Life is a series of micro-moments. Most of the time, we’re floating along in the fast-paced current without self-reflection. But inevitably, at some point, we will get snagged on a branch of anxiety or intrusive thoughts, an uncomfortable feeling, an illness, an argument with a loved one, or a season of depression. The habitual responses to these gifts-disguised-as-snags are to protect in some way: to attack outwardly through blame or withdraw into stony silence. We also gravitate toward habitual mental defenses as a way to protect against the soft feelings that live in the underbelly of the heart: we worry, we ruminate, we distract, we check, we watch television, we surf the internet, we shop.
We aren’t taught this anywhere in our early life, but the conscious path is largely about slowing down those micro-moments so that we can observe our habitual response, ask if it’s a response that serves us, and, if not, choose a different, more loving way.
Let’s bring this out of the abstract and into the concrete with a couple of examples:
A few weeks ago, after a lovely day with our extended family, my son and I got into the car to run a quick errand. Within a few minutes of driving he said, “When are we going to see H [his good friend]?” I could hear the twinge of anxiety in his voice and wondered about the timing of asking when we’re going to see his friend just after having a full day with family.
“Are you feeling sad that our family left?” I asked.
“Yes,” he responded.
“And maybe a little empty?”
“That makes sense. There’s so much fullness and life in the house when they’re here and I know how much you love playing with your cousin. Instead of planning the next playdate, do you want to see if we can be with those feelings and breathe into them?”
He nodded, and I could see that my words were landing in a soft and vulnerable place inside of him. We spent the next few minutes in silence, breathing into the feelings – the sadness and the emptiness – until a visible light filled his face.
Let’s review what happened there, as these steps are the same we would take with our own adult selves when a difficult feeling quickly morphs into an escape hatch defense: I validated his experience (there’s so much fullness when they’re here), identified the defense mechanism (planning the next playdate), named the feelings (sadness and loneliness), then offered a way to be with the feelings in the moment (breathe into them).
Here’s another example (shared with permission):
I had a session with a client last week who, like many of you, struggles with incessant doubt about her relationship. She is a highly conscious, well-read, and poetic person, and she’s a bit confounded as to why she’s still struggling. As she says, “I know all of the information. I’m just not sure why I’m still stuck.” We spent the majority of the session slowing down what happens when an intrusive thought shoots an arrow so that we could arrive at another, and deeper, level of what’s being asked of her. The conversation went like this:
“The nagging voice interjects several times a day,” she said.
“What does it say?” I asked.
“It says: This relationship cannot make you happy. It won’t allow you to grow spiritually. It’s never going to work out. Or something along those lines.”
“And how do you respond?”
“I meet it with my adult self and say something like, ‘It’s not his job to make you happy. My spiritual growth is my responsibility,” etc. Then it calms down.”
“So you meet it cognitively with accurate information about relationships and the voice quiets down.”
“Yes. But then all of the feelings come up.”
“Helplessness, loneliness, fear, confusion, anxiety. I could go on and on.”
“And how do you meet those feelings?”
“I don’t. I ignore them. Or I judge them. I think something like, ‘What’s wrong with you? You’re so sensitive. You should be over this by now. Just deal with it.'”
“Well, therein lies the stuck point: you’re meeting the feelings with judgement instead of compassion. As long as that’s your response to difficult feelings, you’re going to remain stuck,” I said.
We then talked about the inherited mother-line imprint that’s been handed down for generations that says, “You’re too much. Your feelings aren’t okay. I can’t handle you.” Like so many of my sensitive clients, she struggled as a baby with digestive issues and was probably in a lot of physical pain. And, as babies are wont to do, she expressed her pain and discomfort without hesitation. My client, again like so many of my clients, has been told the story that she was a “difficult” baby who “couldn’t be soothed” and “no matter what we tried nothing made you happy.” So, of course, she absorbed the belief system that she’s too much and nothing can make her happy. It’s been drip-fed down the mother-line so that now it’s the commentary that runs across the bottom of the screen of her psyche.
By the way, what “difficult” baby really means is, “I lacked the skills to know how to soothe you. You were actually perfect; it was me, because of my own trauma and lack of adequate mothering, that was deficient.”
For her, as for so many, the work is to slow down into that one moment when the feelings are unleashed from within the casing of the intrusive thought and notice her habitual response so that she can choose another, more loving response. I encouraged her to imagine a soft, nurturing mother meeting those feelings with gentleness and simply breathing into them. She doesn’t have to name the feelings or even understand them (as quite often feelings are beyond story-line and erupt from unconscious and preverbal layers of psyche). She simply needs to be with them in a gentle and non-judgmental way.
Here’s the sequence:
- Intrusive thought hits.
- Attend to the thought with a quick splash of truth (meeting the thought on the cognitive level to correct the thinking error).
- Once this happens, the feelings that were bound up inside the thoughts are often released.
- Notice how you regard the feeling. With judgement? With resistance? With curiosity? With compassion?
- If you’re meeting the feeling with judgement or resistance, see if you can make a different, more loving choice in that moment.
If it seems like a lot of work to slow down life and zoom in on these micro-moments, that’s because it is. As it’s rarely modeled by our caregivers, we don’t usually learn it at home. As we venture out into the world, starting with school and continuing into the workplace, we’re still not taught how to slow down enough to catch the moments that set us off-course. Eventually we realize that the auto-pilot model of moving through life doesn’t work very well, so we take steps to learn another way. We learn to turn inward. We learn to listen to the signposts and messages delivered from our inner world, often in the form of anxiety, somatic symptoms and intrusive thoughts. We learn to develop and then grow the loving inner mother who moves to a slower rhythm than the common culture, slow enough to stop in those micro-moments and hold the wisdom-self in her arms as she gently says, “I’m here. You’re okay. I’ve got you.” This is how we heal: step-by-step, moment-by-moment.
The recurring thought I have been having over and over and over is: what is the point of marriage? What am I doing in this marriage?
What IS the point of marriage? I am at a loss. I don’t know!
You need to be able to answer that question on the cognitive level in a way that makes sense for you, and then you need to classify it as an intrusive thought and attend to it in the way I suggest in this post.
In my worldview, the point of marriage is to learn and grow spiritually with a loving, well-matched other. We can grow in many ways in this life, but there’s something about being in an intimate relationship that pushes the growth to new and unchartered places. Also, we’re designed to partner. Attaching to a loving other is one of the most powerful ways that we feel safe and secure in the world.
I recommend that you read on the subject so that you can formulate an intention for your marriage that feels right for you. Some recommendations:
* Journey of the Heart by John Wellwood
* Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson
* Recipes for a Perfect Marriage by Kate Kerrigan
Sheryl, on your recommendation from Open Your Heart, I’m reading We by Robert Johnson. It’s so illuminating in so many ways, so thank you! And it makes a pretty solid case for the point of being in a stable, loving relationship.
Anna, I am not married, but I sometimes have that same thought about being in a long-term committed relationship. I have come to realise that when I have this thought, I’m usually feeling pretty flat about everything in my life, my sense of self-worth is low and as a result of this, I’ve started perseverating on aspects of my relationship. When you get stuck in that mindset of negative thoughts, of course you’re going to wonder about the point of the relationship. This is how it is for me, anyway 🙂 not sure if that resonates at all.
Thank you. I always read your posts, and your book really helped me with my anxiety prior to getting married and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to thank you. This post really resonated. This evening, I was dreading going to work tomorrow. And then I was judging myself because I have my dream job. After reading, I allowed myself to be with the feeling and I realized that I was just really grieving this this weekend being over because I had such an absolutely wonderful day with my husband. Now, the work dread is gone and I’m happily relishing what a fantastic day we had together. Thanks.
Thank you. As always, your post speaks to my heart at this moment.
I’m so happy to hear that, Anne.
Hi Sheryl !
My partner and I moved a week ago because of my partner’s work. I’m a teacher but for the moment I have no class. This means, I’m not working… So, I feel really depressed in this new environment, with no friend or family and activity for now. With depression comes my relationship anxiety because this problem started in more or less the same circumstances with my ex-boyfriend 5 years ago. I’m scared, it will be the same story with my loving partner.
However, This article makes me notice that I tried to escape my hard feelings and my intrusive thoughts by trying looking for activities to do each day or people to talk to. I feel really uncomfortable being alone with myself. I think, It’s the right moment for me to get through the break free course again even if I feel resistance to do the work.
Thank you for the wonderful text Sheryl. This period is stressful for me as me and my husband are struggling with infertility issues. We started going toa fertility clinic where they recommended ivf as the best way to concieve. We are doing so many test and check ups that i sometimes can barely breath from anxiety. This has been my worst fear and i am living it, and the always present thought in my mind:What if they find i am ill from something serious or what if i have a terminal desease that will be so devastating and all i want is just to create a family and live a normal life? Then i realise that i have had this thoughts since i was little, the fear of being ill and going to a hospital. I somehow feel that this is a chance for me to learn how to be more patient, learn how to wait for things and just deal with things as they come along. As for the stress i try to exercise and destress with breathing exercises everyday and also cry from time to time. Me and my husband have along way to go in this process and i must learn how to deal with the stress in a good way otherwise there is no point in doing through this. I am dreaming about the day when i look back and say to myself: you did good, it was very tough but you did it. And your text gives me hope, all i can do now is deal with issues step by step and moment by moment. Thank you.
Beautiful post, Sheryl. My boyfriend and I are moving to seperate universitys and he may be moving away next week. I feel very sad and scared about it, and yesterday i was able to access those true feelings. It was beautiful (a beautiful cry) and i was so thankful to be at one, but quickly the feeling that i cant handle the sadness creeps in and suddenly thr defences come back up. I try very hard, but i believe that this is the main message behind my anxiety, that i ‘cant deal’ with the pain of him moving away. I knew something big was coming mentally because i suddenly started feeling numb and confused, but luckily i was able to tap into it.
I just want to say as a quick note, i am so so greatful for this work and all that it has taught me. I am so much more compassionate and willing to feel my feelings. Months ago, a bad feeling would mean i wouldn’t leave my bed. But now, a bad feeling brings a strange sense of excitement because I know I’m going to learn something new about myself. I am a girl who cant go to bed without watching a film because i cant seal with the silence, but now i can choose not to ignore the pain, i can move towards it. Thank you Sheryl, from the bottom of my heart.
It sounds like you’re doing very deep and life-transforming inner work. Thank you for sharing your process here.
brilliant, especially the bit about being a ‘difficult baby’. Everyone in my family always tells me how ‘difficult’ I was, how I wouldn’t stop crying, how I was a total pain. My dad was very strict and my mum was very smothering. Both were very loving in their own ways but I was left with the overwhelming impression of inconsistency and confusion.
It’s astonishing how many people who find their way here were labeled as “difficult babies.” I should run a survey on it ;).
Yes – I am another one of those “difficult babies”, although in recent years my mum has emphasized the fact that she was young, inexperienced and unsupported and really didn’t know what she was doing. But I know she spent the first year of my life barely able to cope with me, and I spent the first year crying all the time.
As soon as I could walk, I was fine apparently – and I was a model,happy child right through schooling. But I have often wondered what the impact of that first year of constant crying in the arms of an overwhelmed mother might have been.
Really interesting that so many of your clients had the same start in life, Sheryl. Thank you for this beautiful post. A timely reminder that there is really no substitute for the slow work of mindful attention. There no way to accelerate the process; slowing down, doing less, paying attention are the keys. Thank you. X
This is so well-said, Clara: ” A timely reminder that there is really no substitute for the slow work of mindful attention. There no way to accelerate the process; slowing down, doing less, paying attention are the keys.” Thank you, and love to your boys ;). x
You are such an endless supply of wisdom and beautiful words, Sheryl. It astounds me! I feel very lucky to have you ‘in my life’. I am doing very well at the moment. It’s a bit worrying. I feel like I’m bursting apart with love. I look back over the last few months and think, ‘why did you not feel this good before!?’ but I can bat this judgement away quite easily. I feel like I’ve come alive, but on the flip side I’m dreaming and thinking about losing my partner a lot and funnily enough, last night I dreamed of losing my home. I have a question – I’d like to work on my sexual relationship, but I’m put off by a lot of the somewhat brutally blunt advice found on these kinda websites. Can you point me to a source that’s a little more sensitive, in line with your work – please? T-y, Francine xo
Thank you for your beautiful words, Francine, and how wonderful that you’re in a fresh, loving, and clear place!
I’m in the process of creating a course on sexuality, but it won’t be released until 2017. In the meantime, this is the book I recommend:
Great, thank you. Off it goes in my basket. 🙂
Thanks so much for this post. I was wondering if you could write a post about being critical of your partner. I know you talk about this here and there throughout your courses but I am having a really hard time working with my critical side. I have always been critical of myself (stemming from my mom being very critical, which I am now realizing that it is likely actually anxiety making her critical and her caring too much about what others thinks and how we come across), but I am now being super critical of my partner.
He did not grow up in a critical household and I keep spewing my judgements on him. It’s almost hard for me to hold it back, it’s almost as if when I have a critical thought I need to tell him because of the anxiety inside of me. It’s almost like my reaction is to be critical. Then when I am critical, I feel like I am just the worst person in the world.
Anyways, I find it so useful when you work through a side of you and this one I have been working with for a long time. I am making progress but feel like I still have a ways to go. Any help would be appreciated.
Yes, I do address being critical in my Open Your Heart course especially. These articles may help:
And also John Gottman’s work. But ultimately, when you learn to be more kind to yourself, it will naturally translate into less judgment of your partner.
That post is so helpful to me. I always struggle with how to meet the feeling that is rising up. That was somehow one of my intrusive thoughts, because I couldn’t find a way of dealing with it. Now with your “instruction” it makes it so much clearer and easier and I feel like I will be able to handle the thoughts and the feelings attached to them in a better way. Thanks a lot for that. This really was an aha experience.
I’m so glad to hear that, saskia.
Thank you Sheryl and Emma. I ordered the book journey of the heart. I am looking forward to reading it.
Emma, what you said does resonate with me. I am expecting a new baby (#2) any day/week now and I have been feeling less tHan enthusiastic about my marriage. My husband has not felt loving to me and, as a consequence, I have felt sad and wondering what the heck I am doing.
But maybe all of this is tied into the new baby coming. I am excited for him to be here but, as a person sensitive to transitions, I wonder how it will chage he dynamics of my family, if my 4 year old will still feel loved by me (because I love him so, so much!), and….I just realized right now….I wonder if I will be good enough.
I have to sit with all this for awhile.
Take good care.
Anna, thank you for sharing that! I feel really connected to you from you having opened up and writing about wondering if you’ll be good enough. I’m currently considering a second child and identify a lot. I have found from doing Sheryl’s work for a long time now that sometimes just IDing that feeling and letting ourselves feel it really helps! I’ve also learned that I’m really sensitive to transitions so I try to remind myself that’s what’s going on when I get anxious at times like these. This is random and kind of funny, but I’m wondering if you saw the movie Bad Moms. The movie itself was good, but what really touched me was the end credits when the actresses talked w/their real moms. One mom said something like, “I worried about everything and I wish someone had just told me it was going to be okay.” I sobbed in the theater!!
I always love seeing these updates in my inbox!
I wondered if you could help me find some perspective in this moment. I have been struggling with my anxiety towards my relationship probably since the relationship actually started. The anxiety itself comes in waves and I’ve had periods of real clarity and happiness and periods of inner turmoil and depression. Right now I am struggling with feeling general apprehension with my boyfriend. It’s not the thoughts themselves that are disturbing me though, I’ve been dealing with those for a while, but it’s a general feeling of clarity within that apprehension. It scares the hell out of me. I feel like I am taking the steps you’ve outlined here, acknowledging the thought, meeting it with the truth and approaching the feelings with curiosity and compassion. My problem right now it seems like the feeling of “There is no point to this, most relationships end anyway, he’s not going to feel this way about you forever” morphs into “Do you even want to waste your time with it? Do you even love him enough to work this hard?” and those thoughts settle in with the same concreteness and clarity as “I love him so much, this is someone I can grow and learn with” did a month ago. It feels like I don’t even know what the “truth” is anymore and it’s causing me to see all of our interactions through a tinted lens. I can’t tell what is an actual, real-world, relationship affecting issue and what is just in my head. Because right now, everything feels like a pre-cursor to us breaking up.
So I guess my question is two-fold. How do I work with myself when these negative feelings and thoughts are so strong and feel so true that I can’t combat them and at how can I discern between those thoughts that are the product of my mind and the thoughts that I need to be discussing with my partner? I appreciate your work so much, this blog has saved me from ending this relationship much sooner. I hope you have a little wisdom for me 🙂
Thank you for your kind and intuitive words. I needed to hear them after this weekend. I had a difficult time with the in laws. I wanted to ask if you will ever be writing an article about your partner’s family and the tendency to project onto them. Thank you again for a moment of peace after a chaotic weekend.
I came to the realization just now, lying in bed pouring through your articles, of what needs to be done. I am 18 years old and my boyfriend is 23. Age difference right? Well yes, but who cares.
We have been togerher for about a year and a half and I admit we moved in together about 6 months into dating. In this time we hopped around from living In a house, to living with his dad, to living with his grandma, and now we finally have our own apartment. Mind you, during all of this we were stretching the dollars as he was on the hunt for a good job and I was finishing up high school.
This anxiety didn’t hit until about a month ago, maybe two, when we first got this apartment. I had been so engulfed in our relationship and stressing about other things that i never have myself time to mourn the loss of my adolescent years. I am still 18, but I am not legally an adult and I now realize that between nurturing my relationship, stressing about where we were going to live as well as trying to just make it through my senior year I never let go or mourned the transition from being a teenager to being a young adult which literally happens within the snap of a finger.
I am so thankful for your articles, and i am still signing up for the break free from anxiety e course, but lying here in bed right now, i get as if i just know why I am feeling how I do and having these thoughts of “what if i still want to be single” “what if I’m too young” “what if someone out there is better” “what if the reason you’re enotionally “numb” is becaude the “truth” is that you really need to move on” (spiked me a little to write that last one) but I now realize, this isn’t about my relationship; it’s about me.
I have to let go of my childhood, i need to mourn it and just LET. IT. GO.
Thank you Sheryl, for your work. It’s been a huge help. From the beginning when I was having non-stop panic attacks to the stage I am in now where I simple don’t “feel love” or anything at all. It has been a blessing.
*now legally an adult. Sorry
Thanks for this post Sheryl and for all who have the courage to share their thoughts. It’s been a year since I found this site and started to work on dealing with my intrusive thoughts. Some days I’m good at dismissing the thoughts, and other days (usually if I’m really tired or exhausted) I just fall apart. My partner has stuck with me through the tough moments when anxiety and doubt consumed me and I’m grateful that we are still together and I’m able to move forward with the relationship. I still have many anxious moments, but I am able to handle them using the techniques Sheryl talks about. We’ve moved in together, have talked about marriage and children and we are even actively trying for children as we both share the desire to move forward. All these moments came with anxiety spikes and intrusive thoughts and doubts about how much I love her and if we were compatible or things that irritate me Etc…although the moments were hard for me, I was able to sit through the emotions and calm myself down each time, which could have taken from one hour to a couple of days. If I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, my partner was there to get me out which makes me admire her and love her more because she has the strength and commitment of a true life partner. I’d love to see a post on how to handle irritation with your partner,this is the most frequent thought I have and it spirals into many other thoughts, but the irritations are by no means deal breakers, but the thoughts make you think they are. Thanks again for this post Sheryl,
It sounds like you’ve done great work on yourself, Mark. At some point, you may want to consider deepening the work through the Break Free course. Here are some articles on irritation:
It’s uncanny how poignant and perfectly timed your posts are, Sheryl! Sometimes I feel as if you can read my mind and heart, and know just what to write, and when. Thank you for your unparalleled insight. It’s a reassuring, comforting balm for the soul.
I’m so pleased to hear it, Alyx. I’m glad they arrive at the right time.
I’ve read so many of the posts on your blog and so much of it resonates with me.
I’m currently struggling with anxious thoughts about calling off my wedding. I started to experience severe anxiety about getting married and unfortunately as a result I had to cancel the wedding very close to the day itself. My fiancé has been very understanding but I am struggling with the thoughts that if I couldn’t do it then, I can never do it and I’m so full of regret and confusion and doubt. I’m going round in circles trying to understand why this happened and if my anxiety is a genuine feeling that something isn’t right, or if I’m just overwhelmed with the finality of the commitment and as a naturally anxious person, I will probably never manage to get married without some level of anxious thoughts.
But distinguishing between anxious thinking and what could be some kind of instinct is proving hard. I’m also struggling with the shame and embarrassment of cancelling the wedding. So humiliating and I don’t think I can ever imagine putting myself though that again. I have made such a mess of everything and can’t find my way out to a place of clarity. I worry that I’ll end up convincing myself to stay in a relationship that’s wrong for me but also worry that I’ll lose a great relationship due to this way of thinking. I’m a failure and I don’t know what to do to make it better.
At least reading your blogs makes me feel like someone understands and I’m glad I’ve come across your website
This has really hit home for me. Lately I’ve been having many dark nights of the soul. It’s almost as if I don’t know how I truly feel anymore. I’ve been with my partner for many years now. We’re both in our 20’s and moved out together on our own for the first time. Along with the challenges of being a young adult, sharing the same space together 24/7, and having life slap us in the face, it has been quite a rollercoaster ride. In the beginning of our relationship we had a very intense honeymoon period. We couldn’t get enough of each other. We’ve always argued frequently, but I was able to move past it and focus on the positives. The reasons why I was so deeply connected to him. Years later, I’m finding that we fight all the time, the passion has vanished, and it just feels like I’m coasting along with him. I’ve suffered from extreme relationship anxiety for almost 3 years now. Very crippling intrusive thoughts that send me into a panic. All I can focus on is seeing other men and women (I’m bisexual…which has also torn me apart with anxiety) as attractive, wondering what it would be like to date someone else, if leaving my partner will solve all my problems, if I ever loved him to begin with, if I only stay because I’m too comfortable, wondering if I only resent him now, or if things will ever get better…the list goes on. In the midst of all this anxiety, I’m extremely irritable, sad, passive aggressive, tired, experiencing low self esteem, angry, afraid, on edge. For the longest I’ve been lashing out at my partner for any little thing and he’s patient but eventually snaps. And I don’t blame him. I feel so horrible and guilty. Based on how I’ve been feeling I suspect I could be depressed. And all the fighting just reinforces the intrusive thoughts. We discuss breaking up but I just can’t do it. I want to hang on. My anxiety tells me I hang on for all the wrong reasons. That if I let go I will be free of all my misery. Which I don’t completely believe as my anxiety has manifested itself in other aspects of my life. I want to listen to the part of me that recognizes everything I value in my partner and why I chose him. Even in those moments where all i can focus on is what i dislike and thinking we’really just not good for each other.I also yearn for peace within. For healing.
Is there anyone else who has felt similar? Or can offer me some advice? Sometimes the intrusive thoughts become so powerful I feel like I don’t know what is my truth and what isn’t. If this is normal or not.
Your words are always a balm for the soul!
My partner and I just shared our 4 year anniversary together, and from pretty much feeling anxious from the start it was such a wonderful milestone and I felt so wonderfully connected. However, the transition into fall has thrown me into some old intrusive thinking patterns. I am reminded of my abusive ex who instilled in me that I was never “good enough”. I find I am harboring those thoughts and feelings and projecting them onto my relationship. I know that where I am right now with my partner is exactly where I am supposed to be, the connection, the respect, trust and friendship we share are all so highly valued to me everyday.
My bottom line nagging thought seems to be “you should FEEL happier”. I know I am with someone I consider my ideal match and yet that thought continues to leak into my consciousness in times of transition. I am always willing to do the work, I just hope that I can continue to learn to be kind to these feelings instead of feeling guilty for them. Thank you for everything that you do Sheryl, you are such a blessing!
That’s a normal arc for anxiety. You can read more about it here:
First of all as I read stories of you and your sons I admire the mother that you are! They are very lucky to have you
In regards to your article, when you speak of babies you were difficult, and I wanted to know if my childhood played a role in my inability to open my heart. As a baby and child, I have no real memories of my parents holding me or giving me affection. My mother chose to spend her time cooking and cleaning and I sat in front of the TV. As I grew older in my teenage years my father suffered from such severe anxiety I remember having to calm him down all the time and having to act like the parent. Could this have effected my ability to open my heart? Im not in therapy but was thinking about it. Any articles you have or books you recommend would greatly be appreciated
Yes, these childhood experiences would ABSOLUTELY have a direct effect on your ability to open your heart. I would highly recommend that you start therapy with a skilled and gentle local therapist.
Thank you so much for this post! Just reading it, taking in the guidance , has soothed my mind. I went through an awful patch of anxiety three years ago and I’ve been thinking a lot about it this week, for some reason. Thinking why did it happen? But trying to use the tools you gave me through the course I took. The stories you told in this post , i felt you were talking about ME, both your son and client. Gotten learn to tackle the feelings, and accept them, instead of look for blame or distraction immediately. Anyway, you amaze me with your wisdom. Thank you for you! Have a lovely day!
Yes, but maybe not so much “tackle” the feelings as learning to be with them gently ;).
Thank you so much for your work. It’s so enlightening. And like Laura said above, it’s amazing how the examples you used feel like they were written about me. I suffer from a lot of separation anxiety and other types of anxiety, and my mother always told me I was a very difficult baby, always crying, with terrible unexplained cries, probably colics, no one was able to smooth me, etc etc.
I was wondering – how do I avoid passing on my anxiety to my children? I already practice a very different type of parenting – attachment parenting. I nurse, baby wear, co sleep… All things i wish I had but didn’t have.
Thank you so much! And Gd bless you!!
The best way to avoid passing on your anxiety to your kids is to do your own inner work and address your deepest fears. And yet, we must bring gentleness to ourselves as parents and understand that it’s inevitable that we will pass on some of it.
Beautiful Sheryl, I always look forward to your blogs!!?? I feel like you are part of my family. I feel very lucky and blessed to have you in my life as well. Not only are you a beautiful woman on the outside but also a beautiful woman on the inside. Im 100% sure I wouldve been a very lost soul if i didnt discover your incredible site. Gratitude+Appreciation+acceptance+compassion+patience= Peace of mind.XO
That’s the formula, Angela! Blessings to you. xo
I am currently taking one of your courses on MindBodyGreen. I have found the journaling, mindfulness and yoga are very helpful. I know that my thoughts are just passing clouds in the sky and if I don’t hook on to them they will continue to float away. However, my boyfriend and I departed for different universities. Here I am living in a constant state of fear and won’t allow myself to converse with any other boys because “what if I like them more than my boyfriend and realize I have to leave him and that I’ve been lying to him”. I know I love him and I’m trying to learn to love myself and trust myself. I’m just so lost and so worried I’m going to lose him. Do you have any suggestions how to deal with this fear?
Thanks for your insight, Sheryl. I’m currently in the dark depths of anxiety right now. My boyfriend of two years and I are close to engagement, and for the past few months (since we made a decision), I’ve been utterly depressed and anxious. We are long-distance, which makes things even harder. Up until we made the decision to get married, I struggled with anxiety in our relationship, but it was mostly worries about it not working, him not choosing me, or us being disconnected. I actually thought the minute I knew we would get married, my anxiety would disappear. But the opposite happened. Now, the anxiety has entirely changed to the point where I’m convinced that we aren’t right for each other and my heart is just shutting down. I thought I may be grieving my parents’ divorce that happened years ago, and so did my therapist, but it feels like it’s about our relationship, not my parents’ divorce. I just tell myself that’s a coverup for my denial – that this relationship is really not right for me. I absolutely hate this, because I am with the most incredible man who I pictured being my husband for a long time. I feel like I have no control over my heart shutting him out and I just can’t see through the darkness right now. I am trying to pay attention to what my anxiety is telling me, but I don’t know how to get out of this place and I’m wracked by the fear that I’m going to realize and have to accept that we aren’t right for each other. Any suggestions on which course might be best? I’m in therapy right now to manage my anxiety, but nothing is helping the fact that I feel like my heart is closed off to the man I love. Thanks for any help!!!
Rose: If the anxiety started near the engagement, as it sounds like it did, I would recommend that you start with the Conscious Weddings E-Course. You can sign up for the free sampler here:
If you’ve always had some doubt, I would recommend that you take the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety E-Course. You can take the assessment here:
After going through the sampler and the assessment you’ll have a good sense of which course is for you, but rest assured that you can’t go wrong: Both courses will address your anxiety and teach you how to effectively break free and find your way back to love and clarity.
Sheryl and others,
I’ve felt numb recently. I’ve felt like I just have no love for the amazing guy I have met and been dating for the past year and a half, i literally cannot feel anything. This started as pure panic attacks and has turned into numbness and nothingness. It’s worrying me that the feeling of love I had for him will never come back. He’s wonderful, no red flag issues, and no readon for me not to love him other than the fact that i just feel like I don’t. Sometimes i fantasize about being single again. I’m really at a loss here. Anybody else? Would the break free from anxiety e course be the best choice for me? I suffer from GAD. I’ve been suffering for a little over a month…
I got wordering after reading your post: my mother told me when I was a young child, I think she’s 2-4, I seemed unhappy. She told me I never smiled, or laughed and I would sit on my own, never caring to play with my older brother or much at all in general. I did suffer from separation anxiety during this age petiod though. Anyway, My mum told me it often concerned her why I seemed so depressed at such a young age. Would you have any insight into why this might occur?
It was only when my mum had an affair thus resulting in divorce and a new abusive man entering my mums life did I start crying out for my needs to be met. Like the above client I was treated as a child who was just “too much” “over sensitive” or “dramatic”.
Im sure that stage of my life plays into my current struggles but i also wonder why I was born seemingly depressed? Could this also factor into my anxiety and depression today? Perhaps my mental health struggles are for the most part genetic?
Oops, in my first sentence I meant to write “..ages* 2-4, I seemed unhappy.”
Additionally I was about 9 or 10 when my parents divorced etc
I don’t believe that babies are born depressed. If you were unhappy from 2-4 you had very good reasons, and my guess is that, as a highly sensitive toddler, you were picking up on dynamics in your house that were covertly and/or overtly unhealthy. We’re certainly born with predispositions toward depression or anxiety but it wouldn’t show up that early unless there were other contributing factors.
Excellent post, thank you. Today I went for a outdoor run and immediately the intrusive thoughts began, because I’ll be moving away from the beautiful city I live in and I’m feeling anxioux about it. I started blaming my wife in my head but quickly realised how afraid I am and that I was projecting. So I sat down, did a 5 minute guided meditation and practiced mindfulness while watching life around me. The fear left, my body relaxed so much I could’ve fallen asleep right there, and I felt grateful for having had the chance of living here. And then went back home to hugh my lovely wife.
This is my first comment here and I wanted to thank you for sharing all this knowledge with us.
Beautiful, Leo. How wonderful that you were able to attend to what was needed and pull back the projection to reveal the true need/fear right in that moment. This is the work!
Very interesting! I was told that I used to cry and cry for no reason as if I were in pain. My mother finally took me to the doctor who told her I was just angry. It’s interesting how so many of us had a similar experience.
Does anyone else have the thought “what if i want to be single again” or “what if I’m too young and haven’t experienced enough”
This was my spike too (I am in my mid twenties) .. Sheryl has done an article about “what if I’m too young” – give it a read! 🙂 to me it is accepting that my single life is over and learning to accept and embrace that, then continue forward to my new life of being in a relationship (sort of a rebirth?) I’m mourning the loss of an old life, but embracing all the excitement and wonder that will come with my new life of being in a couple. As for not having experienced enough – well, this is something I am still working through, but there is SO much in the world to experience, you can’t experience it all! And what you can experience – how wonderful would it be to share those moments with someone such as a loving partner? What amazing memories you can make together. And you can still experience plenty on your own. To me it’s a scary transition, letting go of an old life and old habits, coping mechanisms etc.. But it’s a way to move forward and embrace the relationship. I am learning to quieten and soothe the unwanted thoughts (I def need to sign up to Sheryl’s course!!). Honestly read through lots of her articles and they will soothe and help you.
How old were you when this all hit? If you don’t mind me asking
I agree with Mia, Sheryl’s articles can really help a lot! I read a LOT of them and worked my way through my anxiety with the articles as my guide. Now I am doing so much better, but I keep reading this to be conscious of my anxiety. It’s a work-in-progress, and anyone can learn how to deal with it if they are open for it 🙂
I am far from a professional, so I don’t feel that I should tell you what to do. But I can tell you my story, and maybe it’ll be helpful to you 🙂
About a year ago, I had extreme relationship anxiety. Literally every couple of minutes, my mind would tell me: “you don’t love him (enough)” or “you don’t feel anything” or “what if your feelings are not real” or “you are not right together”. It went on and on. I asked my boyfriend for reassurance; and that made it better for some hours at best, and some minutes at most. I was desperate and started googling for answers (not very smart, because it would trigger more anxiety mostly) but then I found this blog and slowly *everything* started to make sense. I started realising that I had to fix something inside of me – this was my anxiety, and it wasn’t my boyfriend’s responsibility to calm me down or make me happy. I was also very anxious about other stuff (health, future, social stuff etc) and I realised that my anxiety was just *there*, but it came out in different ways. If I squashed a thought like “what if I’m too young” with a rationalization, another thought would pop up and take its place. The thoughts itself were meaningless – they were just an expression of really deep fears: fear of being alone, fear of losing people I loved, fear of uncertainty, fear of having no control. I have been working through it by myself and a therapist and worked my way toward clarity, but I keep reading the blog to keep me grounded and conscious of my journey. I also worked very hard on dealing with stress better, and taking care of myself and being more loving toward myself. And it worked. I didn’t do Sheryl’s course because I couldn’t afford it at the time, but now I think I will do one when a transition is coming up (I am probably moving in with my boyfriend in the coming year, and that will spike my anxiety) so that I can make it a *conscious* transition! Anyway, what I wanted to say briefly but turned into a novel-length answer is: if you do the work (by reading Sheryl’s blog and/or doing one of her courses) you can get past all this. I wish you all the best 🙂
Mia and Anna
It’s comforting to know others have the same thoughts i do. I never really have mourned the loss of that part of my life and now I realize that it’s essential that i do. I am only 18, i am young, but I am grateful I am learning to do this NOW. I signed up for the ecourse yesterday. Hoping it helps.
I’m sure it will! Good to luck you!
It only hit me this severely in the past 6 months, but I had transitions which I have not had before with a partner, such as moving in with him. But I have absolutely had relationship anxiety before from ages 16 onwards. The thing is, I didn’t have the skills to cope with it then and so the relationships ultimately ended.. It can seem a bizarre concept to mourn the loss of childhood as some people appear to do it seamlessly, but everyone is different and maybe we have to do it consciously.
Really good news you signed up for the course, I def need to. Remember to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself xx
Anna I love what you say about reading Sheryl’s articles to keep you grounded and taking care of yourself and dealing with stress better. My mum always used to say to me “be kind to yourself” and I never really got it, but after these experiences I’ve seen just how much it helps! Even a hot bubble bath and a good book can make me feel a tad better.
Good luck with your next transition of moving in together! Perfect opportunity to utilise your skills and grow even more 🙂 xx
I can’t believe how many of us are in the boat together. How nice it is to come across a someone who gets the anxiety and reason for it instead of telling us it means to leave.
I know this has little to do with this post but I truly feel like I need some guidance as I’m spinning around in circles and am struggling to find a councellor in th UK which doesn’t judge me, of who I trust and accept. So for me right now on this blog this is the only place I have to trrn.
I feel disconnected from everything, from my horse, my family to my relationship. I also feel disconnected to my heart, I feel like my being occupies a space between my chest and head. Was just wondering anyone’s thoughts on chakras? I feel as if life outside my head doesn’t exist and is far to dark for me to tackle. I have recently moved in with my boyfriend on 1st September, I did a ritual to burn a photo of the little child at my parents house so I could fully embrace who I was ready to become as I’m my most authentic self around my partner, there really is nothing I have to hide, I even talk to him about my lack of connection feelings. He’s great. There has been two things come out strong to me: nothing feels familiar anymore, I feel I have no base, I love my new home but my mind is ruining everything for me. Instead of me focusing on my partner (as my ego has run out of options for that one because I truly love who he is in his own skin) it’s turned too “you need to be alone” “you need freedom” “what if you marry and your truth later is you have to break of the relationship and put him through the pain or your children through the pain you went through” the anxiety tells me the only chance I have is to leave because of karma and what intentions I’m sending to the universe I.e. The law of attraction. Also, we are entering the age of Aquarius, what will it mean to be married? Can people in my generation still make marriages work or does our soul search for independence, or do we use fear to avoid the love and human connection we will always crave.
I guess what I’m trying to say is my inner world feels in total turmoil but I can’t breathe into my heart to find out what’s going on and if thinking all negative thoughts about me not loving my partner has caused my reality to come true and it’s now truth as I feel anxiety about staying with him.
It seems crazy, I can finally be independent in a relationship and I want to learn about the connection part but I don’t know how to get to that part to start to try, it feels like fear has flicked a switch in me and even my beliefs (negative) about love seem even more convincing. I feel numb when I think of leaving and feel anxious when I think of staying. I do not know what’s going on. Any help anyone could give or thinks they have done to feel in their body I would greatly appreciate, no one around me attends to their inner world so I often feel alone with no one to talk too.
Sorry for the Debbie downer post guys.
I sometimes wish we could all sit in a room, share our story and be there like a group of love warriors we clearly are.
Blessings to you all. Thank you Sheryl for being true to yourself expressing your creativity, giving us some reassurance in a world which has gone haywire.
You aren’t a Debbie downer! Please don’t think that. I have experimented with crystals (particularly during health anxiety periods) I too am in the UK and have had therapy through the NHS and also private therapy (it can be crazy expensive though) but have also done a hell of a lot of work trough Sheryl’s site.
It’s interesting – I did the same as you with the thoughts based negatively around my partner (which was mad as he honestly is wonderful and I am my authentic self around him too) then creating thoughts such as “you’re too young” “this isn’t your truth” etc. It’s exhausting!
Have you heard of depersonalisation? Do you feel those sort of symptoms? That’s how I felt very strongly at one point, everything seemed unfamiliar. I needed to ground myself somehow yet felt like I was free falling.
Please remember you have choices and you have control. And the ritual you performed sounds very intriguing! I like it cos it’s a visual representation too and I tend to learn things through actions/visual/doing.
Also I began journalling. I bought a pretty notepad and kept it with me at all times (I also bought pretty coloured pens lol). I scribbled down thoughts when they came to me, sometimes just to “get them out my head”. Sometimes they spiralled, but it felt like it helped!
Thank you for all of your support to the readers on my site. It sounds like you’ve done GREAT work on yourself and have adopted some very powerful tools for working through anxiety (journaling is one of the most effective and very dear to my heart ;)). Blessings to you.
Thank you Mia that’s incredibly kind of you to reply back to me!! I have, I had if a few years ago and I genuinely thought I was dead! It’s crazy how quickly anxiety can change its focus, it’s gone from you need to be free and never settle down to oh I really hope that my truth isn’t that I have to leave and I can love this man but obviously I have no idea as my head is so shut off, although I feel calm now, I’m interested in your crystal work? Did you find anything that benefitted you?? I see a homeopath and he suggested I should and I didn’t want to but I felt the resistance was just because burning a photo felt perminant and that’s what I needed but not what I wanted the photo almost set fire to the whole field she did not want to go! I really appreciate your response more than you could ever know truly from the bottom of my heart, it’s just the struggle of this is your truth your body has changed and now you know you don’t want to be with him “oh but I do” how I want to love his man for eternity and maybe it’s a fear of loss and abandonment! I’ve journaled a lot my problem is switching off allowing myself to be in the present moment and enjoy life occasionally! I’m so happy you sound like you’ve had clarity!!! And done some great work! I wish you and everyone here all the luck and happiness in the world!! Xx
Well to be honest the crystals was mostly based around healing/strength/comfort when I was having treatment done for cell abnormalities (horrid!) but they were a source of comfort and I slept with amethyst under my pillow for a long time afterwards. I have also had those exact thoughts “you need to be free” “not settle down” etc. It’s tiring and upsetting as it contradicts what you may have previously thought. I too have a problem with switching off an enjoying life in the present, but sometimes I visualise myself having a great time (smiling, laughing, relaxed and happy with partner or friends) then I sort of just go for it. And if a horrid or intrusive thought hits I sort of look at it and go “now isn’t the time to think about that”, then I remember to breathe and refocus. It is hard! But so worth it.
Yay for journalling too!! It’s a fantastic tool. I am slowly getting there and you will too xxx
“I feel numb when i think of leaving and i feel anxious when i think of staying..” KATE you are NOT ALONE. I feel the EXACT same way right now. The single life and freedom look so appealing to me, I’ve been even dreaming about it which is scaring me, but it’s okay! Have you done the ecourse? I just started a week ago (and boy, the fact that it’s not a magic pill and the fact that i wasn’t cured after reading through it slapped me in the face HARD) but it does supply you with VITAL information and techniques to begin helping you with this. I’m so sorry you feel this way, but just know that on this planet there is at least one other person (me) feeling the EXACT same way
Kate, if you need someone to talk to ever you can email me at my secondary @[email protected]
Best of luck
Can anyone help me with my previous comment I feel like my body is in a constant fight or flight therefore I cannot connect with the truth.
Can you please help me i have so many intrusive thoughts ” i dont no if i love him anymore” “what if i change my mind” ” is there someone better for me”. How do i address these with
“Intrusive thought hits.
Attend to the thought with a quick splash of truth (meeting the thought on the cognitive level to correct the thinking error).
Once this happens, the feelings that were bound up inside the thoughts are often released.
Notice how you regard the feeling. With judgement? With resistance? With curiosity? With compassion?
If you’re meeting the feeling with judgement or resistance, see if you can make a different, more loving choice in that moment.”
Thank you for your work (I am in the middle of the Relationship Anxiety course).
One thing I struggle with is: how do I know this whole process isn’t “intellectualizing” or “denial”?
A very common question ;). I encourage you to continue working through the course and re-ask that question in about a month (if it’s still bothering you).
Has anybody else had the thought “do i really want to be with him?” Or “what if i really dont want to be with him”