Intrusive Pain

DSCF1608I talk a lot about intrusive thoughts on this site, particularly how they pertain to relationship anxiety. I see thoughts as the flares from the Self brilliantly designed to attract our attention so that we can learn to turn inward and attend, possibly for the first time in our lives, to our inner realms with love, compassion, and healthy attention. The thoughts are not punishment for wrongdoing or evidence of unworthiness. On the contrary, someone prone to intrusive thoughts is almost always on the sensitive-anxious-creative spectrum, which means among the most compassionate, gentle, soft-hearted people on the planet. When we learn to work effectively with these thoughts, we’re well on our way to recovery.

Likewise, it’s essential to learn about and heal from intrusive pain. (I wrote last week about healthy pain; please read that post first.) We can define an intrusive thought as an unwanted, persistent thought that causes pain. Likewise, we can define intrusive pain as persistent emotional pain that isn’t serving us and doesn’t lead to more clarity, healing, and growth. Here it’s essential to discern between healthy pain and unhealthy pain. The primary distinguishing characteristic is that healthy pain moves through us like a river and leaves us feeling a sense of clarity and spaciousness, whereas intrusive or unhealthy pain has an indulgent quality to it and often leaves us feeling worse than before. Where healthy grieving often brings an insight, unhealthy grieving carries an aspect of “poor me” and is often accompanied by despair and the tell-tale “never-always” words that are offshoots of the ego, fear-based self (“I’ll never feel better.” “I’ll always be miserable.”). With healthy pain we are cushioned in self-compassion. The expression of unhealthy pain is surrounded by the barbed-wire fence of our self-judgement and shame.

Why would we indulge in intrusive pain if it doesn’t serve us? Just like intrusive thoughts, intrusive pain can become a habit, an addiction, in fact, that protects us from delving into what’s truly needed. We can use pain just as we use thoughts: to avoid taking responsibility for our well-being, which means taking action on our own behalf instead of waiting for someone to do it for us. When we’re absorbed in intrusive pain, we avoid asking, “What’s underneath? What’s truly needed in this moment?” Just like intrusive thoughts, it’s a defense mechanism the protects us from facing ourselves with vulnerability, honesty, and courage.

I’ll give a composite example from my practice to show you how this works in reality:

I have several clients who are trying to conceive. Because we live in a culture that transmits the message that if you don’t conceive in the first six months there’s something wrong (a symptom of the instant gratification, me-culture that expects results right this second on my timetable), it’s nearly impossible not to fall down the rabbit hole of anxiety when conception hasn’t occurred within this time frame. The anxious mind then goes to “What if I never conceive? What if I’m not meant to be a mother? Conception is for everyone else but not for me”, and all of the other fear-based, self-critical, bully-thoughts that are familiar to the anxious-sensitive soul. While it’s helpful to douse these fear-flames with a cool splash of truth-water with facts like: After 18 months, 90% of women will conceive and We live in a fear-based culture that also preys on women’s fertility fears by turning it into big business and There’s timing at work that’s not my own, beyond that it’s never fruitful to indulge these thoughts. And while it’s essential to bring compassion to the pain, especially when another cycle passes without conception, it’s important not to indulge the pain.

If indulging in intrusive pain is ultimately an act of addiction that serves as a protective barrier against a deeper need or pain, we must ask the question: What are they avoiding? It varies from woman to woman, of course (and this applies directly to those suffering from relationship anxiety as well), but the most common place to avoid is taking full responsibility for filling the well of Self. The belief that getting pregnant or having a baby or leaving one’s partner in search of one who won’t trigger anxiety will provide the eternal elixir for a joyous and fulfilled life fuels the indulgent pain and prevents people in this situation from attending to the empty spaces in their life and igniting their own creativity.

So we must, if we’re going to spiral deeper into healing realms, learn to discern between unhealthy pain and a beautiful cry. This element of gentle discernment is where the inner Father comes into the picture. The inner Father is the healthy, masculine part of us that can say, “I’ve held you through your tears and now it’s time to get up and take action. Let’s shovel some snow, rake some leaves, go for a brisk walk. Let’s think about how we can channel this energy in healthy and productive ways that, at this point, shift us out of the indulgent, intrusive pain so that we can re-enter the world.” This is very different from the mainstream message around pain that says, “Get over it.” This is the voice that has allowed for healthy expression of sadness and knows when it’s time to access a different energy. If feeling the pain is the inhale, moving out of it is the exhale. Both are necessary for inner wellness and emotional balance.

94 comments to Intrusive Pain

  • B

    Sheryl does love really last? Nowadays it seems that everyone gets divorced and that we are unable to love. My biggest fears are that I will stop loving and liking my partner over time and will want to leave because love just doesn’t last.

    • Real love lasts if you commit to the action and choice of love. Infatuation, however, always fades. Embedded in your question is the faulty belief that love is something that happens to you. If you’re in a loving relationship, love is a choice and an intention. As M. Scott Peck says, it’s “an act of will.” Given that we have free will, we have the choice to provide the conditions and take the actions that will allow love not only to last, but to flourish and deepen over time.

  • H

    Hi sheryl,
    This blog really spoke to me today and I can very clearly see how indulgent I have been in my own pain. Thank you for this reminder.
    What are some specifuc ways of taking action? “Channeling the pain in more productive ways” as you say.

    • It’s about filling your own well, which means finding the actions that make you say yes to life. That can be difficult to find, especially when you’ve been indulging your pain and anxiety, so an easy action that cuts through the indulgence is to get up and move your body in some way: dance, walk, stretch, or, as I say in the article, engage your physical body in something productive like raking leaves, cleaning the house, or shoveling snow.

  • becominglove

    Hi Sheryl, I can really relate to this post. About six months ago I reached a point in my journey where I felt like despair was a constant companion. A real sense of true hopelessness, like I had done all that I could do and it wasn’t enough. It was a black hole. I had been doing the work through your ecourse for relationship anxiety and I had a partner who supported me all the way. I slowly started to acknowledge the difference between grief and despair and I eventually mustered the courage to admit to myself and my partner that I needed to change how I related and responded to the despair. Since then I have still had moments of feeling that same despair but now I see it as a creeping blackness that comes in from the ‘side’ and I know that its a choice. I do still feel extreme frustration about its persistence but I’ve recently started asking for guidance from within about what this despair is all about. That’s taken me on a whole new journey of understanding a deeper wounding but with the intention of seeing it and learning from it and NOT interacting with it or falling into it. I think the key thing for me is that I had never given myself validation of the true wounding I had experienced until recently and I continued to look to others to validate the pain I was still carrying. I am still going through the grieving process, still working on moving towards my partner, and still learning how to be a mother and a father to myself. Sometimes I still feel a bit deflated when the despair sneaks in the side door but I can now see it and the passion in me is growing ever stronger to say I am listening but I will not sink into this hopelessness. I don’t need it anymore. So, thank you Sheryl and so many blessings of strength and courage to those who are reading this.

  • Ella

    How excited I was to see a new post tonight. I was headed back to your blog to remind me to connect to myself. There was this new post and I was delighted to see it.

    I was sitting on my couch in an otherwise cozy night – glass of wine, lovely husband, snow falling and I started to feel the thoughts of classic anxiety for me “I’m having trouble breathing”– by then the intrusive thought enhances my anxiety and tries to prevent me from getting under the fear to figure out what’s going on. I knew coming to your blog would remind me to look inward. I’m still upset about some issues with my parents. I’m wrestling with guilt fear and frustration. Still. Even when my unfair time table says – you’ve felt enough about that today. I’m still hurt. Once I realize that the anxiety subsides. I can breathe.

    I get your idea about not indulging unnecessarily. I LOVE this idea of the inner Father – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you mention it before …. The “okay honey, drink some cold water and then let’s go get fresh air” part of us…

    Thank you for the work you do, Sheryl. Maybe sometime you could write about individuation from your parents (as a grown up) and as they age? Not so easy.

    • So good that you were able to breathe underneath the initial symptoms and intrusive thoughts. Yes, I can write about individuating from parents as they age. It’s a very common topic that comes up in my work all the time.

      • Sophie Elena

        Thank you Sheryl, I’d be interested to read your views on such as I choose to believe/I feel I have been choosing to separate myself from my sense of parents in order to find and value me, to age gracefully as I choose, to live my life as me. Within this I chose to stop fighting, I chose to accept how they find and value me, no matter where and how we agree and disagree. I love that so often your blog articles resonate with what I am being aware of within myself, “working” on, and maybe this is purely a continuum of energy from accepting your help through the Trust Yourself course? A synergy, a synchronicity, a natural law of attraction for we have chosen to focus upon the same?

        I previously wouldn’t have questioned your choice to define taking external action as a ‘father-like’ or masculine role, however, I read an article last week in which the notion of having a feminine and a masculine side and separating these, fails to achieve harmony when reflected back into our relationships, for instead of seeing the male or the female partner/friend/relation/colleague/stranger we meet etc as an whole identity, anyone external to us is by definition fragmented and we hone in on a difference or discordance, a disconnect from sense of self, from the me I see in you, and we see this disconnect in them yet perhaps do not accept in ourself, hence by naming such as masculine or feminine we reconnect into previous painful cycles of what we choose to believe are unhealed wounds from parents. Yet was our parents’ intention to cause us hurt? Hurt people hurt people. Happy people pleasure self and other people. People choosing to love, love. Hurt people can choose to be happy people, to let go, to choose to desist the urge to hurt, to choose to change, to love. I choose to change, I choose to love, I desist the need to hurt or focus any longer on hurt. I am free, I am happy, I am simply Sophie, I am me, I celebrate me, I love me and I thank you for desiring that I love me. I join you on a loving journey for all eternity. Simply a matter of perspective, choice, intention, love. Why make this difficult? I chose to because I accepted my subconscious mind was telling me so, had absorbed such negativity. I may have, and I may be completely whole, always have been, never needed healing, to heal, simply to live, love, accept. I accept me. I love me. I release me to live in love, happily for all eternity for that is me choosing to be happy 🙂

        What if we choose to believe we are whole, exactly as we are, that we no longer need to work on ourselves? What if I choose this for me, right now, I no longer choose to act as a healer, to myself or to anybody; what if I am healed as is everyone else, right now, no more need to ‘fix it’? It being me and the reflection of the unhealed me I have chosen to believe I have met and seen in everybody? What if I choose to simply be? What would I look like, feel like, smell like, taste like, sense, hear, interact with, desire, enjoy being? Would I choose to be doing anything or simply feel fulfilled being? Would I still desire to work again as a therapist, or as anything? What if I choose to believe in love and above, in resonating with love, in asking at any moment of uncertainty, would what love do, what does love choose that I choose to do? I leave you in love, in gratitude for your significant part in my journey, I thank you from the soul within my heart, from the soul external to me that I link with and choose to come from, to resonate with – love. I love love, I love being and acknowledging love. I love you. xx

        • Thank you, dear Sophie, for your wise and insightful comments. I always welcome other perspectives, and I know terms like masculine and feminine can be charged for some people and helpful for others. Sending you many blessings on your continued journey of love!

  • Liz

    Hi Sheryl,

    You mentioned a belief of leaving one’s partner in search of one that won’t trigger anxiety and I wanted to ask you if you’ve come across a lot of people who did in fact leave, and what most of them say they experienced after the fact in terms of whether or not they believe they made a good decision. I am one of those people, even after working through your Conscious Weddings e-course. The anxiety was just too much, but to this day, I’ve never found anyone better and question having left in the first place. I constantly remind myself of the anxiety, want to believe that it was there for a reason, and not beat myself up for the choice I made, but it’s hard when I read people commenting that they worked through things and decided to stay. At the heart of it, I don’t trust myself because I’m not even sure if I left the relationship for the right reasons. How can I know for sure if I did? At this point, I’m terrified to get into another relationship in fear I will find myself questioning it as well. Do you believe I can overcome this? Are there specific areas of your blog I should pay close attention to over others, or a direct path you believe I should take to better prepare myself for my next relationship?

    • Thank you for this honest and vulnerable post. Yes, most people who choose to leave find themselves in one of two boats: 1. Still equally if not more anxious than they were in the relationship, or 2. With someone else but experiencing all the same (or very similar) patterns of anxiety. For you, I highly suggest that you consider the new course, Break Free From Relationship Anxiety (there’s a discount for CW e-course members), as it goes into a great deal more depth than the first one and will help prepare you for your next relationship. And yes, you can absolutely overcome this, but you must commit to the work and not fall prey to the belief that the relief from anxiety is “out there”. You can read more about the new course here:

      • Liz

        Thank you for your quick response, Sheryl. I already feel better knowing that had I left him or not, I still have to do the work in order to heal and move forward. I will definitely consider the course. I see the discount if I buy in full, but how do I get an even bigger discount after having bought the Conscious Weddings e-course? Also, you mention getting to the root of anxiety in some of your posts. What are typically the causes of relationship anxiety? I had a great childhood, but moved a lot and always found myself wanting to start over. Over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern of me pushing people out of my life when I want to “start over”, and do some independently. I’ve been searching for a root cause for years. Can relationship anxiety pertain to friendships as well?

        • Carebear167

          Hi Liz,
          I think relationship anxiety can pertain to all kinds of relationships including your relationship to work, family or friends. I think relationship anxiety can have a lot of different roots too, from family to old relationships as well as things we’ve learned from peers and society. I always felt I had a great childhood as well. In coming to know more about myself I’ve become aware of things I learned in childhood that didn’t serve me – such as believing that my wholeness and goodness only existed in the presence of others love. That only someone else’s love could take away my pain. Through Sheryl’s blog, her Trust Yourself course and IB I’m slowly learning to be this person for myself. Moving a lot can be very difficult on a child. It sounds like on some level you recognize a connection between moving a lot as a child and your habit of starting over. I think this could be your root cause and that tapping into the emotions surrounding these events and having compassion for you when you experienced them could be very healing for you. I hope this helps a little!

  • E

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have stumbled across your page and found a lot of the info to be very enlightening. I have purchased your break free from relationship anxiety course, and am waiting to get the materials. I noticed under your red flags section u listed addiction. My fiancé smokes/drinks somewhat more than I do. He used to smoke nightly. I have asked him to take a night or two of each week off and he always does. I’ve also asked him to decrease the frequency and amount/when etc, and he always does. He even said he will quit completely, but I don’t feel that is necessary (we are both young, have good jobs, work out etc). We both talk about when we want kids how we don’t want drugs/booze in the picture, but my overreactive mind sends me countless “what if” questions.

    is this still a red flag? I feel this is me more nit picking everything and even if he quit all together I’d find something else to nit pick at. My fiancé is a WONDERFUL human being, hard working, dedicated honest and loyal. I just want to fix or figure out my anxiety. Will the E course help me understand why I obsess over things? And help me stop the negative thinking to turn inward vs focusing on his flaws?

    • The course will absolutely help you understand your mind (why it’s prone to obsessive thinking). This doesn’t sounds like a red-flag to me, especially since he’s willing to quit completely if that’s what you would need in order to feel safe. A true addict would cling to their addictions at all costs in the name of freedom and not being controlled. It’s also positive that he’s in agreement with you that he doesn’t want drugs around once kids enter the picture.

  • Bee

    Dear Sheryl,

    Thank you so much Sheryl for this wonderful post. As always, your words give me so much peace and comfort. I am so glad I could read this today. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as I have been grieving the loss of my relationship for over a year now which has opened the door to many of my childhood and teenage wounds/traumas. The break up has left me heart broken in many ways. I have since been having HOCD thoughts that keep coming and going. I also suffer from death anxiety and fear of abandonment. I have intrusive thoughts that question my self worth, my confidence, an amy abilities. I am at times crippled by them and have tried to open myself to vulnerability and learning more about these thoughts. I have been attending to them like I would to a vulnerable baby, but I notice that the thoughts have become addictive. Though, I have become better at taking care of my wounded self, I also get into the habit of believing that I am miserable and I will always remain miserable, wounded, and abandoned. It’s very strange. There are a couple of days during the week where I am comfortable in my own skin, I practice yoga, I listen to music and dance around, I talk to my close friend and open up, I enjoy my parents’ company and love their caring and loving presence in my life, but I get sucked back in the black hole of my thoughts the rest of the week. I know part of this has to do with the culture I’m in, which cultivates and promotes instant gratification and getting over things by distracting myself with “putting myself out there” and dating, experimenting and opening up myself sexually to anyone available, losing weight as a means of getting love and affection, and drinking as a form of fun.. Maybe there’s a sense of joy in these activities for some people, for me I, especially recently, find the idea of sexual experimentation a problematic one. It leaves me so scared and it makes me feel like I am backwards or traditional if I don’t do any of them. I have even started to question my sexual orientation and keep asking myself whether I am bisexual or a lesbian. These thoughts make me so ashamed, scared, and guilty. I sometimes, without any conscious effort, compare myself to others and only after a few hours of days of distancing myself from the though I realize it was my ego messing with me. I love that I was able to lovingly stay with my partner for over 5 years. I am so happy that I was able to love so deeply and grieve his loss so deeply. I find there’s so much meaning in this journey of love and loss. I can’t simply put myself out there for just anyone, yet I sometimes find myself bullied into the thought of experimenting with others because the culture (including a close friend and classmates) around me reinforces this idea. That really scares me and makes me think I am not open minded enough or I am not adventurous enough. these are the thoughts that hurt me so deeply. I feel lonely because of them. I know deep down there a wise part of me that knows my choice not to follow the culture is deeply loving and nurturing, yet the thoughts come to surface all the time and fill me with pain. I always question when they will ever stop? When can I finally let go and be free? When can I feel joy? When can I love and be loved? When can I feel whole and confident? Is there ever a kind, loving, loyal partner for me? Will I always be lone? Will I ever be able to open up myself to love and another human being as my partner? Will I ever find stability?

  • Angela

    Thank you Sheryl, I do understand what your work. One of the symptoms i get when anxious is i dont feel alert, my vision is like im sleep walking, it dosent bother me now, it just gives me a sign to
    Attend to it in a loving and delicate way. Not judge it but aknowledge it and to look inward and express my truth. It works for me. You hit the nail on the head. I always looked at exteriors to avoid my inner well. This anxiety says hi when i forget to look inside and take care of my inner child. As we have inner child. Ego was my best friend. Im now learning ego is an aquaintince. Xx

  • Roxy

    Thank you Sheryl! A wonderful synchronicity in this post. I noticed late last year I was moving into a bit of unhealthy pain around the holidays in particular. I think the holidays can be very challenging, especially if you don’t have a significant partner and it put me in a little bit of a “woe is me” funk. Social media can certainly put up a fake frontier it’s all roses. That doesn’t help. On NYE I felt a small shift where I wanted to make a change. I had enough and the holiday ending made me feel like a blanket was lifting. I didn’t want to wallow in my grief. I wanted to make a choice to make 2016 a better year. Making the choice to change my energy–which then has becomes magnetic to others around me –and also actively filling the well with purpose has helped tremendously. I am reading the Artist Way and it has created such a great sense of internal strength and spiritual connectedness. The morning pages are therapeutic and the renewed energy is healing. I’m very much enjoying it. Filling the well is so important!! Happy New Year to you 🙂

  • FinallyGettingThere

    Sheryl everything you say just makes my heart sing! Everything you say always makes me feel tonnes better and it always makes so much sense!! i have been doing amazingly well because of your work but yesterday I had a relapse. I started to feel really anxious again and almost like I didn’t want to be next to my partner, it felt awful. I almost forgot how painful it feels because I was improving so much. I managed to work through it. I realised I have been feeling a bit in edge because my partner is looking for a new job & I am looking to be promoted at work and all of that is stressing me out because I just want it to happen already so we can save for our own house, a wedding and finally start a family. Our sex has dimished a lot, he doesn’t have much of a sex drive as he has got older and I don’t really either, and once i noticed it I started to panic. And although I love spending time with him I was so bored this weekend. We didn’t do anything. And all of this at once caused me to become fearful, and then anxious, and then I started to think ‘I don’t love you, it shouldn’t be this hard’.

    I have noticed I am 100% out of infatuation with him, I feel like I love him but sometimes again I obsess over it because I worry it isn’t enough to carry our relationship to marriage and even through marriage. I often think maybe I love him as a family member and not a partner. But again I have noticed that I am obviously thinking that you should feel a certain way in a relationship and that you should feel that kind of family love only when you have been married for years, but that’s not a bad thing that I feel that way, i am learning to recognise this. I am learning to move past not being attracted all the time and just love him for who he is and I happy to say that I am getting past it. I have no idea what I’d do without him, he is my best friend. I’d be devastated if I lost him and don’t think I’d ever be able to replace him.

    But I have been obsessing over it really bad, it was constantly in my head going round and round and I didn’t notice it until I felt anxious. I have realised that not only am I obsessive about my relationship but I am obsessed with a lot of things in my life, that gives me joy and hope to know that it isn’t all about my relationship it is just in the way I think. I still have not figured out why I am such an obsessive person but I am confident that I will eventually figure it all out.

    • It sounds like you’re learning a LOT. Please bring patience and compassion to yourself as you continue to learn, grow, and heal, and remember that the learning and healing happen in spirals (it’s not linear). Stay on the path of inquiry and self-compassion and it will always result in continued growth. Also, it’s not the feeling of love that powers us through a lifetime of marriage; it’s a commitment to keep learning and growing, both separately and together. It sounds like you have that in spades.

  • Laura

    Hi Sheryl,
    I have purchased the break free from anxiety course and have been going through it in detail but i find myself very hesitant to turn inwards and focus on whats needed. I have started to think a lot lately about a friendship that broke down three years ago which was very painful. A couple of months later I met my partner which was great but 16 months into the relationship the anxiety started to appear.
    The more I turn inward i feel like I got with my partner to replace that friendship and ease the pain. My thoughts are now focusing on this as the cause to all my anxiety and telling me that I did use him at the start to distract my pain but now he is no longer doing that and that I never really loved him, just used him.
    The pain about the friendship feels very constant lately but i know it is something that will not be reconciled. Can this type of pain be masking itself as relationship anxiety or could my thoughts have a point?

  • Julia

    Hi Sheyrl,
    I’ve been following your work for a long while now. I feel like I overcame the relationship anxiety, finally understanding love is a choice. But, only to find out my partner is uncertain about a lot of things in his life, he let that effect or relationship and he broke up with me. I’m so lost and I feel like I’m stuck in this pattern of unhealthy grief. I find myself thinking, “I’ll never find anyone better,” “he was perfect for me I’m never going to be able to move on,” “this pain is just too much to handle.” Then part of me if hoping he changes his mind some day and comes back to me. Is this unhealthy grief also? Finding things to make me want to enjoy life right now is really hard. So I’m not sure how to stop this pattern.

  • BB

    I used to have relationship anxiety and got through it with alot of mindfulness, yoga, journalling recommended by you. Now my anxiety has shifted onto my college work constantly worrying how I will get through this year with all the work I have to do. Do you think this could be linked to fear of failure /intrusive pain?

    • Yes, that’s likely the case. Anxiety will shift topics until it’s addressed at the root, which for you could be around fear of failure and lack of self-trust. Are you still practicing the tools and skills you used to get through the relationship anxiety?

  • Lauren

    I too have been obsessed with the idea that of I just leave, the thoughts and anxiety will dissipate. This thought comes from the fact that that in my former marriage relationship, the anxiety was reversed and I worried if he would leave. This is confusing to me and has caused so much turmoil.

  • Nikki

    Hi Sheryl,

    I found your website last week and it has been the only thing to make me feel better. I have been with my boyfriend for almost three years, and everything has been going great. I have been talking about marrying him for at least two years now and anytime I have talked about it in the past I felt great…we even picked out my ring! A few months ago I randomly had an intrusive thought.. I was questioning myself.. “Are you really attracted to him?” .. my boyfriend is bald, and I always pictured myself with a tall, dark and handsome guy (one with hair)… but for some reason I keep going back to his baldness… he is really handsome and I absolutely love him to death, but I compare his looks to other guys. I was able to get the thought out of my head, up until last week all of a sudden it came back, but this time it wasn’t just about me being attracted to him, it was “Do I really love him?” , “Am I just with him because I don’t want to be alone?”, “What would everyone think?”… I know that I do LOVE him, but now when I am with him I get anxious (pit in stomach, head questioning everything, fidgeting my fingers). I went to a counselor last week and after the session I felt better (she was getting at that I worry about peoples opinions and that I want to get acceptance from my mom). I saw my boyfriend that night and I started getting anxious again… so I went with what my mom suggested and took a couple days away from him..some “time off”… I ended up messaging him after two days and we hung out and again I felt anxious…so I told him I need more time and that this time it should be an actual “break”… I don’t want to call it a break-up, but just some time a part, but us doing our own thing. I am soo scared that this time away will have me figure out that I don’t love him… I know I want to be with him for the rest of my life, but I am worried that deep down I am fighting it for some reason. I should tell you that he is my first boyfriend, my first everything… could it be that I am scared of the future? I keep questioning whats going to happen.. is he the one for me? PLEASE HELP, SHERYL! I want to buy the e-course, but the Canadian $ has it come out to close to $400….. please help me.

    • Nikki

      To follow-up.. is what I am experiencing normal? I cant seem to find anyone in my life that has had this happen to them..and I have different people telling me different things. I WANT to be with my boyfriend…I don’t know why I am questioning everything.

      • It’s 100% normal, Nikki, as you’ll see as you read through my site and go through the course.

        • Nikki

          Thank you, Sheryl. I am on lesson two and I feel better.. am excited to grow. I just wanted to know… should I be seeing my boyfriend while I am taking the course? Or should I try to not see him as much? I only ask because I am a bit nervous seeing him (I know it is just a feeling, and I do not need to act on them), but do you recommend that we take the time for ourselves? Or should I be on this journey along side him, using him for support?

          I have called him a couple times since I started the course last night… and have sent him two love letters (from the Grass is Greener on the Other Side Syndrome blog).


          • There’s no right or wrong way to handle how much interaction you have with your partner, or how much you choose to share with him. In other words, there are no “shoulds” ;). It’s a matter of tuning in to what you need and taking loving action from there.

          • Rachael

            Hi Nikki,

            I was wondering whether you felt the course has been helpful, and what tools it’s provided you with. I’m onto my third relationship with anxiety and I really want this to be the last. I have been visiting Sheryl’s site since the first one three years ago & am seriously considering the Break Free from Relationship Anxiety course..

  • neha

    you are amazing.
    Thank you!

  • M

    Can a previous emotional and verbally abusive relationship cause relationship anxiety when you are in a good relationship and cause you to doubt and feel something is missing?

  • Kath

    Sheryl, I think that is relevant to my recent experience. I am in the process of breaking up from my boyfriend. I have explained to him that I think we need to break up as we are not doing each other any good. But I think I have unwittingly been avoiding confronting the practicalities of this decision (he wants to change things and stay together, I don’t, we live together in my house and I want him to move out). I had been having increasing panic attacks and feelings of ‘going mad’, uncomfortable and frightening urges to hurt myself of others. In the past, these have led to time off work and antidepressants to recover. This time, after a bad one, I just lay on my bed and tried to be mindful.I realised they were just expressions of the fear I was feeling regarding discussions with my boyfriend about the practicalities of splitting up. I confronted that fear by writing an email, explaining why I felt we needed to split up, that I would listen to his opinions about staying together but they may not change my mind, and what I felt I needed from him if we were to split up eg a timescale for him to move out that he would stick to. The panic is now much decreased.

    I also think it is important to say that unhealthy pain shouldn’t be suppressed or dismissed, rather acknowledged, experienced, breathed through, let go. It often has an important message – it’s just not the message it gives on the face of it!

    • Kath

      For all you relationship anxiety sufferers, don’t let my relationship decision spark your anxiety – there were several red flags in our relationship, and although my boyfriend is now willing to address some of these, I think it is far to early days in that respect to change my mind.

      • Thank you for this. I’m sure you could hear the anxious chorus piping up in response to your first comment – as could I! It’s very loving and compassionate of you to clarify with your second comment. x

    • Yes, Kath, there is always wisdom in our panic and anxiety. The trick is tapping into that skill of discernment to determine what the message is and what’s needed. It’s sounds like you’ve done just that quite beautifully.

      • Kath

        Thanks Sheryl. I’m still struggling with being certain that I am doing the right thing, with sadness, with despair, missing him, feeling pain for him, with not knowing how things will be OK. I think it is the opposite of relationship anxiety! Believing deep down I am doing the right thing separating even though my feelings vary from day to day. I am just taking a day at a time. I think your last two articles will be helpful, I will keep rereading them.

  • Laura

    I am so very thankful for you, Sheryl! (My friend and I often joke that we’re full blown Sheryl Paul fangirls). You have been such a great guide for me as I continue to navigate heaps of transitions that have come in almost rapid fire succession–grieving the loss of a parent, being in my twenties, buying a house, making difficult career decisions, and now (as of last Sunday!) getting engaged to a wonderful man.

    Your words have an amazing way of melting away the defenses I sometimes didn’t even know were there, helping me dive straight to the parts of me that need healing and tenderness, and giving me the confidence and skills to be present with all parts of myself–even the most uncomfortable of uncomfortable. The confidence I’ve grown in myself over the last few years would not have been possible without you.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Here’s to a lifetime of learning and growing. (And if you ever need testimony from one of your biggest fans, I’m just an email away!) If anyone out there is on the fence about signing up for one of Sheryl’s courses, I could not recommend anything more. There is no higher form of treating yourself. 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Laura, and congratulations on your engagement! Expressions of gratitude fills me with such warmth and leave a big smile on my face. It’s such a privilege to be a guide, and to know that my words land in just the right spot.

  • AT

    I love your concept of the “inner Father”. I think he would be proud of me for choosing the man I chose and creating space between myself and my thoughts, but my actual father thinks my moving in before marriage is a big mistake. I deal with this and some gay spikes quite well, but there is something that sticks around–Over the past 2.5 years I have been consumed by thoughts of my partner and his past partner. In the beginning I was grateful we had both recently gotten out of LT relationships which taught us a lot. Now I imagine what it was like for them and compare myself/our relationship incessantly, believing I wouldn’t be feeling this if he never had an ex. The most neutral of items can be a trigger. I often wonder if fear of losing him or being unworthy of such love or losing my father/growing up is underneath. Truth water in the form of things he has said, IB dialoguing/what I KNOW subdues the flames sometimes: “You and he have a unique connection rooted in similar values and you bring each other such joy.” And I can then feel the joy and connect to the intention of filling my well by joking around with him, drawing, singing, etc. However, often I am left feeling helpless to this pain.
    I have been through your weddings e-course twice (thank you-it gave me some great insights!) And I am motivated to learn more on how to deal with this with more individualized support.
    If you, personally, are not available for counseling, can you recommend therapists in my area? I am hesitant to sign up for the new e-course, as I haven’t seen this issue mirrored a lot in the last.
    Thank you!

  • Clara

    What a wonderful and important article, Sheryl. Speaking for myself, I know that after 18 months of wading through deep, thick, desperate despair, it was when your message (that healing begins when we become willing to take 100% responsibility for our own recovery) finally landed in my soul, and I finally became 100% willing, that I turned the vital corner in my journey, and with unbelievable momentum I became well – almost as if propelled up out of my thick fog of depression and anxiety by a holy jet stream. It seems a remarkable paradox: that when we accept complete responsibility for our healing – without even demanding God’s help – it seems a great universal healing force rises to meet us, revealing that while we must be responsible for ourselves, we are actually not alone in this after all.

  • Jelena

    Hi Sheryl,

    Its is incredible how your posts coincide with my current issues that i am struggling with.
    Me and my loving husband are trying to conceive but for the past eight months nothing has happened. The irony being that most of my friends and my husbands colleauges, friends have been having babies and becoming pregnant while we are each month left sad and devastated (more me than him) about this issue. I am a person who is bothered by intrusive thoughts, but i got so much used to them that I can navigate thorugh life wothout anyone noticing what is going on, unless I open up and talk about it. I am very open with my husband and discuss everything which is very intimate and personal, he knows all my fears and feelings, and I know his.
    I have been doing a lot of work on myslef in the past, having therapy and practising martial arts. I am used to bearing a lot of stress to the point where I cannot even realize how stressed I am. There is a lot going on in my life now but the only thing which I really want to focus on and succeed is to conceive a baby and become a mother.
    I am 35 and I have been having the intrusive thought that i am too old to have ababy or that something is wrong with me and i wont be able to have babies. I know that there is a lot to be done today in order to help couples conceive, and i am very aware it is not always very easy. I made a concsious decision that I will take responsibility for every step that I take in order to make it happen(healthy diet, workout, less stress and enjoy the happiness that my husband and this marriage bring into my life).
    Thank you for being my light in these moments, i found it extremely helpful to read this. thank you for your guidance and god bless you 🙂

    • Trying to conceive is quite a journey, Jelena, and it sounds like you’re taking all of the steps you can to create a healthy body/mind in which to conceive, and the rest is out of your hands. So much of the process involves letting go of control, which is the hardest thing to do for the anxious mind! Also, contrary to what the culture says, eight months is not long and 35 is young.

  • Fabi

    Dear Sheryl,

    million dollar question for you…
    As I posted on the forum of break Free from Relationship Anxiety:

    “Talking about living by your North Star, talking about Inner Guidance. Talking about trusting yourself.
    Being that the Body is the only one that knows where you are in relationship to anything in the present moment…
    How can you not interpret these signs as – the form of the relationship should change?

    Talking about going with the flow…
    How in the world am I supposed to ENDURE an intimate relationship in this state?
    Because as I feel it today, [as much as I adore my partner] I really shouldn’t be in such a misery – except for being in the wrong place, or in denial about it.”

    In short: how can you tell if the pain you feel is due to resistance – and when it is the knock of spirit?

    Thanks for your help!

  • Marlene

    Dear Sheryl,
    Thank you for this incredibly insightful post. I see very clearly that I’ve been in the spirals of intrusive pain for years. I was more able to keep it at bay as a single person but after 9 years of struggling with relationship anxiety and my own grief I’m completely worn out. I do drag myself through the motions of life most of the time but there are days when I’m not up to it anymore. The idea of getting back into life feels like telling a person with the flu to get up and run a marathon. I want to be passionate about my partner and more importantly about life. How can I change this deeply entrenched pattern? It feels like the hardest thing some days. I feel ashamed for functioning so poorly. I took the “open your heart course.” What would you recommend for me? Thank you Sheryl. Thank you

  • Carebear167

    This is exactly what I am struggling with right now. I always felt my parents rushed me through my grief, not understanding or having compassion for me. As an adult I have learned that I am a slow processor, quite intelligent but a slow processor. I often notice this in terms of processing emotions as well and those close to me are often dumbfounded that it takes me so long to get over things. Currently I am struggling with my job and some experiences I’ve had with this particular job and within my career. I feel myself falling back into victim mode with the “poor-me” attitude. I do notice the undercurrents of self-judgement and shame. I want to let this go, I know it’s not serving me and I struggle finding how to turn it into a positive, fulfilling, worthwhile experience. Any thoughts?

  • Newly Married

    Hi Sheryl
    Laterly I been feeling pain that puts a wall on my husband and on being vulnerable and being able to get close to him and love him.
    He is wonderful like I have mentioned before and he listens and shows me so much love like anyone has but laterly I been getting so jeleaus of his past and his ex girlfriend and I keep picturing him with her and imagining him with her and I dont know how to stop it because it makes me so jeleaus and mad and angry at him and it gives me pain because I dont want to feel like that.

    My husband shows me so much support and love and just he is amazing and he respects me and he is just the most amazing man in the world to me.
    Could you help me, is it a projection or the fear of loosing him? I also feel like I wished we would had been together before back when we met so I could be with him longer because I dont want to loose him one day when we die. and then I feel like jeleaus of his exgirlfriend having him even before and thoughts come into my head of them being intimate when we are intimate and I get jeleaus. I know their relationship was not a loving and my last relationship was not a good one too.
    I know we had to be in those not loving relationships to learn and grow from and so we could now appreciate how loving and good and healthy our relationship is and because of it I want to not feel jeleaus I dont want to feel that pain that comes with the jeleausy.
    WE used to date before and then we went different ways after a while but we had feelings for each other, we just were so immature, and I knew he was with his ex girlfriend after and it just makes me feel so angry and sad and like “if I was the new one”.

    I would appreciate your comments Sheryl Thank you

  • KS

    Hi Sheryl,
    This describes what I’m dealing with. I purchased your Break Free from Relationship Anxiety course, but am still having trouble determining whether certain intrusive thoughts are an addiction and unhealthy or are legitimately trying to prevent me from making a huge mistake. Your course doesn’t discuss pornography, but I noticed that addiction (including sexual) is a red-flag.

    My fiancée and I are in a long distance relationship. He looks at porn only when we’re apart and says he won’t use it once we’re married. But I’m terrified. It’s been part of his life for years, and I don’t know whether he is, or to what extent, he is addicted. I’m not sure it’s something that can just be quit all of a sudden. We’ve fought about it many times and have nearly broken up on a couple of occasions because of it (he says I’m being controlling because I want him to stop). Because I’m worried that he won’t be able to stop once we’re married, he says I don’t trust him (I absolutely trust he intends to, but not so confident he actually will be able to). He and I have taken long vacations together and he hasn’t used porn or masturbated even during several day spans where we don’t have sex. So does that mean he really is capable of stopping and isn’t addicted? He refuses to quit until we’re married, although he did agree to only look at soft-core and give up hard-core porn.

    I know it’s prevalent it today’s society. He sees it as totally normal and something all guys do. He says it has nothing to do with how he feels about me. I hate it, and have at times felt absolutely sick because of it, not to mention insecure. But am I right to feel that way? Is it just an intrusive thought that I’m addicted to because I don’t want to dig deeper into the layers of myself, such as: not being enough or good enough, not being attractive enough, not being worthy of love, etc. He really is a very kind, loving, trustworthy, and thoughtful person. I really do feel like he’s perfect for me, but I often have doubts because of the porn, despite his reassurances that he won’t use it when we’re married.

    I don’t know if my huge issues with it are due to underlying beliefs about myself that I need to deal with, or whether it really is a red-flag problem that should send me heading for the hills.

    • Pornography is such a complicated and common topic these days. The main issue is to determine and trust what you’re okay with. Some women are fine with their partners’ porn use and many others are not. Clearly, you’re not okay with it, and in order to move forward and trust that this won’t be an issue in your marriage it sounds like you’re needing to see that he can stop for a sustained period of time now, before you’re married. You might want to ask him if he would be willing to stop for 3-4 weeks. By the way, you’re not being controlling. You have a real fear and a real need that needs attention if you’re going to feel safe with him.

  • Nikki

    Hi Sheryl,

    I just finished the Dark Night of the Soul section from the e-course. Last night before bed I decided to take the dive and face head on one of my anxious and intrusive thoughts that has come up within the last week – “Am I only with my boyfriend because I am afraid to start all over?”. I am turning 28 in less than a week and I always grew up wanting to be married and have a family young. Since being with my boyfriend for the last three years, we have been talking heavily of getting married for almost two of them. I even have put on the pressure of wanting to be married before 30, and the pressure has come from my mother and his and my surrounding family members. I never thought it bothered me, since I have been looking forward to getting married since I was young, but now that I am going through this course I am trying to figure out the reasoning deep within myself. When I walked through the anxiety of that thought and how I don’t want to start from scratch if I break up with my boyfriend, I found it very difficult to tell myself that “it’s okay if you break up and have to start from scratch, you do not need to be married by 30”. It was almost as if I was justifying that thought and that it was the reason why I was having anxiety. I even woke up at 3 AM from tossing and turning thinking about it and recorded the unusual dreams I was having and then woke up this morning and made sure I started off my day with the breathing techniques. What’s getting me through the day so far is that I do not have to put weight to the intrusive thought- I should accept it and just know that there is a message within.. it is not so literal.

    I am still a bit hesitant and nervous– every time I think about it I address it with breathing and accept it as a part of my growth. I have a second session with a counsellor in a couple of days, but I am looking into seeing an actual therapist to help address my anxiety.

    Thank you

  • Kath

    Hi Sheryl, I’ve generally stopped having panic attacks since confronting my fears, but am still really anxious about driving because I had a few panic attacks while driving when things were bad. So now when I go to drive on a highway I get really panicky that I am going to have a panic attack or just stop in the road or drive off the road!And of course the anxiety increases the likelihood of me having a panic attack (though not stopping or driving off the road as I know deep down that that is just a fear). I do panic that I may drive unsafe in my fear state though. So my fear is trying to protect me from a panic attack – but is actually increasing the likelihood of one if I go on the highway! If there was no fear, there would be no problem, so what exactly is it protecting me from?! Best wishes, Kath

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl,
    Thank you so much for this post, and for your whole blog!

    I’ve been with my (wonderful, supportive, intelligent) boyfriend for 5 years. After seeing him last month after several months trans-continental long distance, I immediately started having doubts about our relationship that I couldn’t let go of. Those small doubts escalated to an obsession, thinking through every aspect of our relationship and my boyfriend himself.

    From seeing a therapist and reading through your blog, the most common advice I see is to acknowledge the intrusive thoughts, but not give them value because that just gives the thoughts more power. My concern, though, is that some of my concerns might be legitimate and need to be explored. Although our relationship has no “red flags”, it’s hard to believe that any doubts about a relationship without red flags are just resulting from relationship anxiety. Plenty of people break up/divorce due to reasons other than addiction, abuse, etc. How do you know that your concerns aren’t based in truth?

    Just because we have a healthy relationship, does that really mean that we have the potential to be together forever (happily)? We have been together since college, and for both of us, this is the only serious relationship we’ve ever been in, which adds to my anxiety. I find myself wondering if we have the potential to still find each other interesting in 1 or 5 or 20 years, and I’m terrified at the prospect of having to learn to date or sleep with other men for the first time in my 30s or 40s. So then I start wondering if I’m just staying in this relationship out of fear.

    Any insight you can provide about how to determine whether or not your thoughts warrant being explored further would be very useful to me!

  • Bra77

    Hey Sheryl! Recently I’m been having intrusive thoughts that maybe I won’t want to be with my partner when I get to my new university in the fall. I was so excited to get into this one particular university and the excitement went from
    Fears that I don’t actually want to be with my partner and that j don’t love her enough. Is any of this true Sheryl? I’m scared

  • MohTA

    hi Sheryl,

    I sometimes feel I understand the concept of taking responsibility of our own aliveness and not keeping wanting someone else to do it, but apparently am not always fully convinced or living the concept.

    I mean, I keep thinking that you should eventually and naturally select a partner that you feel comfortable with and one that can contribute to your happiness and well-being, right? because if otherwise, then what is the concept of a good partner? what makes this partner better for you than another one?

    With this thought, could you please say few words that can help me (and maybe others) to really understand the relationship equation of what our partner role and so we understand really how shall we be responsible of our own aliveness and so we can take the proper actions?

    Thank you

  • Rachael


    I am in the early stages of a loving and healthy relationship, we work through fights and a lot of the problems I’ve had before (anger, anxiety and the red mist of aggression), I’ve learned to work through both alone and with him. I realise that at this moment in our relationship it is much too early for love (it has been four months) and for me that is an achievement.

    I still, however,am experiencing anxiety. I have problems with the concept of love, because I have heard too many times that you cannot love someone until you love yourself. And I just don’t know how! I don’t know how to love myself & i am scared that in order to love myself I have to leave my partner. There are so many fear thoughts/intrusive thoughts (Am I just scared to be alone? Is he right for me? What if..?) I had a crush on him while I was in a toxic relationship, the night I left my then partner, was the night we went out ‘as friends’. We really want to take things slowly & i’m constantly analysing whether I’m doing this for the right reasons, and whether I even have relationshop anxiety or if it’s the wrong partner or I’m somehow wrong as a person.

  • taa

    Hi Rachael

    Wish i could interact with you ive had anxiety in relationships since i was 14 the first time it was the most painful thing ive ever felt ive been in 3 serious relationships sinve then and ive just met the man of my dreams what your feeling is normal but i found it gets less and less each time for me because i understand it. I hope you find your innerpeace

    • Rachael

      Hi Taa,

      I’m just so nervous, you know. I’m so scared that I should have taken the time alone, but I want to be with my partner. We wake up everyday and choose each other, and it’s the easiest relationship I’ve ever been in. I don’t know how to find myself; is it even possible to learn to love yourself while in a relationship?

      How has the journey of innerpeace been for you personally?
      Best wishes & happy loving.

  • taa

    Hi rachael

    I think you can grow with someone however if you feel that way why not take a holiday with gfs or do a retreat where its just you. My partner said if i need time on my own hes happy to give it to me as he wants me to get better.
    Its gotten much easier ive had 15 years to deal with it however its gotten so much easier since ive relised what i have. I remember the first time it hit me i had severe anxiety i would get up at night because it would calm me down. I didnt understand what it was until years later and by then i had broken up with my boyfriend at the time. I then had 2 other long term bf the anxiety got less for each one as i learned to understand it. My body felt like it wanted to run so badly and i would have the worst intrusive thoughts about my bf at the time I couldn’t really understand so i never really talked a whole lot about it. Then i met my now bf and ive had the least anxiety I chalk it up to understanding what I have and the fact that hes so supportive its the most healthy relationship ive had aswell i find when i get a few months in or ive made a big decision i get the anxious feeling i get anxious with change or uncertainty and it has taken a while to understand it as i didn’t have the tools at first i thought it was them but after 3 bf im like no this is me, i still get slight anxiety with the current bf and this was straight after booking in a holiday over 1 year away but then i get moments of pure clarrity that fills my heart with love and joy and i cant imagine being without him and the only thing is to not let the intrusive thoughts get to you its hard they sound and feel beleivable. This is the only site that really focuses on people like us i used to feel really ashamed and in a way i am still embarressed because most people dont understand but slowly i am letting go of that shame because i know im an anxious person in general and i know what i have was not the relationship but my anxious mind. Keep your chin up dont fight against the thought aknowledge it and just think there not real and dont give it another thought same with the anxiety feeling eventually you will come out with days where the anxiety is in the back drop but you barely feel it and all you feel is love. Also if you dont exercise much go for a walk after work and eat well.

  • Gemma

    Hi Sheryl…
    I get married in just 9 weeks and i am terrified. i have been with my fiance for 6 years and we have had the most comfortable,happy fun times together, he makes me laugh every day!. we have also lived together for 4 years. this all started at the beginning of November, i woke up crying one night and a thought just jumped in my head that dave my fiance wasnt effectionate enough! i remember crying all day feeling uphappy and i just didnt know why! i found myself looking at pictures of him on my phone and just feeling nothing and focusing on the negative things in our relationship whicj are silly things! I never for one minute doubted our relationship and knew the moment i met him I wanted to be with him forever. and i know that i couldnt live without him… i tell him everything. I have seen hypnotherapists/ journaled/mediated read and read and read your posts. i feel like my whole life has turned upside down as i am anxious every day… even when i sleep i have nightmares… and thoughts just dive in my head that i need to cancel the wedding!! and it terrifies me that i cant feel my love for him!! i am constantly comparing myself to other people… wishing i was as happy like they are in their marriage. everytime people ask me about my wedding i feel physically sick. can your course help me in just 9 weeks? x thankyou Gemma from England x

    • Hi Gemma: Yes, the course can help in 9 weeks if you keep two things in mind: 1. You must do the work suggested in the course and 2. Your anxiety mostly likely won’t the completely gone on your wedding day. This work takes time and patience, and while many people do arrive at their wedding day feeling serene and clear, the anxiety will most likely continue to appear after the wedding day until you learn how to work with your thoughts and attend to your feelings, which take time. I highly suggest you start the work now so that you give yourself the tools, information, and support you need to climb your way out of the anxious hole.

  • Nikki


    Sorry for the late response, I have not checked back on this particular blog post until today.

    I am officially one week and a bit into the course material and not only do I feel a difference in myself, but both my mother and boyfriend see a tremendous difference in me from a week ago. That is not to say that I am done my journey and am no longer feeling intrusive thoughts, I am now taking the tools that I have learnt so far and am actually using them! The breathing into the fear really helps and becoming more knowledgeable about how a feeling is NOT fact and that we should not take things at face value (including dreams, which always worried me before). A lot of the things Sheryl describes in the course are exactly me- I am a highly sensitive person, have always been a worrier or have had anxiety before etc. It was also very reassuring to actually read my intrusive thoughts in the course work from other people who have been going through the same thing. I found it difficult when I first had my intrusive though that I had no one to talk to about it, or no one to compare it to. I have many friends who are in relationships or who are married and they certainly did not feel this way… so that scared me! Even when I told my mom the first time she suggested that maybe I needed a break from my boyfriend (I wanted to vomit at the thought!) and even after a couple of days I thought a break was I told him… it last 12hours!!! It was that night where I said enough is enough and bought the course..and I have not looked back! I have also started to meditate (never thought I would be the type), journal, create a gratitude list and just learnt about mindfulness last night.. all of which are supposed to help turn inwards. I find myself constantly emailing myself at work because I want to journal and get things on paper as a sense of relief, and I take moments in the bathroom to actually BREATHE! I am an impatient person, so its been tough to not wake up and feel like things are back to the way before, but I keep telling myself that this journey will TAKE TIME and that it is a good thing ~ if it didn’t happen now, it could have happened in years from now. I have discovered that I have a fear of uncertainty and that I lack self-trust and self-love.. all stemming from my childhood! I am seeing a therapist now to help me look inwards… I am nervous/curious to see what I discover!

    I hope you take the course — you will have it for a LIFETIME and I find that I am constantly re-reading her blogs and articles and watching the videos over and over… it;s the only thing that has made sense as to what I am going through and makes it easier to be able to relate!!

    Let me know if you have any other questions!


  • taa

    I also bought the ecourse and its so wonderful to undestand where my anxiety is coming from there were moments were i felt teary because it explained who i was and why i am like the way i am. I always thought that love is meant to overcome everything that were not meant to feel anxious and i would look at my sibblings and wonder why they never felt that way. But in reality its completely normal to feel the way we do. Ive always been highly sensitive and would get severe anxiety as a child. While people say they don’t doubt its only because they arnt wired like us our anxiety grasps on to the most important thing in our lives and creates the worst anxiety because they mean so much to us. Once you learn how to minimise the anxiety you will see thing alot clearer. If you have the money buy the course its worth the outcome a more clearer peaceful mind

    • N

      That’s so great to hear that you are on the path to healing as well! I was wondering, what sort of techniques/tools have you found that are helpful to you? As I mentioned above, I really enjoy journalling, breathing, meditation and am making a try at mindfulness. I have also been carrying a little notebook with me to write down what I am grateful for each day. The only thing that I am not sure if I am doing correctly (and maybe Sheryl can step-in), is that when I journal I sometimes re-write out the intrusive thoughts and try to figure out what it means… but, I have heard her say or have read that even journalling about them can feed it energy and water and cause them to grow… do you know if I should avoid writing them down? I also find myself sometimes almost “forcing” the thoughts in my head so that I can notice them and use the techniques she provided to acknowledge but bring them to the mat, or neutralize them.. I think this all has to do with my impatience!!!!

      What I never realized before until I started on this course is that a lot of this anxiety (or actually, ALL OF IT) has to do with ME! I grew up overweight, had pressures from my mom (who I LOVE) to lose weight and look a certain way. I never realized how much that affected me. I also have a really guilty conscious.. to the point that I even feel guilty that I am going through this… anytime someone asks me how my boyfriend is… I get a pain of guilt because they think everything is perfect, when really it is not. I also compare myself to EVERYONE I know and am never happy with what I have.. I lack so much self- trust and self-love and was ungrateful for what I DO have. I am hopeful that with the therapist I am seeing that I will come to forgive myself and learn to LOVE myself… I even notice when I am in a projection now because most of the time it is when I am feeling guilty for EATING bad.. then I project on my boyfriend and my relationship with him.

      How long have you been on the course Taa? I would love to hear how you are doing with it!

      • MohTA

        hi N,

        I’d just like to comment on the part you mentioned about journaling about Intrusive thoughts themselves and the concern of being feeding them with energy, as I have been always afraid from the same concern.

        Throughout my work with Intrusive thought and journaling (and am still working throughout this to break free..), I have reached a place where I feel I understand more how to journalize about intrusive thoughts in kind of productive way!

        First of all, as you mentioned, we have to notice the intrusive thoughts, because without noticing them and being aware of them, we can’t deal with properly and they will just sink in our body like definite truth! And one of the best way to notice them is to journalize about them so you can really see them from a distance.

        Second, and here is the key point to me, you need to be aware that you are journaling them “only to notice them” and not to “indulge them”.. I mean, you need to write about them and how tough they are and how negative feelings they let you feel but without actually going deep in the “content” of the thought, makes sense? I mean to mention the thought and describe how it is painful without going in details of the content of the thought

        Third, then and INSTANTLY, to give the mic to your Wise / Parent Self who has simply and concretely to talk about the “true content” of the true reality that counteracts, mostly, the content of the intrusive thoughts.. This Parent Self has to be there in the dialogue APPRECIATING, first, the coming of the intrusive thought, because it is there to tell something important to you underneath its superficial news, then telling the truth about this thought then inviting the part in you that came out with this intrusive thought to come and say “why this part has came out with this intrusive thought, what is it inside you that is screaming and needing your attention?”
        And when you just write and write with this mindset and this kind of attention giver, you will find yourself able more to notice the intrusive thoughts without indulging them and with even being able to go underneath and start to understand what is inside.. but of course it takes time and patience from you.

        Hope it helps

        • N

          Thanks Mohammad for clearing that up!

          When you talk about having the Wise Parent/Self step-in.. how do you go about doing that? Is is through writing out a dialogue? I could already being doing this when I tell myself “What is needed inside?” or “It’s okay to feel this, this is an opportunity for you to grow and learn about yourself”.. I want to delve more into this Wise Parent/Self, but am not sure how to do that. I know she mentions in her new blog about the inner father and using him as a guideline as well… I just need to figure out when to use what inner father/parent etc.

          This is all a learning process for me and I appreciate any help/advice I could get.. I want to make sure that I am putting in 110% into this journey.

          • MohTA

            Well N, I will try to tell you my feelings through trying over and over with this..

            First N, you have to believe in your Parent Self, sounds basic and superficial? Well.. I don’t mean to simply believe that this part is there (of course this is the beginning but I can see you already believe in her/his existence), but I mean to believe that this part is fundamentally you when you are wise, that this part ALWAYS tells the truth, ALWAYS! and when we say truth here, we mean “what is good for you”.. So you have to believe that whatever comes out of your Parent Self mouth is truth and no need to doubt it at all!

            Second, yes, you have to include your Parent Self in long dialogues! Actually this is the most important step! His / her first role is to calm down other parts of you and and allowing them to be there.. but this is only the beginning, while his / her more fundamental role is to tell them the truth and then to guide them to express what they have hidden to tell..

            I mean, whenever you have an intrusive thought, write briefly about and then let the Parent Self to talk:
            1- To calm down and allow the thought to express itself
            2- To give the cognitive truth regarding this thought.. remember, the cognitive true information is the responsibility of your Parent Self to tell all other parts about.
            3- Then he should start to call the other parts (Fear, protectors, shame, disappointment..etc parts) to show up and talk what is underneath this thought.

            When you give the Parent Self enough time to calm down and accept the thought, and then give the true cognitive information about it AND THEN asking other parts to safely come and talk, you will find yourself naturally letting the other parts to write and express what is underneath..

            And I want to tell you few important tips (from my own experience and from what Sheryl mentioned many times):

            1- When you start to type or write, don’t stop! I mean don’t give time to “think” of what to write.. just keep your eyes focusing on your printing fingers and keep writing, and you will be amazed that many things will be written! if you pause a lot for thinking, your ego mind will interfere..

            2- While writing, your ego mind will try to come and tell you “hey you, don think this is working? it is me “your mind” who is writing and nothing else and no parts or such stuff!!”.. When this happens N, let your Parent Self answers.. Smile to it, and let your Parent Self write a brief statement for the ego mind that he / she listens to it and continue back what you are writing..

            3- When other parts start to express deep feelings, just let them (your fingers) keep writing and writing.. whether it makes sense or not.. just keep writing and maybe repeating the same sentences, it is Ok! Then your Parent Self shall answer with kindness and compassion what is needed to answer

  • Christine

    Hi Sheryl! I must say that your opinion of things has changed the way I view relationships completely. Deep down I’ve always felt that this is how true relationships work. Growing up I didn’t see the best example of a marriage. It has caused so much confusion. You say that after you solve one intrusive thought another one will pop up. This always happens to me. I have basically debunked every fear that I’ve had so far thanks to your help. Now I’m worried that I’m possibly in a dull and boring relationship without possible connection. My fiancé is basically my dream guy. When I open my heart I feel very different about him. Although I still don’t know for sure about our connection. I’m desperate for advice from you or anyone that can offer positive insight. Thank you ❤️

  • Scared

    I was in love a couple months ago with my wonderful girlfriend and idk where it all went. I came to college and was probably the happiest I had been in a while. First off I should say I’m a girl and have identified as a lesbian. I never found boys attractive always girls. Then one day all of a sudden I started feeling sad and disconnected from my girlfriend. I would beat myself up about it because I wanted her. Why would I be feeling empty with her. Then all of a sudden the though popped up in my head what if I don’t love her? What if I can’t love her because I’m a girl and she’s a girl? What if I have to be with a man to feel “real” love? What if I can never give her true love? What if I’m straight? I can’t let these thoughts go and it sucks :/ I just wanna be happy again but it’s difficult with all of these thoughts.

  • T

    Hi Sheryl,

    I have had this feeling before. I know what it is, I’ve learned to acknowledge that it’s my fears talking, and not necessarily truths. I’ve managed to overcome anxieties and had felt so happy. So I know that it’s possible to feel love again and not just anxiety and fear. But it’s come back.. I try to talk to myself in my Inner Father voice, and it works for a while, but ultimately it gets hard to reason with. I first had intrusive thoughts in a previous relationship. There was real love there, and no major red flags, other than we had different values about how we saw the world. I felt so much anxiety because I felt like we would never agree on major important things, and because they were so central to us, neither of us wanted to change those, because we’d be changing the biggest things about ourselves. But we still really cared about each other. I had a moment of clarity where I knew that we weren’t meant for each other, and I ran. Very quickly after (perhaps too quickly after), I ended meeting someone else, who I could tell anything to and who I had so much in common. We just really knew each other right off the bat. Mid-way through I felt anxious that I jumped too fast and that I’m not over my previous relationship. I ended up getting over that, and able to feel so much love and knowing so much that he’s the one I wanted to be with. Fast forward a year later, I recently got engaged to that man, who makes me feel so loved and who I love who I am with him. Our relationship has made me realize we have things I didn’t even know I wanted in a relationship. But because of the quickness of it all, I’m having a lot of anxiety. Sometimes I read your website and in one breath its reassuring but in another breath I cant help but fear that if I had of stuck it through with my first relationship that everything would have been okay, and that I’m maybe not over that relationship, and that I don’t love my fiance enough now. I know that these are all fears, and that they aren’t my truths, but I’m not sure how to get over this hump of anxiety. I know I love my fiance, but do I love him enough to marry him? Also, I’ve had this same anxiety more than once, which I feel makes it harder to reason with this time around. But I also, got over it and was able to feel so much love and feel more connected to anyone before.

    How do I know what is real. Where do I find real clarity? I’d love your support, and I am willing to do the work. I’m just not sure what’s the right direction.

  • N

    Hi Sheryl,

    I don’t mean to keep posting, but I find that posting also helps as it is sometimes a moment to journal. I thought that I had accepted the fact that this anxiety has everything to do with me, and nothing to do with my boyfriend or our relationship. As I mentioned above in a post, I find that the ego is soo believable at times and there are moments where I want to believe the ego… because it must be a sign or an indication. I keep telling myself that it’s me and that with time I will no longer have those thoughts or that it will not come as often (which it has decreased quite a bit in the last week and a bit), and that once I figure out what is going on inside, that I will be happy I went through all of this. I even try to look at the four realms and see if I am off-kilter in anyway (usually I am feeling guilty about my weight or eating bad.. but it’s always been like that).. so I find it hard to believe that in that moment it has to do with a realm.

    I keep trying to think about how I would feel if my boyfriend were to propose tomorrow.. or if we were to get married.. I used to think about this all the time and was EXCITED.. but now, it scares me! I think it could be the fear of uncertainty.. and more so the uncertainty about how I will feel after I finish the e-course… I know you mention that a lot of people have the thought “What if I discover my truth is that I should not be with my boyfriend once I turn inward”, well I think this is really taking its toll on me.. because a part of me does not want my boyfriend to propose UNTIL I am better (I even told him that.. to wait.. because I know he was going to do it closer to the end of this year).

    How can I dive into what I am truly feeling? I know I discovered that a part of me is grieving that once I am engaged and get married.. I won’t be living at home or relying on my parents (sort of what you mentioned above).. and I will miss that because I would have to turn to my boyfriend (or future husband) for that… but I don’t know where or what else. Could I be experiencing uncertainty because of the course? I keep telling myself that everything will be fine and that it all has to do with ME and not my boyfriend and that we WILL get married one day.. but saying that sometimes makes my stomach go in knots because I don’t know if that will happen.. not after I finish the course..

    Am I the only one? I don’t want to spike anyone.. I feel like I am on a better path so far and that I have learnt quite a bit about myself.. I keep pushing through. I would just LOVE to see light at the end of the tunnel and be able to talk about getting engaged and married (what I used to LOVE to do) without getting knots!

    Thank you xo

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