeling that depression again. I’m riding the wave, though it’s been intense, and grateful for finally being seen in this way. I’m not crazy. I was just feeling what others weren’t allowing themselves to feel and acknowledge. I’m not questioning or doubting myself now. I know the intensity will dissipate eventually, as I continue to sit with it. Your words were a great comfort to me today, and reminded me that so many of us are doing this practice together. And, thank you for creating such a safe space in your comments.

    Reply
    • You are far from alone, and I’m so happy to hear that you received healing validation of what you were absorbing in the unconscious field in your home. It’s so painful to travel back to the core wounds, but it’s essential for healing. And it will pass through. Sending love.

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  8. I feel this post is so helpful, not just with RA, but with life disappointments in general. This weekend my husband and I were about to go on a trip with his family, a reunion of sorts with all of his siblings, his parents and our nieces and nephews for the first time in a long time. Unfortunately, I came down with the flu two days before we were to leave. I was too sick and feverish to go, and we decided it would also be in the best interest of everyone, especially young children, for us to stay home and not risk spreading the infection. Half of the family lives 15 hours drive away, so we won’t be able to make up for missing this trip. After having been cooped up in our little apartment so long I am feeling physically better which opened me up to feeling the emotional pain of missing this trip. I had to grieve missing this trip. I cried. I let myself cry and feel the pain of missing this trip instead of trying to distract myself from it with a screen or other activity. I’m learning not to fear my emotions, but to embrace them. I’m still sad about the trip, and that’s okay and normal, and even though I’m sad, I’m proud because I feel like I handled this disappointment in an emotionally healthy way by letting myself process it how I needed to.

    Reply
    • Beautiful, Hannah. This is exactly what it looks like to allow yourself to feel your feelings with compassion so they don’t morph into anxiety.

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  9. I have been having this chrushing “gut feeling” for a few months now and then the intrusive thoughts and lately I have been focusing on a lot of negative things about my boyfriend. Like how he is sometimes too funny and doesn’t take things as seriously as me and I feel so disconnected from him and numb and he said that I’m not loving toward him anymore. This “gut feeling” makes me so scared that this is what I really feel and need to leave. My boyfriend is planning to propose soon but he is starting to think that all of this is a sign that I really don’t love him. Is all this normal to go through with relationship anxiety? I have been wanting to get married to him for a long time now (we have been together for 5 years now) but these last few months have just made me doubt everything about our relationship. I also don’t have that many “clear” moments that I know I love him. If anyone has gone through this please let me know. I feel so alone in all this.

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  10. Hi Sheryl

    It’s me again. I know I have commented on previous posts and I am feeling like I am so annoying to keep seeking reassurance from you. I just wanted to tell you my whole story to make sure that what I am going through is in fact relationship anxiety. My boyfriend and I met 5 years ago and he was so in love with me from day one and I avoided him because I wasn’t ready to be in a relationship and get hurt again, it was long distance and I have had very bad experiences with long distance relationships before. We were friends for about 3 months and I decided that I was ready to be with him. Since we started dating we had a lot of fights and we didn’t always get along (he is a very playful and funny person and I am not). My mom was also very against the relationship because we fought a lot and he wasn’t a very helpful person (washing dishes, doing laundry etc). When we started dating we were both still living with our parents. It was a very hard decision for me to leave my parents and move to where he was (I have family here so it wasn’t like I didn’t know anyone). We then kind of lived together with the family I have here (his living situation with his family wasn’t great) and they accepted him like he was part of the family. A lot of the time when we fought I would cry like it was the worst fight ever and then I would feel like the relationship isn’t working and then when we made up it was better again. He is a very honest person and not always sensitive (when he wants to say something he says it, he doesn’t always think that his words can hurt) where I am very sensitive and take every single critical comment very personally. He always tries to lighten the mood with jokes when I always want to be serious. I have a very controlling personality and I get very easily irritated (especially with him always being funny and silly). Since we moved in together last year things were so much better, we hardly fought and it finally felt like we “got” each other. We started talking about getting married (I wanted to marry him from the beginning) and then we went and chose a ring together but I didn’t want to know when he got the ring and when he was going to propose (I wanted it to be a surprise). Then one day I was cleaning and I found the ring and at first I smiled and was very happy and then I got this “gut feeling” and I just started to think “is this all there is to life” (I am not very happy about my job and we live in a town where there isn’t really any better jobs and he has a very demanding job, where he isn’t even home on weekends so I am alone most of the time) and all my friends are either engaged, married or already have children and I feel like we aren’t moving at the pace we need to. From then on I went into the spiral of thinking “do I really love him”, “does this feel right” etc. I found your work and it has brought me some relieve but every time I read the comments and everybody describes how wonderful their relationship was from the beginning and that they know they wanted to make it work it just leaves me feeling alone and empty and feeling like all this doesn’t apply to me and that I am just staying because I am so used to this person and the life we have together that I can’t leave. I feel alone and can’t talk to anybody about this, as I said in the previous comment there is just so many things that I am seeing as wrong in our relationship. He is really understanding of all this and I try to reassure him that I will get better and he is supportive but he was also raised with the mindset of “doubt means don’t” and sometimes he feels like he is the problem and that I am just going to leave him when I realize I don’t love him. I am just so tired of trying to figure out why I feel this constant “gut feeling” and tearing everything about him and our relationship apart. I just need to know if you have dealt with someone who was going through something similar or am I really the exception and I am so scared that I am and that this work will not apply to me and that I will have to leave. I am also a perfectionist and always want things to go my way and very insecure about who I am. I feel like I don’t deserve him because he really is a great person and he loves me for me and I feel so guilty about feeling this way and he is always so sure about us. He asked my parents if we could get married and they said yes and I just started to panic and now things are so much worse than it was before (more doubting, more questions, more seeking all the reasons why this won’t work etc.) Something is keeping me from leaving and I don’t know if it is because I really love him or am I just so used to him and being “us” that I’m scared to leave and because we had so much conflict in most of our relationship that I am now seeing that it’s wrong. I can’t imagine being with anybody else and it gives me terrible anxiety when I think about leaving and moving on with someone else.

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  11. Dear Sheryl,

    I am sorry for posting a comment again but today I am a real mess (again). I feel extremely tired, could not concentrate at work and feel anxious and numb at the same time. My boyfriend and I are going to buy a house together, our first own house/home, and when he called today to tell me that the seller (an acquaintance of his family) confirmed that he will give/sell us the house, I was happy and smiled for a little moment but then I was overwhelmed with anxiety and the „omg what if this is wrong“ etc. again. It is so frustrating! The house has got everything we have dreamed of (luckily we share the same – somehow special – wishes/values regarding our future home) but I don’t feel that excited and happy now and that really bothers me.
    I heard about a couple our age last week (they’re friends of a friend of mine) who just broke up. I was shocked when I heard about it. They are just 24 and 25, have a 3 year old son together and married 1,5 years ago AND they bought a house together just a half year ago! But now they separated and are heading for divorce?! How can a relationship go from „buying a house together and all happiness“ to break up and divorce that quickly?? They even used to post family pictures on social media all the time and looked super happy there. It made me really afraid and I have to think about it all the time and just badly want to know the reason WHY. I am so afraid that this will happen to us as well, if we buy the house now (even though we’re not married).

    And today I also have to think about our differences regarding work-life-balance all the time. I am so so afraid that this is a red flag and I need to leave because of this. I am just super distressed right know. I bought your e-course last night and started with the welcome video and viewed the first PDFs. I plan to start with lesson 1 today. But all the time I think „this work doesn’t apply to you. Even if many of Sheryl’s clients thought they were the exception and it turned out they were not, YOU are. You’re foolish for even giving it a try and spending so much money, you’re a hopeless case“ etc… I am so discouraged right now and don’t know what to do. I just feel kind of paralyzed and numb. I want to cry but I simply can’t and I don’t know why!! All I feel is numbness and an underlying sense of anxiety which is a terrible state.

    Sheryl please could you tell me if this is a red flag??
    Having differences regarding work-life-balances and holidays etc, as I have posted about under one of your last blogposts already? I didn’t talk to my boyfriend about this topic yet because I am so afraid that he will tell me he’s not willing to work on that issue and than that will mean that our relationship is doomed.
    I am not even a heavy traveller, as a sensitive person I like staying home enjoying some free time there as well. But I would like to go on holiday at least maybe one time a year (for about a week would be enough/ok for me). I don’t know how to approach this topic with my boyfriend. I am afraid that he will not get what I mean and that he will shut down/reject this topic.
    And I am super afraid that I will have to break up because of this!
    I have checked your red flag list again and again and there are no red flags regarding having children, religion, etc. in our relationship (and particularly none of the listed regarding abuse, addiction etc.!) but this one really spikes me. Does this count as „core values“ as well? Or does it count more like „interests“? Isn’t it possible to maintain a relationship that is healthy, loving, secure, and free of the listed red flags and where you have that sense of „home“ (safety) with your partner and the only issue that appears is the one about work-lifestyle-balance/holidays?
    I couldn’t stop but read through many blogposts again today, looking out for some similar example or something like that. Under one blog post (don’t know which it was anymore) one woman shared that her boyfriend was a pot smoker. And she discovered after some years that this was an non negotiable thing for her but she couldn’t change him (because that’s unfair) and that she had to leave because of this. I am so afraid that this will happen to me as well because of this stupid holiday-etc-issue!! I simply don’t want to let this thing destroy my relationship with my loving boyfriend.

    I feel so bad right now. The funeral of my grandpa is on Thursday and I am not even able to think about it of to prepare for it because I’m caught up in the endless rumination about my relationship all the time. Why am I like this.

    Sheryl, I am sorry for posting again. Please does anyone has any advice.. I would highly appreciate it. 🙁

    Reply
    • You are NOT the exception (everyone thinks they are :)). Keep going through the course instead of reading the blog posts and comments as the course will guide you thoroughly through this process. In a few weeks, you’ll gain access to the forum, which will also be a support.

      In the meantime, I encourage you to drop down out of your head and realize that the rumination is also a distraction from pain – and it sounds like there is some very present pain at hand in terms of the loss of your grandfather. Intrusive thoughts are a mental addiction in that they keep you in your head where the messiness and vulnerability of the emotional realm can’t find you. So when you’re on the hamster wheel of ruminating, say to yourself, “What is this thought protecting me from feeling?”

      You’re in the right place. Keep going. Once you start to practice the tools that I teach in the course, it will get easier.

      Reply
  12. If I’m struggling with a lot of anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and negative emotions, does that mean there is grieving to be done? I’ve always thought of grieving as something you do when something big and obviously hard happens to you, like a death of a loved one or a break up. But if your life is seemingly fine on the outside, like mine, with no real reasons to be grieving, but I’m still a nervous overthinking wreck, is grieving what wants to be had?

    As I wrote that first part above, I realized I unknowingly started step #1 from this post: I have been taught or come to understand that grieving is only appropriate in certain circumstances, that are “big and obvious.” (Lightbulb!) I guess another one is that I was taught or came to believe that if everything is “going good” in your life, you shouldn’t feel anxious or negative feelings, and if you do, that means you have a physiological problem and need medication to remedy the situation.

    Now I’m wondering what I may need to grieve if that’s what’s underneath causing the bothers on the conscious surface. How does one find the grief inside that needs grieving and to be felt?

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  13. Wow, what timing. I listened to a lecture about shame (from the Jung center) online this morning, on my one day off this week from an over-demanding job…and wow did it open me up. I found myself grieving my ex (of a couple years ago), and realizing that friendships also bring all the big scary feelings and feels like is getting more difficult as i get older. i’m 25, so still pretty young, but i am afraid of living too much of my life feeling stuck and unsatisfied, and have this fear of “running out of time”. i feel so frustrated and angry to be living in what feels like an increasingly dehumanizing society where it is difficult or painfully lonely to try relate to people because they are so disconnected from their emotions, and/or, don’t have the language or trust to talk about them, but often expect you (probably unconsciously) to do their emotional labor for them.

    but look, i’m thinking and judging instead of feeling again. pain is constant. i guess it takes time to build a tolerance? i cried today, a lot, and felt the familiar lighter feeling afterwards, but then went right back into the habit of building energy with thoughts and anxiety.how does one STAY calm for longer than an hour at a time?

    Reply
    • What a beautiful way to spend some time on your day off! Yes, it’s a practice to learn how to stay with the feelings instead of jumping onto the head space of judgement and thought. The more you practice, the more fluid it will become.

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  14. Hi Sheryl. I’ve been your regular visiter for a few years now. When I was at my worse, your blog gave me comfort i needed. I ended the relationship in which i had extreme ROCD but not because of my anxiety… when i knew i wanted to break up, there was no anxiety at all.. just certainty. After that, i had a relationship in which i experienced no anxiety at all. However, that ended too due to real red flags. I am currently in a very loving relationship, the guy treats me like princess for the first time in my life, he is smart, intelligent, funny, tall, loving… everything I ever wanted (for now, its still early on in the relationship). However, he is not exactly good looking (his face). I am scared of my anxiety resurfacing. Ive done a great job of learning how to love and listen to myself and my gut, and i dont want to go back to the old ways. I am attracted to him, but there are times when i catch myself thinking he is… ugly. I still want to kiss him one minute after that, but I dont want that thought at all. I try not to react, but im scared. I started googling again, which i havent done in more than a year. Do you have any advice for me? Thank you in advance!

    Reply
  15. Thanks, I’ve forwarded this post to many friends negotiating tenant grief of late.

    I appreciated the comment about our cultural tendency to “lean left,” which I’m also learning is still indeed a helpful “tether.”

    As someone who grew up with therapist adults, and who’s beginning to more expansively accept myself and my feelings of late, I now feel that I’m navigating what it is to exist throughly within the feelings, but also to “lean left” at the same time, so as to continue discovering the fruitfulness of intellectual life. For a while emotions and intellect felt like a dichotomy, and either-or switch. It seemed that I could engage one or the other. (A recent philosophical work I discovered that embraces both is Ngai’s “Ugly Feelings…”)

    How might the two coexist? Still learning this. Just as sometimes red flags are less universal and more individual, probably this balance is a uniquely personal process, too?

    Reply
    • *therapist parents

      Reply
    • Thank you for sharing this, J, and yes, it’s all uniquely personal. All of life! I highly recommend Dan Siegel’s book to help you make more sense of these two realms.

      Reply
  16. Dear Sheryl,

    I thank you so much for this post, and I can say that I have finally surrendered myself to looking at what is underneath anxiety and I feel free from it. When it comes back I know I am not allowing myself to feel something, but I no longer believe the thoughts it generates and I feel grounded in my intentions, values and desires. However, I now have encountering deep grief and pain that most of the times I do not know why it is, others I do. I am tending to the pain in long stretches of time in the mornings (been doing it for years now but more honestly and deeply lately), and still the pain won’t go away. I am having breakfast at a restaurant and the pain is there, I am with people and the pain is there, I start to put energy in the things that I want to create or in my responsibilities (job, house) and the pain is there, and in those moments where I need to take action is not like I can sob around at any time, if that makes sense. I hold it the best I can, but it then hardens when I need to divide my attention to not just stay idle in life. I am learning this is a dance, but I am curious how others experience this and find more flow, like water.

    Reply
    • Denisse: It sounds like you might be a carrying a pain that isn’t yours but belongs to your ancestors, and may be here for you to heal and move along. If that resonates, I encourage you to begin a practice where you call on a specific ancestor to help you hold and heal this pain so that it doesn’t debilitate you. Pain is meant to move through us, and when it’s stuck it may because there’s an element that we’re not seeing.

      Reply

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