What is the Work of Breaking Free from Relationship Anxiety?

A coaching client recently said to me, “You talk a lot about doing “the work”, and I wondered for so long what “the work” was. I thought that if I understood anxiety intellectually I would feel better. And the first time I went through the course I did feel better for a while, which I know is very common for new course members. But then I felt anxious again, and I realized that I wasn’t doing the work.”

“How do you understand the work now?”

“For me it means going underneath the story. It means taking the information out of the realm of intellectual understanding and putting it into practice. It means dialoguing with these different parts of myself, which is about engaging with them instead of being fused with them. It’s so different to dialogue with the part of me that’s scared of intimacy as opposed to just thinking … Click here to continue reading...

Heartbroken Not Broken

Shame is often a placeholder for powerlessness and a protector against grief. Instead of feeling the rawness of grief, the mind latches onto a shame story that says, “I’m broken.” Instead of surrendering to the powerlessness of painful situations that had nothing to do with you, like your parents’ divorce or any other trauma, the shame story says, “It was all my fault.” Instead of leaping off the cliff of thoughts and diving into the sea of vulnerability that defines being human, the shame story says, “I don’t deserve love.”

These shame stories often arise in childhood as brilliant defense and survival mechanisms, for if children were to see the truth of their family, social, societal, or education situations and feel the corresponding feelings of loneliness and heartbreak they would crumble. Shame gives us an illusory sense of control: If it’s my fault, I can change it. If I’m doing … Click here to continue reading...

The Gift of Projection

Projection is one of the most important concepts to understand when you’re stuck in relationship anxiety or any manifestation of anxiety. It’s a psychological term that essentially means we’re stuck in a story about someone or something else with the belief that it’s true, and that if the person or thing would change we would feel better. Everyone will, at some point, find themselves stuck in a projection; it’s part of being human. Projections are a bit challenging to define and even more challenging to see when you’re in one. In Wikipedia’s words:

“Psychological projection or projection bias (including Freudian Projection) is the unconscious act of denial of a person’s own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, such as to the weather, the government, a tool, or to other people… Projection is considered one of the most profound and subtle of human psychological processes, … Click here to continue reading...

The Scariest Thing We Do

Every day that I work with clients struggling with relationship anxiety I find myself saying some version of, “Of course you’re scared. Loving is the scariest thing we do.” As I’ve written about several times on this blog, fear doesn’t always present as fear but instead shows up as irritation, annoyance, numbness, ambivalence, lack of attraction, and doubt. It’s a convoluted defense mechanism, the ego’s attempt to circumvent being left or rejected by convincing you that you don’t love or even like your partner anyway, but in the end these are all manifestations of fear.

And the client almost invariably asks, “But why is love so scary?” It’s scary because we’ve been hurt by love. It’s scary because underneath the projections (“He’s not intellectual enough”, “She’s not attractive enough”) lives the belief that you’re not enough in some way. It’s scary because when we love another person we’re handing them … Click here to continue reading...

The Cracks are How the Light Comes In

When discussing the concept that a root cause of relationship anxiety is the fear of being hurt by love, course members and coaching clients will often say, “I had a good childhood with loving parents. Why would I be so scared of love?” I’ve written other posts about how essential it is to peel the veil of perfection or idealism off of our parents or childhood if we’re going to heal, for there can be no doubt that, because we’re imperfect humans, there will always be places where our parents missed the mark, times when they didn’t attune, and incidences where they failed to honor our sensitivity or teach us how to feel our feelings. Very few parents of older generations possessed the emotional intelligence to raise emotionally intelligent children. It wasn’t their fault; they simply didn’t have the healing tools at their disposal that we do today. The fact … Click here to continue reading...