A Foundational Key for Breaking Free From Anxiety

“This is your body, your greatest gift, pregnant with wisdom you do not hear, grief you thought was forgotten, and joy you have never known.”

― Marion Woodman, Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman’s Body and Soul

We’re a neck-up culture. We place a high premium on words and believe that our salvation comes from intellectual prowess. We talk and think and ruminate: talking our way out of problems, thinking our way through dilemmas, and fully believing that all of life’s answers are found in our heads. Some of this propensity toward talking comes from our extroverted culture (Americans have a particularly bad reputation worldwide for being blabber-mouths) but it also comes from a defense mechanism that begins early in life for many children: when the pain is too big, they travel away from their bodies, which is the locus of pain, and into their heads.

This early defense mechanism is quite brilliant, actually. If children were to feel the depth and rawness of the powerlessness, loneliness, heartbreak, and vulnerability that existed in their growing up years without a loving adult to help them through the big feelings they would collapse from the onslaught of emotional energy. Big feelings coursing through small bodies need grownup attention, and without it the ever-attending psyche steps in with its survival mechanisms, the primary of which are denial, obsessions/intrusive thoughts/worry, and shame. (More on shame in a couple of weeks.)

The problem is that, past childhood when we’re no longer in emotionally unsafe situations and we have access to adult resources for helping us tolerate the pain of life, we need to come back down into our bodies in order to navigate successfully through the challenges of living. We need to remember how to listen to our body’s wisdom and discern between fear and truth. We need to develop a relationship of trust with our body, without which we cannot know what we want and don’t want, what we feel, and who we are at the core.

When I was in the depths of my own anxiety in my twenties, I wrote in my journal: “I trust in the rhythm and wisdom of my body.” I wrote it in a spiral with different color markers, and often turned back to that page when I felt anxious, as just looking at those multi-colored words in a spiral brought a sense of calm. I knew enough to know that my body was speaking to me, but I didn’t know enough to understand the language. For the body doesn’t speak plainly and directly; it speaks in symptoms and metaphors, and for this reason requires that we slow down our pace and bend down to its level, much like speaking to a child, in order to hear and decipher its codes. The body, like children, carries wisdom that we can’t access from our heads. And that’s the point: our wisdom lives in our bodies, not in our heads.

Again: we cannot heal anxiety from our heads. Anxiety, itself a head space, needs a different energy field to heal it, which is the field and wisdom of the body. While an aspect of anxiety arises from cognitive distortions and unrealistic expectations that then lead to a barrage of “shoulds” and to this end does need the truth-water of which I so often speak, this is only the first step of healing. To heal at the root requires engaging from the root, which means coming into the heart’s pain and joy and the body’s pregnant wisdom. The pathways that lead to our pain and thus our healing are found in the ancient woods of the body.

Yet for so many people the body has become a source of shame and confusion, which causes them to shut down to its offerings and deny its wisdom. How do we, then, access our storehouse of wisdom if we’ve shut down the pathways that lead there?

We must start at the beginning. We must be willing to retrieve our shame stories from their underground hiding places and bring them gently back into the light.

This is what I teach in Sacred Sexuality: A 40-day program for women to heal body shame and ignite desire. Together, we shine a clear and gentle light on these darkened-over places. Together we examine the history of shame and peel away the layers of story that hide the wisdom of our shining, beautiful bodies. Together, we chart new pathways that will lead to a new connection with your body.

Sacred Sexuality focuses on sexuality, but it’s so much more than that. For sexuality doesn’t exist in a vacuum but is intimately interwoven with our creativity, our mother-line, our self-trust and self-love, and our wildness.

If you struggle with dropping down out of your head and into your body, this course is for you.

If you struggle with anxiety, which is a head-space, and long to learn how to access your body’s wisdom, this course is for you.

If your body is a source of shame and you struggle with knowing what it means to “drop down into your body”, this course is for you.

If you long to feel healthy desire, both sexually and creatively, this course is for you.

The third round of Sacred Sexuality: A 40-day program to heal body shame and ignite desire begins on Saturday, June 23, 2018. I look forward to meeting you there.

25 comments to A Foundational Key for Breaking Free From Anxiety

  • Mayberry

    Dear Sheryl,
    Another beautiful post as always. Thank you. I took OYH last year and loved it. I think SS would be of great value to me and my partner. Two questions in the meantime. 1. I recently broke my foot so have been compromised and less mobile of late. I am meditating and journaling on the regular but miss the healthy rush that comes from vigorous exercise I can’t participate in for another month. Is there anything I can give myself to experience those feelings in the time being? Or is just a matter of accepting that this temporarily sucks? Second, being home and inactive leaves me so much time to think and obsess about health symptoms, real or imagined, in my husband. I remember you saying you were working on a health anxiety course and I will be first to sign up 🙂 in the meantime, is there anything I can do to relieve this? I think part of it is feeling super attuned to my body right now since Im in such a weird state. Thanks again for all you do.

    • I’m so sorry about your foot. I would encourage you to do anything you can to stop into you body, including breathing, simple yoga practices that don’t involve your foot, and even dancing in a safe way. The more you shift into your body the more you’ll stay out of your head.

  • A timely reminder to let the overprocessing go. I have a very fast-paced, highly energetic toddler. Which is total fun but she also falls and gets hurt more often than her friends do because of her nature. She fell today (she’s fine) but it triggered my anxiety. I felt sad that I can’t always protect her from everything. I know it’s not realistic but I still want to. Instead of it being this one time she got hurt and is okay and moving in (like she did!) I got stuck in ruminating. Thanks for the reminder to drop down into my body; I haven’t been in there for most of the day 🙂

    • Of course you want to protect her from everything! It’s the most natural instinct as a parent, and yet our ultimate learning is around practicing letting go, again and again and again.

  • MIke

    Hi Sheryl,

    Will you do a sacred sexuality course for men?
    I am a member of your break free and trust yourself course and I’d like to thank you so much for doing the work you do; it has helped me with my relationship anxiety and I have started to turn inward with openness and curiosity into the body.

    Regards,
    Mike

    • That’s really great to hear, Mike. I would love to be able to offer a course for men but I’ll have to collaborate with a male colleague in order to create it as I just can’t possibly know and understand a man’s sexuality, which is similar in many ways but also very different from a woman’s. It’s very much needed, however, and I hope to be able to offer it one day.

  • Mike

    Thanks Sheryl. I look forward to the chance of doing that course.

    Mike

  • Mike

    Sheryl I’m wondering for the meantime can you recommend anyone else’s work on man’s sacred sexuality?

    Thanks again,
    Mike

  • Cassie

    Hi Sheryl– Thank you for another great post. I just wanted to say I’m excited to see that you’ll be writing more about shame. It’s such a powerful emotion that can get implanted in our child selves so early! I still feel the emotion of shame crop up even if the event or situation at hand isn’t really “shameful”. For example, even just going through a tough time at work or with a friend can make me feel shame and bad about myself. Or another example is having relationship anxiety. I have improved A LOT is in this regard, especially with Trust Yourself and BreakFree, but it’s just interesting to me that shame even comes up in these instances.

  • Ingrid

    Hi Mike, I find David Deida’s books on men’s sacred sexuality very illuminating.

  • Mike

    Wow thank you so much Ingrid for the recommendation. I really appreciate it. All the best to you! 🙂 Mike

  • K

    Sometimes I’m able to access the place of knowing, but even when I access it, it’s never an emphatic ‘Yes’, it’s just something along the lines of ‘this is good for you’ , ‘I’m with a beautiful person’. But it’s never strong enough for my anxieties to fall away. Is this normal?

    • Natalie

      I’m not sure, I’m not working efficiently with my fears yet, but I think that’s completely normal. You most likely started out like a lot of people on this site. Sheryl said in one of her articles that it’s not the thought that’s the problem, it’s the way you respond to it. The first time you had one of these thoughts, you probably responded with panic and trying to reassure yourself that you do love your partner. You love your partner, maybe you reached this conclusion the first time a thought came up and it was fine for a while, but you have created a habit in your thinking. Whenever a thought comes up, you’ll most likely seek reassurance that the thought isn’t true (because it isn’t true). Habits are really really hard to break. Not only are they hard to break, they are familiar, you know the result. By writing this I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, in fact what I’m trying to say is that healing needs time, breaking habits takes time, rebirth takes time, everything takes time. Don’t worry about the fact that it isn’t a resounding “YES” just because you accessed a place of knowing. Maybe all you need is a little time and working with your fears to hear that “YES” that is most likely already quietly playing in the background.

  • Mike

    Thanks for the Intimate Couple recommendation Sheryl!
    Mike

  • Laura

    Hi Sheryl,
    Do you have any advice or blog posts relating to being pressured by family and others to have a baby but you have relationship anxiety and this sets your anxiety into a whirlwind?

    • Not specifically but what you’re really describing is the consequence of lack of self-trust. If you google “conscious-transitions + self-trust” you’ll find all of my articles on this topic.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl,
    I always thought as everyone on this planet thinks, our heads are connected to our body and our body connected to our heads., our heads are our computer drive, so its very hard for me to go to my body first. Its a difficult thing to do. I need this course but i cannot afford it. I have gone with my intuition in the past with relationships and without. Is medidating an only way to get down to ur bodies. Ur inner wisdom and core?

  • Lidya

    My partner is anxious person, so often when the anxiety really intense, he would say to me that he’s unsure that Im the one
    I trained myself so that it wont trigger me,I used to be really sad when he says that, it would ruin my day..but I learned inner bonding , it really hepled me

    • Natalie

      I don’t know a lot about your situation, but I understand why it hurts you. All I can tell you is that I had similar fears about my partner, not because they weren’t the one or I truly believed they weren’t the one, but because they were the one (and I don’t mean this in the way that there has to be The One, but in the way that I love him and want a future with him), so the thought even coming into my head was the most horrific thing that could ever come into my head. Most likely he loves you a lot, he probably just needs to address his fears and work with them. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. I’m glad that you learned inner bonding and that it’s helping you. He needs to help himself, it is not your job. Have you shown him this website? It might help him. Also, google can be a useful tool if you know what to google. Instead of googling “how to tell if she’s the one” he could try “causes for relationship anxiety” …

  • Natalie

    How can I work with my fear layers in a way that will make my anxiety go away for a while? I’m having a very difficult time figuring out what exactly was underneath the fear layers…

  • Lidya

    Hey Natalie, yess thankyou..sometimes it’s gets really hard when my partner have the relationship anxiety n I was in low frequency (my issues are jealousy, envy, etc), need lot of work to heal

  • Lidya

    He often wondering maybe there is someone out there that will make him not as frustated as he’s with me , he always want me to be smarter than I am..I know that I contributed to his anxiety (my low self esteem mode), Ive been journaling since last 2 years, and I will keep doing that to understand myself

  • Bri

    Hi Sheryl,

    I am an relationship anxiety course member. I fully believe in the truths you speak and starting my inner journey. But I have one major question, in these early stages of high anixety, I still get a nervous chest pain/stomach anxiety when my partner comes home, i see a picture of him or just before we go to bed. Do you recommend visualizing these moments of anxiety to “encounter them” (CBT style) or do you think that will further ingrain patterns of anxiety for my mind to replicate? Thank you for all you do!!

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