What is the Work of Breaking Free from Relationship Anxiety?

A coaching client recently said to me, “You talk a lot about doing “the work”, and I wondered for so long what “the work” was. I thought that if I understood anxiety intellectually I would feel better. And the first time I went through the course I did feel better for a while, which I know is very common for new course members. But then I felt anxious again, and I realized that I wasn’t doing the work.”

“How do you understand the work now?”

“For me it means going underneath the story. It means taking the information out of the realm of intellectual understanding and putting it into practice. It means dialoguing with these different parts of myself, which is about engaging with them instead of being fused with them. It’s so different to dialogue with the part of me that’s scared of intimacy as opposed to just thinking … Click here to continue reading...

Heartbroken Not Broken

Shame is often a placeholder for powerlessness and a protector against grief. Instead of feeling the rawness of grief, the mind latches onto a shame story that says, “I’m broken.” Instead of surrendering to the powerlessness of painful situations that had nothing to do with you, like your parents’ divorce or any other trauma, the shame story says, “It was all my fault.” Instead of leaping off the cliff of thoughts and diving into the sea of vulnerability that defines being human, the shame story says, “I don’t deserve love.”

These shame stories often arise in childhood as brilliant defense and survival mechanisms, for if children were to see the truth of their family, social, societal, or education situations and feel the corresponding feelings of loneliness and heartbreak they would crumble. Shame gives us an illusory sense of control: If it’s my fault, I can change it. If I’m doing … Click here to continue reading...

Flags Versus Red Flags

One of the most common questions I’m asked during a coaching session is, “What are red flags? You say that if I’m suffering from relationship anxiety and I’m in a healthy and secure relationship without red flags then the anxiety is a manifestation of pain that needs attention as opposed to intuition that I’m in the wrong relationship. But what exactly are these red flags?”

It doesn’t matter that I list the red flags explicitly in my course and succinctly here on my site; people need to hear directly from my mouth that whatever particular hook they’re struggling with doesn’t constitute a red flag. I understand this completely. When fear takes hold, one of the stories it spins is that you’re unique and that the messages that you’re reading about anxiety don’t apply to you. Fear can do this around health anxiety, money anxiety, social anxiety, any anxiety. When fear … Click here to continue reading...

A Moment in My Marriage

There are moments in my marriage that take my breath away.

Last Sunday on Mother’s Day, the four of us spent several hours working on my garden. My garden is one of my sanctuaries, but every year the grass from the lawn finds its way into my vegetable beds and by mid-summer they’re overrun with weeds. Last autumn we realized that we needed to make a border around the garden to prevent the grass from crawling over, so my request for Mother’s Day was my family’s help to create this barrier. This required renting a heavy piece of equipment to cut the sod then transporting twenty, sixty-pound bags of rock from the store into my garden. I’m all for women’s empowerment but I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage this one on my own. My husband was more than happy to help.

We worked all day together. While my … Click here to continue reading...

The Gift of Projection

Projection is one of the most important concepts to understand when you’re stuck in relationship anxiety or any manifestation of anxiety. It’s a psychological term that essentially means we’re stuck in a story about someone or something else with the belief that it’s true, and that if the person or thing would change we would feel better. Everyone will, at some point, find themselves stuck in a projection; it’s part of being human. Projections are a bit challenging to define and even more challenging to see when you’re in one. In Wikipedia’s words:

“Psychological projection or projection bias (including Freudian Projection) is the unconscious act of denial of a person’s own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to the weather, the government, a tool, or to other people… Projection is considered one of the most profound and subtle of human psychological processes, … Click here to continue reading...