For all humans, but especially the highly sensitives, one of the most difficult truths to accept is that all seasons pass, all stages come to an end, all beings die. Just as the gorgeous peach tree in full-tilt pink spring bloom drops its blossoms to reveal summer fruit, then drops its leaves in autumn’s melancholic dance to stand bare-limbed in winter, so we watch with grasping hearts as life closes out: from people and animals we love passing from this planet to childhood ending to the day’s close. What we’re resisting is the passage of time as we hold tight to a belief that says that all good things must last. It cannot be so.
Yet we try desperately to fight reality and create a world where life doesn’t die, where relationships don’t end, where sweet stages last forever. We hang on tightly with the part of us that lives and breathes its sole purpose of controlling outcomes – our ego – and learn over and over again that our work is to soften into that fear-based part of us and send the message that yes, we can handle pain, which means, we can live life fully. For when we live with the ego at the fore, steering our car of psyche, the fullness of life is squeezed out until it becomes a flat-lined, narrow place. While we may have created the illusion of safeguarding against loss by hedging our bets and minimizing risk, we’ve also prevented joy, excitement, and enthusiasm from entering. I often hear people say, “I don’t want to feel excited in case it doesn’t work out.” What that really means is, “I don’t know that I can handle disappointment.”
These past months, I’ve been walking alongside one of my long-time clients as she’s navigated the excruciating road of her beloved dog’s battle with cancer. This client, like so many of you, is on the sensitive-anxious spectrum, and not a session goes by when I’m not touched by the degree to which she feels the pain of the world. It’s evident to me that the intensity of her lifelong anxiety is in direct proportion to the beauty of her sensitive heart. In other words, without the tools to navigate through her sensitivity as a child, she only had one way to protect her heart from the overwhelm of big feelings: to seal it over with the protective barriers of anxiety, depression, worry, and intrusive thoughts. It’s such a wise choice that psyche makes, one that serves a child immensely; the problem is that this defense mechanism no longer serves as an adult. As we get older, we need to develop tools for addressing what’s embedded inside the anxiety, which is the well of feelings.
We talked about many themes in our sessions as she traveled the painful road toward loss. We talked about how she can absolutely handle the pain even when everything inside of her said she couldn’t. We talked about her fear that she wouldn’t know when it was time to let him go. We talked about her beliefs about what happens after we die.
At lease once a session we talked about how most people don’t understand grief, let alone grief about a pet. We tend to minimize pain of all kinds and especially pain about what the culture deems “lesser” relationships with “lesser” beings. It’s part of our anthropocentric tendencies to assign more importance to a human life than an animal life, to place loss and grief on a hierarchy according to what the mainstream mindset asserts as “more important” and “less important.” But all highly sensitive people know that pain is pain, and the degree to which we love and attach to a pet can be exactly the same as how we love and attach to humans. The most sensitive among us place all life in all forms – from humans to mosquitoes – on the same plane and as deserving of the same respect. My client struggled with what she accurately perceived as shame and judgement from her bosses when she needed to rearrange her schedule to accommodate her dog’s vet visits. It’s not likely she would have received the same judgement if she had been caring for a sick parent.
As the end seemed near, we delved more deeply into the finer strategies that the ego-mind employs to avoid direct contact with the raw feelings. (By the way, these are the same strategies that the mind uses in all areas of anxiety, including relationship anxiety.) In one session a few weeks back she sobbed, “This isn’t fair! I would do anything to take this away from him. This is too much; it’s too painful. I don’t want to feel this much pain.”
“It’s not fair and I know it feels like too much,” I replied. “It’s important to remember that the depth of your pain is in equal measure to the depth of your love. Would you want to take away how deeply you’ve loved your dog?”
“No,” she responded.
“This is the price we pay for having hearts that love hugely. It’s heart-shattering when we lose the ones we love.”
“It’s not just the pain. When I let myself have a big cry, I’m actually okay. I feel more grounded then. It’s also that I’m a nervous wreck. I’m checking him constantly for symptoms. It’s like I believe that if I can figure it out, I can control this and I stop it from happening.”
“Yes, that’s the hypervigilent part of you – the part of all sensitive-anxious types – that is genetically programmed to look for danger. And it’s the ego-control part that believes that if it can find the source of the problem, it can fix it and control the outcome. This is the part of you that’s creating your suffering. The feeling of raw pain, while heart-searing, is manageable; the anxiety is unmanageable because you’re beating your head against reality. The ego thinks its found its toehold against the slippery slope of life but it’s actually preventing you from being in the flow of life.”
This is such a hard concept for people to comprehend as it goes against every habitual mindset we’ve been programmed to follow. Said again, the ego believes that if it worries, checks and ruminates, if it excels at its post as sentry where it scans the horizon in hypervigilent over-alert, it can prevent something bad from happening. Rationally, my client knew that there was nothing she could do to reverse the diagnosis and prognosis, but she, like most (if not all) of my clients and course members, has a lifelong habit of protecting against dissolving into the source feelings that live inside the hypervigilance: the powerlessless, the fear, and ultimately, the oceans of grief. As with all transitions, she has the opportunity now, as she’s softened by the exquisite pain of loss when all non-essentials fall away, to name this defense mechanism, which will allow it to soften and give her the chance to practice a new habit.
The new habit, of course, is to feel the raw feelings that are living in her heart, the ones she touches when she can peel away the hardened ego-habits and let herself puddle into tears. It’s these small moments when something big shifts inside, when we allow ourselves to step into a new direction by tending to ourselves in a new way.
Her beloved companion passed away last week. Her heart shattered into a thousand pieces, and she’s struggling with the emptiness, confusion, and heart-wrenching grief that follows the loss of our loved ones. Yet I have full faith that she will move through this and find her way back to back to wellness, perhaps even a stronger state than before. This is part of what pets teach us: that we can love and lose and love again. As guardians of the realms of being and feeling and teachers of unconditional love, that’s much of what they’re here to teach us.
What I try to impart to all sensitives (myself included) is that, just as loss is inevitable, we’re also held in a visible and invisible web of life. Sometimes I sit in our yard in the middle of summer and realize that I’m enrobed in a cloud of insects. They’re so tiny I can’t see them up close; it’s only when I look around the yard and see other clouds puffing everywhere that I realize I’m sitting inside one as well. Or when I sit next to our lavender plants that attract hundreds of bees through the month of August: I slow down and listen to their hum and allow the awareness that I’m being held in their feminine wisdom to enter. Their song and dance fill my soul-pours like honey and drips me into a happy high. We are not alone in this vast, mysterious universe, and certainly not alone on this beautiful, painful planet. It’s when we drop into the subtle layer that we remember that we are always being guided and held.
I titled this post “Nothing Lasts Forever”, but it’s not exactly true that nothing lasts forever. While we can’t hold on to physical form or stages of life, what endures, what lasts beyond the body, is the one sustainable life-source that powers the universe: love. In the beginning, in the end, and in between, that’s all there is.
Hey Sheryl I’m really struggling. I just moved away to college and I’m so anxious. I miss my girlfriend so much and the pain, intrusive thoughts and anxiety is so bad. Im scared that this is the end of us. Im scared to full immerse myself because I don’t want to lose her and this. Im scared I can’t do this for the next 4 years and that I’ve lied to her when I said that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I can’t even try to say hi or be in the same room as a girl without being scared of cheating. I’m so upset. I’m only an hour 15 from her but it’s killing me. How can I make this work and not have a failed relationship?
I’m scared of what people will think if she visit. I’m Scared to invite her to visit because what if I don’t want to see her. Im scared of losing her so much and what we have so much. I’m scared I won’t want to come home to see her if I fully immerse myself.
I’ve been in a similar place to where you’re at now. First of all I don’t know that there’s such a thing as a failed relationship. We learn and grow from all our experiences. I know it’s a big change and it’s hard putting yourself in a new environment, especially without her. But it’s ok to trust yourself, if you don’t want to leave then there’s no reason too, same goes for her. And it’s ok to talk to other people. Try to remember that you’re not your thoughts, you just observe them, and you can choose how to react to them. They might seem very urgent and strong now, but you don’t have to act on them. And I don’t think you’re lying to her, or yourself, really only you can know, but some part of you believes you are being truthful. And perhaps another part doesn’t want it to be true, I think that was the case with me personally, so those two parts were in conflict. All I can say is trust in yourself. You have these thoughts, and fears, it’s ok, we all have crazy thoughts sometimes, you don’t have to act on them. Try your best to believe that regardless of what happens life will play out in a way that is in your highest good. Peace.
The thoughts won’t stop. I’m physically sick to my stomach. I don’t want doubt to rule me. I just want to believe that we can do this
I went through a period of not being able to eat as well. It doesn’t last forever. If you don’t want doubt to rule you, then try to let it go. I know it’s easier said than done, but we all experience moments of doubt. It’s normal. Don’t be afraid to feel those emotions, the more you fight them, the stronger they get. Let them be there, then let them go.
Will I be able to conquer this and be happy and enjoy my relationship? I just want us to get married and live forever, but we have to do long distance because of school and it’s killing me and it’s only 3 days in
Based on your weekly comments, I urge you to get the Break Free course. You can absolutely do this but you need the right support, information, and tools, which is what the course will give you.
Yes of course you can. It’s only been 3 days, hang in there, you’ll get used to it. And if you can I would definitely recommend taking the course. There’s lots of tools and such. And just good general knowledge to have. Also I might recommend mindfulness. You can find short guided ones on youtube that might be a good starting point.
Thank you very much for this, it was of great beauty and comfort to me on many levels.
I’m so glad it was helpful, Heather.
Absolutely beautiful post, Sheryl. I have been reading your blog for over a year now and felt compelled to comment, as I have been turning to it a lot lately. I am in the beginning stages of a relationship and am so in love with my patenter but find my anxious mind plagued with intrusive thoughts and doubt. I so look forward to your weekly post to bring me back down to earth!
That’s wonderful to hear, Paige. I’m so glad the blog is grounding for you.
This is exactly what I needed to hear right now. We found out on Saturday that our 9 year old bull mastiff has cancer
and our lives have kind of imploded a little. Didn’t feel right celebrating my birthday on Sunday (we in Australia).
I’m going to do your course sometime, I am riddled with intrusive thoughts and relationship anxiety, but right now we just gearing up to put our dog through all its treatment and to see the vet internal medicine specialist.
I’m so, so sorry, Gen. I imagine that your lives have imploded more than just a little. Sending you love and blessings as you navigate this painful journey.
Well said Sheryl…. Thank you for your continual dive into the depth of being
Thank you, Lynn.
i cried reading this. so beautiful and yet so hard for me to accept as my two sweet dogs lay beside me, and the knowledge that they will die one day is pretty much always at the forefront. i’m constantly pushing my one dog away, because i can’t seem to decide if it IS worth it to love him fully when i know i’ll lose him. that pain would be too big and too unmanageable (i tell myself). i know it will take many times of moving toward my pain and grief before i absorb the message that pain is manageable and nothing to be afraid of.
you’re so right about the grief about pets dying isn’t honoured as it should be – i hope your client is OK, i really feel for her.
Many of my clients and course members have suffered from pet anxiety (yet another area that’s never talked about), which is exactly what you’re describing: keeping a pet at arm’s (heart’s) length because it’s so scary to love. It doesn’t always manifest as consciously as you’re describing, however. When you trust that you can handle the pain, you will love fully, and there’s really nothing better on this planet than to love with a fully open heart (and nothing scarier).
pet anxiety! something about giving it a name gives me relief. i’m only conscious about it because i had relationship anxiety too, and working through your course i kept noticing similarities to how i was (and still am) with our first dog. i’ve had days of working through it, and then days when the resistance comes up and i let it, and close my heart again. right now, it seems he and i are universes apart and i project onto him, and tell myself “he’s just not my type of dog”. but i know it’s fear because i’ve had such beautiful moments with him, and times when i’ve explored what’s underneath my intrusive thoughts, and i almost always break down crying because i know i’ll lose him and it seems easier to love less so that that will be less painful.
i also feel a lot of shame and guilt around this, so never talk about it with anyone – for some reason, even more so with people, if you tell someone you’re not crazy about your dog, or not even sure you like him, you’re met with “your poor dog, you are a horrible person! he deserves better!” and of course i feel guilty when this being who knows nothing but unconditional love is not receiving much back from me. i know i have a lot of work to do, and that it’s not him (despite how convincing the fear lines are), it’s me.
when we first got him, it was pure terror, that heart-dropping, stomach-wrenching feeling, for months – and then it turned into a kind of indifference, which is where it is now. i’m quite aware that the indifference is a defense mechanism to keep myself safe from loving him fully, and then the subsequent heartbreak of losing him. it’s funny that i can be aware that i’m doing this but still not sure i want to stop doing it.
So beautiful, so touching and so very true.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom Sheryl.
Thank you, Pascale.
Thanks for writing so beautifully about pets. My dog, not in this world anymore, is in a very soft place in my heart.
The ideas about trying to control outcomes is very interesting and very relevant for me these days. I believe that we cant control other people and many circumstances. Yet, many things in life depends on my choices. I live my life constantly making descisions (what food I should buy, when do I take the bus, do I call that friend) and these descisions have an impact on how my life turns out. So I find it so hard to navigate here, to understand in which situations I have control and which I dont.
I spent the whole weekend worrying that my boyfriend was turning away from me (which was not the case I found out later) and thinking about what I could say to him that could affect him to stay. It was exhausting. But at the same time, the rational part of me said that I have to try with all my energy to keep him, otherwise it was like giving up. Somewhere I knew that this was beyond my control, but I felt that I owe it to myself to work towards keeping him. This was not a very peaceful thought however so I was very confused.
Thanks for these blog posts.
Hello Sheryl, thank you for a beautiful post. I noticed that in your response to anna you mentioned pet anxiety. I would be really interested in hearing more about what pet anxiety means, are there any sources you could recommend? My most perseverant form of intrusive thoughts has since childhood consisted of something bad happening to dogs (either dogs that are close to me or just any dogs in general). I have these thoughts about dogs suffering etc. every day, several times a day, and they are very painful to have.
I wouldn’t say that I had ever kept a pet at arm’s length because it’s so scary to love, though. On the contrary, I’ve sometimes thought that the only beings I have ever been capable of truly loving and showing my love to were my pet dogs.
I will definitely write about it at some point as it keeps showing up in my audience.
Great post 🙂
Im always interested in reading about the psyche and ego. Do you think those hardened barriers we create to protect ourselves from past hurts from regrets etc etc eventually burst open and at some point ppl need to deal with the big feelings that were one locked away in a corner of our psyche?
Yes, absolutely. And while we do create some of the barriers, I think we’re simply born with others. But yes, ultimately the work is to feel the feelings embedded in the walls.
Thanks for your reply Sheryl. By feeling the feelings embedded in the walls is that a way of dealing with the hard walls we have put up?
I guess if we feel those walls long enough we soften our hard to those big feelings:)
Ever since I found your blog and your amazing work I’ve been wanting to write to thank you, and every time you touched me with your words and helped me a bit more I felt like it wasn’t the right time or there weren’t enough right words to express my gratitude, yet every time was the best time because you do touch and dissolve every bit of anxious thought I have every week with each of your essays.
I was forced to stumble upon your work because I wasn’t going to allow myself to give up on another beautiful relationship with even most amazing partner. Finally, I was ready to fight and then I found your “Break free from relationship anxiety” course. I’ve purchased it months ago, reached half of it when everything that I once thought was true about love changed forever. Now I think different, I approach my feelings better and I don’t attach to every little intrusive thought that comes to mind.
I don’t feel the urge to finish the course quickly, really, maybe because it was like I already knew that there is an answer to my problems I just didn’t know what it was. I just know that I have a place to turn to when I start to feel a bit anxious. I’ll have your blessing for life.
I can’t deny that I shattered completely the first moment I found out I wasn’t crazy and misunderstood because I was feeling that way when I read a couple of the comments from your clients and how much you’ve helped them. All of my skeptical believes about googling problems and founding real help were revoked. I knew I was at the right place that exact moment.
I don’t think going into details about my anxiety and problems matters now, the real purpose I decided to write was as I mentioned above, to say an enormous THANK YOU!
Thank you for doing what you do and thank you for coming to me like a light in the deepest darkness.
All my best.
Thank you. Your gratitude warms me on this chilly autumn morning. Many blessings to you.
I wish I was told this a long time ago “This is the price we pay for having hearts that love hugely. It’s heart-shattering when we lose the ones we love.” If I had known this growing up, I would have been able to make sense of the intense heartbreaks I felt. I know this post was about pets, which I agree pet relationships should be taken more seriously by society, but I want to share how this gave me insight about my relationship with an ex from college. Even though our actual dating period was short, I still loved him while we were friends and he was my first real, innocent love. The circumstances of our relationship and friendship ending is complicated, and over the years I understood both of our naiveness and immaturity. My introspective journey has helped me understand why I was so in-love with my ex (and why I was misguided, but that’s life), but I couldn’t understand why I felt so much betrayal and sadness. I randomly ran into my ex (after 6 years of no contact) and I was so shocked I couldn’t even speak, I just smiled and walked *ran* away, then cried when I got home…just like in a romcom movie! I was engaged at the time and have a totally different life than before, yet when I saw him I felt like my shy, deeply insecure 21-yr-old self again. Also I have dated other men since that ex, and even had an awkward reunions which I handled with tons of grace! So I couldn’t understand why that encounter affected me so much. Also I want to be clear, this encounter didn’t make me question my devotion to my fiance or anything, I have no romantic interest or desire for my ex, so I couldn’t understand why it is still painful for me, I can’t just “get over it, it was so long ago and we were young!” I really felt like I was a flawed crazy person for being so emotionally invested (especially when my husband is like who cares about the jerk, you don’t owe him anything! lol). This post helped me understand the depths of the heart, especially for us sensitive types…so I guess maybe my pain makes a little more sense. I still have much to think about, but anyway I just wanted to share because this was a very useful insight I gained from your beautiful post. Thank you!
Excellent connection! Yes, first heartbreak lays a blueprint for love and loss, and is another underestimated and misunderstood experience in our culture.
This is rather of a different nature, but I’ve developed anxiety of being around a guy who is a friend of a friend (so he’s often at parties we go to or there when I hang out with my friend). He’s a nice guy and had I been single I would probably have considered him as a potential dating partner. The thing is I’m happy in a relationship with an AMAZING guy (we’ve been together for nearly 4 years) and I’m terrified that somehow the universe is saying I might need to leave my awesome partner for this guy I barely know. Even as I write this I know how stupid it sounds! Or I’m scared that because we randomly bump into each other ( like today) it means something. In my rational mind I know I have the right to stay in my loving relationship, and that a sensible higher power wouldn’t require people to leave their current other half because they find someone else of the opposite sex a nice person. Has anybody else ever experienced this? It’s quite distressing. I don’t want this other person to turn up at parties etc because I’m scared of the mental torment that will start. :-/
When I start to dissect this ‘spike’ myself, I can see that perhaps I still have a fear (stemming from my religious, cultish upbringing) that ‘God’ or the universe would try to make me do things against my will. The thing is I’m constantly learning that often my desires are the way of the universe or whatever telling me I’m in a loving, good way. It’s my desire to stay with my loving, wonderful partner, just like it was my desire to move countries (hence meeting him 🙂 ), my desire to get a better work-life balance, my desire to start painting… these ‘desires’ give me a warm, soft, peaceful feeling inside, and I know I can let my heart lead me when I’m in a healthy state, and I don’t have to listen to my anxious brain when its spiking off right, left and centre. 🙂
I had a somewhat similar experience, which centered around a customer at the cafe I used to work at. Seeing him caused me to fall into fantasy, and spiked my anxiety simultaneously. Eventually, as I asked myself what the truth was over and over – and committed more deeply to my partner – the feelings began to subside. I also left the job, so that helped. But ultimately, I realized that the part of me that was fantasizing about being with this other guy was completely not in reality. Over the course of several weeks and distance from him, I realized how many stories I’d made up about him that weren’t true, and the bubble already popped. I realized that he was, in no way, a better partner for me than my current partner.
What synchronicity I’m experiencing. The timing of your posts is unreal. Or maybe too real. Literally minutes before opening your email I said to myself, “nobody stays married forever”. I know I am an anxious type because I had this thought and a million others when my husband proposed a couple years ago. Today’s intrusive thought, and what you’re telling me is that all of them do, come on the heel of something else needing attention. I can make a laundry list of things needing attention right now:
Our house is in dissaray due to home improvements; I’m VERY nervous about the next step of my education and if I will succeed in nursing school; I have been neglecting my physical health and exercise due to the above things; my grandfather needs more and more care from my mom and I. All of this to say, wow. My ego has such a firm spot in the driver’s seat right now! Like I can control any of what I listed, other than maybe tidying my house and doing some pushups.
Sheryl thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Even if I’m not free of this anxiety at the moment I have hope.
That’s the work, Jaybee. The thought is a diversion from your list of things that need your loving attention. You’re getting it!
By the way, marriage doesn’t last forever, but it can certainly last a lifetime. My brother forwarded me this article yesterday about my grandparents’ best friends, who are still alive and married and happy (my grandparents passed away over a decade ago). It’s quite inspiring:
This one hit home- so very timely. Slowly over time since we’ve gotten her, my sweet Daisy Belle has been beginning to open what had become a closed heart. This is my first dog and I just never knew the bond that we’re capable of having with our furry family members until we got her. This last week has been especially painful. My heart just feels so vulnerable all of the time that I will start crying over the smallest of things- happy or sad tears. Ive been reading more and more books on the human animal bond lately and just last night, as we were flying back from visiting friends in Atlanta, I was reading a book called “Dog Medicine” about a woman whose beloved pet helped her survive a battle with depression. Of course the book concluded with the beautiful animal passing away and I sat there with a stranger to my right- just absolutely sobbing- I mean like need to blow your nose can’t breathe sobbing (probably should have seen that coming and not continued reading that book on an airplane) feeling fhis woman’s loss like it was my own. It’s hard sometimes being so open, but like you said- it’s equivalent to the depth of our love and why would we ever want to lessen that!
What synchronicity! It sounds like your heart is opening to a new level, which always opens us to more pain (and yes, to love and joy as well).
Lovely post Sheryl. Thank you for these blogs they are lovely to read x
Thank you, Katrina. x
Beautifully written Sheryl. What a wonderful gift you have to be able to so clearly express such a difficult and trying set of emotions. Thank you for this article.
Thank you, Cindy.
What a raw and beautiful post. My heart goes out to her for her loss; and yet I’m so happy that she got to experience that kind of deep, meaningful, and soul enriching love.
What you said about the capacity to love then experience loss then love again was so true. I had to put down three beloved cats three years in a row. It felt like all I did for three years was prepare for my heart to break and then pick up the pieces when it did. It still sometimes hits me out of nowhere and I just ride the grief like a passing wave. One of those cats was my “kitty soulmate,” and I didn’t think it would ever be possible to feel that bonded to another pet again. “That was it,” I told myself, as if I was only gifted one real, big love experience in a lifetime.
I love it when the universe proves me wrong.
I have a new cat. When I yell out the word “snuggles,” she’ll run to me from anywhere in the house, curl up in a ball on my shoulder, knead my neck, purr in my ear, and then let out the most contended sigh until her body melts into mine. I literally feel my heart get huge, burst open, and then soften until the warmth takes over my entire body and soul. It is such a big love I feel coming from her, and I sometimes wonder if I have the capacity to love that big in return. I’m aware that it is teaching me that love knows no bounds, and just when we think we’ve loved as much or as deeply as possible, there is always room for more.
As with pet love, human love follows the same path. With love comes flaws. With love comes pain. With love comes losses of all kinds. With love comes tuff decisions and times when we have no clue what we are thinking or feeling…or wanting. Yet I wouldn’t trade any single one of those less than ideal and sometimes scary moments for the way it feels to experience the times when my heart grows bigger or warmer or when it softens and starts to melt.
Stunning, Andrea. Thank you so much for sharing this. I love that the universe has proved you wrong (as it tends to do ;)). I’m going to make sure my client reads this as I think it will bring her much comfort.
Is it OK to still expect our partners to be in it for the long haul, as much possible, even knowing that everything has an expiry date? I mean, if we all believed that all relationships would fail at some point, what would be the point in committing (I don’t just mean marriage, I also mean moving in together, combining finances, having kids etc.)? This post has kind of spiked me because I makes me feel like it’s not OK to want someone to be there for us through thick and thin, for all of our human lives, even. Like if they decide to just walk out after years and years we should be absolutely fine with that. I know we can’t control our partners or their choices, but if someone commits to us it shouldn’t really have a timeline, should it? (Not that my partner has hinted that there is a timeline to our relationship. As much as is humanly possible I do believe he has committed for the long-haul!)
Hi Sheryl, we spoke about two weeks ago, I have realized that apart of me feeling like a second choice which am working on, the reason why I get so angry is because I feel like I am getting too old, like time is going to fast, like I lost time by not being with my husband before and I get scared that that time could had been us being together, because I am afraid of us aging and of all this ending. The only person I have felt that way too was with my father, maybe that I loved him so much and my husband is the other person I have this feeling with.
This comes at a good time.
Oh and my little dog, I forgot to mention her, with her its been a little more often because my ego tells me that she will have less time with me than my husband; like I “know” she will go before us and its been like me attaching more to her with the fear of time going fast.
Beautiful post Sheryl, I hope she’s doing ok. I always feel bad for the people who are shamed for taking time out to look after their pets, every living thing on this planet deserves to be here and to be treated equally.
Thank you, Tom. She’s doing okay, and she will definitely grow through this experience.
This post is particularly beautiful to me right now. I am in an “up” phase with my new husband (married July 2 – I actually did it!!) after literally years of being in the grip of anxiety about our relationship. Just as I read over and over in both your Conscious Bride and Relationship Anxiety courses, I believe I’ve actually gotten to the point after all my (ongoing) work of being able to get my head above water, and the feeling of clarity that you talk about so much now seems to last much longer than just moments like before. Your story of your client reminds me so much of my own thoughts while trudging through the hell of ruminations, irritations and endless questioning of myself and my decisions. Only after the grief, or at least the worst of it, are we really able to look back and realize that we actually were always ok and it was just something we had to get through in order to continue on to our next stage in life. Thank you so much Sheryl for this beautiful piece. Your commitment to your work is so appreciated by those of us that really need a light and a voice to remind us that the pain doesn’t last forever.
Beautiful, Alicia. Congratulations on staying the course and doing your inner work. The payoff is well-worth the struggle!
Beautiful and timely as always. I was wondering if you had something to share about the impact of abuse on relationships?
Love and gratitude x
Another incredibly insightful and stunning article. Thank you Sheryl,
Thank you, Mike.
Thanks for this beautiful article. It reminded me of the enormous grief I had as a kid when my turtle died and how my teacher told me I was a drama queen! i remember replying to her that if she was hindu (which neither her or I are), she would have be more respectful because this turtle might have been her great-grand mother reincarnation!
This article spiked me a bit. It reminded me of a week-end a few months after my husband had proposed and when I was devastated by anxiety. I remember I cried a lot, grieving that relationship, being sure I would “have to” leave because I did not love him anymore and I vividly remember thinking that relationships coming to an end where the most awful things in the world. At that time, I did not know about your work, I did not know about infatuation, I did not know about real love. Of course, today’s spike is that I actually did not fully accept the end of our relationship and that’s why I’m still with him etc etc and that I actually could find someone else where the connection is as great as it used to be with my husband, but this time, it will work because we will be a better match. …. dear brain!
I love your turtle story, Albane, and love that, even as a child, you had the wisdom to reply with such an evolved comment to your teacher! Oh, yes, dear brain… ;). I wonder how you would respond to today’s spike from a higher part of yourself (the part that came up with that response to your teacher?!?)
Wow, just beautiful and incredibly touching Sheryl. I agree with every single word. Im not religious but only spiritual and I believe when we are gone, the people family, grandchildren, true friends will keep your memories alive by talking about you and with photos and pocessions nothing else.
Thank you, dear Angela.
Thanks Sheryl! I don’t know where that Hindu thing came in my mind at that time, probably from a book because I doubt I had ever seen a Hindu in my little French town then! 🙂
Well, my higher self is saying “hello fear! thanks for that thought and see you later!”
My higher self says that she sees fear talking here. I indeed cried a lot on that week-end because I thought I had no choice, because my sensitive heart thought it was the saddest thing that could ever happen to all the hopes created by a new born relationship.
I indeed grieved something: a story, the story of the teenage dream. And now, am making a grown up choice of facing both the false beliefs and my fears. Now, I know that love is action and that feelings of love are by-products.
Now I know that love is humble and that’s a huge and harsh path for me to act despite my ego’s screams. Now I know that “I don’t love you anymore” actually means “I decide to stop acting lovingly with you”. Now I know that there’s no absolute certainty that it will work or that we match or that there’s someone better and that is fine. Now I know that the real fear behind is to lose myself. Now I know that real love is not about losing myself but about giving myself. And I know that my intrusive thoughts that are full of contempt and projections are just my inner child screaming her own insecurities so that somebody can fill her inner holes. Because she had nobody to do so as a kid, she walled up her heart and fantasized. Because she thought she was worthless, she wanted someone perfect. But here is the truth that I know now: there’s no perfection. we’re all faillible. and we’re perfect as such.
This is such a beautiful post, Sheryl. I remember the pain of putting one of my beloved dogs to rest when her time had come.
My grandad passed away this year, and for me it was a very confusing time. I feel grief and sadness for any death, a stranger, a farm animal, a fly. But for my grandad who has been a big part of my life for 20 years? Numb. I had was very confused but I know recognise the numbness as a barrier against the pain. I cried deeply at his funeral but feel the barriers have prevented me from fully greiving.
To this day the barriers are still up, preventing me from feeling most feelings, sadness, pain, happiness, love, excitment. I often feel scared that I’m goiti be this way forever, but I am tryng to be patient and compassionate with myself, and remember that I will learn how to open myself back up to life.
Thats exactly how o felt when my grandmother died. I actually saw her die and that was the most confusing, heart wrenching, and unbearable moment of my life. One moment she was breathing and she was here and the next moment she was gone, all that was left was her body which seemed loke an empty shell and tired and exhausted from the pain of the desease she had. I went to my room i tried to cry i couldnt. I was stuck with the image of her opening her eyes and looking straight at me and letting go. I could cry, i went back i saw her again still nothing. After an hour after she was prepared to be tacken so i sat next to her, i started thinking of all my childhood memories, of all the things we did together and the thought of how much i love her and will miss made me cry, so cried for hours. I cried deeply and then i stopped. At her funeral i also couldnt cry, it was too much, that was the first funeral i ever attended, i had such a strong protective mechanism that i even started laughing and told everyone how happy and relieved i am that she died and is not suffering anymore. After that day which was 15 years ago i still allow my self to rember her and to cry. O am crying even as i am writing this. I feel better after that, but i never foget about her. So for me the best way to handle that is basicly to cry and allow myself to cry until the pain is gone, and until next time. 🙂
It sounds like you’re beautifully aligned with the grief process. Tears are the best medicine.
Yes they are, as long as you are capable of letting them come out which was a problem for me for some time. Now it goes easier 🙂
Thank you so much for this beautiful post, Sheryl! It’s very touching and such a nice reminder that we are never alone and that love always prevails!
Thank you, Tanja ;).
Beautiful post Sheryl.
I keep reading your great-reminders posts and will always keep doing
Thank you for everything 🙂
Thank you, MohTA.
I wanted to thank you so much for this deeply profound and beautiful blog post. It cracked me open today and allowed me to shed much-needed tears. I also am so grateful for your client, for her courage in facing her pain alongside you and then agreeing to share it here with us all. I will come back to these words time and time again as I find them so reassuring and so sound. Much love to you Sheryl and to you all, Zoe xx
Thank you xo
Thanks Sheryl, this is a nice reminder. I have been feeling emotionally distant from my partner recently. He has been working late nights so I have hardly spent any time with him at all. I respond with affection and there hasn’t been much because we haven’t spent much time together. I just feel so incredibly disconnected and it’s hard not to jump the gun and assume it’s bad, I need to keep trusting everything is okay and this stage will not last forever 🙂
Will you ever write a article on what being in REAL LOVE actually looks like? I ask this because sometimes, if I’m not feeling in love I will still notice the good things in my partner but won’t actually sit there and think ‘oh yes, this is definitely real love.’ Just because I’m not feeling it, it can be a number of things. For example, i was going through a hard time and kept constantly crying and felt comfortable enough to not even cover up my ugly crying face and just let him hold me. That is real love, to me. He is fully supporting me and just being there for me when times are hard. That is love. But for some time I fail to reconise this because those gushy feelings aren’t there. Those are the examples we all need to hear, because like I said, sometimes we don’t realise it for ourselves. Especially if we have a pattern of running wen those feelings disappear.
I’ve written numerous articles on what being in real love actually looks like (and almost all of my courses go into this in depth). Here are a couple:
Ah thank you! I am still learning and letting go of the old beliefs. It has been hard but it is getting easier. It is still scary because my brain tries to tell me I don’t love him because I don’t feel those gushy in love feelings all the time, but what I have noticed is, I feel happy 85% of the time in his company, I have a good time with him, we laugh together, we hold hands, kiss, cuddle and love eachother in a very active and mature way, but again my brain tries to take this away. I love learning about love and giving love to him.
We had a discussion at a day out yesterday, he said himself ‘it is hard work to stay in love. It isn’t just there sometimes. Sometimes you don’t feel love, sometimes you do, sometimes you have to sit there and think, what can I do to fall back in love with my partner?’ I did not realise he felt this way to, I am so glad he understands real love and knows infatuation is not love. I feel so very lucky to have met him and have such a stable and healthy relationship, and I also feel so very lucky to have found your work and done your courses, because if I didn’t, I would of walked away a long time ago not realising this is the greatest love I will ever know!
Thank you 🙂
And also, the saying ‘I don’t love you anymore’ is actually a really stupid and selfish saying. You are actually choosing to not act lovingly to this person. You are choosing to not move towards them even if you are in fear. If there are red flags, I can understand not wanting to choose to move towards them but if there aren’t, we should choose to anyway 🙂
Hello everyone! I’ve been following Sheryl’s work for a couple of years now, and FINALLY decided to sign up for Break Free, because I’m so tired of the endless struggle, and I’ve been eyeing the courses for soooo long.
I’m not in the forum yet, as I’m only two days in, but I’m finding that a voice in my head keeps spiking my anxiety. I know it’s common for people here to fear that their relationship issues are red flags when, in fact, they’re not. But I can’t tell if my relationship issue is a red flag, and whenever I get to parts in the reading that suggest that *some* anxiety *is* a clue to look at possible red flags, my stomach turns and I tell myself “yes!! yes, there are red flags!”
The “flags” are: that my partner often spirals into the fear/doubt WITH me, rather than being the “solid rock” that is often referred to here, in comments and blog posts; and that we find ourself in a cycle of feeling really “down” about difficulties and conflict between us. When I look with less fear, I see that the conflict isn’t so huge in and of itself (little things like I worry about saving for retirement more than he does) — but somehow we both get triggered into these shame/fear spirals where we question the sustainability of our connection, and it can bring me down for days, until I find release.
I’m wondering if this is a “normal” part of relationship, and not a red flag. We are otherwise very committed to each other, and when we’re in clarity, our relationship is quite loving and supportive — but I fear the *frequency* of the down times, and wonder if it’s that we’re bad/unhealthy for each other.
Does anyone have insight into this or similar situation/s?
Thank you so much!! I can’t wait to connect with some of you on the forums!!!!
actually, to clarify — I don’t tell myself “yes, there are red flags.” Actually, the voice says “oh no!! what if these things are red flags!!! these things are so bad!! surely my friends so and so don’t experience these kinds of conflict!!!”
and double actually.. as I write this, I realize that all of the things I fear are red flags *caused* by the relationship are STILL present in my inner world even when I’m single…. such as doubts about the direction of my life, periods of depression and confusion, lack of connection to my work…
but still, there is the issue of spiraling together.
This is all normal and not at all a red flag. What you’re describing is the typical dynamic of two sensitive people. I wrote about this here:
I’m very familiar with both models, and, as I share in the article, there are blessings and challenges to both. But when you fall into the second category, it’s important to learn how to de-escalate your conflict cycle, and the best way to do this, in my professional and personal opinion, is through the EFT model created by Sue Johnson. Please read her book,”Hold Me Tight”, and consider couples therapy if the two of you are open:
Thank you so much, Sheryl!!! I will check out that book!
Sheryl, I wonder if you have any advice on coping with a really messy break up, following an almost 3-year relationship plagued with what I think was a lot of relationship anxiety on my end. My partner has been fully supportive of me… until he wasn’t anymore.
He is going through some personal turmoil of his own, and decided he wanted to do other things in life – we live in Europe, not together, and he wants to quit his job and go to Asia for 6 months. The very thought of this scared me shitless and my response was a rather aggressive one, which I now regret… He ended up telling me he really loves me today but that he doesn’t know if he will in 1 month, 2 or 10 years, which really broke my heart in ways I didn’t even know.
After years and years of doubting and anxiety over whether I really love him/ was in love with him/ was he the one/ etc., I am now left completely devastated and feeling I wasted all our time together. I thought we had the time I needed to deal with my anxiety and fears and stupid thoughts, but apparently no.
I really feel miserable. It is still too recent but really I don’t feel like living right now. (not that I’mma do something stupid. I just don’t want to get out of bed in the morning…)
Any insight on how to cope would be dearly appreciated.
Thank you for your wisedom. It has helped immensely over the years and in the thickest of anxiety
Here you go:
Thank you so much Sheryl.
I will definitely look into it.
Do you think it’s normal in the context of relationship anxiety to not know if you ever really loved him? My therapist asked me this on our last session and I honestly couldn’t answer…
I feel kind of numb right now, like I don’t belong anywhere and don’t feel good anywhere. I haven’t been crying my eyeballs out (except for the first few days after the breakup), but I have this discomfort in being in my own skin, it feels like a part of me has been ripped apart, the sole thought of this makes me cringe. It’s like I don’t want to be myself.
My therapist is hinting that maybe I was never in love with him, and that it seems I’m mostly grieving his absence from an utilitarian point of view (because he kept me commpany, helped me, was immensely supportive…).
I am super confused right now. I always thought I had relationship anxiety. But now all these ideas seem to be sinking in – that I was never in love with him and never loved him – after all, this relationship just ended and it was hard from the very start.
In your experience, can you tell? Is there a way that I can just KNOW so I can give all this a context and start to wrap my head around it?
Thank you so much. Your work is a blessing*