A Root of Anxiety

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

Thankfully, bullying has received a lot more attention these days than ever before. When I was growing up, I rarely heard the word bullying, and it was certainly never a topic discussed at school assemblies. We’re now more culturally aware of the insidious and rampant effects that bullying can have on young people and we know that, tragically, it can even lead to suicide. But what we hear less about are the micro-moments and behind-the-scenes attacks that can come from so-called friends, a single moment when someone who you trusted turns against you in some way. For a heartier personality type, a moment of being made fun of may easily roll of their back, but if you’re highly sensitive, those small comments dig in like weeds with spiny roots, spreading underground in a way that makes them difficult to pull out.

Alain De Botton says it well in The Course of Love: A Novel as he’s describing what the main characters’ young son is like:

“He’s not worried about seeming abnormal, for there is as yet, blessedly, no such category in his imagination. His emotions remain unguarded. He is not afraid – for now – of humiliation. He doesn’t know about notions of respectability, cleverness, or manliness, those catastrophic inhibitors of talent and spirit. His early childhood is like a laboratory of what humanity in general might be like if there were no such thing as ridicule.”

What might humanity be like if there were no such thing as ridicule? What an amazing question. What would you be like if you hadn’t been ridiculed, if those categories and notions of “normal” and “manliness”, of “popularity” and “cool” never pierced, then deflated, your imagination? When we’re conditioned to try to be “normal”, we easily lose sight of who we are. And when parents and teachers attempt to squeeze kids into the societally and socially prescribed box of normal, they, too, contribute to the crushing loss of spirit that often begins in the school-age years.

As we do our healing work, it becomes essential to identify and uproot those micro-moments as best we can. We can start by making a list of each of them, allowing the watery realm of the unconscious to reveal more than we remember as we consciously open the door to those memories. It can be healing to tell those stories in a journal, in therapy, to our partner, or to a close friend  – allowing ourselves to sink back into the pain and instead of brushing it away or squashing it down, as we had to do at the time to get through, we invite it to surface. We welcome the pain and watch as it roils up like waves. We validate that yes, that was unkind and yes, that hurt and yes, it affected me in ways that I’m only now allowing myself to see.

I remember the moment a “friend” in my gymnastics class made fun of my ears. Another girl latched on (because that’s what girls tend to do), and every so often they would both make fun of my ears. I was eight years old. I hated my ears throughout the rest of my adolescence. I remember when a “friend” in seventh grade made fun of my first and last name and turned it into a sing-song version of a physical disability. I put the word “friend” in quotations because I don’t believe that true friends say things that carry a bite or a sting, or if they do say something insensitive there’s room in the friendship to talk about it. I experienced many more incidences socially that caused more crushing pain, of course, but it’s these smaller incidences that also need attention because they’re societally invalidated and so are more easily squashed down and labeled as meaningless.

As we get older, it’s no wonder that we find it difficult to trust our partners, our co-workers, and even our friends. If the scroll of “friend” that lives in the unconscious contains paragraphs or pages of writing that documents the stories of our pain – pain that we were told to “get over” because “can’t you take a joke” – we will almost inevitably project that pain onto current, trustworthy, intimate people. The script says, “People aren’t to be trusted,” which translates to an easy projection of assuming that when your partner says something insensitive, he or she is doing so with the intent to hurt. This is why unflinchingly committing to our healing work is so essential to the unfolding of healthy adult relationships: the more aware we become of our root causes of anxiety and pain, the more easily we’re able to see it, name it, and reel back in the projection. Every time we say, “The story I’m telling myself is…” or “I’m sorry it’s not you” we step onto that most essential train of responsibility, which is the singlemost important step we can take in our healing journey.

75 comments to A Root of Anxiety

  • Mike M

    I was bullied a lot at school, about having dyspraxia, about my appearance, and as I had grown up in the Middle East previously, a lot about how little I knew about sex.

    This would sometimes be physical – punching, pushing over, but just as often be ridicule by those around me.

    When I think of these moments it’s no surprise that I have self esteem issues and how I can translate it into my relationship, but I often forget this and think worse of myself for being anxious.

    Thanks Sheryl, this has been a really healthy reminder.

    • Thank you for sharing this, Mike. Few things break my heart as much as childhood bullying. I hope you can bring a lot of compassion to that young boy who was treated cruelly.

  • growinglove

    Hey Sheryl,

    I liked this post. I think it is important to ground ourselves by reflecting on what led us to be where we are today. For me, my parents have played a huge part in my current state. For example my overly critical father, and then my mother who easily feels guilty – I’ve internalised both states for myself. I did also experience a lot of teasing about my (then) unibrow by peers at school, and became increasingly self conscious about my appearance. It’s funny that when my boyfriend doesn’t remove his unibrow, I fantasise about him looking more neater and how I’ll feel better when he begins to take care of his appearance… My only issue is, sometimes my brain likes to fixate on just one thing. I don’t know how well I can explain this but, for so long I thought that because I’ve had a bad past with men (including issues with sexual harassment), that was my reason to have intimacy (physical/emotional) with my current partner. Then I started therapy and me and the therapist heavily focused on my relationship with my parents in my childhood and when I was growing up. I know that realistically, the combination of toxic parenting as well as a bad past with men, has contributed to how I am with my partner. But I have neglected addressing the ‘bad past with men’ and focused more on how my parents were with me when I was growing up – it’s hard for to me to really take into account what has led me to be the way I am because admittedly there is a lot of hurt I carry from my past relationships with other men. I feel like I only want to blame one thing and end up feeling very angry towards my parents. How can I work with my pain if I feel there is a resistance (mentally) to want to accept that I have been mistreated by men also, and not just my parents? I’m sure there are other reasons as to why I am the way I am, but there’s a lot of blockage on how I can get past what is actually bothering me. Sorry Sheryl, I hope I made sense.

  • J

    my situation is painful in the sense that I’m latching onto ‘flaws’ in my partner for which SHE was bullied. So it’s like I’m abusing her all over again with my mind 🙁

    • This is common, and so painful. As you soften your own walls and edges, you will soften to her as well. It’s also essential to remember that focusing on her “flaws” is a projection, meaning the important place to focus is on your own “flaws”, which often link back to your own pain. Were you bullied, ridiculed or teased at all?

      • J

        not bullied or ridiculed, but I had a HUGE amount of academic expectation placed on me by my parents. And my spike theme is, surprise surprise, my partner’s intelligence.

        • And that’s exactly how projection works. Brilliant, isn’t it?

        • LightAtTheEnd

          When im projecting…I find it so difficult to realise it…because my feelings are so real and appear to be bang on target!
          ‘He is not good enough…because of X,Y,Z’ often comes up (with evidence) and so it’s very difficult to trust that this is a projection and not my truth.
          Although it sounds so arrogant of me…I don’t think it’s just a question of saying…your projection actually means ‘YOUR not good enough’…as its not hitting the nail on the head of me.
          I invariably focussed on the wrong/opposite thing ie. on his flaws instead of mine because his flaws annoy me more I guess! And I’m fairly obsessed with thinking that if I had the choice again, I might have chosen differently…Ha. Bless him. It’s a punishing thought…and one that gets a lot of airtime in my head…
          Such patience and understanding of where I am at and why I’m can feel stuck is required continually. I need to pull away the projection countless times a day…and offer myself bucket loads of awareness to stop me blaming him for the way I feel.
          Not easy graft…but well worth it I’m sure x

          • I would challenge you when you say that “He’s not going enough” doesn’t mean “I’m not good enough.” It can be very tricky to see our own sense of unworthiness, but I can guarantee that it’s there (especially since I know your story). That’s the place to focus.

          • LightAtTheEnd

            Challenge accepted. Will give it some serious thought….

    • MB

      Sheryl and J,

      Your posts about projection based on academic expectation was like a light bulb for me. I never fully understood why one of my anxiety spikes was my partner’s intelligence until today. Thanks for the clarity!

  • Katie

    when I’m at work and waitressing, if there’s a cute guy or a table of guys, it’s like my head is saying “I wonder if they are looking at me” when I’m walking past them, or I could be serving on the bar and my head will make me feel like I’m trying to look good in front of a guy. At the moment my head is fixed on one guy in particular and a few months ago it was fixed on a different one. I don’t have any attraction to the guy. Yeah he is good looking but I’m not bothered by that. Whenever a guy does try talking to me I’m so off and blunt with them so that they know I’m not interested. I’ve been off work all weekend and my heads been fine regarding it and it’s only been playing up the last couple of hours because I’m due in work tomorrow so in a way I know that I’m gonna have to deal with my head. Do any of your courses cover things like this?

    & does anyone else go through something like this?

    • Katie

      It makes me question if I love my partner if I’m wondering if other guys are looking at me and if I’m trying to look good in front of them :/

  • Bra77

    Hey Sheryl! Haven’t posted on here since August of 2016 where I finally bought the Relationship Anxiety course as my relationship went long distance for the school year and I’m quite proud of that. It was very hard at times dealing with the courses, but well worth it and I felt a lot better. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been struggling with togetherness with my partner. When we lived away I’d see her 1-2 (if lucky) weekends together which was great, but whenever I would be back for a week I’d be overwhelmed with seeing her and the constant need for her to be together. At school, I was alone at least 12 hours a day and never constantly with anybody for 3 hours or more. Since being home, I’ve realized I’ve wanted to see my friends more because I really haven’t seen them much since I left. Is this wrong? I feel like I’m wanting to be with my friends more since I’ve came home then her and just feel very overwhelmed with the amount of time (7 days a week somettmes up to 10 hours a day.) is there something wrong with her relationship or me?

    • Of course it’s not wrong to see your friends! In fact, we need to have a healthy amount of separateness in order to maintain health and balance in our intimate relationship, and seeing friends is an essential component to the formula.

  • Angela

    Dear Sheryl,
    Im so glad you written a blog about BULLYING. Today im not working and i sit on the lounge and while reading this important topic that is now spoken about so freely, which is a good thing. Like yourself, growing up bullying was never talked about. I was bullied in high school by these cruel girls on a daily basis from a couple of girls whom i thought were my friends from primary school. They kept telling other girls not to be my friend for no reason at all. I was called PANADOL because of my surname being Pandolfo. I use to laugh at them and say to them. If you got a headache come and ask me for a Panadol, i have a stock full. Back then i managed it the best way i could, i ignored their rude comments and they kept going until i responded. I didnt I was playing their game in a smart and mature manner. As a teenager i was such a brave young girl. I had many friends but because of the bullying i had low self esteem that i wanted to be my own friend. I could only trust myself. And one teacher who was so caring and supportive.

  • Angela

    They also say if you were bullied then you will become a bully. I never became a bully, As an adult, I became indecisive, protective of family and friends, lacked confidence, always anxious, paranoid about people hurting me on purpose because I was feeling being different to everyone else. I dont have another head, just the way i perceived myself. Friends would say to me often, angela your attractive and not overweight and guys will want to go out with you. But look at me they would because of this and that. It didnt make me feel better about myself at all.

  • Ruth

    Hi Sheryl,
    I’m finding your blog so helpful at a time when not much else is helping, so thank you!

    I’ve done a lot of work about my childhood with counsellors and identified certain key moments which were damaging, including ridicule from ‘friends’ and also a particular teacher (which was extremely damaging to me I believe).
    Whilst I am really aware of a lot of the reasons why I’m struggling so much with anxiety, self-esteem and relationship obsessions and anxiety, I feel that my anxiety is at it’s worst in my life.
    Any thoughts on what the next step should be? I feel I am spread so thinly on all the things I’m trying, that I don’t know what to focus on and am scared I’ll be in this cycle for ever (of feeling bad so working on myself, then feeling better so losing focus, then being surprised by a huge dip again, etc).
    Thanks again! I’m recommending this blog to lots of people!

    • Hi Ruth – Have you taken the Break Free course yet? That’s where I offer very clear and detailed guidance on the steps to take so that you can break free of your anxiety.

  • Katie

    The thought I’m suffering with today is “I don’t love him but I’m scared to leave him incase I don’t meet anyone as amazing as he is” when I have these thoughts I try and ask myself “have you not loved him for the whole time you’ve been together” and I somewhat feel better because I’m an honest person and I know that I wouldn’t lie about something like that. & when I look back I’ve had a lot of days where I’ve felt a lot of love for him. I’m waiting to do the break free course but we go on holiday in less than a month and I’m scared that I’ll do the course before then and realise that I don’t love him and have to let him go

    • You’re not going to realize that, Katie. I urge you to do the course!

      • Katie

        What about if there’s been times where my partner has argued a little with his parents as he’s sticking up for me and deep down I’ve enjoyed/liked it, does that mean I don’t love him?

        • Katie, get the course. You’re driving yourself crazy by continuing to post here and avoid doing the real work. There’s nothing more we can offer you in the comments section of this site.

          • Katie

            I will do I’m sorry, I’m just wondering if that makes me a bad person and a chance that i don’t love him that’s all

          • No need to be sorry, Katie. I know you’re just trying to find comfort and reassurance. But you’re not going to find it here anymore.

          • Katie

            I wasn’t asking for reassurance on that, I was genuinely just wondering does that make me a bad person and a sign of not love. I will be getting the course.

          • Katie

            Please I am just asking as a genuine question if me liking/enjoying a little bit my partner having a fallout with his parents for sticking up for me and sometimes not makes me a not nice person towards him? This isn’t an intrusive thought, I’m just genuinely wondering if something like that can mean a sign of not loving someone. This is the last time I post on here as I will be purchasing the course.

  • Sam

    Dear Sheryl

    I was bullied as a child in primary school which affected my ability to form trusting friendships in high school. As I became older, I realised bullying also occurs in families. I was bullied and manipulated by the female members of my family unrelentingly. I’m now 41 and they still attempt to bully me. I have resorted to removing myself from my family. Although you can cut your family out of my life, they still live on in my head and continue to affect personal relationships and friendships. How do I stop the bullies consuming and influencing so much of my life?


    • It’s often essential to limit contact with toxic family members, but yes, that doesn’t address the effects that they have in your own mind. This is where a daily practice like journaling or mindfulness comes in, for it’s when we start to see the thoughts clearly that we can challenge them and replace them with the truth.

  • Rachael

    Whenever I discuss my school years with my mother, she says, “You always loved school.” But I remember feelings of having to fit in and such inadequacy. Now I am always seeking approval before I do something as simple as paint a room. I am looking at this now from the lens of a parent and have made the decision to homeschool our children. We live in Canada and my daughter would be starting a whole day away from me having not even turned 4. It doesn’t feel right to me. I want her to feel confident in who she is and not feel that need to conform and fit in. Thank you for this post today.

    • I understand that decision completely, Rachael. Homeschooling is often the most loving choice for highly sensitive kids, especially when they’re not ready for a full day of school yet.

  • Newly Married

    I remember that my grand father once said in front of me that I was not the favorite that my cousin was and to this day I havent forgot it, it made me feel that that I was not special and that I am insignificant I feel that so much that its painful to live like that. I know in my head that the truth is that we are all special, but emotionally I dont feel that way, I feel insignificant and not special.

  • Grace

    My family and friends have always valued the status of my significant other. How popular or attractive he was, how much money he would be making, if he “fit in” to the exclusive group in my hometown. I never thought it mattered much to me as long as he was loving and supportive but now that we are seriously dating, I’m constantly measuring him up against my friend’s significant others or past boyfriends. In a word, it’s exhausting. Should I expect to have to fight off these toxic thoughts forever?

  • Leah

    I had event in my childhood around the age of 9 (I can’t remember the exact age, not sure why that is) where I was molested by a family member. I was bullied by this family member as well, but not in the typical ways. I felt that I was always trying to get his approval, and I felt rather controlled by him at times. I went along with what happened during the event, although I felt it was wrong. I was too scared to move I think, or perhaps my instincts told me to go along with it as a protection. There are certain parts of the event that I do not have memory of, but know that once i was able to get up and leave, I felt very confused and possibly a little shocked, but immediately felt nothing.I never said a word to anyone until about two years ago, and i eventually told my therapist when I became curious of the possible effects. I was not consciously aware and thinking of this event throughout my life, and until I got relationship anxiety, was something I just thought had happened to me but wasn’t traumatic enough. I am wondering what your thoughts are on situations like these, as I never got PTSD from the event, I was able to see this family member several times over the years without fear for the most part, and I never cried from it. Since dealing with relationship anxiety, I have been going over the painful parts of my life, or possible painful moments, but struggle to see where they might have affected my behavior and relationships. Is this still considered traumatic? I seem to look at other situations such as rape and compare the two, telling myself it wasn’t that bad, and I truly believe that sometimes. I am wondering if this event on top of many others in my life could be playing a much bigger role in subconscious turmoil than I am aware of. I have tried to dig deep with this particular event and am struggling with it. I don’t seem to feel pain from it, and recently, have been feeling numb and depressed, which is something i have struggled with slightly in my life time to time, but since getting relationship anxiety has been impossible to kick. I have worked through the Break Free course, but notice behaviors of mine that seem borderline bully-like themselves. Just wondering your thoughts. Thank you for your work, as well. You have truly made a difference in my life.

  • LovingKindness

    Hi Sheryl!

    While reading this post, I started to feel uncomfortable. That seems like a sign that something is up inside for me. I don’t remember being outright bullied but teased for being a nerd/smart — which I think I rubbed in other people’s faces because I didn’t feel socially accepted or attractive. I was a pretty “weird” child by society’s standards. I spend my days growing up in mud puddles and creating costumes and being animal characters from my favorite book series (Redwall something something, I forget now). I was always outside, up a tree, riding my bike, wading through the creek near our house, etc. Maybe that was “acceptable” as a younger kid, but as I got older in elementary school and still liked to do those things, I was judged by the other kids.

    I remember my childhood best friend made a comment about us being so ridiculous and strange when we were younger. I was so offended! I said, “No, we had creative imaginations and had a lot of fun!”

    Once I found hiking and backpacking, I realized I had found an adult way to be that kid again, and I loved it. Screw socially acceptable.

    I’ve also thought about how my perception of losing my friendship may have been informed by losing my 1st grade best friend, who told me that she needed a break/didn’t want to hang out with me all the time, as I had latched onto her as a best friend. I felt very rejected by this, understandably so, as an 8 year old.

    Thanks for another great post! Lot’s to think about.


    • Thank you for sharing this, LK. I love that vision of how you spent your days as a kid – seems that with the advent of video games and internet spending time outdoors in mud puddles and climbing tree are almost dying activities for kids – and I love “screw socially acceptable”!

  • Mr_B

    Hi Sheryl and Bloggers

    A source of my pain that I have identified was/is Facebook. Facebook became a tool for me to talk to girls. Double-edged sword in that it was also the tool girls spoke to me or ‘broke-up with me’ or i found-out they were dishonest to me about situations… Then when I finally settled with a girl (now my fiance 🙂 ) girls from the past continually contacted me (this was 4 years ago now) – as in they were always one foot in the door. I eventually got fed up and deleted my account. I deleted the account but never healed from the pain I think… I figured if someone can’t talk to me and I am in a healthy committed relationship why do I need Facebook msgs to bother me from a person that only bugs me and really has no future with me.. and I do believe that.

    However, the social ‘norm’ is to have facebook and to be online for hours at a time. Am I missing out on things? I am also worried that a girl from the past would re-contact me and I wouldn’t be strong enough to deal with what she might say. As in the course the ‘road untraveled’ .. I am very in love with my fiance and much of the anxiety is gone, but this facebook issue and my past, at times bothers me but I usually catch it in time and it doesn’t project onto my partner anymore – I am very much responsible for my life.

    But the thought of Facebook i think does cause me unease due to those reasons… Any advice anyone?

    Mr B

    • Deactivating Facebook or staying off it completely is one of the most loving actions we can do for ourselves, and is one of my foundational recommendations for many of my courses.

      • Mr_B

        Thanks Sheryl,

        I did note that in the course 🙂 and I thought wow look there is something I already did to protect myself 🙂 I have to say I agree though this is a loving action indeed!! Although a little anxious about it all I really feel like without those meaningless distractions I have more time to really focus on my task at hand or enjoy a real experience eg nature.

        Thank you Sheryl 🙂

  • Marcus

    Hi Sheryl.
    I got bullied and called names in school and what seems to affected me a lot was my teeth/smile. They are far from the “perfect teeth” in the media. I understand the whole projection thing and how it has manifested obsessive intrusive thoughts about my partner. Her smile is also un conventional and it brings me much anxiety. It was not what I focussed on in the beginning of our relationship, actually it was more her weight / size – something that I eventually not only got over but realised she is closest to my “type” that I have ever loved and I do in fact find her incredibly attractive and beautiful in that respect. However the more the love grew over the years and the closer we got the more the intrusive judgement of flaws shifted to her smile to the point i would cringe when she was laughing or otherwise in her happiest moods. 🙁
    It turns out that we had some red flags around important values and before I finished the course we separated.
    The love was as real as we had ever known, and I sometimes wonder if we could have patiently waited for the red flags to potentially dissolve in time, but we mutually agreed that since I was quite disturbingly depressed and that the relationship was literally taking all my energy just to stay somewhat calm, and that I wasnt excited or enjoying other parts of my life as once did, that we should separate. As it seems not worthwhile for me to invest so much of my energy at the expense of my well-being into a relationship that seemed to have a use – by date due to the red flags. BUT, I often wonder if the ego and fear was so determined and clever as to convince me to leave because of these red flags, but actually the anxiety about her physical appearance was so strong that I feel quite convinced that I need to find someone else in the future that does not have that flaw that reflects my own number one insecurity. I also feel that since that particular flaw didnt bother me to begin with, and that it hadnt in previous partners who had a similar flaw, that if I gave myself a break from being exposed to that person, it might fade away and since I will continue to do the course even while I am single, and attempt to heal myself and my insecurities, i may not ever be obsessed with that kind of physical feature again with a future partner.
    I also want to ask, do you believe that the things that we latch onto and perceive as flaws can literally be blown up in terms of perception? Some what like a person with body dysmorphic disorder might perceive themselves to be over or under weight even though they may in fact not be.? I actually suspect that I might have this to a certain extent related to my lack of weight. I have always been concerned that I am skinny but my partners always seem to insist I am normal or average.

  • Katie

    Please I am just asking as a genuine question if me liking/enjoying a little bit my partner having a fallout with his parents for sticking up for me and sometimes not makes me a not nice person towards him? This isn’t an intrusive thought, I’m just genuinely wondering if something like that can mean a sign of not loving someone. This is the last time I post on here as I will be purchasing the course.

  • Angela

    Hi Mr B,
    Firstly I would like to say Well Done for deleting your facebook account. You dont need girls disturbing you as it is overwhelming and annoying. Concentrate on your healthy relationship nothing is else more important. Dont feel like you cant live without Facebook because you can. If your concerned about keeping contact with your friends or close ones. Let them know your reasons through email. I can assure you they will think you made a mature and wise decision. I deleted my facebook account 9 years ago. Never regretted it.

    • Mr_B

      Hi Angela

      Thanks so much for your reply!! 🙂

      Your kind words mean a lot to me, its easy to forget that we are not alone at times. You are exactly right, was very overwhelming and annoying! Once i deleted facebook and focused on my relationship at hand I have to say it flourished and still is. I admit i am a huge phone messenger and txt all my loved one, i find that a better way to communicate and much more personnel. Thank you for reaffirming my actions 🙂

      Mr B

  • Yvonne

    Hello Sheryl, I know you get a lot of comments so you may not see this or even respond but I’ve been following your website for a few months now and I have to say I’m so glad I came across your website otherwise I’m scared I wouldn’t still be in my relationship. In the beginning of the relationship I guess you could say I had the “infatuation” stage for about 3 months and I honestly had never felt so blissfully happy with a guy before. So you can imagine how distraught I was when I had all the different kinds of “I don’t love him” thoughts enter. I’ve never really known myself to have anxiety before but I think I may have small versions of OCD, I can’t have the to volume on an odd number, constantly checking things which also includes my feelings. I’m worried that I’m starting to believe the theft that I don’t love him because I don’t feel it. Sometimes I try to picture myself breaking up with him and I seem not bothered and the same if I try and picture him breaking up with me. I don’t want this to happen of course, I want to be with this amazing man I call my boyfriend. I read through your red flags and we have none. I read about you saying sitting with the thought and letting it in but I struggle with this and I try asking myself what it’s protecting me from but It just comes back to me with “nothing, that’s just how you feel” 🙁 any insight please?

  • Katie M

    I think I project a lot of my negitive comments from friends / aquitences onto my boyfriend. At the start of our relationship my so called (friends) would make fun of my boyfriend because he wasn’t the kind of guy that my friends thought was suited to me (in other words wasn’t as cool/well dressed) and I always feel very insecure bringing him out in my hometown and always pressure him to wear something different because I’m afraid people will mock him/look at us weirdly.

    I’ve also always since I was about 12 been mocked within my friend group for being “boring”, I will admit I am more reserved than a lot of my friends and always have been but I see myself blaming my boyfriend for this more recently and getting angry and resentful kind of like grass is always greener syndrome, what if I should be out drinking, doing drugs, having random sex??? even tho this has never ever been something I’ve been interested in even before my relationship, I like to go out and have a drink and a good time because I am still young but nothing like what my friends are now beggining to get into. People tend to blame the fact I have a boyfriend on me staying in and not going out as much but most of the time my boyfriend is the one convincing me to go out and enjoy myself with friends.

    In conclusion at the moment I’m definitely trying not to give into societies message that I should be out all the time getting drunk at this age (19) cause everyone that does is so so happy and I’m miserable cause I’m not lol. But what’s even weirder is when I do see my friends and go out I feel immensely guilty if my boyfriend is at home alone, anxiety is so cruel and confusing

  • Jaybee

    I fully understand why I project the lack of “manliness” and “handiness” onto my partner, but how do you break that projection? I see it happening when I’m thinking “He doesn’t know how to do much, why do I have to be the handy one!” and yet I can’t stop it and then I get visibly annoyed with him and he gets hurt. Growing up my step father was the “manliest” and “handiest” person we knew (all subjective I know). It was HIS validation. I so desire to break this, because my partner possess many more wonderful characteristics than just being able to build a house, that my step dad does not. Early in our relationship, when my parents together (yea they divorced so obviously their model of relationship didn’t work out), they even had the nerve to approach me and tell me he was “soft”. WTF! Its hard feeling judged for having a partner different than what they would have chosen, because I do value my families opinion. Blah. It makes it uncomfortable sometimes. When I feel like this, I just think about my in-laws and how they’ve been together 40 years – and try and do more of what they do: kindness and respect without criticism.

  • Marlene

    Thank you. Beautiful.

  • Sophie C.

    So, I’m in a relationship with the most loyal, understanding and lovely partner for about 1 year and 2 months now. He’s my first real boyfriend and until last month, everything was absolutely amazing. I never thought about anyone else. We live together.

    However, when my dad left in April 17th to work (he works in another country) I had a nightmare in which my boyfriend lefts me and then I’m with another guy. This particular person was never my boyfriend, however, we made out 3 times and he gave me hope that we would be together at the time. Then, we left for summer vacation and he became very distant, and he wouldn’t want to meet me (we only spoke through text messages). He made me feel humiliated and begging for something I knew that it wouldn’t work out. Then, when we got back to school, he TEXTED me saying that we couldn’t be together. I became really depressed, due to the rejection. I started to take antidepressants and Xanax.

    4 months later, I was feeling better. I met a guy in college and I lost my virginity with him. Once again, he dumped me after 2 months. And after… I found the love of my life and my current boyfriend. Everything was perfect until I had that stupid nightmare.

    I woke up in panic, immediately searching online for dream meanings. And then, I tried to feel better by imagining marrying my boyfriend, and the face of the other guy appeared. OF COURSE, more panic. Then, I went to several forums and read about other’s people experiences with ROCD (Relationship OCD). It was like the symtomps got over me. Since then, I’ve been having panic attacks that made me feel horrible. It’s like I have these intrusive thoughts saying to me that I don’t love my dear boyfriend (which, by the way, knows about this and he’s very supportive. He actually says he went through similar things in his past with another people. And also says that this will pass and get better with time) and that I love the other guy. Deep down in my heart, and even though these thoughts can seem so real, I know that I can’t imagine my life without my boyfriend. I don’t want to live in a world where he’s not there. I want to wake up and see his beautiful face. I want to have a life with him.

    Why do I have these thoughts about the other guy? If I love my boyfriend, why do I have these? What if I’m just in denial and in fact, I want the other guy? Oh, and by the way, 2 weeks ago, I read an old e-mail from a friend of mine who works with Tarot Cards, and in that e-mail, he said that me and the other guy would eventually get back together. I was in panic when I read that. I DON’T WANT THAT TO HAPPEN. I want to be with my boyfriend forever! I’m so scared that will happen… I don’t want another person. I want to be with this guy who makes me feel so loved.

    Please, can someone give me a little advice? This is been going on for more than a month, what if it never passes and eventually me and my BF have to split up? I don’t want to be with the other guy, but what if I’m just in denial? I’m so scared.

    I even had another dream this night. The other guy would call me to be with him, but in the dream, I said: I’m scared. Our “relationship” is over. I’m now in another relationship and I don’t want to lose this person I’m with now. After that, my boyfriend reaches out to me saying that some people he knew died and that he was going to the funeral. I say “I’ll go with you” and then I woke up.

    I’m so scared of losing my boyfriend…

    • Sophie,

      I would guess that you’re having these thoughts and dreams about another man because you’re projecting your fear of rejection. You’ve been hurt in the past by these other guys and your brain is attempting to avoid getting hurt again like that by trying to convince you (with any reason possible) to leave your loving relationship. I went through the same thing (I’ve also been with my boyfriend for 14 months and just officially moved in with him – scary and exciting!) and once I learned what I was really afraid of, the anxiousness and the thoughts seemed quieter. My brain was trying to convince me I needed to leave, in the effort to leave him before he left me, to avoid the hurt.

      Yet, the last thing I wanted to do was leave him! I’m so in love with him and imagine/speak about our future together (engagement, wedding, houses, children, etc). My first and main panic attack left me in the hospital from being malnourished and out of work for a week, and my anxiety still creeps back from time to time. Now that I’m in the transition of living with him officially, it’s so interesting the intrusive thoughts that appear in my head randomly! It’s my fear peeking through in different ways, and once I identify it and acknowledge it, I can more easily get through it.

      My first and main advice to you would be to just stick it through. I know it’s painful right now and I know you’re in shambles trying to figure this out, but with time your calm will come. What I did was even in the moments my mind told me I didn’t love my boyfriend, I reached out and held his hand, or I cooked a meal for him – all loving actions. Show love to your boyfriend even when you “don’t feel like it,” because you know from the bottom of your heart that you know you do feel like it. In terms of your dreams, I talk through mine with my therapist (NOT my bf) to find that the literal events of your dream mean other things, sometimes completely unrelated! Your google searches probably won’t make you feel better, except for finding this site. 🙂

      You don’t have to leave your boyfriend. You can spend forever with him. You answered all of your own questions in your last sentence in the post: “I’m so scared of losing my boyfriend.” There it is! Now dig deeper, work with the fear and invite it in like a friend. Cherish him and love him as best as you can and the thoughts will subside, I promise. Feel free to talk to me whenever you need to, I know how hard and debilitating this can feel. <3

      • Sophie C.

        Hello Alyssa. First of all, thank you so much for your kind words!

        You know, there are times when these doubts dissapear, when I can be confident in myself and in the love for my boyfriend. But then, clarity kinda dissapears and I have this strange voice inside my head that says: I don’t love him.

        I don’t know why this happens but I try to believe that it’s just my fear of rejection turning against me. Also, this is my first official relationship, so I’ve never been through similar stuff before to know that this is maybe normal… What I do know is that I don’t want a life without this person, despite what my thoughts tell me. But I’m afraid that this never passes, and that we can’t make it through. I really don’t want to miss out the chance of being with my boyfriend forever. And I feel like this anxiety is trying to stop me from being happy in my relationship.

        I shouldn’t have read the posts in the forum from people with ROCD. It’s like I “catch” the symptoms! Before that, the doubts were never there.

  • Anna

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have a question that is a bit related to this week’s topic. What books/articles/websites would you recommend to people who want to learn about attachment styles? I’d be very grateful to hear some tips.

  • HannahR

    Hi sheryl
    I googled ‘I have a crush’ along with your name in the hope of finding an article that you have written about having crushes on co-workers when you are in a relationship. I came across articles but nothing specific to what I was searching for. But then I saw a website where a guy said that his girlfriend has RA and he ended the relationship and he thinks this work is BS and that you are doing a great deal of damage to women who have hearted feelings for someone. This has spiked me MAJORLY. Normally I wouldn’t spike at it, it’s because I am already kind of spiked by having a crush so this is the second blow. I hate having crushes on other people!

    • Someone else directed me to this person, so I’m familiar with his views. There will always be people who don’t agree with a body of work. What matters is for you to tune into what resonates as true and helpful for you. In the future, if you’re looking for a specific article of mine, it’s best to google “conscious-transitions.com + __________” – whatever the topic is you’re looking for. Crushes are very common, and, since they’re based on projection and fantasy, it’s best to look at them like dream images, by which I mean you ask, “What aspects of this person am I longing to introject into myself?”

    • K

      I think only people who have experienced this debilitating condition and dissonance of RA and/or fall under the sensitive/anxious/creative spectrum personality can relate to and resonate with what Sheryl says and writes about. For us, we know it deep down to be true and only because it so strongly resonates with us, we keep coming back here. And when you actually catch fear in its tracks, you have that ‘Aha’ moment where you unmask the multifaceted beat of anxiety and see it for what it truly is. That is what Sheryl helps us do. This is a place of truth, a place of clarity for all of us who are plagued with doubts and have grown up with a lot of misconceptions about love and relationships, thanks to the cultural conditioning and upbringing. I wouldn’t expect most people to understand this condition at all and hence they may not “approve” about Sheryl’s work. But what is important here is what we feel. I am sure most of us can agree to the fact that we have often found peace, clarity and sometimes valuable insights through Sheryl’s wisdom. So let the world say what it wants to say. Let us continue to tread in the path of truth and love and commit to what resonates with us.

  • Amber

    I came across your website and have been reading many of the blog articles. Before, I too found myself scouring the internet trying to find forums supporting relationships that are filled with anxiety. It scares me to read that many people believe passion is such an important feeling, and if I don’t have it then it may not be the right fit. I’m realizing that I’m not a bad person for perhaps wanting more attraction with my partner, but I’m struggling to understand if it’s being “pushed away” because of constant anxiety. It’s been 4 years, and it’s has never gone away. I truly only want the best for my boyfriend and I know that overall I’m responsible for my happiness. Apologies as I may be off-topic. It’s just that the previous comment upped my anxiety!

  • Yvonne

    This isn’t on topic but since I heard about the terrorist attack in Manchester I have been thinking about it a lot and for some reason just a moment ago I was thinking about it but I also had my boyfriend in my head and my head was like “wish he was there” WHAT?! I would never ever wish that upon anybody. I would be an absolute mess if my partner or anyone I knew was there. Could that thought of entered my head because losing my partner is something I don’t want to ever have to come across happening and I was thinking of such a sad situation? You say that fear protects us from what we fear most right?

    • Yes, fear does indeed try to protect us from what we fear the most. The ego sends out strange messages to try to control the future because the fear of the unknown is more terrifying to the ego than a known variable. So your mind says “I wish he was there” because it’s a known variable and it’s trying to protect you – in a very misguided way – from living with uncertainty.

      • Yvonne

        It’s just very strange and very disturbing. I wouldn’t dare think those things. I was washing up and was washing up my partners dads glass and I had a random thought like “want him to die” and that really bothered me, I got all annoyed with myself and was saying to myself “what? I don’t want him to die why would you even think that” its sad. It’s making me feel like such a bad horrible person when I know I’m not.

  • Hi this is my first time posting, it’s not about the bullying which I have experienced. This post is about the article on ‘he’s not my type’. It spiked me in many ways and if anything made me feel worse and more unsure about my partner. The lady who wrote it said you know when you know but I’ve never known that’s the problem. We’ve been together 5 and half years now. I have break free.

    • I read the article completely differently, Jennie. I read that she didn’t know at all, that she pushed him away for a long time, that she was certain that “he wasn’t her type”, that she was freaking out on her wedding day. It sounds like it took her a long time to have that sense of knowing, and that it was only through committing to their life together that she grew into knowing that she had made a loving choice.

  • Alisa

    As a parent, how can you help children cope? I have a 4 year old boy and an 8 month old. I constantly worry about protecting and building their selfesteem and question whether I am doing enough and/or the right things. I am always telling my 4 year old that he worthy of all good things in life, that I will always listen to him, that I will love him no matter what. I tell him to only be friends with people that treat him right and to walk away from those who don’t. I tell him if people are mean it is not about him….but about them. We read books about ‘filling buckets’. Bullying scares me a lot. I will feel crushed if my sons are ever bullied. Do you have any blog posts on what we can do, as parents, so that our children know they are worthy and enough? I don’t want my son to struggle with shame as I did. It took a lot of years of therapy for me to understand it all….

    • It’s a great question, Alisa, and the fact that you’re even asking it means that you’re probably doing everything you can do to protect your sons. You are your sons’ best immunization against the cruelty that exists in the world, which means that if they feel safe and loved by you they will know that they can always come to you if they are the victim of bullying. You will then advocate for them and teach them how to advocate for themselves; when kids know that their parents are a safe haven, they typically feel much safer in the world. Sadly, as much as we want to protect our kids from experiencing pain, it’s not possible. The best we can do is love them unconditionally and teach them the skills they will need to manage in a sometimes difficult world.

      By the way, we love the filling buckets book ;).

  • Yvonne

    Thank you, I can see what wonderful work you’re doing here:
    Something else I’ve been having trouble with the last couple of days is I worry that I don’t really love my partner and what if I’m wasting/ruining his life for him. I look at him and worry that I’m ruining his chances and pure loving happiness. I th n feel sorry for him because everyone deserves to be happy and loved and I’m just worried that I’m taking that away from him. I don’t by any means want to leave him, but the last few days that’s been on my mind. I don’t want to waste his life or anything, that’s not fair on him. Is this a common thought?

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