Invisible Lines of Hope

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

  • Rumi

When we’re being asked to unpack a new layer of wound that will lead to healing, it can feel daunting, overwhelming, and hopeless. The questions circle and dart like bats in the dark of night. The doubt eats away at serenity. The physical symptoms can cause you to want to withdraw from life and ball up in bed, and sometimes you do. In the darkness and suffering, it’s so easy to forget that the questions will resolve and that the new layer of healing with unshackle and shake itself to the surface like bulbs emerging in spring. In the dark of winter, we often cannot see the shifting that’s occurring underground. It’s during this time that we must trust in the invisible lines of hope and the mysterious element of healing that are always supporting us.

If you think you’re the only one suffering, let me correct you: Everyone suffers. One of the most common questions I receive from clients and course members is, “Why don’t other people suffer in this way? Why does it seem like I’m the only one who struggles with anxiety and intrusive thoughts? Why does it seem like life is easier for other, less sensitive people?” We suffer in different ways and at different times in our life. Some people’s suffering is more obvious while others suffer quietly inside the caves of their minds, but to be human is to suffer which means that at some point in life the suffering will become apparent. I often have conversations with my clients about their partners in which they say, “It seems like I’m always the one who’s struggling and my partner is a rock.” To which I respond, “Just give it time. Eventually life will pull your partner into his or her own underworld – either through a transition, a loss, an illness or career challenges – and you will have the chance not only to see your partner’s well-veiled shadow but also to be the support for him that he’s been for you all these years.”

Everyone suffers. Couples struggle. Parents struggle. Men suffer. People who seem less sensitive and more easy-going suffer. From the outside, it’s so easy to assume that the lovey-dovey couple over there never argues and felt madly in love from day one, but with enough time and close observance you will learn about the underside of their relationship. You might look at another parents’ child at the park and assume that she’s an easy-peasy kid who never rebels and tantrums the way your toddler does, but if you were to follow that family over the years the challenges would be exposed. It’s so easy to create stories about other people’s lives, to hear a few headlines or watch a few interactions then fill in the details with your projections and assumptions. But if you watch and listen closely enough you’ll find the whole story and see that everyone suffers. When we settle into this truth it reduces the layer of shame that arises from the belief that you’re the only one, that there’s something wrong with you, that you’re broken because life or relationships seem harder for you. It’s hard for everyone.

In this darkest time of year in the Northern hemisphere, it’s easy to lose hope. It’s easy to slip under the surface of despair and, especially if you’re sensitive, absorb the collective frenzy of consumption that most people use to cover over the sadness and loneliness that arise during the holidays. It’s easy to want to withdraw into hibernation until it’s all over or to fall into your own favored form of distraction: spending, eating, internet surfing, intrusive thoughts.

Instead, I invite you to imagine that you’re holding my hand and all of the hands of the people who are reading this blog. Together, we form of a virtual chain of connection, reminding ourselves and each other that we can walk through the darkness and that darkness, when approached with compassionate attention, always unfolds into light. When you look closely, you see that each of these people in the chain of support has a headlight strapped to their foreheads, each of us committed to learning what needs to be learned, widening our capacity for tolerating uncertainty, softening our fear-walls and moving toward love. We link hands with the seekers and love-warriors worldwide, reminding ourselves that we are not alone and that we are loved.

I am a link in this chain, not always as a leader or guide but also as a fellow human who sometimes struggles on the path of life just like you do. Sometimes a client will say to me, “I’m having this fantasy that your life is perfect: that you don’t argue with your husband, that you’re always patient with your children, that you never struggle with anxiety.” As holding an image of anyone as perfect only supports the erroneous fantasy that perfection is possible and entrenches the faulty belief that there’s an end goal on this path of healing, it’s important to me that I dispel this myth. I struggle. I argue with my husband. We project onto each other and lose our connection. We’ve had more ruptures than we can count and, thankfully, even more repairs. I lose my patience with my children. I don’t always know the most loving or wise choice in terms of parenting. I’m certain that I’ve messed them up in ways I can’t even begin to know. Anxiety nips at the heels of my soul from time to time, especially if I fall off the horse of my daily practices (which, of course, I do), and I have to use all of the tools that I teach here to regain my center. Questions arise in the form of symptoms that require time to decode, especially when I’m on the threshold of a new transition. I dream every night but I don’t always write them down, and I understand them even less. In short, I am human, which means that I struggle, I suffer, I have blind spots, and sometimes I lose my way. I don’t have it all figured out, and I’m pretty sure that nobody does. That’s why we’re here: learning together, struggling together, growing together.

So together we hold hands and link hearts and know that we are not alone on this journey of pain and struggle and also light and joy. And I invite you to say, out loud, the following reminders:

May we remember that there is always a spark of light even in the darkest night.

May we harness that one spark of light to illuminate the areas in the temple of our body, the sanctuary of our heart, the light of our mind, and the river of our soul that need our attention.

Through our breath, our prayers, and our loving actions, may we fan the spark into fire.

May we remember to turn toward our places of pain instead of away, knowing that it’s when we move toward ourselves with compassion and curiosity that the doorways to joy are opened.

May we turn toward our loved ones, even when fear urges us to turn away.

May we consciously and proactively focus on gratitude, remembering that it’s an elixir that can transform fear into love.

May we remember to seek the places that nourish us – nature, music, dance, art, prayer, silence – and allow ourselves to receive and be filled up by the infusion we find there.

May we be kind to ourselves and others, and forgive ourselves when we’re not.

May we bring our healing and fullness into the world, and allow others to be touched by the softening in our hearts.

56 comments to Invisible Lines of Hope

  • Sally

    Sheryl, thank-you <3.

  • Sally

    Sorry pressed send before I finished! I think this post is particularly pertinent in light of the royal engagement. I know myself and others on the forum have fallen into the trap of the “fairytale romance” currently being portrayed in the media.


    Thank you Sheryl for the most loving message I have read at just the right time.

  • Fiorella

    So beautifully explain! I’m in chapter 8 of the course and I’m learning a lot. I know it will get better little by little it will. And like you said “you have seen hundreds come to the other side and you have faith I will too” thank you Sheryl!

  • So touching and beautiful. Thank you Sheryl for your light, depth and authenticity always.
    love Julie

  • Bettina

    Wow! Thank You Sheryl

  • Elena

    This was so beautiful and touching. I just attended the funeral for my beloved grandmother this weekend, and my heart is breaking. It’s also a new time for myself and my husband, who often struggles with how to support me. I needed this today to soften towards him and heal myself right now. Thank you.

    • You’re so welcome, Elena. Sending love as you grieve and walk through your transitions.

    • Alyssa


      My grandmother passed away this past Thanksgiving, and we had her funeral shortly after. I am grieving with you, I am healing with you, and I feel your pain through this painful and new transition. Please don’t feel afraid to reach out if you need anything. <3

  • Katie

    Let it be so! Amen ❤️

  • Christina

    I have had a really bad week or two with high levels of anxiety and intrusive thoughts. I can’t thank you enough for this post.

  • ColoradoGirl

    Hi there Sheryl! My relationship with my Mother has been strained lately as she continues to refuse to work through the pain of losing her son 21 years ago. She’s become deeply deeply negative, sad, and disconnected from life. She continues to ignore the pain and as life changes happen (like a move) that she wasn’t prepared to handle emotionally- the pain grows in to physical symptoms- which she is also ignoring and numbing with anti-depressants. It’s SO hard to see her not enjoying life. Meanwhile she refuses to seek therapy. I realized recently that I’m just so sad because I selfishly miss her Motherly love- I miss that warmth and it is so hard to see her unhappy. I wish so much more for her. I avoid her (and by default my Dad) because she is always in such an awful mood and picks fights with me- which isn’t the relationship that I want to have with her.

    Anyways, All I really wanted to say was thank you (again 😉 ). You’ve taught me how to work through pain and trauma in a way that will allow me to not be held back by them. These tools are SO important!! In the meantime I’ll continue to pray that my Morher will decide one day to finally work through all of her own repressed pain.

    Sending you lots of love!

    • Yes, may she find her way to healing one day. And for you: there’s nothing selfish about missing motherly love. It’s one of the most primal needs that we have, and when it’s missing for any reason we long for it. Sending you love, Sara!

  • Linda F

    Wow beautifully written. I will be a life long follower of your work 🙂

  • Yachal


    This post was a gift to me. I had a really tough day latching onto anxious thoughts that my husband and I are too different socially. Ultimately, I ended up sobbing for an hour with him holding me and realizing that I just have so much loneliness in our new city where we don’t know many people, so much fear about becoming a mom, and so much lingering grief from my own wounds/family brokenness that I’ve really only been processing for the past year. Every time I process more emotion, in the depths of feeling it, I always ask my husband if there’s something wrong with me, why I am so emotional, why I’m so anxious about our marriage, and tell him that I’m the only one – that everyone else is so happy and blissful in marriage/motherhood. This quote is absolutely key for me:

    “When we settle into this truth it reduces the layer of shame that arises from the belief that you’re the only one, that there’s something wrong with you, that you’re broken because life or relationships seem harder for you.”

    The funny part is… the more I just let the emotions come out, the more I am experiencing bliss (and not “life is happy and everything works out and nothing goes wrong” bliss), but the bliss that comes with the peace of healing. It’s slow, but I truly see it happening.

    Thanks for all you do.

  • Teri

    Your light reaches farther than you could ever dream. Thank you for your continued support. May the lights in your life continue to bring you insight and peace. Xo

  • I’m so deeply touched by your comments. Thank you, my readers. Thank you. xo

  • Emma

    This is so good to hear. I’m getting married in 3 weeks to an amazing man, but our engagement has been difficult. I’ve been struggling with such intense fear and anxiety that our marriage will fail, that I’m making a mistake, even though I know that I’m not and that we will work through whatever difficulties may arise. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking “I’m the only one feeling this way, something is wrong with me.” Or that the anxiety in and of itself is a sign something is wrong. Your posts have really helped me realize throughout my engagement that I am not the only one who struggles!

  • Sarah

    Sheryl, thank you for your transparency, and your humility. The comfort felt in our shared humanness is something I am indeed grateful for, and a rare gift these days. Thank you, thank you.

  • Cp

    Thank you so much for this, Sheryl. As usual, the timing is uncanny. I’m very interested in a guy I’ve met at work – he’s affable and self-possessed, and I’ve constructed a narrative that I’m too dark and damaged for him, which is suppressing any hope I had about potential between us. That he would be repelled if he knew how different I was from all the ‘normal’ people. That somehow my suffering is a thing of shame that isolates me.

    Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone.


  • Sarah

    You have a way with words Sheryl. I really appreciate your humility. It connects us all. What truly beautiful work you do. Thank you for emanating light in the dark months.

  • Angela

    You moved me so much im in tears 😭 So beautiful 😍 💕 When i look at couples with children i envy them not only because I dont have children its just seeing them blissfully happy. I do think there not anxious like me, whats their secret? Not as much as initially in the beginning of our relationship. We all get good days and bad days. We all suffer in our own unique way. We are not clones, I was wired for doubt, l accept it and I embrace it. I dont think I want to live my life doubting and comparing other peoples lives to mine. I am human. Love this forum😘

  • Monica

    Dear Sheryl,

    I’d like to thank you for your kind and healing words. Your work is impressive and I’ve been reading extensively since recent anxiety crises – and what a relief have I felt since then 🙂

    Can I ask you to write about life as a single, or being single? I know it’s quite the opposite of your focus, but would be great to hear some insight on it.


    • What aspect of being single specifically?

      • Monica

        I guess… finding happiness as a single woman. Sometimes I feel as though I am not worthy because I “haven’t been picked yet”. Quite a patriarchal thought, but, boy, we still live in a patriarchal world and some people sometimes feel they’re “lesser” because they’re single. I see the bright side of single life but sometimes am consumed by the fear of never be loved… or never be worthy of love. There are more women than men in the world and some may end up being single for a lifetime, I think this is a fact, and I want to face this possibility happily, without thinking I am anyway inferior due to that 🙂

        I’ve read your posts about filling the inner well and they’ve really helped. And also one about infatuation. If there was anything else you could write about it, I’d love to hear 🙂


        • Yes, such an important topic, Monica. It also applies to not having children: the culture says we’re only worthy as women if we bear children. How backward and sexist it still is!

        • Cassie

          I struggled with this so much, Monica! All throughout my 20s really. I just wanted to let you know that you aren’t alone. The only thing that helped me in the end is realizing that my worth and value don’t come from a man or relationship. I learned a lot of this through Sheryl’s Trust Yourself course. Honestly, I think this is what actually led me to meeting the loving, kind man who is in my life now.

  • Susi

    Dear Sheryl,

    Thank you for your post, it is very beautiful, well written and helpful.


  • Ravenna

    What a beautiful breath of freah air this post was. Thank you!

  • Angela

    Thank you, as always, Sheryl. I’ve been going through one more transition in my life in the last few month and one of the elements consisted in moving from a long summer-southern hemisphere country back to Europe. Even if this change was long awaited and sought after, the adjustment and recalibration have not been easy. One part of it, I think, it’s the long nights and short days thing. Winter is the ideal season for an introvert like me, makes it almost acceptable to crawl into my shell and hide from the demands of the world. But at the same time, it makes it also easier to fall into despair and into the feeling that I am the only one suffering (after all everybody else “seems” so energetic and forward-moving!). Last week we celebrated Lucy’s day here and it was a beautiful reminder that we all need a little light of hope during the long darkness of winter (of the seasons or of the soul). It may be silly, but seeing the celebration for the “saint of light” reminded me that humans all need to see and be reminded of this little flame of hope.

  • Dave

    Any advice on anxiety that kicked in at the beginning of a new relationship?
    I wonder if my girlfriend isn’t warm enough.

  • Gen

    I’m still struggling with the fear that I might not find someone. How do you deal with this beyond folling up your own well. How do you trust the timing?


  • Alyssa

    The day you published this (the 17th) marks one year since I had my first full-blown panic attack; This led to trips to Urgent Care, the ER, a month of complete misery and confusion before I found your site. This year has been such a challenge, but also such a gift. Thank you Sheryl SO much for your guidance, advice, and for giving me the ability to give myself permission to feel. I honestly don’t know where I would be right now without this blog and the support of you and all the people on here that have shown me that I’m never alone. Though anxiety doesn’t feel good, I look forward to my journey ahead, holding the hands of all of you along the way!

  • Joanna

    Beautiful article Sheryl!

  • Rachel

    Beautiful – thank you

  • berry berry

    I love your words so much! but i still believe there are such happy couples whose struggles are very minor and maybe non existent..they share the same values and dreams ..i cant get rid of this idea esp with one couple of our family;but they r very conservative;they only share with us very minimum news about their life as if we are strangers to them ( even the good news) and whenever they r around anywhere in public they are always holding hands although they have been married for a long time ..but i feel laying my anxiety upon them.. i wish to get rid of this and really concentrate more in my life.. thanks for your word Sheryl

  • Cassie

    Thank you so much, Sheryl! This is beautiful. A reminder that we are Loved and that we are never truly alone even when we feel alone.

  • Andrey

    Thank you so much. As it sometimes happens, your post hit the nail with me. I have just experienced a powerful “throwback”, which I intuitively knew was good. But I couldn’t ferl the good through the pain and fear, and most of all despair. You made me aware and the experience meaningful snd complete. I feel hope.

  • Bee

    This time last year I remember having intrusive thoughts about if I love my partner, I have the same again this year. The last few days I feel so bad because he’s just been so loving and cuddly and always telling me he loves me and that he loves me so much and I just feel irritated with him. I hate the fact I’m being snappy with him and I do apologise to him. It was only a few months ago I went a few months with no thoughts or anything. I know I need to work harder.. we had a funeral yesterday and I keep thinking “what if I don’t love my partner and when we are both on the other side if we stay together till the end, what if my truth is I don’t love him and he finds that out on the other side” just been driving my head mad. I’m tired of these thoughts and I know I keep being told love isn’t a feeling but I just can’t seem to shift that. He’s always so loving and like “I love you so much” “I really love you” “you complete me” and inside I’m screaming like “how do you know” seems so easy for him and yet I’m struggling and I don’t want to be struggling I want to be certain like he is. We have been together 2 years and I’ve had the thoughts for about a year and a half. I don’t wanna leave him and lose him though. & then I get thoughts like “maybe you just need to admit it to yourself even though it’s hard, maybe you just don’t want to be alone” just makes me feel sad. I want to feel love and be all loved up. No matter what I don’t want to lose him.

  • Aussie Jo

    Sheryl, thank you for writing this post, particularly relevant at this time of year when a lot of us are experiencing many emotions/thoughts/feelings as Xmas and the holidays approach.

    I had a recent work trip to Manila before returning to Australia for Xmas and whilst over there I received a call from a friend of mine in the UK. Her marriage is having some difficulty and she has had an affair. I listened to her story and remained non judgemental as I felt many things in her life had happened to get to this point. She will still continue the affair and her husband knows and will allow her to continue it if she doesn’t leave, but they are so angry with each other. This particular couple are very good friends of ours and I noted that their social media posts over Xmas depicted happy snaps of the presents they have given each other and loved up couple snaps.

    Can I please say to all – you would never know what is going on with their lives after viewing them on social media. It appears this ‘face’ is presented and no one is the wiser. So please don’t buy into perfection and envy – the truth is so much bigger.

    This is why I agree with you on the ‘Suffering’. We all suffer, we have blips in the road and this has been so apparent to me with inlaws staying over Xmas, my own parents and my husband dealing with his changing relationship to his parents.

    Finally, I have recently started a volunteer role as a telephone crisis supporter with an Australia wide suicide/support service. People call for all types of reasons, not just suicide. We all have pain, past and present to deal with. You are not alone. Remember to be kind to yourself at this time of year, when we leave behind one year and enter a new year. Do what it takes to get yourself centred as Sheryl mentioned. I wish everyone peace as we move into 2018.


  • Brooke

    Definitely love the quote about turning toward our loved ones instead of running. I would get a thought that said what if i wanna leave, and low and behold, the OCD took that thought, and transformed it into a load of mental torture. I have the typical relationship anxieties. Also been diagnosed with OCD and relationship obsessions and sexuality ones. I would get intrusive thoughts that gave me terrible anxiety about leaving. Always worried whether i was too scared to despite the obsessing. Because of this anxiety and him being away and not being able to talk, i feared my love was gone, that i couldn’t love him again, despite knowing love is flexible, and is nowhere near static. I would get thoughts about planning to leave, then pushing them directly out, and fearing i wanted to, thinking of who he was, telling myself i’m safe here, and thinking about how much i love him for reassurance. Any time a thought came up, mentally screaming no was always the route.

  • alinamalina

    Dear Sheryl! Thank you so much for all the amazing work and blog posts. I was so lost and couldn’t identify that indeed it’s the relationship anxiety that has been haunting me through all my relationships. I’ve been working with a CBT therapist and started taking antidepressants 2 days ago due to my severe anxieties, panic attack and even suicidal thoughts.
    There is so much my on my plate and different transitions: 1st healthy relationship, career change, moving to another country, previous pain examples of moving and dating, loss of singlehood and growing into a mature adult. If the rest of transitions are just painful, the relationship triggers my anxiety. I stay with my partner because there are moments of clarity when it’s just warm and light, but then everything becomes dark again and intrusive thoughts of “Am I attracted to him”, “Is he the one”, “Am I with him because it’s safe”, “He is so boring and I hate his sense of style”. I wasn’t strong enough to fight this thoughts and decided to start meds. My biggest fear is that it’s going to be forever like this: the anxiety and panic attack that squeeze your whole body and in order for it to stop you want to sell your soul or do simply anything!
    I was born and currently resign in Eastern Europe. We don’t have any sources about Relationship Anxiety and proper methods. My therapist tells me about some breathing techniques, but it doesn’t help me much. So as mindfulness, it actually makes my anxiety grow more.
    I wanted to ask you to share in the next blog post practical methods how to beat anxiety. You wrote earlier that it’s mindfulness, yoga, meditation, breathing and most important, journaling. Can you please explain how to do it all in a right way, so it doesn’t feed the fear? Maybe there are some other great practical tasks.
    I’d love to purchase your course about Relationship anxiety when I save enough. Thank you so much again for the hope of getting better.

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