Feelings Are Messy

img_6834As humans in an uncertain world, we seek certainty in a variety of ways. We ask questions that are fundamentally unanswerable. We ruminate and obsess on a single thought (otherwise known as intrusive thoughts). We Google and text and seek reassurance in a variety of increasingly technologically oriented ways. When I see someone falling into these common mental habits, the first question I encourage them to ask themselves is, “What are these thoughts/actions protecting me from feeling?”

We’re so identified with spending thousands of hours in the realm of thought that oftentimes this question doesn’t make any sense. What do you mean “protecting” me from feeling? What I mean is that somewhere along the road of growing up, somewhere between the innately healthy relationship that babies have to their emotional life and the disconnected relationship that most adults have, we learned that one way to manage the messy, amorphous, confusing, and sometimes scary realm of feelings was to travel up into the realm of thought. It’s so much more manageable up there, thinks the young mind that doesn’t have capable others modeling what it looks like to feel one’s feelings. It’s so much cleaner and cooler.

Feelings are hot. They’re wild and messy and alive and sometimes loud. They erupt out of nowhere and take over completely, filling mind and body with their high-intensity heat. Before the prefrontal cortex is fully developed and engaged, children have no control over the frustration and rage that often bites in a nanosecond. How many millions of children have been shamed for the “temper tantrums” over which they have no control? “Control yourself!” screams a frustrated mother. “Calm down!” yells an embarrassed father. And herein lies one of the great hypocrisies of parenthood: To scream “Stop yelling!” while you yourself are yelling! Every parent has been there. And hopefully we can see the hypocrisy then apologize to our children and say something like, “I guess I haven’t really learned how to handle my anger well, either.”

And where would we have learned how to handle our anger well? From parents who either denied and squashed down their anger or let it fly off their lips in fits of rage? No. In school where arithmetic is deemed far more important than emotional literacy? No. Where would we have learned that anger is a secondary line of defense that covers over the softer and more vulnerable feelings of frustration, sadness, loneliness, and powerlessness? Nowhere. Emotionally-disabled parents lead the next generation to create a long chain of emotional illiteracy. But I believe that it’s this generation, with our increased understanding of how the brain and heart work and our rush of energy toward self-healing, that will be able to teach the next generation how to feel their feelings. This new legacy begins with us.

Without emotional training and modeling, we naturally fall into the path of least resistance, which is the realm of ego: that small-minded part of our psyches that is motivated by fear and deeply attached to trying to keep life safe and in control. The ego-mind loves definite answers, and the quest for the answer is one of its favorite tactics for sidelining feelings. I’m always amazed by how often my kids ask something like, “Why did they hurt the bear who kept coming into the city?” It took me a while to realize that when they ask “why” repeatedly about a subject that is ripe with emotion what they’re really doing is trying to avoid the feelings. Now when I hear them asking “why” over and over again I ask, “Are you feeling sad about that?” and they invariably say yes (and stop asking the same question; yay). The ego-mind believes that securing an answer will take away the pain. It doesn’t work that way. Not only are most of these questions unanswerable, but there is no avoiding pain. It’s part of life. And feeling the pain of life is what brings us into the present moment, connects us to our bodies, and makes us feel alive.

“If I feel my feelings does that mean I’ll be depressed all the time?” I’m often asked. It’s a valid question, and it stems from the belief that the realm of feelings is a dangerous place to dwell. It stems from the fact that very few people received the manual on how to feel one’s feelings because of course it’s not a manual at all but an internalized roadmap that stems from seeing trusted and beloved others attend to their feelings with compassion and gentleness. How can we know something that we’ve never seen modeled? We can’t. But we can learn it later in life. Because deep inside everyone is the original, untouched roadmap for living life with more grace and ease.

I’m thinking about women birthing babies. The Western, mainstream model posits that women don’t know how to birth and are often (not always) treated like there’s something wrong with their bodies that needs to be fixed. The premise of the midwifery model, on the other hand, is that, just like women’s bodies know how to grow a placenta and then an entire human and milk to boot, so women’s bodies know how to birth the baby. We don’t teach our bodies how to grow and birth a baby and produce milk. All we have to do is be the vessel and the process happens beautifully and naturally.

So it is with feeling our feelings. We know how to do this; it’s a matter of unlearning the unhelpful habits then relearning what we already intrinsically know. I’m not saying it’s an easy process. In fact, coming into more direct and regular contact with our emotional life may be one of the most challenging aspects of healing. But I do know that it’s an essential element toward developing inner wellness.

Feeling your feelings is the gateway to your aliveness, and when you send a taproot of willingness into your body – which is the temple where feelings dwell – you come into the present moment. We hear so much about the value of being in the now and that this moment is all we have. But how do we get there? There is a secret passageway: We have to be willing to feel our pain. We have to be willing to climb down out of the cool chamber of thought and enter the messiness of the heart, where all uncertainties and vulnerabilities dwell. We have to develop a tolerance for the gray zone and accept that most questions in life don’t have answers. We have to widen our narrow places, which means being willing to feel the disappointment that follows shattered hope, the grief that follows a broken heart, the loss that accompanies loving. This is how we widen the metaphoric muscle of our heart until it’s as big as the moon and from there, from that vast place of being, we learn how to bring the world inside and bring ourselves into the world.

89 comments to Feelings Are Messy

  • Angela

    Hi, Sheryl,
    Feeling my feelings is so challenging when im anxious. I feel like im in the dark, locked up in my state, that when i ask myself what is off kilter inside, I dont know why im off kilter, i keep telling myself. I then listen and watch your courses and try to use the tools and I feel calmer. All i can do is wait until i feel in a better mental state. I have stopped journaling and maybe it will help me to get stuck into journaling again as it did give me internal connection with myself. I felt that sense of power and knowing whats going on in my head and address it so the anxiety can subside or diminish.

    • Britt

      Hi Angela,

      I understand exactly where you’re coming from. I’ve been through those exact feelings. Its when we become comfortable with not acknowledging our feelings, that they start to act up. I didn’t meditate for a full week once and my mind/body sent me anxiety as an alarm clock. Why? Because I was forgetting about it once again. I’ve come to understand that my mind and body loves being pampered, by me. Whether it’s yoga, journaling, meditating or just me time. Us “highly sensistives” have no room for slack when its comes to our feelings. They (the feelings) must always be acknowledged and handled in a comforting manner. Feeling your feelings are challenging when you’re anxious, yet, anxiety is a feeling. I used to search high and low for reasons why I was anxious and I’d make a million excuses all because I did not want to feel the discomfort of my anxiety, which caused more anxiety because I was in a cycle of trying to avoid it, however, it wasn’t the anxiety the fear and rapid heart rate, it was the thoughts (about my relationship) I knew would be coming my way, because of the anxiety that I didn’t want to deal with. I hope this makes sense. All in all I just started facing my anxiety head on. Instead of slumping down and entering into the spiral, I’d face my anxiety. Not asking myself why every time my heart raced from anxiety, eased my mind and allowed the real to show up.

      • Eleonora

        Hi Britt! Thank you for sharing your advice. Its very interesting to hear that you stopped asking “why” about the anxiety and that that eased your mind. I assume that you were attending to your anxiety-emotion. May I ask how you approaced the thoughts? I find it difficult to allow my (relationship anxiety-) thoughts to come. They are highly frequent and tormenting when I am in the anxious state.

        I have started meditation recently and love it. It works really well when I feel tensions inside that then can loosen up. The last days, however, I have been very anxious and I could barely feel my body, it was as if I was paralyzed. I could barely listen to the meditation instructions either I was completely caugth up in the disaster world of my mind. Thanks again and all the best.

        • Britt

          “May I ask how you approached the thoughts?”

          I didn’t approach them, I allowed the thoughts to come and I didn’t do anything. It sounds really simple, however it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The urge to pick up our phones and research takes over and before you know it, you’re filled with more anxiety. The challenge is to slow yourself down. That’s what it is all about. Bringing awareness to the situation without outside research. When a thought pops up, close your eyes and or take a deep breath, then make a simple decision. Let it go or agitate my anxiety. When I say let it go, I mean to deliberately make a conscious choice, to not give your thoughts control. Just try it. It means being vulnerable and feeling what you feel. It means giving your feelings freedom. It means handing over your control, by simply being in the moment, with no distractions. Eventually, you’ll start to become good at letting your thoughts, which create your feelings, come in go. Be patient with yourself.

  • Jacinta

    Hi Sheryl,

    Just wanted to pop in and say G’day from Australia.
    Your conscious brides e-course has helped me immensely over the last 3 years and I’m super happy to say that I haven’t had a major anxiety period in around a year and a half.
    I got engaged a year ago and I’m getting married on the 29/10/2016. I have you to thank for this.
    I’d never wanted to get married, I never saw myself committing to one person (even though I was in a long term relationship), I was miserable.
    I did a lot of work to get where I am now and you really paved the way for me to heal.
    Thank you so much!

  • Angela

    Hi Britt,
    This anxiety keeps us busy dosent it. Yes, I do agree with us highly sensitives we need to not slack because we need routines, and I dont like routines im not wired that way. Life is so fast that when you get back from work all u want to do is just relax and spend time with your husband. Since Doing this work, i have come to realise how crucial and important it is To focus on myself everyday look inside myself, listen and explore and discover my north star, i havent yet found it. This culture is bombarded with externals and like Sheryl said its hard work to reprogam our thoughts to healthy habits.
    Sometimes i feel like a mentally ill person, like i can feel when the anxiety is coming and i dont look forward to it, and I say … here we go again hello my friend what have i forgotten to do the last couple of days.
    Thanks for being here for me. x

    • Britt

      No problem Angela. You’ll get through this?

    • Eleonora

      Hi Angela! I think you are very right in that us HSP need to attend to our feelings very often. You write that you dont like routines. I was curious abour meditation but could not find it in my daily routine. Until I came across the app Headspace. With 10 minutes per day and the app in my phone I find the time to meditate on the bus, while waiting for someone or at many other occasions during the day. Suddenly it was quite easy to find the time. I just wanted to mention it in case you would be interested. Kind regards,

  • Angela

    Thanks you will2, ❤️

  • Mr_B

    Thanks for that Shery.
    Anxiety is definitely a gift… A gift with many layers of wrap and a card at each tear off. There is always something to learn, usually never as bad or scary as the mind makes it but nevertheless a layer of wrap that one must learn from. To read and learn from each card there with two eyes open and not ignoring or half reading it. Ah yes, the gift that keeps giving 🙂 in some ways without it present I would’ve never of stopped and really felt my inner realm and learn what’s happening in there. I’m still learning and know that this gift will definitely be one that will keep giving and one I definitely I won’t forget.
    Thanks Sheryl for your posts that keeps everyone going 🙂
    Mr B

    • Beautiful, Mr. B. I love that you said that what you learn is usually never as bad or scary as the mind makes it. So true, and yet it’s probably the #1 reason why people resist turning inward. Thank you for sharing here.

      • Spring

        I agree with you, Sheryl & Mr_B so much!

        I’ve always referred to that same sentiment as, “Most of the anxiety we feel re: change has more to do with the EXPECTATION of change/anxiety, versus the actual anxiety we experience with the change as it actually happens/unfolds.”

        In perhaps what is a bad analogy – it’s like when you are dreading going to the gym to workout, once you get there you are fine. However it’s the expectation of dread, the expectation that it’s going to be no fun that is the hardest part. So then you arrive, you work out, you feel great, and you wonder WHY you were dreading it so much.

        Hopefully you and Mr_B can follow my line of thinking there . . . and lovely commentary by both her with her comment/your response and this blog post in particular. I have passed it along to several of my friends for reading this morning. Bravo!

        • It’s a fantastic analogy and one I use commonly to talk about the dangers of giving too much credence to feelings. If we go to the gym only when we “feel” like it we would never go!

          • Mr_B

            Hi Sheryl and Spring

            Thanks both 🙂

            Agree with Sheryl also! The mind/ego is powerful and very tactful at knowing exactly how to get our attention. So yes as hard as it is, even on the best of days, I still have to try and not give my feelings too much credence. As i once read about feelings… this to will past.. one day at time.

            Blessings to you both

  • Scottish Bride

    ‘The ego-mind believes that securing an answer will take away the pain.’ Wow. I’ve never thought about it like that but wow, so true. Looking for reassurance is such a strong instinct. After five years of learning about all this, I find that I’m still learning. Thank you for this brilliant post, Sheryl.

    • Always lovely to hear from you, Scottish Bride, and I, too, continue to learn about the inner workings of the mind and heart. For those of us on a path of learning, I don’t think it will ever stop. How can it when the mind and heart are infinite in their complexity and mystery…?!? Sending much love to you.

  • Eleonora

    Thanks, Sheryl, for a highly relevant blog post. Something that has helped me to start feeling my feelings is the meditation app Headspace. It might be interesting for those of you who find it hard to schedule a time every morning for for example meditation. With the app you meditate 10 minutes per day and if you have the app in the phone you can do it wherever you want: waiting for the bus, in waiting rooms, in breaks at work, before you sleep, etc. All the best,

    • Yes, a wonderful app, Eleonora. Thank you for mentioning it here. Tell me: How has the meditation helped you connect to your feelings? I know there’s a direct correlation and I’d love to hear about it in your words.

      • Eleonora

        Yes, I am an absolute beginner in meditation but I can describe my experience. At least in the Headspace app, one is told to investigate how the body is feeling through a body scan and to also note the emotional state. After that one is invited to focus on each breath. For me the beginning of noticing the physcial an emotional state has been very rewarding. When I have been tense and anxious the process of feeling, physically and emotionally, made the feelings more concrete and obvious. As Jeffrey Brantley writes in “Calming your anxious mind”: you start to relate TO your fear instead of FROM it. It is definitely not like this every time though. Thank you for wanting to discuss about meditation which I find very interesting.

  • Northernlass

    A timely post, as I am really struggling just now in a messy, sticky place of tangled-up thoughts and feelings.

    The feelings come from having left my soul-sucking job to look for something else that will suit me much better. I’ve been non-stop applying for other positions. I know the job I want to do; I guess you could say my heart feels drawn to this other job. In the course of just 3 weeks since leaving my previous job, I have been bombarded with interviews! None of which have led to getting the position. I’m constantly told that although I’m an ideal candidate/a lovely person/even perfect for the job!, someone else has interviewed with better qualifications. I’ve realised how painful it is to be constantly rejected like this. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been battling feelings of hopelessness and rejection, and fear of not getting something.

    I decided to start journaling about my feelings and although it’s not a quick fix, I feel like I’m on the right path. I’ve had to name my emotions, i.e pain of rejection, fear of never finding something I like, and I’m trying not to let these emotions become a big black nameless cloud of depression. I find it’s easier to deal with the ‘named’ emotions than a numbing depression which doesn’t let me get out of bed in the morning or have a fulfilling day.

    I’ve also been reading uplifting positive affirmations on Pinterest, especially about seeking employment. I find these feed my soul, as I try to remind myself that I am worthy of a job I love, I do have what it takes, and it’s merely a case of not giving up until I land the right one!

    Just this last week I’ve found myself going back into relationship anxiety, after months of hardly noticing it at all. I feel it’s all connected to my being unemployed and these feelings I’ve talked about. Although when the relationship anxiety hits it doesn’t ‘feel’ connected, and I start to go through all the usual patterns… googling, freaking out of feelings of disconnect from my partner, imagining worst case scenarios, wondering if someone else would be a better match etc, etc. I need to stop all this and focus on the root cause. It’s not my relationship that’s the issue. It’s feelings of rejection that have been triggered, fear of the unknown, fear of not being worthy.

    Relationship anxiety is so tricky. If you dig deep down you always discover the fears or life-transition that has triggered it, but it still tries to trick you into believing that it’s really the relationship – at least this time! – that’s the issue.

    Thank you Sheryl for always writing the truth and helping a generation of truth-seekers and healing-seekers to find some light!

    • MelleS

      So true Northernlass ! I’m more or less in a similar situation but I try to accept all the feelings and the thoughts (this is really hard) by noticing them and I thank them to tell me that I have to take care of myself. Then I try to get into my life by acting from what I value the most (for exemple love, commitment, friendship…) not from what my intrusive thoughts or feelings urge me to do. This is hard work, It requires time and patience but It helps to live a meaningful life.

      I wish you to find the job you want and to find comfort in an incomfort situation.

  • Francine

    I needed this. Thank you. I have gradually descended into struggle again, lately. It started just before my birthday at the end of September and in a few weeks time, my partner will be moving further away temporarily for work…I guess that’s two transitions I am in the midst of, though my brain tells me I’m clutching at straws with that ‘excuse’. I’ve not felt genuinely sad about either, which is just so cold of me. I have made so much progress with this site, but one remaining difficulty is this: the feeling that I am somehow incorrectly wired, emotionally. I don’t react the way I should, I don’t feel sadness, happiness, gratitude, anger etc when it’s my cue to feel them. I walk around feeling as though I’m some sort of psychopath and have done for years. The times this has been most noticeable is with a partner who cares. Partners who set me on edge and leave me dangling have somehow “”””fixed””” me emotionally, making me feel so much. I am aware that is distorted, and I have made so so much progress with it. I just can’t shake this idea that I’m supposed to be feeling ‘x’ when ‘y’ occurs (i.e. sadness at him going away). This problem is much bigger than my relationship though. I’ve rarely looked forward to holidays or meeting up with friends, or doing meant-to-be exciting things (I suspect possibly a shield against disappointment). I haven’t felt guilt or gratitude towards my parents or friends when I should have done. I rarely cry now. I was always branded a sensitive child, but I feel deeply that I have lost my sensitive kid badge somewhere along the way. I haven’t been reading from the sensitive person script for years. I’m starting to revert back to the long-held belief that I am bad, and I don’t belong on this site with all these other lovely, sensitive people. 🙁

    • Eleonora

      Dear Francine, I can relate to what you are saying. Don’t be scared. I often sense what should be the appropriate feeling in a certain situation and suffer because I dont feel it. It could be being happy and grateful towards my parents when they take me on holidays. It could be that I want to feel connected and safe with my boyfriend and instead experience the other way. In high school all I dreamed about was feeling alive and I suffered from what I think was depersonalization- feeling robustly that I did not exist. Some years ago it was important for me to feel infatuated in relationships and I could not feel that. Nowadays that feeling is not important to me and I also dont suffer from not feeling that feeling. (Instead I worry if I feel “safe” or if I “can be myself”) Do you think it might be a result from scanning ourselves whether we feel a certain way? It seems likely that it’s hard to feel safe if one is questioning particularly if one feels safe. Like knowing what we want to feel makes us feel exactly the opposite. What do you think of all this? You do sound incredibly sensitive to me.

      • Francine

        Hi Eleonora, thanks for your reply. I could have almost written your response myself. I have no clue why I feel this way. I am trying to apply Sheryl’s advice but the only conclusion I can draw is that I am mostly unfeeling. I feel like I don’t even know how to register anxiety anymore. My emotions feel so subtle most of the time – like ghosts of emotions. I can only really identify them when they are overpowering (which they rarely are). My partner is a very emotional person, unlike partners I have had before, which ingrains the idea that I am cold. I do know that, like you said, the more you try to feel a thing, the more it escapes you. But when I stop trying I just seem to be left with apathy. That’s kind of you to say that you feel I sound sensitive, but I feel a lot of the time like I just know how to act sensitive rather than being authentically sensitive. I realise that makes me sound horrible, but believe me, it is now how I would choose to be.

  • Angela

    Hi Eleonora,
    I will give headspace a try it sounds good, im glad its helping you.
    Thank you kindly x

  • “Time Out for Parents” by Cheri Huber is a wonderful book focusing on teaching parents how to be with their big feelings as they attend to the feelings of their child/children. I think it’s especially helpful because big feelings in others trend to trigger our own. We owe it to our kids to learn to show up for ourselves.

    • Well-said, Sarah. I think tending to our own big feelings as parents may, in fact, one of the most important gifts that we can give our children. I love the title of that book! The A-ha parenting site is also fantastic.

  • Liz

    I struggle with this a lot, all. It’s very hard for me to not be run by my feelings. I worry by boyfriend isn’t the one for me, that if I love him this much imagine how much I could love the ‘right’ guy, he’s not enough, I’m not enough, we aren’t happy enough of the time. This has led me to try and break up with him a half dozen times over the course of our 1.5 year relationship. I feel very bad about it, but also sometimes feel like I need to, or why would I be thinking/feeling/ it if that wasn’t what I truly wanted.

    • Yes, most people struggle with being run by their thoughts and feelings until they learn another way. Have taken the Break Free course, Liz? This work takes A LOT of practice, usually daily practice in the beginning as we have to literally learn how to re-wire our neural pathways so that we don’t fall victim to every thought and feeling we have and instead learn to be the captain of our own ships.

  • Liz

    I love the thought of being captain of my own ship, trusting myself enough. I’m worried Sheryl, I sometimes wonder if I do trust myself and my innate wisdom is telling me that I should run.

  • Elizabeth

    Fantastic, fantastic stuff. Your vulnerability, strength and gentleness with the human spirit is such a gift to us all. Thank you so much Sheryl, you are so inspiring!!

  • M

    Lately I have been having dreams about being with an ex and leaving my husband for them. I have also had dreams of kissing a guy I work with who is recently married and I attended his wedding. This causes me stress and anxiety and I wonder if there is any truth to these dreams as in they are telling me I am with the wrong person. Can anyone help? Sheryl do you have any thoughts about dreams trying to tell us something or are they just a product of an anxious mind? Please help thank you.

      • Mr_B

        Hi M

        I struggled/still struggle at times with similar thoughts. But as I’m going through the work the more i realise its a message from an inner realm of me seeking attention. Perhaps its the only way my inner real can get to me.. or perhaps its my ego? Or the face of my ex if the face of Fear within me itself? So many ‘what ifs’…

        In any case its is/was a wall that i need to learn about and be comfortable with. Not sure if i will ever work it out, but i will definitely live along side and learn to be comfortable with it. You are probably like me and have an amazing partner as well… at the end of the day there are negative thoughts, ego chatter etc etc but i have to remind myself… only love is real.. and that is the one greatest anchor back to self.

        Good luck on your journey and hope to hear how you go 🙂

        Mr B

    • Just me

      I had similar dreams for years and I got convinced that I am with wrong person. I took everything literally which is very dangerous. Now I know. I started to journal with my dreams and I came to understand that I had abondened some essential part of me during my past years, but it did not mean that I am with a wrong person. It meant that I had to integrate some essential part of myself which I need for my wholeness. I highly encourage you to dialogue with that dream image and trust that it does not have anything to do with your relationship. Instead focus on your loving partner who is real.

      • Just Me: This is an extraordinary growth in consciousness. For many months or longer you posted just the opposite on this site, fully convinced that the dream images were literal. My heart is singing to read this now.

        • Just me

          Sheryl Paul, your comment brought tears in my eyes and made me so so glad! I admit that I was fully convinced that my dreams were telling me that I am with wrong person and I was devastated. We almost divorced because of those dreams. Even my previous therapist considered that those dreams were about that person and were telling me to leave. Now I have new and absolutely great therapist who has helped me to see my dreams in total different perspective and my world is completely different. I am in peace after many years in deep pain and ambivalence. Finally I am growing and taking responsibility of my wholeness and aliveness. And learning about metaphors and your work is starting to sink. I am so grateful for your work Sheryl. So grateful.

          • I’m thrilled to hear that you’re with a new therapist, and a great one! Sending you so many blessings.

          • Just me

            Thank you Sheryl. I am thrilled too. This therapist is the first therapist who understands me completely and I feel safe with him. I also tried hypnotherapy for one year, which just made my dream life much more scary and very powerful. I was victim of my dreams and I felt that they were guiding me instead of my conscious and rational self. Now I like to go to sleep, because I have tools how to handle my dreams and I am now curious about them. Finally my life involves so much richness, love and light. I am laughing again with my husband and son. Looking forward continuing on this path that your work is guiding.

        • blm5126

          WOW! This makes me so happy to read Just me. I was thinking about you and your story the other day and wondering how you were. I’m glad things have turned a corner for you!

  • Ashley


    I have been with my husband for about 8 years now. We got engaged after 5 years of dating and right after he proposed are got struck with horrible anxiety! I almost called off my wedding because of it. I was thinking that I didn’t love him anymore or that maybe we aren’t meant to be together. The anxiety and doubts have come and gone throughout our whole marriage. We now have an 11 month old son and I still have doubts sometimes! He is a hardworker for our family and loves my son and I more than anything. He is so caring and loving so why do I have doubts? Does this mean we don’t connect? I have such a hard time giving into my thoughts that I married the wrong person.

  • Newly Married

    Beautiful, for the last two years I been dealing with a lot of anger, its almost like a makeup call because i used to always deny when something was not right for me and just deal with it, so much bottle up that how i feel like in rage and its been so difficult, it feels like my chest is going to explode, specially happened after my mother died, i am just so angry that i dont even recognize myself. its a horrible feeling, but what i realize the other day is that YES I am angry because finally the anger persona in me is there to put boundaries, but however wounded self is telling angry all kinds of things and then angry gets more angry about things and then I explode, its like wounded self all is trying to do is protect me from pain again and is using anger to keep everyone at length. Its a new defense that I have created and its been the hardest one because i cannot find compassion or forgiveness. At some point my rage will dissolve I trust and the softer emotion will then kick in, my inner child is just probably so scared and vulnerable and hurt that anger and wounded self are in the drivers seat.

    I was able to understand this last week and it was pretty good to understand how things are working so i dont listen to wounded self and anger which are now controlling things but it was very insightful to see what those personas in me are doing and kind of funny at the same time 🙂

    Blessings to all, this post was great to read at this time. 🙂 Thank you Sheryl

  • JoJo

    Really struggling today. At work a customer noticed a photo of my daughter and then commented on my wedding picture. I could not feel any type of positive emotion or loving feeling about the photo. The next feeling was feeling like I don’t love him. So hard to sit with this and feel this way. How do you all get through not testing yourself to feel “love” on the spot? How do you also not let not feeling love or not being attracted or intimate not make you think your not in love. I can’t seem to decipher is the internal anxiety due to not loving the person or is the anxiety causing the fake feelings and thoughts. I don’t want to make the wrong decision and you can’t exactly tell your partner your thoughts. Please help

    • Just me

      Jojo, I have experienced same kind of feelings and thoughts. I personally believe now that the pressure to feel certain way while looking pictures about your partner or being intimate, creates uncomfortable feelings or anxiety. If you can accept that sometimes you feel numb or even repulsed, it is normal and ok, I believe that anxiety will start to lessen.i have tried to concentrate on relaxing instead of controlling and it has helped me to accept that sometimes my husband feels just a dear friend to me and sometimes I do not feel anything. Have you noticed that if you are feeling good about yourself, does that affect how you see or feel your partner? I do believe that you are with loving partner, but you have still some difficulties to trust yourself? Many hugs!

    • Just me

      I engourage you to concentrate yourself everytime you are focusing on your partner or trying to find those “in love” feelings. It has helped me that I start to do something which make me feel good about myself (listening music, going for a walk, calling a friend or reading a boon) and when I am concentrating to make me to feel better, those good feelings about my husband can come back. I believe that acceptance is the key. Accepting your feelings in every situation, but do not attach any meaning to them or feel guilty about them. Even numbness and repulsion are normal feelings in relationship. There is nothing wrong with you!

  • Bashley

    Oh this is lovely. Ever since starting to do the work I’ve learned more and more how to simply slow down. Sit with the feelings. Feel the pain. The grief of unlived lives is what I struggle with mostly.

    Today I took the time to dip into my heart. To slow down and to really look at my life outside of the fear and noise in my head and thought to myself “huh… i actually really do like my life” and it was calm and clear. But not the cold calm I experience. It was a real calm. I really do like my life the way it is.

    Thanks for this article. So beautifully said.

    • Beautiful to hear, especially given where you started just a short time ago!

      • Bashley

        I know! Ive just started just hardly a few months ago but I am in such a better place. I still have my downs and my days are still hard but im not crying all day everyday like i used too. I encourage everyone who has any type of doubt of fear towards a loving partner to buy the course. Take that first leap. It isn’t easy. It’s hard. It’s terrifying. It hurts. But I have hope that it’ll all be worth it.

        I remember sending Sheryl email after email, begging for answers. Begging for certainty that i was doing the right thing in life. Truth is, there is no right or wrong. Only choice. And as much as saying that scares the living hell out of me, it’s true.

        It doesn’t matter if you’re 15, 18, 20, 35, or 50+ this work applies. I started when I was 18, just recently turned 19 and it has helped me understand so much. I have so many fears around unloved lives, comparing myself to others, or that I’m not living the way I “should” be at my age. That I’m too inexperienced. Etc. Etc. I still struggle with this daily, but I can already sense a shift in me. A little tiny change. Do the work. You wont regret it

    • Kate

      Hi Bashley,

      Can truly resonate with you when it comes to the age thing, the whole not living how i should. I’m 20 and I’ve just moved in with my boyfriend, my friends are all out getting pissed and whilst i do sometimes, life calls a deeper meaning than that for me, and it makes me sometimes feel incredibly isolated. The thing is though, the fact that your path is different to everyone elses means its you’re true path, because you’re not following the crowd just trying to fit in, you’re making you’re own way, be incredibly proud of that, the courage that takes is unreal. We’re all unique human beings, if we was all meant to have the same path in life nothing would advance. I personally believe in reincarnation because it feels right for me which means if i don’t live a certain life in this one i’ll live it in some other time, and if theres no such thing, it works to stop my anxiety! Whenever i get in the whole age mindset i just think, if i didn’t know how old i was would i resist this? no i wouldn’t i’d embrace it.

      Let me know if you ever want to connect.

      Blessings to you anyway on your journey!

  • Lena

    Dear Sheryl,

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU. I battled relationship anxiety for 8 long months. It hit me on our second date, and I literally thought I was going insane. For 24 hours a day (I was even expressing doubts in my dreams,) I was plagued with endless thoughts. I was absolutely manic and felt like I was going to lose my mind. After 4 months of debating, I finally purchased your break free from relationship anxiety course. This is by far the hardest work I have ever done. I have been anxiety free for the last 5 months. I feel like I have grown so much. I thought this work was all about him, but I learned so much about myself. I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I have come so far. Thank you so much.

    • Just me

      Lena, congratulations for your hard work. Wau! You made such a huge progress quite uickly. Be priud of yourself.

      I thought that I was only one who experience those doubts and unwanted feelings also in dreams and it has made my anxiety much stronger. I have believed that because I also dream about my doubts they must be true and come from real me.

      May I ask, because you are doing better now, have those disturbing dreams also stopped?

      Continue on your path!

      • Lena

        Hi just me,

        Thank you for the kind words. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always had bad dreams. I still do to this day. The “doubt” dreams still pop up but they’re no where near as frequent as they once were. I do my best not to attach to it. Not sure if that helps. Sending you good vibes.

        • Just me

          Lena, thank you for your answer! I have also had a very strong dream life, but I have taken my dreams literally and be scared about them. I have ended my two previous relationship because of my disturbing dreams. But now I have learned iith help of my therapist to work with my dreams and they have started to make much more sense. It has made my inner world much nore intesting and less scary. I have started to work with them like I work with intrusive thoughts and I am starting to reach my wholeness and aliveness after many years in deep depression.

          I am impressed how quickly you learned to handle your thoughts and feelings. This work is really worth it. We are worth it.

          • Lena

            I’m so happy that your therapist is helping you. I hope you will continue to feel alive and whole. You got this!

            I’ve been in therapy for a while. Before I even met my partner. Its been a crazy journey lol.

    • Beautiful to hear, Lena. The hard work pays off in spades, yes? Thank you for sharing here.

  • ThereThere

    Dear Sheryl,

    This really speaks to me! My husband and I just sold our house. We are planning to move to another city and eventually build our own house, but in the meantime we’ll be living in a temporary home. I’ve been feeling shut down the past few days and noticed familiar thoughts coming back. All of them were about safety and security: what if this house is the only house I can be happy in for the rest of my life and I can never go back? What if I can’t be happy in this other city? What if our relationship fails? What if I lose myself in this process?

    I guess I’m just scared. Scared to leave what we know and move to something unfamiliar. Yesterday I took time to dig into those feelings and had a few good cries about it. That does release some of the tension, but somehow I keep beating myself up about it. I tell myself that I’m supposed to be happy that we sold the house and that I should be excited about our adventure. And that the fact that I’m not (at the moment) means we’re making the wrong decision.

    Do you have any advice on how to make this major transition any easier? And by easier I mean that I’d love to be able to “go with the flow” instead of resisting all of the changes and feelings that are happening.
    Thank you!

  • Kate

    Hey Guys,

    Found a poem the other day which fitted my anxiety, just thought i’d leave it here for anyone who needs a boost.

    Its called “The fear” by Charlotte Fallon

    ” I wholly, truly, love you, i hope that is obvious from my smile,
    And it’s fucked up, but loving you makes me want to run a mile,
    The thought that i could lose you fills my throat with anxiety,
    i’m terrified that finding you could be the end of finding me.

    What if one day you wake up and decide we’d be better off apart?
    What if one day I have to sit you down and break your fixing heart?
    What if you start suspecting you’ve made a terrible mistake?
    I’m not the one you thought I was; I’m not worthy of your heartache.

    But then the door opens, and i look up into your eyes,
    You pull me inside, In your arms my anxiety subsides,
    Moments like this make me realise I must do all that I can,
    to work to release the worry, to be present and not to plan,
    To continue to analyse my emotions, and help myself to mature,
    Its worth the work because you and I both deserve to feel secure.

    So let me reassure you, I’ve wrote this to help you see,
    One day, the fact that I love you, Won’t scare the shit out of me.”

  • J

    beautiful post. Have shared among friends and family. A difficult aspect of relationship anxiety is that not only are we being asked to ‘feel our feelings’, but also to fight against an entire culture that tells us we shouldn’t be having these feelings! So it’s a battle on two fronts.

  • Just me

    I just want to leave a brief comment in order to remind myself and encourage others to trust this work and yourself. Turning inward is hard and scary at first, but it is absolutely very very interesting journey and rewarding.

    I was so scared to turn inwards, because I dreamed about divorcing and leaving my husband because of my ex and I thought that I do not have to do my inner work if I just trust in my dreams and leave. I did that twice in my past and felt reliefed.

    Now, when I have learnt not to take everything as face value, I am starting to love myself again and my love towards my husband, which I thought was completely dead, is coming back. Maybe in different form that I expected, but deeper.

  • A

    If I sign up for the course what if it reveals I’m with the wrong partner?

  • Angela

    Hi Justme, I am happy to hear things are getting better and better for you. I do agree this journey is a gift. There is nothing more liberating than doing this inner work.I have learnt so much about myself and the patience is needed to see clarity. Everything we do requires work and effort to make a positive and a happy permanent change.
    Thank you for your support. Its much needed. ?

    • Just me

      Thank you Angela! I have always liked your comments on this blog. You are on the right track and doing such a good work. I felt that I was the exception and I was sure about that. I thought that I have never loved my husband and our marriage was mistake. It made me sad how I was acting during that huge pain and confusion. I am still quite suprised that I was not the exception and that this work was actually for me also. I have much work to do still, but I have great therapist and this community with me in this journey.

      Have a great day Angela.

  • Charlote

    I truly identify with what you wrote. That is the universal truth.
    However I haven’t learnt how to deal with feelings I have by other people … As an example, I know someone with who I have empaty and I feel good, in peace, and I start thinking “Am I interested in this man more than just friends? Could we have a relationship? what do I realy feel by my husband when Im thinking this way?”
    It may be the ego trying to find a way to feeling secure, happier, etc, but in fact when do I will know if Im holding a relationship when it could be better with someone else? I mean, isn’t normal be with someone and feel interest in other

  • Britt

    I’m really proud of you just me!

  • Angela

    Hi just me thank you, I can get lazy its only because I want sit and do nothing as we do live in such a fast pace life. We all feel the excemption but we are going through the same emotions. What im trying to focus is the present, the past is gone
    and to enjoy our precious moments that we all have on this mysterious planet we live in.
    Keep up the good work xo

  • Johanna

    Dear Sheryl,

    I am struggling through my dark night of the soul but it is so hard and my feelings, thoughts and actions are so messy, so this post really resonated with me. I do have a question on fear of loving and vulnerability and the “feel the fear and doing anyway” and how this is different from healthy “red flag” fear in relation to parenthood. I am 42,5 and in the middle of childlessness grief as I have not been able to build a healthy relationship until now due to relationship anxiety. I desperately long for a family and try to grieve the dream of having a loving stable relation and a child within that. After this trauma (a break up and realising kids is probably not in the picture) I am so scared so that I shake when I think of a relationship, as well as being responsible for a child as I have been in such a bad shape that I can hardly take care of myself, work etc for three years. Yet, my longing for a child is also very strong and sometime I think I should have a child on my own, but i am soooo scared of being a mother and have all the responsibility on my own – and I doubt that it is loving towards the child to deprive it of a father and a wider loving context as my support network is small and it would be rather selfish… I want the best for my child. So even if I really want to experience that kind of a connection and so long to give my love to a child and grow – I am not sure that is the loving choice for me or the child. I believe that if I heal i could envision being happy without kids, if I just don’t go to the place of pain and longing all the time… My loving adult does not know what is right. Mostly she says that the most loving for me is to have a partner by my side as I am very vulnerable and sensitive and need support and love myself to be able to give it to someone – I am not really fit for single parenting – especially if there are developmental difficulties etc. If I first heal from this pain, then seek to meet a partner (even in 5 years), I will grow through that loving relationship, and I can possibly love his children and contribute with my love there – or we can grow together through or doing other things (in a way, I just want to travel, read and listen to music with him as I am introverted, but I suppose that is wrong as it is staying in my comfort zone…). I can also contribute by writing about childlessness helping others and maybe express my love there in a way which is not selfish. But despite all this, my heart (or maybe my ego) has such a hard time letting go if the dream of a child and being a mother and I tell myslef that by not going for single parenting I am chickening out as I avoid it out of fear and deny myself love and growth (I was ambivalent before all this as I saw parenting as extremely hard work and didn’t think I could do that besides my normal job, which I now find lacks any interest at all for me -I just want to give and receive love…) I am sorry for my rambling, but I would be very grateful for any kind of advice how to find acceptance and peace with my situation.

  • Fight for happiness

    Hello Anxious friends,
    I have been doing alright. The anxiety calmed for while simply because I threw truth water at it and didn’t grapes into it. But this week it returned. I’ve noticed it returns when I’m in the car, no radio on, nothing to distract me and I’m afraid of feeling bored. It’s in this moment that my brain will do a scan of itself and say “oh you haven’t been anxious lately. Let’s bring that back shall we?” I know in those moments I need to just be and not grasp onto a thought of anxiety born of fear. But this week I wasn’t prepared. My fear brain has been focused on what I may be missing out on or giving up if I get married-especially if I get married young (21). My fear is attaching to the mainstream culture lines that feed an anxious mind like mine: you’re too young, you don’t now yourself, you can’t commit or you’ll get bored, you haven’t dated around enough, you’re missing out, etc. Recently I’ve come to realize that these lines are born by people who don’t know who they are or what they want or have trust and relationship issues from being with the “wrong” partners (when I say wrong I mean red flags or broken trust). My fear wants me to believe that getting married to my love is going to make me miss out on singlehood. If I believe it–even for a second–then thw fear has taken control. I think that happened yesterday. I’m fighting to regain control by remembering the truths: single life in your head is an unreal fantasy, there’s nothing you are fundamentally missing out on, there’s nothing you need to experience from that lifestyle choice this is even close to worth losing the man you love. These help. And I hope to find myself back in control of myself again soon. I jut wasted to share my experience with anyone else struggling. I too struggle with trying to understand what these thoughts are trying to tell me. What emotions are being stifled. Most times I don’t know. But usually I think it’s grief: grieving over letting go of the single life despite I didn’t really live it ( even though I believe it’s worth it), grief over my parents divorce ( which I often feel was because the fact they got married so young), and just straight up fear of getting married. Because it’s new and scary and a serious commitment. But those shouldn’t be reasons to run. Neither should a what if fear of possibly missing out (which how could I be when I have a deep, connected, loving relationship).

    It helps to spill my thoughts out here. And I hope this helps others too.
    Thank you Sheryl for all your work.

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