Join Sheryl Paul, a counselor informed by the Jungian depth psychological tradition, and her co-host Victoria Russell, as they dive into the realms of our inner worlds and explore actions we can take to grow more self-trust and self-love. These bi-weekly podcast episodes will provide guidance for diminishing fear and shame, embracing sensitivity and creativity, and approaching life with curiosity and compassion.

If you would like to support the podcast and connect more deeply with Sheryl, Victoria, and the Gathering Gold community, please consider joining our Patreon.

In today’s episode, we hear a very special guest’s story of managing fertility anxiety while trying to conceive for many months. Sarah shares her experience of desperately wanting to get pregnant and deeply fearing it would never happen.

Along the way, we discuss finding supportive healthcare providers, learning to navigate sex when trying to conceive, meeting our own or our partner’s ambivalence about parenthood, and more.

Sarah Koestner is a transformational life coach who was a beloved moderator on Sheryl’s online forum for many years. You can learn mare about her and her coaching work at www.sarahkoestner.com/

References:

In today’s episode, Sheryl reflects on the liminal time between winter and spring, and the way that this season emphasizes a certain truth about life: that joy and grief are intimately, irrevocably connected. That we experience not grief, then joy, not life, then death, but all of it, together, always. 

“We think linearly–but maybe, that’s not how time, and grief, and memory co-exist. And it’s spring that reveals these cross-sections.”

References:

The spring equinox is a moment of symmetry and balance; the sun sits exactly above the equator, and we experience an equal amount of daylight and darkness.

In today’s episode, Sheryl shares her thoughts on the spiritual experience of symmetry, and how fractals in nature convince her that this world is one of not only chaos, but also order—and why that matters so much to highly sensitive people.

We also discuss the yin and yang nature of seasons, the beauty in asymmetry, and how a healthy relationship with rituals and repetition can help us find and make meaning. 

References:

Quote from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

Nature journal article “Why Symmetry Matters,” by Mario Livio

The Age of Adeline (2015)

Groundhog Day (1993)

How Stuff Works article “Why Do We Get So Much Pleasure from Symmetry?” by Dave Roos

The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew, by Alan Lightman

Today’s episode was inspired by a recent post that Sheryl shared on Instagram about trauma collisions in longterm relationships.

In this conversation, we explore what trauma collisions are (and are not), how they differ from arguments, and how we can become more mindful and skillful in responding to them. 

Sheryl underscores the role of self-awareness in uncovering the understory of a trauma collision, finding compassion for ourselves and our partners, and creating new, healthier patterns. 

We discuss demon dances, childhood wounds, and the core human longing for both separateness and intimacy.

References:

You just sat down with a cup of tea and a good book. You’re deeply invested in the plot and sinking into glorious alone time, when suddenly, you hear footsteps. Your partner appears in the room. 

“What’s for dinner?” they ask. 

Your entire body is instantly flooded with one feeling: irritation. 

It’s a feeling that we all have from time to time, including with the people we love most in the world: our partners, family members, and friends. And yet, we can easily feel jolted by irritation or annoyance. “Oh no,” we might say to our selves. “What’s wrong with me/them/our relationship that I feel this way? Aren’t I supposed to always feeling loving, patient, and kindly towards them?”

In today’s episode, we’re exploring irritation in relationships, and what it might be pointing to when our skin crawls in response to the way our partner loads the dishwasher—or, God forbid, when a parent asks, “How was your day?”

And of course, we look for the gold shimmering just underneath this seemingly ungracious emotion.

References:

Sheryl’s blog post: “When You Feel Irritated with Your Partner”

The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus: the god of the doorway. Janus was said to have two faces: one looking ahead, and one looking behind. 

We are now in the liminal month of January, moving between two years and looking forward and backward just like Janus. In today’s episode, Sheryl encourages us to meet this liminality with curiosity and compassion. Though we may feel off-kilter and groundless, though we may be full of questions, there is gold to gather in this month of doorways.

What doorways might you meet this month? What gold might you gather?

References:

In today’s episode, we return gently to sacred ground: the ground of our sexuality. 

Last January, we explored what it means to own our sexual sovereignty through reclaiming our right and ability to say no. Today, we begin uncovering our inherent yes, which was likely shamed early in our lives.

Sheryl encourages us to gently orient ourselves back towards our innate curiosity, belief in our own goodness, and appreciation for our bodies and beauty. We embrace the power of sharing stories of early sexual exploration, as participants of Sheryl’s Sacred Sexuality course do throughout the program. And we reflect on the importance of making room for fear, seeking out helpful educational materials, and finding our own unique relationship to sexuality, not trying to fit into an externally-prescribed template.

Learn more about Sheryl’s Sacred Sexuality course, which starts January 13th, on her website. 

References:

In this special episode, Sheryl’s husband Daev Finn joins the show to continue our seasonal exploration of wintry themes. A psychotherapist who uses the metaphor of myth and fairy tales in his work, Daev offers his perspective on the Brothers Grimm telling of “Briar Rose” (otherwise known as “Sleeping Beauty”).

Daev, Sheryl, and Victoria read the tale aloud, then share their reflections on themes of slumber, sexuality, growing up, and banishment. Daev offers perspective on the history of myths and fairytales and their problematic parts, Sheryl reflects on the treatment of powerful women in patriarchal narratives, and Victoria muses on how this tale cautions us to rethink banishing our inner “thirteenth fairy.”

Find Daev on Instagram @followyourmyth

References:

Music in this episode:

  • Gathering Gold theme music by Jarrett Farkas
  • “Glacier” by SalmonLikeTheFish
  • We are approaching the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern hemisphere.

    In preparation for the winter solstice, Sheryl invites us to anchor ourselves in time and find communion with the luminous dark.

    How might we celebrate the triumph of light, the gift of the sun, while also welcoming the wisdom of darkness?

    How might we balance the need to rest and turn inward with the need to brave the cold, to go out into the world?

    How can we cultivate peace within ourselves in the face of all that is treacherous in this world—including the double-edged winter months, with their shimmer and ice, their harshness and beauty?

    This is what we invite you to explore with us in today’s episode, and at our upcoming Patreon Meet-Up on December 21st. 

    References:

We all know the feeling: jitters before a birthday party. Melting into the wall during a wedding reception. Obsessing over that awkward hug you gave at the potluck.

Everyone has their moments of social anxiety, but some of us suffer with it more chronically, perhaps managing a mixture of avoidance and overcompensation. We might worry that we are too quiet or too loud, too boring or too obnoxious—somehow just not right. Our fear of others’ judgment interweaves with our own harsh inner critic. 

While humans are apt to underestimate how much people like us, we also all have had experiences of rejection that left scars. Highly sensitive people, introverted people, and people with anxiety have our own particular fear of being shunned because of our difference. 

In today’s episode, Sheryl shares stories of her own past social scars that have contributed to social anxiety across her life, from getting kicked out a clique in fifth grade to feeling invisible in her synagogue in recent years.

In this conversation, we dig into the soil of social anxiety to find the gems hidden under layers of sediment: our genuineness and our capacity to care and love.

References:

  • Episode of Hidden Brain“How Others See You”
  • Matt Haig quote: “Never be cool. Never try to be cool. Never worry what the cool people think. Head for the warm people. Life is warmth. You’ll be cool when you’re dead.”

Highly sensitive people bring many gifts to work, and we also face unique challenges—including a persistent longing to bridge the gap between our ideals and the reality of our work life.

Whether we are full-time caregivers, lawyers, teachers, baristas, artists, or project managers, we might wonder: am I on the right path? Do I belong in this field? Might the grass be greener somewhere else?

We have also been conditioned to believe that our work, our career, is a reflection of our worthiness. This can keep us stuck in a myriad of ways: we might fear that we don’t deserve to even try for a career that we’re deeply interested in, or we might struggle to leave a role that isn’t a good fit simply because it’s prestigious. 

In today’s episode, we’re exploring questions around work and career anxiety, including how to show up fully in a good enough job, and how to manage anxiety when it’s time to make a career transition. 

The witching hour: a time in the middle of the night when we sometimes wake from a potent dream or nightmare, eyes wide in the darkness, heart and body filled with something–fear or grief, regret or restlessness, poems or prayers.

In today’s episode, we discuss this mysterious portal and how we might find gold glittering in the darkest hours before dawn.

References:

In today’s special episode, Sheryl shares her story of navigating a major transition over the past year: ushering her eldest son out of the nest and into college far from home.

Sheryl shares passages from her journal that detail how she rode the waves of grief, reached for support, and found relief after bringing Everest to school and adjusting to home life without him.

And, she and Victoria discuss some of the pillars that hold up highly sensitive people during the micro and momentous transitions throughout life.

References:

Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art”

Khalil Gibran’s poem “Your children are not your children” 

Visit our Patreon: www.patreon.com/gatheringgold

We hope you enjoy today’s “Golden Nugget” mini-episode! We’re sharing a voicemail from our lovely listener Olivia, who asked the question that inspired our episode Expectations, Emotions, and Very Big Days.

Listen in to hear what happened for Olivia and her partner after she submitted her question, listened to the episode, and sat with the uncertainty of how to approach her wedding day and marriage anxieties.

Visit our Patreon to learn more about submitting voicemails and enjoying future Golden Nugget mini-sodes: www.patreon.com/gatheringgold

Many of us feed our shame with the very food that makes it grow: criticism and cruelty that inspires deeper disconnection and despair. We think that we can control and punish ourselves into perfection, that we can banish our exiled parts into the shadowlands and transcend hurt and vulnerability.

And yet, if we take the risk to feed our shame with love, acceptance, and compassion, we will see what’s underneath: a young, soft part of ourselves who is here to help us heal.

How do we find that love and compassion and heal our shame?

This is what we explore in today’s episode.

References:

Everyone feels shame at one time or another.

For some of us, shame is an occasional or even rare experience. It’s an awful feeling, but manageable.

For others, shame is a state that we are particularly prone to; our shame gets activated quickly and intensely. We might even walk around in a haze of free-floating shame, inhaling it with the air we breathe. 

In today’s episode, Sheryl and Victoria explore shame and some of its shifting forms: shame as a creature of the dark that hides out in our innermost places, that flees when we attempt to bring it into the light. Shame as a voice we hear deep inside, convincing us that we don’t deserve love and belonging. Shame as a cloak, shielding us from the vulnerability of exposure and visibility.

Join us in this episode to tug at the cloak and take a peek at what’s underneath.

References:

Today’s episode is from the Gathering Gold Patreon Bonus Episode vault! Sheryl and Victoria address a question from Olivia, who is considering marriage with her partner. Olivia’s family expects a big wedding, but she dreads being the center of attention. Also…she has some fears about making this forever commitment.

Though Olivia’s question is about marriage, the themes in this episode will resonate with anyone currently facing a big transition, like Sheryl and Victoria: right now, Sheryl is preparing to bring her eldest son to college for the first time, and Victoria is wrapping up her last few days at the job she has held for the past nine years.

Stay tuned for reflections to come on these big milestones. 

Everything we do requires some effort. We wake up in the morning, and from that point forward, we exert effort, starting with getting out of bed and brushing our teeth.

In our society, it is easy to think of effort as synonymous with drudgery, exhaustion, and an attitude of “never enough.” Because of this, we also have a complicated relationship with ease: we struggle to rest, and to trust ease. We often stumble from overexertion into numbing out.

Humans seem to be happiest when we find a flow between effort and ease, a satisfactory relationship with trying and allowing, practicing and surrendering. How do we come to cultivate that symbiotic relationship in our lives? How do we find that flow?

This is what we explore in today’s episode.

References:

Mindset, by Carol Dweck

Taylor Swift commencement speech at NYU

Taylor Swift’s “Mirrorball”

Tricia Hersey’s The Nap Ministry

Hannah Morris Bouldering YouTube channel

In today’s solo episode, Victoria responds to Patreon Community questions about resistance to growing up and learning to connect to our wants, needs, and values.

Sharing anecdotes from her life, she reflects on core fears and beliefs inside the aversion to responsibility and adulthood, and discusses gentle approaches to examining the invitations inside our existential anxieties.

She also shares approaches to developing a stronger relationship with ourselves, even when we feel very disconnected, and to making decisions while holding space for ambivalence.

References:

You may be familiar with the inner child and the inner adult, but when was the last time you thought about your inner teenager?

In today’s episode, we’re exploring what qualities this often-forgotten inner part brings to the table. And, we’re exploring why those of us who grew up trying to embody the “good girl” might have struggled to fully tap into the potential of our inner teenager. The characters are seemingly at odds: as Sheryl explains, if the good girl is all about saying yes, the inner teenager is all about saying no.

But with our loving adult at the helm, ready to guide both the child and the teenager to safety and freedom, what might they have to learn from each other? And what might they have to teach us now? 

All this, and more, in today’s conversation. 

References: 

Studies suggest that about 85% of what we worry about never happens.

And yet, for many of us, worrying is a way of life. It is our go-to response when we face uncertainty or perceive a threat to something or someone we care about deeply. 

In today’s episode, Sheryl shares personal reflections on her relationship to worry as her eldest son Everest embarks on the hardest challenge he has ever faced. She has a thousand reasons to worry, but an even more important reason to break the habit, and tap into another way of expressing her unshakeable love for her son, and her abiding trust in this life. 

In this conversation, we spend time in the realm of spirit and sky, feeling into the mystery of trust and surrender. And, we spend time planted into the earth, focusing on the things we can control, where we place our attention, and choices we make about which thoughts and actions to water and grow. 

There are all sorts of blocks that get in the way of us connecting to our creativity, our life force.

There’s the inner critic, and then there are the outer critics. There’s perfectionism, and the fear that “it’s all been done before.” There’s the despair of “not enough,” and the ache of lacking inspiration.

Even after we’ve bushwhacked our way through the thickets of inner resistance to actually create something, we often prick ourselves on thorny choices around sharing what we’ve made. How do we know when it’s time to share, or if it ever needs to be shared? Is wanting to share our creativity inherently narcissistic? What if we get attention for it? What if no one pays attention? What’s the point of all of it, anyway?

All of this, and more, in today’s episode.

References:

We are honored to bring you a conversation with Stuart Ralph, host of The OCD Stories podcast. 

Stuart founded The OCD Stories podcast in 2015 to improve the lives of those with OCD. He holds a masters degree in psychological therapies from the University of London, Queen Mary and a masters degree in integrative child and adolescent counselling and psychotherapy from the University of Roehampton. He works in private practice as a child and adolescent counsellor and psychotherapist in the UK. 

In this episode, Stuart graciously shares his personal experiences with OCD, from his first childhood intrusive thoughts, to dealing with an OCD relapse as a new therapist.

We discuss why Stu chooses to practice as an integrative therapist, and how he uses modalities including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Compassion-Focused Therapy, and psychodynamic approaches alongside Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). 

Can we find a sense of aliveness rooted in our everyday lives?

Does the magic of life simply disappear as we age?

How do we take responsibility for our own aliveness?

In today’s episode, we are exploring all these questions and more to get at the heart of what it means to live fully and deeply, swimming in a sea of fear, courage, and connection.

When we stop taking risks, aliveness shrinks. 

When we ignore hard feelings, aliveness suffers.

When we hide from the world, aliveness is elusive. 

We invite you to get curious and consider: what areas of life are calling for you attention? 

References:

  • Richard Rohr quote: “Mystery is not something you can’t know. Mystery is endless knowability. Living inside such endless knowability is finally a comfort, a foundation of ultimate support, security, unrestricted love, and eternal care. For all of us, it takes much of our life to get there; it is what we surely mean by ‘growing’ in faith. I can’t prove this to you. Each soul must learn on its own, hopefully aided by observing other faith-filled people.”
  • Gilmore Girls episode “The Third Lorelai” 
  • Ladybird: “Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing — love and attention?”
  • The Four Givens of Existential Therapy
  • A Streetcar Named Desire: “The opposite is desire.”

There are times in our lives, especially around transitions, when we might wonder: what if? What if I had done things differently back then, or if circumstances been different? Would I suffer less now? And what about the future — what about all the paths that I can’t take? How do I honor them, let them go, and keep moving forward?

In today’s episode, Sheryl explains why and how to grieve unlived lives: the ones behind us and ahead of us, the ones that we turned away from by choice, and the ones that were barred to us by circumstance. 

We explore how grieving the roads not taken, and holding awareness of death, can help us to live more fully and courageously now, with hearts open to everything that is present for us in the only lives we truly have. 

We begin this episode about attraction by uncovering some core beliefs that get embedded into us at an early age — as early as childhood, when we watch classic cartoons featuring smitten characters with bulging heart eyes, salivating mouths, and hearts thumping out of their chests.

As we grow up, we see these depictions of attraction replicated in all types of media, glamorizing first sight, instantaneous chemical reactions between people, woven into a culture that often focuses on the superficial, on what we see at skin level. 

Today, we’re talking about what it means to experience true, ongoing attraction in a committed relationship. Sheryl dispels common myths and misunderstandings, expanding and deepening our understanding of attraction as connection that can be cultivated through loving actions.

Sheryl describes one of her favorite loving actions, which is simple but not easy, fundamental and yet not always obvious, something that can change the way we move through relationships and through the world. 

You know how to take care of yourself, right? It’s simple and easy. Just eat healthy, exercise, get the perfect amount and type of sleep every night, find meaningful work that pays you fairly and doesn’t overwork you, spend lots of time cultivating strong relationships, but don’t forget your relationship with yourself, go to therapy, be an active part of your community, grow a garden and make yourself a fresh green smoothie every morning–

Okay. So maybe not so simple.

The term “self-care” has gotten more and more infused into our everyday lexicon, and yet, it also seems to be more confusing than ever. With so much information at our fingertips, many of us feel guilty that we aren’t taking better care of ourselves. Why is it so hard?

That’s what we’re unpacking in today’s episode. 

Today, we are finally addressing a topic that has been the pathway to Sheryl’s work for so many of her clients and course members: relationship anxiety.

In this episode, we’re talking to Katie, asking her to share her story in the same style as the popular course member interviews included at the end of the Break Free from Relationship Anxiety course. 

Katie describes her relationship patterns before finding Sheryl’s course: how she would always run as soon as she thought someone might get hurt, how she thought that a relationship needed to start with infatuation to last, and how she held tight to a rigid independence to protect herself. 

Katie explains why she was determined not to run when she met her husband, even when RA brought symptoms like persistent insomnia. She talks about the mindset shifts she learned in Sheryl’s course that helped her to question everything she thought she knew about attraction and independence, and let go of her long list of criteria for a partner. And finally, she shares her wedding vows, and brings Sheryl and Victoria to tears.

Sheryl and Victoria recently shared their own relationship anxiety stories in a special Patreon bonus episode. You can learn about joining the Patreon and listen to that episode at patreon.com/gatheringgold

And if you are interested in Sheryl’s Break Free from Relationship Anxiety course, you can register here before this year’s only live round starts on February 26th. 

References:

You probably know the feeling: it’s the pit of dread in your stomach every time you see a particular date on the calendar, and you know exactly what’s happening on that day. The plane trip. The presentation at work. The dentist appointment.

If your dread is strong enough, you might find it date consumes your thoughts. You’re distracted even during enjoyable activities, worrying about the outcome of this looming event. What if the plane crashes? What if you get fired? What if the dentist drills the wrong tooth?!

This line of thinking has a name: anticipatory anxiety. In today’s episode, Sheryl and Victoria share stories of their own recent anticipatory anxiety, how it affects them, and why it’s important to bring curiosity to this realm. And they share strategies and surprising sources of solace that bring a little more excitement, gratitude, and peace to their days, as they continue to hold space for fear of uncertainty. 

If you enjoy the episode, check out a special “After the Show” video on Sheryl’s YouTube channel, in which Sheryl and Victoria tie up some loose ends, explain the abrupt podcast ending, and dig deeper into a spiritual response to anticipatory anxiety.

We were thrilled to speak with Michelle Kenney, a parenting coach who has helped thousands of parents stop using punishments and yelling and learn kind limits. 

In today’s episode, Michelle shares her journey to connective parenting, and how she learned to be empathetic and playful with her own strong willed child. 

In this conversation, we talk about perfectionism in parenting and navigating differences in parenting styles with family, other caregivers, and even one’s partner. Michelle describes how techniques like “special time” and listening partners can make all the difference for those who want to reconstruct themselves as parents. 

You can follow Michelle on Instagram @peaceandparenting and check out her podcast, Peace and Parenting, including her recent episode with Sheryl: Anxiety Around Parenthood.

References:

Our bodies know when we want to be touched, and when we don’t want to be touched. Desire and agency simmer in our throats, ready to emerge as “Yes” or “No,” to protect our sovereignty over our own bodies and sexuality. But centuries of patriarchy and violations in our personal histories may have disconnected us from the channel of our desire, and the agency of our voice. 

In today’s episode, we explore how “yes” and “no” in the sexual realm are intimately and irrevocably intertwined.  We linger on re-learning our right to say “no,” for, as Sheryl reminds us, there is no true yes without no. One depends upon the other. We explore some of the common themes that emerge when people feel disconnected from their desire—history of assault or abuse, feeling touched out, grappling with sexual pain, buckling under pressure and expectations. And we invite the warm light of compassion and gentle love to wash over us and bring us back to safety. 

Within this vast, deep, and sometimes painful conversation, there is also room for rediscovering eros, for finding solace, power, joy and laughter within sisterhoods and within ourselves. 

We can gently uncover pathways leading us back to the place that most naturally belongs to us—with time, patience, gentleness, and a bit of ferocity. 

References and Resources:

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