Great Doubt Great Awakening

imageI’ll never forget the day I was trying to find a parking spot at our local market and I saw this bumper sticker:

Great Doubt Great Awakening

Little Doubt Little Awakening

No Doubt Fast Asleep

– Zen Maxim

Now, Boulder is full of philosophical bumper stickers of all persuasions, but if you know my work, I’m sure you can imagine why this one brought a huge smile to my face. You mean Zen Buddhism is supporting what I talk about every day in my work? How wonderful!

Buddhist Psychotherapist Tara Brach says it this way:

“Like investigation, healthy doubt arises from the urge to know what is true–it challenges assumptions or the status quo in service of healing and freedom. In contrast, unhealthy doubt arises from fear or aversion, and it questions one’s own basic potential or worth, or the value of another.”

― Tara Brach, True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart

So we’re not alone here on this site talking about the healthy function of doubt. Doubt is a sign that you’re a thoughtful, analytical person. Doubt means that something very important to you is at stake and you’re not going to make the decision lightly. What’s interesting about Tara Brach’s statement is that, if you’re suffering from relationship anxiety, you’re dealing with both healthy doubt and unhealthy doubt. What begins as healthy doubt about your relationship stemming from a need to walk forward with eyes wide open as you ask the essential questions about love and relationships can quickly morph and spiral into a nightmare of unhealthy doubt as the anxious-sensitive mind spins around on itself and bites its own tail. Here’s how it goes:

I wonder if I love my partner enough to continue this relationship. What is real love anyway? How do you know if you’re in love? What makes a relationship survive and thrive in the long term?  [Healthy and valid questioning]

Anxious mind now steps in: Asking these questions is evidence that I don’t really love my partner. If I really loved him or her, I wouldn’t be asking these questions at all. I would just know [buzzword for the anxious mind]Over the course of the next several minutes, hours, or weeks, anxious mind spins into overdrive: What if I never really loved her? What if I’ve just been convincing myself all along? Didn’t I always have that little whisper of doubt from the beginning? And you’re off and running, tumbling down the rabbit hole of anxiety and despair…

If you knew that great doubt was a sign of great awakening, you wouldn’t spin into anxiety when doubt first showed up. Doubt often arises when the love-drug of infatuation dies down, which is another indicator that doubt carries within it the seeds of wisdom. There’s nothing wise about infatuation. If you had an infatuation stage in your relationship that’s all fine and good, but there’s no correlation between having a honeymoon stage and the longevity or sustainability of a relationship. Infatuation is primarily hormones, and it doesn’t take magic to synchronize the hormones inside of two separate bodies. All this to say, when infatuation crashes and doubt steps in, you’ve just woken up. Now it’s time to learn about real love.

And if you never had an infatuation stage the awakening happens in other ways. Then the doubt centers around the fact that you never felt head-over-heels-in-love and the fact that the niggling voice of doubt always circled around your ear like an annoying fly. The questions circle: “Was I ever in love? What does it mean that doubt was always present? It must mean that I’m with the wrong person.” And then you’re tumbling down your own rabbit hole of despair and confusion.

Yet here we arrive at the gift of doubt. While doubt that exists from the beginning may not be a sign of great awakening or health, it can lead to great awakening when we understand that this doubt is code word of fear and that the presence of fear always presents an opportunity for growth. The culture says: If doubt was present from the beginning, it’s a sign that you’re with the wrong person. The wise person knows: If doubt was present from the beginning, and you’re with a healthy, loving partner, it means your ego, fear-based self knew from day one that this is someone with whom you could grow and heal, which means someone whom you could truly love. Where there is love, there is the risk of loss. Therefore, doubt is here to prevent you from taking the risk of love, which means opening to the possibility of loss. There is wisdom in the doubt. The task is to learn to hear the doubt, but not listen to it, which means not allowing it to sit in the driver’s seat of your mind and heart. 

Where do learn this in the culture? Nowhere – at least certainly not in the mainstream. But when doubt hits, another voice is always present – if only a whisper – that says, “I don’t want to leave. And if I don’t want to leave, there must be something here for me to learn.” This is how our heart’s longing for growth and healing supersedes the ego-mind’s need to maintain the status quo. Whereas the ego is terrified of change, the heart invites it. So you search and Google and ask and talk and write until you find your way here or to another source who espouses the truth about love and relationships. And something inside of you, your heart’s deepest longing, says YES.

The more I do this work, the more I see that the greater the doubt, the greater the consciousness and the higher the likelihood of a healthy relationship. This is because doubt, as code word for fear, invites transformation. If we allow doubt to rule our actions, we’re sunk. But if we accept the invitation to learn about fear, we grow in leaps and bounds on all fronts (emotionally, cognitively, spiritually). If we can make space for the doubt, we make room for love. If we allow for imperfection in all forms, both in ourselves, our partners, and our perceptions and illusions about what love “should” look like and how it “should” feel, we open to moments of perfect grace.

97 comments to Great Doubt Great Awakening

  • Alexandra

    Hi Sheryl,
    I took your course- the last round of Trust Yourself- and found it immensely helpful. My partner and I are now contemplating having children and I am struggling a lot with the decision (yes or no, I mean!) and I can feel my fear-self coming into play. I can’t tell if my “No” inclination is coming from my wounded self. Would your “birthing a new mother” course be of help to me?

    • Yes, the course would be helpful, as it will help you weed out the fear voices so that you can determine your deeper truth. But also know that doubt applies to all major endeavors, including having children. When you can make room for the ambivalence, you have a greater chance of finding your clarity.

  • R

    Again Sheryl Paul! Thanks for such brilliant writing and thoughts on healthy relationships in juxtaposition to the culture’s brainwashing. Let me tell you how many relationships went south or didn’t even start when I thought “I just knew”. I searched for that infatuation feeling throughout my teens and 20’s and every time I made an immediate connection with a woman, I thought she was “the one”. My longtime partner now is the only one who I actually didn’t think was “the one”. Funny how that works but there’s wisdom in realizing what was different. In these other relationships, I was flooded with lust and infatuation. It left no room for doubt or rational thought. It doesn’t even make sense to have that much feeling for someone based off an initial meeting, good date or one night stand. It’s just inflated hope that will never be matched by real love in real life. In my relationship now, there were indeed a lot of sparks up front, but we lived in two different states and it was hard to keep that initial spark going. This isn’t to say we didn’t like each other, but I began learning quickly that this was different than the other girls I had met when I “just knew” and felt infatuated. This relationship seemed like a “bowl of oatmeal”, like fruit and vegetables when I was used to seductive decadent good tasting but very unhealthy food. I used to love the chase. That gut wrenching infatuation of pursuing someone who never would never commit. It was addicting! It’s a very high high “to fall in love at first sight” and very low low to not have it unrequited or fall apart on you. A healthy relationship is just like anything else healthy in life. Calm. Once my current partner and I had a few difficult conversations about moving to the same state so we could have a relationship, is when I freaked out. I heard the screams of doubt deep in my gut. They said, “your stomach isn’t wrenching. you can sleep at night. your heart doesn’t race when she’s around, how can she be the one?” But I didn’t listen. I said yes to her and us. I leaned into faith, and relied on my logic, rather than my heart alone. This is an ongoing process. Even after I got over the initial doubt, I began feeling guilty for having that doubt at all. That I was somehow lying to her about how I felt. That ignoring my gut would take my off my mystical “pre chose path to the one”. So, while I don’t have to fully expunge my deepest anxieties to my partner, I flat out told her I was panicking. That I was nervous and scared. I also told her that I was fully committed in the midst of it. We talked through it, and she admitted some of her fears as well. It really opened the door to be more honest and created a new base of trust in our relationship. Sheryl, thanks for explaining what healthy doubt vs unhealthy doubt looks like in a way I never could, but have only experienced.

  • Very good article. I relate to that, I can relate on me being always doubtful about getting married because I had resistance I guess because of what I saw in the marriage of my parents being so horrible and destructive.
    I had lots of fear when I knew my husband was there to go no where and I was not sure that I wanted to marry him because I was always afraid of marriage, but I knew that I wanted to be with him, So I decided to marry and he is a wonderful loving amazing man and husband. Every time I would get spiked about not loving him etc it would spike me and I would feel that ” I want to be with him feeling” “I want him to be the one” and then these last few weeks I was grieving the life I will never live or what I will never have and then it turned into a ” Maybe I should not had married” ” What if I was not ready” ” What if it was my fear just attaching to wanting to be with him but not my true self” and then I started to feel like maybe part of me didnt want to be married, and all kinds of negative thoughts came, and I did not feel that feeling anymore of (” I want to be with him”) when before it would spike me to think or image about love or not loving him anymore because I wanted to be with him and I wanted to love him.
    Yes there was a part of me that did not want to married because I would resist it so much but there were others times when I was happy and so thankful and I thought marring was the best decision I could had made in my life. My husband says its fear and its transformed but its still fear. I don’t know if its projection but I know that I would resist marriage and commitments because I did not want to be controled and I notice something inside of me resist closeness, its like I avoid it and I know its to protect myself but I don’t know from what, and when I try to think about why or what is there to be protected from I cant understand it. When I think about what it would be like if I were leave to try to make sence to what I am feeling I have no reason to other than to maybe be safe and not controlled or to avoid closeness. I am journaling about it to try to make sense too.
    For some reason now as I am writing to you, I just dont want you to say that its maybe because it means that I dont want to be with him anymore and I should go, and I am hoping that you tell me its just fear and it doesn’t mean that maybe I want to leave or that I dont want to be with him deep inside.

  • Joshua

    Thanks so much for all your wisdom. I had two failed relationships before stumbling across your website. I credit your site with saving my current relationship – I really, genuinely thought all the anxiety meant I shouldn’t be with my partner. Yet the thoughts of leaving felt unbearable.

  • Marianne

    This was just what I needed. Reading through, so many things just resonated with where I am at right now. We’ve been having the same issue come up over and over again: that he feels I’m not really being active in the relationship or giving enough of what he needs, and despite me saying I will work harder, I end up falling back to the comfortableness of the status quo and not really doing anything to better the relationship or to work on the things that I want personally for myself.

    With the same issue coming up, I wondered whether I do really love him and care enough or whether this is just how I am and it won’t work out. But my choice is to work harder or give up, and I think I resist making the change. But I know there are some things I do need to work harder on, I do need to change, so that I can get what I want. I have this idea that love shouldn’t be this hard, that it should just be magical and loving between you, and if it’s not, then it must not be the right guy. I sometimes wish I could make myself fall in love with him and feel those butterfly feelings. :/ Then I think maybe I would care hard enough to do something. But it could be I’m preventing myself from really loving because of that fear of loss, because I’m not sure if it is 100% right, and so I don’t want to pour myself into it completely.

    I wish it were easy! And the culture does tell us that if it’s right, it should just happen, and if it’s hard, then it must be wrong. But it’s true, I don’t want to leave. And I know he has my best interests in mind and he could help me grow. But it’s the growing that’s hard. It requires change and being able to accept that awkward new feeling, that anxiety, that step into the unknown. I want so much to know what it “should” be like, whether it’s “right.” I’m just going to have to take the leap I think, to accept the risk, and to try something. Because I know that even though the status quo is comfortable, it means I’m sitting in the same place, and I’m not moving toward my goals.

    • silver

      Hi! I’ve been feeling the same way, It’s been so hard for a last couple of months already. It’s very toxic for the both of us, since the ambivalence I’m causing results to me being hot and cold towards my lovely partner. I know for sure that she’s very beautiful, smart, kind, very supportive and protective in a partner. Someone that a lot of people dreams about and I’m very lucky to have her in my side. Thus me being unsure of her caused a lot of pain and disrespect in her receiving end. Even though she still don’t leave my side whenever I need help emotionally and almost everything.

      I’m still figuring out why I’m acting this way since I keep pushing away even my family. I keep distancing to every person who loves me true and accepts me for who I am rather than fake people in to my life. I don’t know to love or how to accept it, it seems my heart is cold as stone against persons who face me with everything they had. I want to be vulnerable to her but I don’t know how to. Sometimes I’m deciding to leave my relationship to let someone else love her without doubts and hesitations.

      I know I’m pretty disconnected with myself since I wasn’t able to be happy myself, I’m easily brainwashed, and have a weak inner strength easily swayed by problems and tend to run away from it. This year I lost alot of people in my life due to them not being true to me. I wish I can improve myself to be better so that I can give her the love that she deserves. It causes me too much guilt and no empathy against her. I keep judging my actions knowing that the problem is with myself. Maybe I’m focusing too much on her appearance or I’m protecting myself from something or very reluctant to change. I want to know deep inside what is the reason behind me running from every relationship since my first rejection in my early years.

      • I’ll be offering my Trust Yourself program again in January, and I strongly encourage you to take it so that you can learn how to strengthen your inner self and fill the waters of your inner well. And to answer your implicit question that you ended with, one reason you’re running from every relationship since your first rejection is BECAUSE of the first rejection. It’s likely that beliefs were formed as a fortification around your broken heart that are still guiding your actions.

        • Silver

          So it might be the reason why I keep running away even though It feels like it is not the one causing it? It feels so weird that I fail to appreciate everything that i have. And think too much about myself

  • HealingHeart7

    Dear everyone,

    This is a most moving article because it speaks nothing but Truth. From any perspective–Christian, Taoist, Buddhist, etc.–Love develops from doubt and fear and comfort and desire all at once. It’s so odd, this juxtaposition of apparent negativity (anxiety, doubt, fear) and pure higher level oneness with another/God/Jesus/humanity/Earth (Love). The two somehow oppose each other yet neither develops without the other. Look at the best relationships you know. Ask those individuals what makes their partnerships work so well and what you often hear is cliche statements like, “It takes a lot of work!” and “Loving is comfortable after you can admit that you need to
    Change some things about yourself and submit to the thought of being partnered [versus alone]” and “We work each day and it just ends up feeling good in the end” and many times long-long-term positive relationship partners will say that it “no longer takes much work but it does require that we recognize the realities of disappointment, disease, an death.”

    Each time you might feel Love from the couples and yet at the same time get the sense that the work is challenging, the road is long, and the Love is there the entire time overpowering everything else in the end. I guess if we a just said, “Yes!!! I’m anxious and I’m so excited because this means I’m on the verge of learning and loving!!!” we’d all be, well, less appreciative and less engaged and less enriched, right? Bring on the doubt, fear, anxiety, nausea, questioning, bouts of sweet jealousy (we are not talking psychotic stuff here of course), and occasional lack of self-confidence!

  • Alma

    Thank you for this article. I cried when I read the inner dialogue, it is exactly what is going on in my head all the time!

    I felt this article was about me right up until the wise person steps in. The fear of loss does not resonate with me. I don’t want to lose him, but I don’t feel it holding me back, or that ego realized when my partner turned out to be serious that it was a chance to heal and grow. I just felt ashamed because I thought he was unavailable and loved his attention. I am not sure I truly care for him, or just like what he gives me without feeling like I can give him the same in return. I don’t want that to be my truth. I like being with him. But I don’t have that feeling of ‘I want a family with him’ or feel like I would be there for him during the hard times. I do want to have that feeling though, so I don’t have to leave.

  • Anna

    My husband and I were recently able to take advantage of the doubt we were both having (unknowingly) and turn that into an opportunity to have deep discussions about our struggles and needs. I still wonder though about how you know if the larger questions about marriage in general (is marriage for me?) and partner choice (is there someone that would make me happier?) are okay or not. Do they also signal doubt, anxiety, insecurity, or if you have those questions is there something actually going wrong that needs to be addressed? I think I’m self-aware enough to know when it’s just me being afraid, but when these questions don’t go away even when the fears do, I wonder what is going on.

    • It’s always possible that there are real issues in the marriage that need to be addressed. When you’re in a relationship long-term, issues will build up over time and can lead to doubt and disconnection. This is normal, and when the issues are addressed effectively the marriage will grow stronger.

  • Grateful Warrior

    Sheryl, I absolutely love this article. It’s so beautifully written, and so dead on. Lately, however, I feel these anxious feelings and doubts from fhe very start of something new. It’s debilitating to be quite honest, not to mention just down right frustrating. I usually just take it as a sign that it isn’t right and run for my life. I understand logic can tell me if its right or wrong, but the heart is the most confusing to me. I always wonder “fear or intuition?” and have the hardest time deciphering between the two. Any words of wisdom from you or any others on this miracle of a site would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

      • Grateful Warrior

        I have actually been looking at this course for years. I think it’s time to finally do it. I will be purchasing it this week. Thank you!

    • ColoradoGirl

      Love this part Sheryl.. And so true! The lessons I learned from you catapulted me in to a HUGE transformation..mind, body, spirituality, diet.. You name it. “The more I do this work, the more I see that the greater the doubt, the greater the consciousness and the higher the likelihood of a healthy relationship. This is because doubt, as code word for fear, invites transformation.”

      Grateful Warrior.. If you sign up for the e-course Sheryl mentioned. You’ll notice an interview with me at the very end. I’ve been married for a year and a half now and my doubt showed up immediately after the first date and stayed with me nearly every day until I found Sheryl some four or so years later.

      • Yes! Thank you for chiming in, both here and, of course for your wonderful interview (which has helped and inspired hundreds already). xo

      • Grateful Warrior

        Thank you so much for your reply, both Sheryl and Colorado Girl. I’m taking this as a sign that it’s finally time to work through it. And I think I’m finally with someone healthy enough to be able to. I’m so excited to say I will be getting the course this week. Thank you for the confirmation.

        • ColoradoGirl

          That’s wonderful to hear Grateful Warrior! Blessings for the journey you’re about to embark on!

          • Grateful Warrior

            I have a question for you Colorado Girl and/or Sheryl…does relationship anxiety have the ability to make you confused about how you feel completely? What happens to me is I start dating someone and my feelings are strong, then the anxiety kicks in and it’s almost like the feelings disappear overnight…it’s so frustrating.

    • Clara

      I very much endorse this e-course too, Grateful Warrior. Like Colorado Girl, Sheryl’s work was the catalyst for enormous growth and healing for me. I am also one of the people interviewed in the e-course, so if you undertake it you’ll hear about my journey and recovery. In answer to your final question, yes I have definitely experienced relationship anxiety eclipsing my capacity to feel anything else in my life. Intense anxiety can do that. You are not alone, and there is definitely hope, when you have the right information and support. Blessings to you. Clara

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl, What I learnt about the courses and myself is; not making a mistake, not risking loss, its too painful the best things that happen in life and the most important part of our life is a healthy, loving, understanding, compromising partnership. I have always been scared since i was little. I never wanted to lose my dog, i never wanted to leave my primary school friends. I never wanted anything to end.,and this is life. We are here to risk not stay in our comfort zone.

  • Angela

    Growth and change are part of being human. Doubt to means making a decision when you give it time and see how you feel when you allow yourself to learn as time always makes you see things clearer. When someone injures its foot it takes time to heal. Relationships are like that.

  • beby

    Dear Sheryl

    My bf afraid of gettin used by me, he afraid that I’d be like my mom whose always focus on money
    When we argued and fight want to end it , he asked about the engagement ring, what would I do for it if we end the relationship, he said it’s worth a lot
    I really don’t want to leave, but I’m so confused..
    Would you like to give me some advice..
    Guide me to the some light of this problem

  • Mich

    Hi Sheryl. One of your posts said “you can’t make a relationship work with just anyone” and that totally spiked my anxiety. I’ve also questioned it on another post of yours. Please reply, I feel really freaked out and scared scared after reading that. 🙁 My anxiety get in my way of “connecting”…but when my heart is open I adore him.

  • Angela

    Sheryl, A few weeks ago, i told my mother off because she talks negatively about my husband. I told her to stop.. And she reacted and she told me not to contact her anymore. What kind of mother would get angry for no reason.? She has always been controlling. Im so tired of her insensitivity. I was initially angry and upset. Now i dont want to waste my tears on her.. Is that healthy to not want to attend to my feelings Sheryl? As you say feeling your feelings is essential.

  • MohTA

    This is an amazing article Sheryl!

    Doubt is really a painful feeling, because, as of personal experience, doubt simultaneously keeps spinning between multiple painful feelings; doubt, uncertainty, worry, fear of shame or disappointment!
    Before going through the course of “Break Free from Relationship Anxiety”, I was suffering to an extent of believing that “the only certain fact I have is my doubt!!” and so “I am certainly in a wrong relationship”.

    As of today, I am in the middle of the course; am not healed yet.. I am still in pain, I am actually suffering, yet, I can feel something in the horizon..

    If I want to draw an imagination of how am doing today exactly, it is like am in a wooden ship in the middle of the ocean, I have been always in this ship, but obliged to stay in the inner room “safely” living but not alive! not allowed to see the sea, not allowed to interact with sea creatures outside, the sun, the sky or even to dare to discover if there are other ships where other people can be there!

    At some times of my life, a storm comes to the sea with high waves and thunders and rain, a strong feeling comes to tell me to go out of the room and see what’s going on and do something to avoid death! But each time, I decide not to go there, not to confront and stay in that room as it is the “only certain” safe place where I have known to be safe in my life!

    Until today.. Until I entered into my current relationship.. The storm has hit again, but much stronger this time.. It has been for several months so far.. It was stronger to a limit that for the first time I felt that I have to go out of the room and take my chances to see if it can be in anyway safer outside! I stepped out of the room, and I was “LITERALLY PANICKED”, I moved into this relationship with serious engagement and the ANXIETY hit! I had at that moment a very painful doubt “Should I continue stepping out of the room or should I go back safely inside”? And it has been the most painful feeling I have ever had..

    At that day I found Sheryl work and I have started the course..
    Now the storm is still very strong and am still in pain, but the difference so far is that I am stepping out really more steps, but still scared and doubtful.. because the storm is very strong..
    Now am out seeing the woods of the ship breaking one by one in front of my eyes, the waves are getting higher telling me to go back inside, to run away from this confrontation..

    But believe me that at moments, still moments so far, when the wave comes to its bottom and before the next wave hits, I can really see a peaceful land at the horizon.. I can see there is a place I will arrive to If I keep trying to drive the ship to, even if I stay at the last wood piece on that ship..

    I will stay regardless of what will happen, because with the work am doing, day by day, I become more aware and really more believer that the doubt and pain I have is what keeps me staying out of that room because there is something better out there, still vague, but “certainly” better for myself.

    May God help me to discover that this peaceful land is my partner, but until so and regardless of this outcome, I will keep trying as it is only me who can reach there or stay in the room

    Thank you Sheryl

    • Thank you for this. The course itself is, indeed, a journey, and I love the metaphors you’re using to articulate your process. Keep going!

      • MohTA

        I never imagined myself able to write anything close to this.. or to simply write..!

        Now I feel am getting more and more open to a new world, to doing things clearly I wanted or “meant to” do since long time, as I feel it!

        And this is thanks you.. am really grateful Sheryl


  • Soph

    Sheryl I was with my therapist and she has really put me down!! I was doing a mood diary for her and I’m currently struggling with “just friends” and “you don’t like him” I have your break free course and can relate to it. I think I need to condition myself to what real love is as I am always looking for feelings. Basically the therapist said “did you ever think that your thinking these thoughts is because your feeling have changed. And that you do like him as just a friend. And that because your feeling like you don’t like him is that it’s true and your trying to control it, which is why you feel so sad/irritated?” Please help me this has made me so sad 🙁 x

    • just me

      I send you hugs X I have heard same things from my therapist. That I am suffering from depression and disturbing dreams because I am too scared to admit my truth. He said that I am a people pleaser and too good at manipulating my feelings because I am scared to admit my real truth. I have been in deep depression and so upset..

      • b5126

        Hi Soph and just me,

        There will almost always be a therapist or someone who will say the issue is with your partner. If you allow yourself to say “okay, at times I don’t like him, but then start to focus on what is good in your partner” you might realize that the feelings of loving him will reappear. We can help guide our feelings as well. Just because they seem they have changed doesn’t mean they are gone forever. I would also hesitate to trust anyone who tells you what your truth is- as your therapist seems to have said just me.

    • Alex

      I can pretty confidently say that your therapist is wrong! I see a therapist about my anxiety, disturbing dreams, etc. She helped me realize that these doubts and anxieties are defense mechanisms for a deeper issue! I have had family trouble my whole life and have had people who I deeply loved let me down. So now, whenever I am confronted with a deeply loving and caring relationship, my first instinct is to run away. Defense mechanisms are scary especially when they feel so real. If you are feeling depressed about your therapists comments and not relieved, I can pretty confidently say that he is wrong about your feelings!

      • just me

        What kind of disturbing dreams have you seen Alex? I have seen dreams about divorcing and it has felt a right decision. I am feeling so disconnected to my own feelings amd it has made me wonder if it is my truth.I really do not want to break our home, but I am really wondering if there is other way out from depression and this pain. My husband is a great and loving and I deeply care about him, but I am scared that I am just convincind myselt that this is love.. I feel so lost..

        • Alex

          I’m in a bit of a situation, because I’m dating someone for over a year and have had doubts from the beginning. But the dreams are a bit similar-having sex with my ex, my girlfriend breaking up with me, dating someone else, etc. All of these are a manifestation of fear, or at least how that is interpreted in my brain. One specific example is I had a dream of my mother dying. My mother isn’t dead! However, she has had a very manipulative hold on me for my whole life-she’s basically tried to force my sexuality one way or the other and tells me that she knows that I’ve been lying to myself for many years about who I really . So, the dream of my mother dying was actually interpreted as the controlling part off my mother dying! So I don’t actually listen to her anymore and I have separated myself from her manipulative “advice”. As someone still struggling with relationship anxiety, I totally understand your pain. It’s very difficult. But seeing how you describe your husband and how distraught you are, Id say move towards that pain and anxiety and don’t leave. It’ll only make things work. It’s what your brain on anxiety wants-not what your heart and soul want. That’s what I would say!

  • Bra77

    Hey Sheryl!
    Lately I’ve felt very angry/irritated at what my girlfriend does. Almost like everything she does/says makes me upset. She could forget to grab me lunch when j never asked her or be late to something and I’ll get so frustrated. Is this just another manifestation of anxiety or is that a real problem? Any advice on this?

    • b5126

      My understanding is that irritation is often a manifestation of the anxiety- especially when you are focusing on her not doing something that you didn’t even ask! Check out the articles on irritation throughout the blog.

  • Angela

    Sheryl, that bumper sticker was meant for you i believe in signs. The other day i was driving along the highwa and i saw a painted name Kiara at the back of the windscreen on someones car. I looked at it and thought wow that is the name my daughter we would like to choose when she comes into our world. Not pregnant yet but so
    Hoping soon.

  • Angela

    Sheryl, im hoping you can answer this question. Ive been on the anxiety journey for 2 years now. As you know im at a much better place.. I feel grounded and confident with life. I want to ask you me and my husband have been trying to have a baby. Has the anxiety interfered with me not conceiving a baby.?

    • No, Angela: that kind of thinking is the result of being an anxious-sensitive person and falling prey to the belief that you can control your outcome with your thoughts. Conception is its own mystery with its own timeframe. The work is to practice connecting to faith and patience. Do you have the Birthing a New Mother program? There’s an entire lesson on preconception.

  • just me

    Do you think Sheryl, that there is hope for us, eventhough I am dreaming about divorcing and getting back to my ex. I feel like I care about my husband as a person and more like a friend. We have not had honeymoon stage together, but we have a lot of good things in our relationship, which I do not want to throw away. I would like to learn real love with my husband, but I do not if I am just forcing myself to something which is not possible. I feel so hopeless..

    • just me

      I have been experiencing religional transitions recently which has caused some difficulties to our relationship.

      • just me

        I am so concerned that I have married my husband according to my head, instrad of hearth, and that is why I have been in deep depression for years. My therapist also told me that he is not able to help me anymore. I am so alone now with my struggle. I really do not know which is true anymore.

        • just me

          I really need some guidance.

          • b5126

            just me, i am so sorry you are struggling so much. it’s so hard when you feel like you are left alone with the struggle, but you aren’t alone. there are so many who have gone through what you are going through. have you purchased the e-course? have you done any journaling? you may look back on your therapist saying he can’t helo you anymore because it really is important to turn inward and do the work yourself. No one can do it for you. That being said, from what you have said on here, it doesn’t seem like you married him just based on your “head.” There is the potential for love to grow, for connection to grow, and peace to grow- now is the time to turn inward and find out what YOU are telling yourself that is causing your depression. Take a deep breath, know you aren’t alone, and dive in. You will get through this. Hang on!

          • just me

            Thank you so much for your loving answer. It helped me a lot. I try to take a deep breath and keep doing my work.

    • Laurelle

      Hi Just Me,

      Have you tried reading “First Comes Marriage” by Reva Seth? I would highly recommend this book. She talks about arranged marriages vs marriages “for love”. Interestingly, in her research, she’s found that couples who marry “for love” (think feelings) report higher levels of marital satisfaction in the early years of marriage than couples in arranged marriages. However, after 10 years, couples in arranged marriages report higher levels of satisfaction than the couples who married for love. It really provided comfort to me that part of choosing a spouse – a big part – is looking at compatibility beyond the feelings. Do you share worldviews? Do you agree on whether or not to have children? Are there no red flag issues (abuse, addiction, etc.)? Just because you decide to marry for rational reasons – i.e. you are a good fit, you are best friends, you have fun together – instead of feeling “in love” or infatuation does not mean it isn’t right. In fact, I would argue that feeling in love is something that comes and goes, and ultimately needs to be cultivated. If you have the solid basis of compatibility and friendship, with no red flag issues, you are likely in a good place. It really helped me to adjust my expectations about marriage and love – it isn’t about a feeling. Love needs to be tended, cultivated to grow and sustain.

  • b5126

    That should say “help” not helo!! 🙂

  • CM


    My fiancé and I have been engaged for about 8 months, and we are to be married in less than 6. Our relationship has been great; there have been plenty of ups and downs, but nothing that we haven’t overcome. The problem is that for a little while now I’ve felt very anxious and confused. She loves me very much and is always there for me. Now I’m all of a sudden questioning myself if it’s “right.” I know that I love her and that she’s the perfect woman for me, I just don’t understand why I all of a sudden feel so anxious and nervous. I don’t want to lose her and I know that she is worried about me. I just want things to go back to the way they were. Thanks


  • Sheryl,
    What a fabulous and reassuring post…thank you!! I read it from the angle of the “hypochondriac” which is something I have suffered from nearly all my life and, as we know, is just another form of self-doubt. My hypochondria has been so overwhelming in the past months….but for the first time EVER, rather than run off to my doctor for yet more reassurance, I have started seeing a counsellor, one-to-one. I can’t tell you how scary this is to my fear-based self – on so many levels, but primarily, it’s the fear of putting my trust in this decision!! To that scared part of me, it feels like the hugest risk whereby I am voluntarily catapulting myself into an unknown void. Wouldn’t it just be easier to do what I’ve always done before and I would feel instantly better…instantly reassured? I know the answer of course, as I’ve always known….Yes, it would be easier – temporarily – but then my fear and self distrust would transfer on to something else…Fear has to lay it’s hat somewhere, right? 🙂 That’s why I’m choosing to do things very differently this time….

    It is so incredibly heart warming to be reminded that “doubt carries within it the seeds of wisdom” and that “if we allow doubt to rule our actions we are sunk”….that instead, “if we accept the invitation to learn about fear, we grow in leaps and bounds on all fronts..” How apt for what I am going through right now – thank you!! And the quote on the bumper sticker? Wow! When I read that last line, I was blown away. I have had so many dreams about observing people sleeping, about being invited to take sleeping pills etc….And now, it’s making so much sense! I am starting to choose to “be” with doubt. And my God, it’s hard! Talk about rewiring old habits. Thank you for reminding me I’m on the right track. Much love, Zoe xxx

    • Hi Zoe: I’m so glad to hear that you’re receiving more support! Therapy with a skilled counselor can be life-changing, and you’re at a great point to be deepening your work even more. Sending love –

  • silver

    Why do I feel that I don’t want the relationship anymore, I feel like I don’t want to marry her and I don’t value her too much. But I don’t want to be with other girls. I’m just in a certain distance with her keeping her there but it feels so stupid. I want to have the extreme feelings for her it feels weird not having the inlove feelings for someone.

  • Bra77

    Sheryl lately I’ve realized I’ve been getting overly jealous and very short with my partner recently telling her to calm down or relax when she gets stressed out… Is this a manifestation of fear or am I actually falling out of love with her because I haven’t felt the love and cried tears of joy for having her in weeks and I’m not really scared about losing her anymore and we’ve been fighting more often. Please help

  • Angela

    Ok, i see thanks so much for your response. No, i havent tried the birthing a new mother program.. Where is the program?

  • Krista

    I can’t thank you enough for this post!
    I have suffered from anxiety induced depressing for many years now, focusing more on cognitive based therapy over the last year or so.
    I have just recently got engaged (5 days ago) and it was bothering me that I was not as excited as I “should” be. Even leading up to the proposal (I knew it was coming) I consistently questioned myself and whether or not this was the right person for me. I have been using my recent lack of excitement as proof that I have chosen the wrong person, and tumbling down that rabbit hole as you put it. Even as I am writing this my mind is reminding me of the proof that I am making the wrong choice. But this post has genuinely helped me to put my mind at ease. It has helped me to realize that I am not alone, and what I am feeling is not out of the ordinary and that there are reasons for the feelings other than “he is not right for me”-which I have automatically assumed.

    Thank you

  • Theboxer

    Thank for this post Sheryl.
    Lately I’ve realized that the feeling of “I must find something better” is not related to my partner only. I actually feel like that about everything in my life. When I’m alone I want to be with other people, then I meet my friends and wish I were home on my own. In highschool I couldn’t wait to go to university, then during university I kept telling myself “I’ll be happy when I graduate”. When I was single I thought a boyfriend was all I needed to fill the void I feel inside, but now that I do have a bf, I want to break up and I keep thinking maybe one day I’ll find someone better who will make me feel whole. It makes me feel guilty because he’s actually a good guy and deserves to be with someone who wants all of him. It’s like I don’t belong anywhere and I can never be happy, like I’m always looking for something or someone else to fill the empty space inside of me. Some days I think I’m just not made for living

  • Sonakshi

    Hi everyone..first of all..a big THANK each and every person all have helped me one way the other..from making me realize that am not being there and supporting me..and of really are next to God for me..I thank u soo sooooo much..I would like to share a bit about me and my story..I think many people will relate to it..I remember I found this blog a yr and half ago..I was suffering from anxiety related to my relationship..I was only 14 then..yeah I know am too young..but I really love this guy..I have loved him since I was 7..but it’s only 2 yrs ago we got together..and he had hurt me earlier anyway..I started getting thoughts like..I don’t love him anymore..or it was only infatuation..also I started questioning my sexuality!!I was very traumatizing for me..handling my studies and this anxiety and relationship..all together..but one day while desperately searching for answers..I came here..and I cried soo much when I read an article by felt as if she was the only person in this world who understood me..because..even if these intrusive thoughts were there..I always wanted to be with my bf..he loves me like crazy..understands me..he’s the best for me..and these thoughts made me feel guilty..and if I tried to avoid these thoughts they came back with much more intensity..crushing me..I had no where to go..and I couldn’t even take up the I religiously started to read this blog..and I also did something I learned from here..that I had an inner child..that there was this clear but small little voice within me which can NEVER lie to always speaks the truth..and it told me it’s only scared and doesn’t want to leave my’s scared it’s soooo anxious because it doesn’t want to get hurt..and what I did was comfort my inner self..each time it needed me..which was maybe once in a few minutes during the initial Sheryl says..this anxiety..these thoughts..they are a way to draw our attention to our inner self..which needs our love and me guys..if you are here..then there’s surely a lot of love in your surely don’t want to are just’s after months that I felt anxious again..two days ago..I had my exams so couldn’t do anything about it..just faced it..I think I am facing it again because..only two days of my school life in this town is left where I was born..I am shifting to another state within 3 months..I got my exams before that..and I am sure handling my emotions as well as the tension these exams will bring will be very difficult..also my relationship will now change to a long distance one as my bf is also will indeed be very tough for us..but we have made up our minds that no matter what now..we will go through everything together and face every challenge but never leave each others’ have made up my mind to take this new challenge in a positive way..of course I have you all to turn for help looking forward to this new beginning of my life and hope everything works out well..okay so it’s getting very long now..sorry but am just so thankful to Sheryl and her work..she had stopped me from taking the worst decision of my life a yr ago..and I hope I can have her help for the rest of my life too as I know I’ll need her and everyone thanks again..may God help us all through our hard times and show us the right path..I’ll just say..hold on and hold tight!!You will get through this one day and that day you will be thankful that this anxiety even attacked you in the first’s a guft will realize this very soon..have faith in your love..take care..

  • Sonakshi

    It’s a gift I mean..

  • Theboxer

    Thanks for the quick answer Sheryl! I’ve been saving for a while now and I think I’ll finally take the course 🙂 I hate thinking that maybe I could find someone else and be happier, I wanna be happy with my partner! I’m so lucky I have found your work

  • Madeline

    I just have a quick thing to ask anyone. I have been going through the relationship anxiety course and working really hard. The anxiety has left me, but I’m left with really no feelings towards my partner, I feel as though there is no reason for me to stay. In a weird way I miss the anxiety because it was a sense that there was a fight, that part of me still did want to be there. Now I feel nothing. Do I wait it out, is this my answer?? I don’t want to leave.

    • MohTA

      Hi Madeline,

      I am still in the middle of the course (starting section 3), have worked hard as well so far for the first two sections..
      I am glad to hear and find someone saying “the anxiety has left me”, congratulations 🙂
      I will try to say few words for you of what I feel and I hope what I will say is the correct thing to do as am still not an expert of this.. but I want to say what I felt when I read your post..

      Let me try to visit your realms in answering your concern:

      Cognitively: I want to remind you Madeline that real love is everything but “just a feeling”, and to remind that you “you being left with really no feelings toward your partner” is the normal, logical and true interpretation of a “real existing relationship”, a relationship that you are engaged with an “available” partner, a partner that you don’t “long” for, and so there is no fantasy in it and so it is very rational to feel really no feelings..! You will ask “Come on! eventually you have to be in love, you have to be close, intimate..etc”, and I say of course! but apparently you still to work more a little bit on this, meaning you need to read again “The Real Love articles” so to remind yourself that real love is not only a feeling, and it is to feel out of sensation sometimes, angry even, not attracted..etc, simply because you don’t long for it.. so please read the cognitive realm lesson again, and this takes us also that beside refreshing your cognitive memory about real love, it seems to me that you need also to go to the emotional realm:

      Emotional realm, I feel Madeline that there is a strong call inside yourself, it is great work that you managed to let the anxiety leave.. but just you saying that you miss the anxiety, it is a feeling actually! It is a call from inside that there is something still needs to be addressed, felt, understood.. so I advise you to go inward again and again! and what encourages me to say this more actually is you saying “anxiety left you”, I think anxiety doesn’t simply leave us ultimately, it calms down every time we go inward with compassion, but it comes out when there is a need and this is what happening with you, I guess!
      The fight you are missing is a clear strong call.. be happy for it and go there!

      Lastly, ask yourself: are you connected spiritually? you are still connected to some mindfulness practice? some intentionally healthy meaningful rituals? If not, I guess it is good to re-do some..

      Last but not least.. remember that you did all this great, hard and painful work (I guess it was) for the sake of one person initially, your partner.. so I can trustfully guess that you have a lot of strong feelings inside toward your partner rather than no feelings as you said.. but you need to go there in your own Self to touch and feel them, you need to “give” him love so you can feel it.. And you have answered already.. “I don’t want to leave” 🙂

      I hope this can help you and I hope you will take the right path


      • This is so beautiful, Mohammed, and I’m touched and inspired by how deeply you’ve incorporated what you’ve learned in the course. Thank you for taking the time to respond and help others along the way.

        • MohTA

          Thank you Sheryl, am very glad you are saying this.. 🙂 and even more glad that am trying to help others.. we are all in the same boat.. holding our hands together is of the best anchors we could ever have 🙂

  • I loved this piece. So profound and wise and enlightening. I often turn to your blog to be uplifted. Thank you for all that you share.

  • silver

    What if I’m just attached and not really in love? What If I’m just with her because I’m afraid to be alone. Maybe I’m not really into her that much.

  • Analise

    Sheryl, I am so immensely appreciative of your blog and words. I am in my late 20s, and have suffered from commitment-phobia for quite some time now. Reading your blog helps me find peace in what I’m going through in my current relationship and normalizes what I’m feeling. So many times I have felt overwhelmed with doubt, fear, and anxiety thinking that it must mean that this person is “not right for me”, but after reading many of your blog posts, I have been able to turn my thinking around about relationships and allowed myself to give love a chance. So, thank you, Sheryl, for altering my expectations in the most productive and reassuring way.


  • Soph

    Hi sheryl could you explain about the liminal stage. I think i am in the midst of it as i feel numb and just dont give a dam! Thanks x

    • The liminal stage is the in-between stage of a transition, when the old lifestyle/beliefs/mindsets have fallen away and the new way of being/thinking has not yet been born – “when the egg is no longer and the chick is not yet”, as Martin Buber says. It’s characterized by feeling numb, vulnerable, disoriented, and groundless, like a snake without its skin.

      • Soph

        Great Sheryl thanks 🙂 I’m trying to let go of my false beliefs about love ie the infatuation and the anxiety has left to numbness. Does it just take time for the brain to reajust? And do I just focus on being loving towards him and trying not to check my thoughts and judge them? (I put him under a microscope so much!!)

        • MohTA

          Hi Soph,

          I’d like to comment as I can totally understand (or feel indeed!) what you are saying as I have been passing through the same..

          From what I learnt so far, first, yes the brain takes time.. Actually it is very essential for you to understand the nature of process and how it is the “normal” for the brain to take its time.. The numbness and anxiety you’re passing through are results of so many years of accumulative hidden painful feelings and wrong-culture beliefs that are built inside your Self .. And so it needs time, patience and kind of hard work for the brain to readjust.. am not saying this to let you worry more, on the contrary, it is to assure you that if you don’t feel fast change, don’t panic and think that “something is wrong”, the process needs time, and this is why a key factor, although hard a little bit, to accelerate the work’s outcome is to try to focus on the process and not the outcome itself, i mean try not to wait and observe a change over the way you feel toward your partner.. just be patient and do the work and let the outcome happen naturally and “slowly”..

          And talking about the work, it is great that you are focusing on being loving towards him (very helpful) and it is great that you are able not to judge your thoughts (this is very important), and there is something deeper that I propose you to do.. if one of the “microscope” thoughts comes (if it comes, it comes.. you can’t stop thoughts from coming): notice it (try to see it as a visitor rather than being “you”) then accept it being there (if you keep ignoring it as it is annoying, it enlarges), then recognize that it is not true and that it is coming because of certain fear you have inside (try your best to define the underlying reason for this fear in your own Self as this is the true reason for this thought and not your partner), then you will start to enjoy detaching from these “lies”..

          It is not easy, yet hopefully it can help you 🙂

          Good luck!

  • Laurelle

    Hi Sheryl,
    I sent you an email earlier today asking about doubt related to the decision to have children. I just came across this blog post and see that you have actually answered my question – so, no need to respond to my email.

    Thank you again for your wisdom. Your blog and courses have helped me tremendously in the past, and continue to do so as I transition into motherhood!

    Merry Christmas and blessings to you and yours,

  • Stef

    Hi Sheryl,

    I am currently completing your break free course which is great but I’m still a bit apprehensive to use the forum as of yet because I don’t want to spike up more anxiety.
    I had a few questions that I’ve been struggling with the last few days.
    As you know because I’ve said before that my anxiety goes in waves of being anxious about my partner leaving me to being anxious that I might leave her and she’s not right for me and that I’m just putting off the break up and so on..
    Lately I’ve been noticing that I feel resentment towards my partner.. I’m not sure if that’s even the right word but it’s almost like I can’t be happy for her and the things she does for herself. I find myself not liking it when she hang out with friends or if she has a good day with others. I used to be like this all the time until my anxiety flipped on its head and changed to thinking I should leave.. Because of this past I always feel like it was a sign that I was scared and still am occasially now that the less attention she showed me and the more time she spent away from me that the reason I was so insecure and jealous and not happy for her is because she wasn’t paying me as much attention as she once did. Which makes me think now that I was using her to make me feel alive. I mentioned in another comment that I get worried sometimes that I only liked her because she gave me attention and now I think to myself if the attention is gone then what else do I actually like about her..
    I once broke up with her for 2 weeks as the anxiety was so bad I couldn’t handle it anymore and in that time I pushed her away even though she stuck by me and was being the person I had wanted her to be all along except this time it’s like I didn’t want it at all. I don’t know if that was out of fear or if it was because I finally realised I need to make myself feel alive and not rely on her and if I do that then will I still love her…
    I get so worried sometimes to do my own thing seperate from her.. I don’t know why really but I guess it’s because I’m afraid that if I do I will realise I don’t need her and don’t really like anything else about her other than the fact that she gave me attention in the beginning..
    I’m not really sure but feel so overwheamled by all these thoughts and feelings..

    Stef x

    • Using the tools and information you’re learning in the course, how would you respond to this question if somebody else posted it? Please post your response here.

      • Stef

        I guess I would say that my anxiety has flipped around because it’s now scared to learn ‘real love’ and that’s why I have this anxiety because it’s time to learn it and give the relationship a proper chance at lasting..

        I go between this answer and also the thought that It was only infatuation at the start and then I became the persuer for a while and all that was was longing and now all of that is not present and if it’s not like that anymore then what else is there that I actually like about her and our relationship? I feel sometimes like I’ve finally woken up from that longing and while my partner has learnt and is always continuing to learn real love, I’m stuck now figuring out if this is actually what I want
        Was I just blinded by infatuation?
        I realise that this could be fear talking. It seems I still have lots of work to do

        • Yes, much to learn ;). It sounds like you’re able to stay with your adult self and then you flip right back into fear. The work is to harness your adult and stay in that seat for longer periods of time. What kinds of daily practices are you doing?

          • Stef

            Yes that sounds about right.. It’s almost like I can’t stick with that first option for long enough.
            I have been trying to do some meditation at least a few times a week but I’ve been very afraid of meditating for a while as I have believed that the ‘truth’ will come out in my meditations and I’ll need to leave my relationship.. But I’m getting there.
            I also would love to continue yoga but same thing happens here. It’s almost like anything spiritual is a no go zone for my fear of finding out the real truth or finding out that what I’ve been thinking all along is true..
            I haven’t been journaling although I should probably start that..
            I’m not really sure what else I should do.
            I’d like to stay in my adult self as you say but there are times I just don’t feel connected to that reasoning and that’s when the doubts come in

  • Northernlass

    Yes! Love this. Thanks again Sheryl for speaking truth that touches the heart 🙂

  • At some point, Stef, the need to learn, grow, and heal overpowers the fear of what you’ll find out when you commit to turning inward. And, as I say many times in the course, I’ve never seen someone do this work and then realize that they have to leave a loving, positive relationship.

    • Stef

      Thanks Sheryl,

      I am slowly getting there by opening up to the things that can help me turn inward! I am continuing with the course slowly and hopefully soon I’ll feel strong enough to get into the forum because I believe I really benefit from hearing other people’s stories too!

      Thanks again! 🙂 xx

      • MohTA

        Dear Stef and Sheryl,

        I read your conversations deeply, and I don’t know why am commenting this.. but I am just feeling and writing..

        Before finishing the reading, i have started to cry.. tears started to force and I couldn’t control them..

        I am almost about to finish the course, and am really overwhelmed.. too many feelings, too many things and too many thoughts (especially that unfortunately throughout this period of relationship anxiety i have been recently facing a situation at work and a major transition is about to be exposed on me..)..

        I have been feeling painful overwhelming and a very painful “hopelessness” and “Feeling stuck” recently.. feeling that I am working hardly but not ending up with a real comfort still toward my partner (although there are improvements someday)..

        I thought the tears came out due to specifically Stef description, but then i realized they came out because I felt the support you are giving Sheryl in your replies to Stef.. I felt that am really in the middle of an un-dimensional space, leaving myself stuck and hopelessness and isolated.. I am doing much of the exercises and working hardly.. but there is a pain.. I felt little warm seeing you replying to Stef..

        Good luck Stef and hold on..

  • MohTA

    hi Sheryl,

    Thank you for your advice. But although I strongly feel I need really to connect with you and take your guidance, but I feel I still need to work a lot with Break Free from Relationship Anxiety course.. I feel I have to exercise more and more.. it is very deep and I went already very deep in my Self and this is why I feel deep pain and feel stuck some times, yet, I feel relief some moments as well..

    I don’t feel it is right to start a new course now (of course you know better but this is what I feel)..

    And sorry to say it, but having you proposing me this course now, I felt a spike of anxiety, I feel that what am taking is not enough for my case (at least this is how I interpreted your advice)

    Sorry for saying this 🙁


    • Oh, no! First off, only YOU know what’s best for you, and you sound very clear that it’s not the right time to start another course. PLEASE trust that! From what I can gather from reading your comments, you’re doing plenty right now. Keep going, keep trusting yourself, keep turning inward and determining what is needed, and you will find more and more clarity and serenity.

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