This post is for those of you struggling with relationship anxiety. But it’s also for anyone who struggles with anxiety that attaches onto a specific theme – health, parenting, money, friendship, sexuality – and struggles to understand in your cells the concept of projection: the wild psychological phenomena that projects our inner wounds and needs onto the things that matter most to us.
The key with projection, as I share in all of my courses, is to unhook from the conviction that what you’re feeling/thinking toward your partner – or whatever the current projection screen is – is true so that you can take full responsibility for the pain, fear, and faulty beliefs that are being projected outward. As Break Free From Relationship Anxiety member MohTa shared in this exquisitely beautiful forum post from 2016, freedom lies in recognizing that the projections are red herrings pointing you in the direction of YOU.
When I reached out to MohTa a couple of weeks ago to ask permission to share the post, I also asked for an update. After all, he wrote this post in February 2016 and anything could have happened since then. Was he still with his partner? Was he still struggling with relationship anxiety? I sent the email, and within a few hours he shared this response:
It’s so great to hear from you! Every time I receive a message from you, even if after years, my heart pumps and smiles just like the old days when I was waiting to receive any advice from you 🙂
I am doing great in my life! I’d love to keep saying it again and again, since I moved up and have been truly healed with the Break Free from Relationship Anxiety program, everything changed with me! Not only my relationship with my wife, but many many other things in my life… simply, “I” changed! And honestly, not only this, but throughout the past few years, I enjoyed experiencing a feeling that many people are saying and commenting that I changed to a much better person, they become “loving” me and enjoying with me more… became calmer, easier, more flexible, less perfectionist… and just to make you laugh, many are saying that since I met my wife, I have started to change as if it is all about her that changed me ;). Indeed it’s partially true; she was the trigger, but they don’t know what I have passed through and how I changed from inside out!
Now of course, as a living human, it’s ups and downs, but it’s just fine and normal!
We are having great love together, and God granted us with a very lovely daughter who is almost 2 years now, and she let me experience love like never never before (my wife is truly and funnily jealous at times) :)))… and I can’t deny that at moments am passing through some anxiety and fear feelings towards my daughter and anxiously thinks if I will be able to protect her, give her the best.. etc, but my wife is my buffer I guess! When noticing me doing that, nonjudgmentally she just calms me down and helps me to see how this is normal and just life!
Also worth to mention, that while I am glad that I managed to help few friends throughout that past few years see and detect their anxiety patterns and to overcome them somehow using the wisdom I learnt from you (and I am passionate to work as a coach somehow to close people), but on the other hand, as am now noticing such pattern more with people because I have awareness about, it makes me sad of how such anxiety is really spread out in the society! Many many people suffer from it Sheryl and totally blind about naming it! And so they keep suffering and that’s it, which is really sad!
So this is how am doing in brief, am always happy to offer support to other people whenever you feel I can do so, and I hope the programs are working well with people and are known more and more by time to those who need them 🙂
And now for the original forum post. It’s a short and beautiful dream followed by the member’s own interpretation (all gratefully shared here with permission). I encourage you to read it carefully, especially his interpretation. Dreams can be challenging, but the way he approached it speaks to his high level of self-awareness and, most importantly, his commitment to taking full responsibility for his well-being.
I have reached a great aha-discovery the previous few days and consequently I have had a great dream last night that I’d like to share with you in hope it may help some like it is helping me.
I was in an open field place with someone I can’t remember. I saw his face, and he somehow told me that we need to walk through this nearby semi-forest. We started to walk through the semi-forest so to end up to the “exit” (I knew there was an exit on the other side). We walked and he seemed so confident and not afraid while I was very alert and just following his steps. I was wearing a sport short and felt that I regretted why I did so as I didn’t want animals to bite my legs! During the walk, I started to feel animals around and started to be more focused and alert, until I noticed a hyena! I was afraid at that moment, but I kept moving. That hyena looked at me (us) and started to walk around us calmly, and my whole focus was how to shift its attention from us and how to not look at it and how to convince it that it should not focus on me! Then hyena after hyena, and even baby hyena showed up that when I saw I tried hardly to stay away from, so the mother / father doesn’t think am trying to do something to its child and attack me. Until we finally reached the exit.
Then, and I don’t know why, I repeated the experiment again, but this time I brought my friend F (one of my closest friends) and told him to join us in the journey. Was I trying to bring him to panic? No! I sensed after all that there was some joy in it and wanted him to try it with me!
We went in and I had exactly the same experience I just described above, but this time, something new was added: this time, it was really much STRONGER THAN BEING A DREAM! This time I heard, literally, the hyena sounds in my ears, and a fox appeared as well this time with the same movements and behavior of the hyena, and this time, THE BIG CHANGE, is that they started not only to walk around, but to touch my skin, my legs and I literally felt it and was very irritated from it (it was soft, but was irritating from the fear feeling)..They kept touching me by their bodies, and I was like very focused and walking with constant steps and following the firm guy until I reached the other side successfully!
And it is worth to mention that it was not a dark forest, it was daytime and some light was there.
I believe the forest represents my Self, my inner world, the world that I have been trying to enter since few months, but this time really different and more pleasant, this time with a hint of achievement that I did so far. The light / daytime is a strong indication that I finally allowed some light to enter, or I have finally made it to go through until I started to see light. The steady person walking in front of me with trust, calmness (silence) and firm is simply me, my Parent / Wise Self , he was clearly guiding me through and giving me indirect doses of trust and “you can do it” assurance feelings..
Now the big part for me, the hyenas and fox were parts of my wounded Self, including resistance. They didn’t hurt me and they were looking at me. It was very clear they were trying to tell me something and not hurt me.. they were trying to tell me “we are here. Come and see us, talk to us, take care of us, or we will remain a source of false panic to you.” YESSS!!! I love that dream
In round 1, it was clear that I was trying to avoid them and RESIST ACCEPTING their presence (which I have been doing for a while), and here I want to stop and elaborate on this topic because nowadays I am having a new “aha” discovery moment that I believe is very important to all of us: throughout the previous few months, I have been working on my anxiety, reading and reading, reflecting on my Self, journaling, doing various exercises, grieving, doing mindfulness…etc, I felt improvements at moments, but also I felt very down at others. It kept being up and down, until I discovered (mainly the previous few days more than any other day before), that my main problem (or setback let me say) of what am doing, is that am really focusing on “noticing or striving for a change out of all of what am doing on my feelings toward my partner”; I became obsessed observing if this or that action will be reflected positively on whether am now more attracted or not toward my partner; when grieving or making a long deep dialogue with my Parent Self for example, I directly observe “do I feel better toward her now”?! Oh God, how could not I notice this before?! And people be careful here please, you may say “no, this is extreme and I am not like this”. And although it is extreme, yes, but you may be not noticing it in yourself until a while, I mean I didn’t notice it this clearly and how extreme it is until I realize it now, but when I was living in it, I thought I was doing the right thing and that’s it and didn’t notice I was that obsessed about feeling better toward my partner out of every action I was doing.
And do you know how I discovered this problem and reached this conclusion? I reached a recognition that simply as long as am keeping obsessed about noticing a change toward the way I feel toward my partner out of the exercises I’m doing, it exactly means that I am admitting that the anxiety feelings I have are due to the way I feel toward her, and NOT a reason of internal deep issues I have inside myself. I mean, believing that the exercises should change the way I feel toward her means that I am taking the anxiety-provoked-feelings toward her at FACE VALUE! I hope you got it! While in reality the exercises, yes, they should change something, but what is it? It is how I feel toward myself, how far I am learning and growing about myself, and all what I feel toward my partner is just fake and just a way my super-excited nerves (sensations) and psyche (intrusive thoughts) are trying to release stress through (because they have to release such stress in a materialistic way.. projections on real world objects). So we should really pay full attention on how we feel inside, how far we are growing, how far we are becoming wiser with ourselves…etc and just tell the thoughts and sensations that “we know you are here, and we will let you be there, so we can learn about ourselves, but we know that it is simply nothing about out-of-our-body, and so nothing about our partner.”
And the 2nd round of the trip in the forest was the greatest pleasant hint to me: the animals started to touch me (somehow in a weird pleasant way), indicating to me that I am finally closer and closer toward looking at my wounded parts, accepting them, feeling them and knowing that they don’t want to harm me and that it is all about them and nothing else! Yes am still anxious somehow (I was irritated and a little panicked from them touching me), but i was also fine and knew in the dream that they were going to do nothing wrong to me after all.
And also in the 2nd round, my invitation to my close friend F to join me the trip was a strong sign to me that I am finally more open toward vulnerability and more able to share my deep issues with people I love without shame, a strong sign toward healing.
Now I know that I may be feeling down few days from now, then up, then down.. and so on, but what I will try hard to keep in my mind is:
1. This is normal as breaking free needs time and the body needs time to recover
2. I will try to remember that such feelings and thoughts are ONLY for my body to heal from its long-term tiredness, and through which there are CHANCES to learn and grow about myself and how I can be a different person without the same old habits that caused my body to reach this tiredness level
3. That all this has nothing to do with my partner, it simply doesn’t go out of my skin environment, it is only within, and whatever I feel about my partner is only fake, only secretions from my body to release the stress (through thoughts and sensations on an object), and I just need to keep the “whatever” attitude toward my feelings toward my partner
4. You don’t need a dream or strong hint or something to realize: stop looking for outcome! The more you long for outcome, it means you are giving the anxiety more a “face value” weight because striving for outcome means you believe in the content of the anxiety and want it to change! The content is fake my friends; the truth is only – “what’s going inside your body? What are the old beliefs about YOUR Self that you need to heal that caused this anxiety to come to surface?” the more you keep inward and just learn and grow and enjoy talking with your inner world and forget about the fake out-projections and reduce looking for improvements, the more and faster you will eventually improve! As Sheryl always says “it’s through paradox, the tension of opposites, that the peace we seek is revealed.”
There you have it, my friends: the key to set you free is personal responsibility. It sounds so simple on paper, but it’s actually one of our most challenging tasks. It’s relationship anxiety that can set us on the path to either remain fused with the thoughts and take them at face value, thereby abdicating responsibility, or to name the thoughts as protectors, messengers, and metaphors, thereby turning the magnifying glass into a mirror and beginning the lifelong task of owning what is yours to be owned. This, in a nutshell, is the path to freedom.
How does struggling to take responsibility show up for you? In other words, when projections and intrusive thoughts arrive, how often are you able to recognize them as a signal to turn inward and how often do you take them at face value and fall down the rabbit hole? And if you had one question for Mohammed, what would it be?
P.S. If you identify as male and attraction is your main relationship anxiety spike, you can read a free PDF on the topic here (Mohammed’s full interview is included in this packet).