Doubt and the Drug of Happiness

With grateful permission, I’m sharing this post from my Conscious Weddings E-Course forum. This will give you just a taste of the brilliant wisdom that often passes through the virtual doors of this very special forum via the words of the compassionate, supportive, wise women and men that are working their tails off to break through their relationship anxiety.


I had these two MAJOR REVELATIONS running through my mind as I went to bed last night, and I forced myself to remember them! So thought I would share: (sorry to soapbox, it’s just a major mental breakthrough for me!)

1. You know the “doubt means don’t” thing – well I was thinking about what that all these experts and ‘people’ are saying and what Sheryl has just posted about in her blog / Oprah’s response, etc. Well, maybe there are two kinds of people: People who are unaware and people who are fully aware. The first kind are the people for whom doubt SHOULD mean don’t. These people may actually need to be hit on the head by a 2×4 to stop them making a bad decision – people who cannot see what you are on about and are hell-bent on doing something that IS actually bad for them – red flags and all and even make excuses for them.

People who are on the less intuitive side, perhaps less conscientious, immature, less aware. It’s not a criticism, I was that kind of person. When I was 10 years younger, I had absolutely NO clue about what real love was. I knew what it was supposed to feel like, though. I was ‘in love’ with this guy who never thought about coming over to see me (I used to drive an hour to see him all the time). I never questioned his bad moods and it was only in realising he made me feel like crap about myself (why didn’t I doubt? duh!!) and was not committed to us at all that I finally got the idea of wedding bells out of my head. Seven years ago (2 years before I met my now *husband* – love saying that! :), I met the man I thought I would marry. He, too, was someone I was totally into, never ever a doubt in my mind. I told everyone, “this is the guy I’m going to marry” – and same thing happened again. Do you think a doubt entered my mind about the relationship? No. Did anyone warn me about these guys – mum/family/friends etc? No. It hit me that no one questions you when you say you are ‘in love’ – they just go along with you, trusting when you are right for each other, no, they are damned HAPPY for you. No one questions your feelings of ‘love’ and yet they are all over you like a rash when you say you are having doubts – and even when you explain there are no red flags, no, still ‘doubt’ seems to mean ‘don’t’ to these people.

Well, I think this confusion is messing with the second type of person – HSP and intelligent / introspective / anxious people’s heads – I think, like Sheryl always says, the whole ‘doubt means don’t’ advice actually excludes people who are looking deeply at their relationship before marriage – ie (us) people who don’t need to be told that doubt means don’t.

So yeah: Say ‘doubt means don’t’ to a conscientious person is like a fricken red flag to a bull, we will go for it – looking (and finding) reasons to assume it applies to us.

Say ‘doubt means don’t’ to a person who isn’t aware and they will make excuses for the person’s behaviour and their own doubts.

Just my two cents here but I’m totally over these blogs about marriage that say these blanket statements to everyone and assuming everyone is the same. Moving on…

2. I also has this thought about the influence of the myth that meeting the One has on our modern culture (ruminating on Sheryl’s books here) but finally ‘getting it’ that people in Western culture really do cling to fairytales to give their lives meaning. As a single person I LOVED travelling alone, just the excitement of having the world open to me was addictive. The fairytale of ‘The One’ was indefinitely suspended when I was single because this intangible hope still existed that my life could suddenly change and become awesome/more fulfilled. I would go out to see romantic movies & buy magazines about people who made it clear that ‘the dream’ existed. When someone wins the lottery it entrenches the thoughts that instant ‘Happiness’ CAN exist and be ‘solved’ by this magical meeting of ‘THE ONE’ or by money. (Few people go beyond the happily ever after story into the aftermath of many lottery winners – there is often a lot of heartache there too that proves money, like another person, does not automatically bring happiness).

So to crush the myth that ‘love’ can ‘happen’ in our popular mythology is like saying to an addict that there is no more drug left, that you have to make your own happiness from your head, that the stimulus, the panacea to your LIFE, isn’t something you GET but something you create yourself. I reckon this fits in very well with our fast food – fast everything culture – the idea that love can suddenly hit you on the head and your life changes. If we didn’t have myths like that, god help us, we may have to find happiness from within, and like cooking vs fast food that takes time and patience.

Combined (and I’m only really just getting my head around it and probably not expressing it very clearly) these are really important revelation for me right now because I have been questioning WHY I have held onto the ‘dream’ in my darker moments of anxiety about past unavailable people and questioned the shit out of the amazing guy I have. I’d bought into the myth – hook, line and sinker – that a man, full of red flags or not, SHOULD just come out of the blue and make my life feel better. The idea that my feelings of ‘love’= real love and that doubt = don’t. It’s all opposite. No one can make me feel happy except for me, due to my own background, my feelings alone are a terrible indicator of what real love should be like and doubt DOESN’T mean don’t!


Spoken like a true conscious bride, now conscious wife. THANK YOU.

19 comments to Doubt and the Drug of Happiness

  • Mliz

    I love this post, thanks so much for sharing! This is definitely a big problem of mine. It’s like I am waiting for/relying on my boyfriend to make me this super happy person – all bc of this ideal fairytale love i grew up believing in. I am a very happy person, and my boyfriend is one of a kind, I will never find anyone like him – but I cant seem to get over the “doubt means dont” thing. There are some thing in my life that I want to change, that I know will make me much happier…and I know only I have control over them..but for some reason, I can’t seem to do it, and I feel as tho I take it out on him (bc I am frustrated with myself), which then feeds the cycle “if he were the one, i wouldn’t feel like this, or treat him this way… therefore, he must not be the one, if I am having these doubts, etc…” I need to work on myself first before I can truly give all of my love to him. I admire so much the way he can give himself to me, and the way he just moves through life, without letting doubts or any anxieties get in the way. I wish I could give back to him, what he gives to me. Hopefully one day 🙂 Sharon, or anyone else…any advice would be truly appreciated. Thanks!!

  • Lacy

    Yes! I love this post simply because I feel like this is exactly where I am at myself. I struggled through a month and a half of fear and doubt- thinking I can’t get married! I can’t marry a guy I have doubts about! And almost ending my engagement. In working with a counselor I’ve come to look back and examine past relationships, and there were two that I loved deeply before meeting my fiancé. Both had red flags waving at me for the course of our entire relationship but I was young and thought that I could just my feelings and know that that was love. But it wasn’t. And now I am with an amazing guy who loves me and has stuck by me while trying to work through my engagement anxiety and I realize that the love he gives me is real love. It doesn’t come with conditions or a “what can I get out of this” attitude that those other guys put into our relationship. I’m so glad I am finally starting to see what a lasting and unselfish love looks like. It was a hard journey, and I’m not done yet. But I think I’m finally getting there, and I love reading these posts from other brides who know what it’s like. And I’m really proud of myself! I’m glad I can take that into my marriage. I read a blog post from another woman who said “I have to believe that my marriage will be stronger because it was the result of forging ahead in dark times and confusion to reach the other side.” I love that. Thanks for sharing this post!

  • Mliz

    Sheryl** i just spoke to a sharon on the phone, sorry!!

  • Michelle

    If I applied “doubt means don’t” to other areas in my life aside from my relationship, there would be SO many amazing things that I would’ve missed out on. I think typically those of us who face doubts in our relationships also face doubts in a lot of other areas of our lives too. Anytime I do anything where risk is involved, my mind automatically questions and doubts – it’s just my nature. Some of my greatest accomplishments began with some serious inner chaos of doubt and questioning. I am sooooo thankful I never listened to the “doubt means don’t” people!

  • Lauren

    Doubt means doubt is so anxiety-producing. I just got done with my pre-cana classes (marriage classes for Catholics) with my fiance, and everything was going great – no anxiety, even when we were talking about our future and raising kids – until the end when we had to hold hands facing each other in the church and recite a pledge before God to each other. I grew so scared when it was my turn, and everything became so real. This fear of marriage, of the seriousness of it that so many people take for granted, came rushing at me. I do not want to feel that way when I get on the altar and face him to say our vows. Since then, I have had two very vivid dreams of calling off the wedding. Talk about doubt means don’t. I am trying to fight off that anxiety when I wake up from those dreams, but they are so real. Any advice? I just went from a really good place to a very doubtful place.

  • Lauren: It sounds like you’re interpreting normal, healthy fear as doubt. As soon as you feel healthy fear and then push it away with the thought that this isn’t normal or it’s a sign that you don’t really want to get married, the fear mutates into anxiety. See if you can connect and validate the core fear: the fear of marriage, the fear of something new, the fear of the unknown. You’re about to jump off a cliff – why wouldn’t that be scary?!? When you can breathe into that with acceptance, you’ll feel the space inside you opening up again and will be able to move back into a calmer place.

  • RPeli

    First off- Sheryl, your work is so inspiring and has provided me with so much reassurance on so many occassions. Thank you for all that you do
    I know this is probably a more appropriate question for the messageboards, but im not a member right now and Im hoping for some clarity. I was wondering whether others experience a spike in their anxiety when hearing of other people’s break-ups. In particular around ‘needing to be alone to understand yourself’/ needing to enjoy being single before enjoying truley being in a healthy relationship.
    This has come up for me over the past few weeks as at work im with some coworkers of simillar age (im 29) who have come out of long term relationships. I get spiked when I hear them talking about needing to be alone to learn more about themselves and wondering whether I should have done more of that or whether my relationship isnt healthy because I didnt?
    I should say that I have been with my fiance for 6.5 years and no red flags, but have experienced this anxiety for the past 3.

    Thanks again Sheryl for all that you do

    • It’s a VERY common spike for people on this site and on the message board, but what it comes down to is that people will leave relationships for all kinds of reasons, some healthy and some not. If your relationship is healthy and your partner supports your growth, there’s no reason why you can’t grow and “find yourself” within the container of your relationship. In fact, most relationship experts would say that it’s ONLY in relationships that you truly discover who you are and what your triggers and barriers are that prevent you from keeping your heart open. It’s easy to be alone, but it’s through relationships that we’re challenged to expand our capacities to love and be loved.

  • Lexi

    Hi Everyone, I feel like I know a lot of you just from reading the posts on the blog. Sheryl, since I’ve found your website I have found a tremendous amount of comfort and peace in knowing that so many people out there relate to what I am feeling in my relationship. I am getting ready to sign-up for the course, as I truly feel that I am in a place where I can mentally and emotionally commit to working through the fear and learning how to ‘get in the driver’s seat’. One of my biggest ‘spike’ themes lately is whether or not my boyfriend and I ‘have enough fun together’. I feel as though I am often analyzing the time we spend with one another to see if we’re are having fun and enjoying our time, and that in itself prevents ‘fun’ from actually happening? Does anyone else ever feel like this? I also feel like the anxiety makes it difficult to relax, and thus be in a state where I can actually experience ‘fun’? I don’t really feel depressed or hopeless or anything like that, just overly critical perhaps? Does this make sense?

  • RPeli

    Thanks Sheryl- I guess despite everything, its just so reassuring to know Im not alone, especially during my ‘less than centred’ moments

  • auswifey

    Hey Lexi, I wanted to chime in and say as a member of the e-course you will have soooo much support on the forums to work through that fear. In particular, speaking to the fear of not having enough fun, 🙂 it’s probably self evident to you already that when you are in a state of anxiety or ‘projection’ where we are nit picking our partners every action, it is clearly not the road to fun. No one can have fun in that state of mind. So, as Sheryl’s work often prescribes, allowing yourself to ‘breath into’ the fear of not having enough fun, and being ok with that is the first step to overcoming anxiety. Saying ‘It’s Ok we’re not having fun, but we’ve have fun at other times and we’ll have fun again one day. I’m just feeling anxious right now and that’s ok too.’ disarms the need for there to be fun right now, which ironically may relax you enough to have fun in the near future! Anxiety is a vicious circle isn’t it – you want the thing you want but anxiety stops you from getting it. Learning about how to deal with the critical/anxious voices is part of the e-course.

    Rpeli – I second that advice from Sheryl & one of the things I’m learning here is being empowered to make your own choice, learning to first hear and then trust the wisest part of yourself so that you can trust it instead of turning to everyone else’s opinions about your life and what you should and shouldn’t do, as if everyone’s lives are the same?! (I don’t think so!)

    It’s not easy but learning to trust myself was the first piece of advice i ever got from this place when I asked ‘how do I know I can trust all this information is right for me?!’ It’s not so much about right and wrongs but about uncovering (in layers) your own belief systems, about societies undercurrent of belief systems and then working out what that means for you and me and what my belief system is going to be, consciously…especially if something doesn’t fit. Writing this post is a testament to the forum and a huge jump, mentally from where I was in a state of blinding anxiety to where I am now – much more inquisitive and less likely to judge the ebbs and flows that life throws at me.

  • Lea

    My friend sent me this link after I broke down on the phone with her a few days after I got engaged. I tried not to read it, thinking the moment had passed, but I finally turned to it yesterday after going through multiple ebbs and flows of some excitement, but mostly pure stress/anxiety/terror. I think I may sign up for the e-course now, since just reading these testimonials at least makes me feel like I’m not alone. I know my boyfriend is wonderful, but our engagement came right on the heels (literally days) after he and I decided he would stay in the military and move out of our area in just a couple months for his new post. So, we made multiple, life changing decisions in about a week. I think that I hadn’t had the time to process all that (which means, complete uncertainty and stress about my own career and how I can find something worthwhile in this new location) and with the engagement, I feel completely, devastatingly overwhelmed and anxious. I really only get comfort talking to my friend that sent the link to me, since she’s always been introspective (and even broke off her own engagement years ago). She is convinced our situations are different and that I would regret the decision to break off mine, which is certainly encouraging. I tried talking to my fiance a little about it last night but I am terrified of telling him how far my anxiety reaches (i.e. to him). Anyone have advice on how to get back to feeling like I have some control in my life and can focus on the good things I have with my my fiance- and my life- to get through this?

  • Lea: I’m glad you found your way here. Please read through as many articles as you can, and let me know if you have any questions about the e-course. In order battle the fear/anxiety/terror, you need accurate information, tool, guidance, and support, all of which you receive in the ecourse. It’s the most loving gift you could give to yourself right now if you want to find your way to serenity and love.

  • Fiona mckinstry

    Thank goodness I have found this site!! I really need to do this course!!! X

  • Ashlee

    How can we attempt to quiet some of the doubt. I like you sheryl, at 21, (how old I am now) had my first life shaking anxiety attack. Resulting from being hit in the face with the realizations of my problems that I have projecting onto all of my relationships. I’ve had an extreme fear of rejection and abandonment my whole life My boyfriend, like so many of you have said about your partners, is wonderful, he is the first person I’ve ever been able to open up to honestly, he supports and motivates me and brings out the best in me.. I live for the moments when I feel calm and see a clear positive future for the both of us together for I would love nothing but to be with him for the long haul. I’ve felt intense love for him for the past year but since my panic attack I’m having doubts and am finding it hard to be around him because of the anxiety I encounter. Are there any tips to reduce the anxiety and doubts?

    • Ashlee: Quieting the doubts requires a profound commitment to learn about your thoughts, beliefs, and habits that have contributed to creating the panic and anxiety. I offer a lot of tips throughout my site, so I would suggest reading through as many of articles as you can. If the work resonates with you, you might consider The Conscious Weddings E-Course. Again, nothing shifts without the commitment to do whatever it takes to work with your thoughts and feel the painful, and sometimes buried, feelings. It’s usually when the torture of the anxiety becomes unbearable that the commitment to do whatever it takes kicks in.

  • Sophie

    I want to thank you Sheryl for your comforting words which resonate with me from many of your posts and comments. It is a breath of fresh air to read such insight when plagued with anxiety. As a anxiety sufferer I am personally finding anxiety around my relationship the most challenging thing to deal so far as I watch myself compulsively question my beautiful relationship into shreds. I have come out of anxiety before and you give me hope that I can come through again. How terrifying it is to hear inner voices scream ‘end it’ and yet know when silence, calm and peace break through, the beauty is all there. What an extraordinary antithesis to fear happiness.

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