One of the misconceptions about the journey of mental health is that once you “heal” (as if healing is a linear process and a final destination; it’s not), you’ll never feel uncomfortable symptoms again.
This isn’t the case.
No matter how healed you are, you’ll still have anxiety. You’ll still have intrusive thoughts. You’ll still have nameless dread. You still struggle with shame and perfectionism.
And do you know what? It’s not only impossible not to struggle but it’s also not desirable as our symptoms are our most reliable messengers that something is off-kilter in our inner world. Trying to get rid of anxiety would be like trying to get rid of physical pain: how else would we know when we’re hurting?
Rather than trying to eliminate anxiety, breaking free from its grip means that you have grown the capacity to access the choice-point: when anxiety shows up you can choose to respond rather than react.
Reacting sounds like:
“OH NO, I’M ANXIOUS AGAIN AND WHATEVER ANXIETY IS TELLING ME IS DEFINITELY TRUE.”
(I.E. I DON’T REALLY LOVE MY PARTNER
I HAVE A TERMINAL ILLNESS
SOMETHING CATASTROPHIC IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ONE OF MY CHILDREN
IF I DON’T ACT ON THIS OBSESSION WITH A COMPULSION SOMETHING HORRIBLE IS GOING TO HAPPEN.)
Responding sounds like:
“Oh, hello anxiety. This is very uncomfortable. I can tolerate this discomfort and I can become curious about what the message might be that you’re trying to deliver.”
Accessing the choice-point hinges on having a consistent parent at the helm of your inner ship, which is a growable and teachable skill. Growing a loving inner parent means committing to taking full responsibility for your pain and well-being, and is also the part that can bring curiosity and compassion to your inner world. And the more you grow your inner parent the less anxiety has to show up because you’re already attending regularly to your inner world and attending to the four realms of Self – cognitive, emotional, physical, and spiritual – that need your attention.
This is a significant part of what I teach in my 9-month course, Break Free From Anxiety.
The last round of this course was full of extraordinary humans who were ready and primed to learn how to step in and show up with their inner parent. As the course ended and we had our final call, several of these brave souls shared their experience and their gratitude. I’m sharing two of them here (you can find many more on the course page):
From Hubert in Toronto:
I came to this course having already done the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety self-paced course, which had been very helpful. The 9-month course, however, was really something else and exactly what I needed in order to achieve a breakthrough. I cannot thank Sheryl enough for all the work she put in this course, and it fully delivered. Receiving an email every single day for 9 months gave a consistent influx of energy and resulted in my response to anxiety gradually changing – which I didn’t think was possible! The forum and the group calls (including the small groups) were also extraordinarily helpful in connecting with like-minded people and in receiving and sharing support.
The biggest change I noticed is that I have stopped being afraid of the anxiety itself. I never thought I would be able to become curious about what the anxiety was trying to say, but it’s exactly what happened. As a concrete result I finally had the courage to ask my girlfriend to move in together, which I had been postponing after several years of being crippled by relationship anxiety. Not only did the fear fade away, but it was replaced by a quiet excitement and optimism towards the future. I realized probably for the first time in my life that I was the one responsible for my own inner well being. It took a lot of dedication to get there, and this course was exactly the help I needed. I cannot recommend it enough!
And from From Bex in New Zealand:
“Intrusive thoughts and anxiety have always appeared at key moments during my life: marriage, pregnancy, postpartum and now menopause, only during menopause nothing worked to fix my pain on the outside. Fortunately I found Sheryl Paul.
On her course there were a couple of fundamental turning points which gave me courage to start healing.
Owning my pain.
Taking Response-ability for the pain and going in to the dark cave to uncover what had been repressed for over 45 years …some gold I have found. My inner child. Self-trust emerging. A very, very loud dramatic 8-year old ego who will do anything to keep me quiet and make sure I’m a good girl and never cause pain to the people I love so I don’t feel pain. Embracing all my emotions.
Intrusive thoughts. A big Carl Jung fan, Sheryl’s definition of these being an escape route from pain plus metaphors struck a chord with me. As it turns out I do believe one recurring thought has saved my life.
This course is a game-changer. Something you need to do to make sure you put yourself first, live your best life and return to your sacred self – the self you were always meant to be.
Love you, Sheryl. Thank you for giving me the courage to find my way home.