When we spiral down into the deeper layers of anxiety – whether relationship anxiety or any other form that anxiety takes – we find some universal root causes that live at the center. These exist on both the emotional and psychological/spiritual planes, and they all need our attention if we’re going to heal. It requires tremendous courage and fortitude to peer directly into the root causes without the filters of projections or defenses protecting us, as when we peel away the hardened shell that has protected our hearts our entire lives, we come face-to-face with our own soft and defenseless vulnerability.
On the emotional level we find a fear of “enoughness”: Am I lovable enough, good enough, worthy enough to be loved? Of course, as I’ve discussed extensively in other posts and in my courses, this fear often first manifests as a projection onto your partner’s perceived imperfections, but when you commit to your inner work which, in essence, means learning to pull back projections and assume full responsibility for your well-being, you find that hidden inside the elaborate protection of your partner’s perceived failures is your own fear of loss.
On the psychological/spiritual level the fears manifest differently, from a different part of us. Here lives the fear of losing control, the fear of groundlessness, the fear of annihilation, the fear of death. These fears don’t arise from the experience of being human in relationship to human others, which is often the source of our emotional pain in that we learn to seal over our hearts after we’ve been hurt by caregivers, peers, siblings, or teachers, but instead seem to exist as part of our human experience regardless of circumstances. In other words, we could have the most loving childhood without any significant emotional pain and still struggle with the fear of groundlessness and death. From what I understand, one of the primary challenges and tasks of being human is to wrestle between the ego, which is the part of us that demands to retain the status quo and fears change because it’s terrified of losing control, and the part of us that longs to grow and evolve, which, by its very definition, requires that we learn to embrace change.
Pema Chodron speaks to this fundamental fear of change and the associating feeling of groundlessness that accompanies it in her book, When Things fall Apart:
“Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limits. It’s a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs.
“To stay with that shakiness – to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge – that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic – this is the spiritual path. Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior. We catch ourselves one zillion times as once again, whether we like it or not, we harden into resentment, bitterness, righteous indignation – harden in any way, even into a sense of relief, a sense of inspiration.” (p. 10-11)
There are many way that life teaches us to become more comfortable with losing control. When I’m working with anyone in the midst of a transition, we’re at the very heart of change and uncertainty, which means it’s a potent opportunity to breathe into groundlessness. But, as Pema Chodron teaches, while transitions highlight our sense of being out of control and peel away the illusion of control that we can hold onto during calmer times, the truth is that life itself is one constant experience of change. One moment to the next is never the same. We don’t know what will happen five minutes from now. When we tap into this subtle yet constant undercurrent of awareness, we can feel a sense of loss and panic. The work is to recognize it and breathe into it, and the more we learn to do this, the more gracefully we can ride the waves.
One of the common manifestations of the fear of losing control is the fear of throwing up. I’ve had several clients over the years who have struggled with this fear, and it never surprises me that they’re always people who fall into the category of the highly sensitive, perfectionist, analytical, conscientious people who comprise my audience. The official psychological diagnosis is emetophobia, which literally means the fear of vomiting. If we poke around we may find an early incident that constellated a fear of choking, but oftentimes the fear manifests independent of a trauma and speaks more to the fear of losing control than anything else.
What is contained inside this fear of losing control? When we pare down again, we see that it’s ultimately a fear of death. And when we pare down even more, we see that the fear of death is the hub of it own wheel, the spokes of which contain the fear of feeling our feelings (which can be translated as the fear of life). So we arrive again at one of the core tenets of healing work, which Pema Chodron speaks to above: becoming aware of the micro-moments when grief, hunger, hopelessness, and groundlessness rumble up to consciousness and, instead of hardening against those raw feelings through various addictions and projections (including the mental addiction of worry and intrusive thoughts), we soften into them and breathe into them.
We cannot address and heal all of the spokes of this wheel by reading a blog post, but we can start by learning to name the fear of death and its accompanying offshoots when it arises. In doing so, we claim what is ours instead of siphoning off these root fears onto our partner or any other projections screen. When a projection hits in the middle of a transition, for example, we can say, “I’m in a projection. What I’m probably really feeling is groundless, out of control, scared, vulnerable.” In the naming, we take the first step toward owning. And once we see and claim what is ours, we’re well on our way to healing. It’s theoretically simple but, but because we’re habituated and perhaps even wired for blame and laziness, the practice of owning and feelings these states is one of the hardest things we can do: naming, breathing, owning. This is why Pema Chodron says it’s the path of the spiritual warrior.
Living a meaningful life is not about overcoming the fear of loss or the fear of death. Life includes loss and life includes death, and these are not realities that we can escape from despite the ego’s attempt to do so. Rather, we find more equanimity when we extend our table of psyche and make room for all of the uncomfortable characters that long to be seen and known. We make more for Vulnerability. We make room for Fear of Loss. We make room for Fear of Losing Control. When we get to know them by greeting them with compassion and and curiosity, we continually soften into the experience of being human, reminding ourselves that healing is a long, long process and that we’re all in it together.
This was perfectly timed, the Fear of Loss is a tough onw but what I most often (for me) encased in it is this fear of getting hurt and losing control in some inexplicable way. This explains so much, especially how its not about conqeuring it- this is huge for me- but about breathing into all those moments with acceptance. If i may, I notice that I know jump back and forth between healing, one day i can know all of this and practice for 3 days and then for the next 2 weeks its like im back in stage 1 again. It like being stuck in an endless loop of letting go and the inbetween stage…while never really making it to the final stage. For me I notice my main transition is not only the transition of learning about real love but also learning how to take full responsibility for myself, as it can be frightfully easy to switch back into projection and blame when its been the download in my mind all my life. I am also very young, I find that my lack of experience and a lot of information leave me with difficulty is making my insight into action. I’ve never posted a comment even though ive been readinf this amazing blog for so long, Thank you for all the work that you do for so many, for being one of the few guiding posts of light that lead in a direction of courage and truth.
Stay with the work and you’ll notice longer stretches of being able to stay with the practices. Some of this is a function of time and maturity, and some of it is a recognition that we ALL fall on and off the horse in terms of our practices. Also, there’s really no “final stage”. We learn and forget and learn and forget until the stages of learning are, perhaps, longer than the stages of forgetting. As I shared in the quote from Pema Chodron:
“We catch ourselves one zillion times as once again, whether we like it or not, we harden into resentment, bitterness, righteous indignation – harden in any way, even into a sense of relief, a sense of inspiration.”
And that’s from a Buddhist nun!
Thank you, Ravenna3. I also experience this.
Sheryl, thank you. To me it seems that you must somehow have an absolutes aligned sense of timing with so many of us. This comes at the exact moment I needed it, as well.
It’s probably because there are certain archetypal themes that most highly sensitive people struggle with. I’m glad it was helpful and timely.
I read the title on my email and could not believe you wrote this – the synchronicity of life, right there! It’s like you know what’s going on in my mind before posting. Thank you!
I’m glad it came at the right time, B!
This post has touched me even tho I am not a stranger to your work , or to the fear of death fear of life phenomena as my therapist and I worked tour this a few times. Your post has been unbelievably timing appropriate to remind me of this ; the need to walk Thursday the waves whole trying to breathe and let go….wow ..not easy but as you stated , that’s our jobs as humans. I am taking tmt for early breast cancer and was looking for some uplifting words and there you were! Namaste
I’m glad it arrived at the right time, Shelley. Thank you.
As always, this was perfectly timed to align with my current struggle. Through the fog of morning anxiety, I am able to realize that fear is at the root of my anxiety. When I search and delve into what this is protecting me from feeling, the answer is the paralyzing fear of the unknown. There are no guarantees. Breathing into the vulnerability is crucial for “connection” but also the most difficult thing to learn how to do. The other difficulty is first identifying the negative thoughts and then not falling prey to their projections and falsehoods that they scream.
Currently, I can identify the thoughts but struggle with believing them. I notice the negative thought enter my mind but I struggle with the continuous loop and then begin to believe the thoughts. I continue to practice kindness and patience with myself as I take the road on this very difficult but ultimately very enlightening journey.
Wishing a good week for all. Xo
Very well said, Margarite. Thank you. x
You helped me through a lot and I’m so grateful to you and my blog. There are many questions I’d like to ask you, but I just really want to ask you about the start of my relationship anxiety, since lately I’ve been experiencing the same intrusive thoughts. It all started with random urges to break-up that creeped me like a shadow, and every sweet thing my partner would say, every reminder of our promise, our beautiful relationship, story, connection, would trigger in me a “C’mon Giorgia, you can’t really want to break-up, look at all you got now… No, I don’t want to break up…!” which really sounded like I was convincing myself to stay. And then the anxiety, and the guilt (he doesn’t deserve someone who has to convince herself and remind herself of a promise to stay in a relationship with him). Do you think this is a common anxiety mechanism?
Blessings to you and your beautiful family, and to every would of this beautiful community 🙂
*and your blog
*every beautiful soul of this community
YES! It’s textbook relationship anxiety.
Thank you, you were really kind to answer my question – especially since it didn’t really concerned the article itself 🙂 I really appreciate this Sheryl ❤
Hello! This post literally brought me to tears. I have an aversion to throwing up but an even bigger fear I have is of passing out, over-heating, or fainting when I’m hungry (even though I’ve never fainted). Could the fear of fainting be a fear of death/ loss of control just as the fear of throwing up could be? Whenever my body feels “off” or ill, I will many times ruminate on what could be wrong. How do I “breathe in” when I’m in these moments? Thank you!!
Yes, all essentially the same fears, Nicole, which means that the work is the same: name it, breathe into it, ask yourself what grief you may be avoiding, connect to spirit/God/nature (whatever word works for you).
Thank you, Sheryl! I’m going to try naming the fear to myself (or out loud if I’m alone) and breathe in, trying to let any guards down so the pain/ fear can surface. I’m also now adopting the mantra: “I am a spiritual warrior!”
How do we practically work with the fear of losing control, and ultimately fear of death? This has been my biggest struggle for the past year or so, and turned into some pretty severe anxiety that I am working on with a therapist. But we haven’t really delved into working with fear of death, so I thought I might ask.
I’m in the process of creating a course on this topic (fear of death, health anxiety, comfort with uncertainty), and will likely release it in 2018, which is to say it’s more than I can offer guidance about in a blog post. In the meantime, I recommend all books by Pema Chodron, and especially her audiobooks so that you can receive her incredibly warm delivery. But my nutshell version is: name the fear, breathe into it, ask yourself what other feelings you may be avoiding (grief, vulnerability, loneliness), and connect to spirit. At the core, health/death anxiety is spiritual anxiety, meaning that it points to a need to connect to something bigger than ourselves. It’s an invitation to grow our faith (and I don’t mean that in a religious sense but in a life sense), to tap into the flow of life and death that is in constant motion on this planet.
I would be very interested in this course!
th roh I have to comment because this made me gasp. I have been working intimately with my Relationsjip Anxiety for a about a year now. I am in therapy, have read many many books, taken Sheryl’s Breakthrough Class, read every blog post on this site, and journal constantly. It has been both a hellish and rewarding year and although (of course) I have bad days, I can now confidently and lovingly say that I cherish my boyfriend and our amazing relationship. But most importantly I can now confidently and lovingly say that I cherish myself enough to allow myself the pleasure of an open, loving, and committed relationship. I have recently been working on chipping away at the root cause of my anxiety which I have suspected for a while was the “Fear of Losing Control”, I was very excited to see a blog post written on the topic. I truly gasped aloud when I read the paragraph about Emetophobia. I was diagnosed with the Fear of Vomitting as a child and struggled for about a decade with throw up related anxiety. As I grew older I outgrew the intense fear and now it is mostly a distant, painful childhood memory. I cannot believe that someone finally touched so specifically to the way my brain works. The process of recovering from Relationship Anxiety continually surprises me, but this just
hit wayyyy to close to home. Thank you Sheryl!! And for those who are new to the blog and suspect you are dealing with Relationship Anxiety DO THE WORK. I never thought I’d be here on the other end, but I am. And Real Love is not what I was expecting at all, but it is so much better. You can do
not sure what happened at the beginning there! a little typo!
“I cherish myself enough to allow myself the pleasure of an open, loving, and committed relationship.” Whoa – that’s a revelation to me right there!
Thank you for your encouraging comment, Junedee! I’m so glad to hear that you’ve been able to work through your relationship anxiety and embrace both yourself and your partner. And yes, one of the byproducts of relationship anxiety and reading my blog is learning that you’re far from alone with the struggles you thought were unique to you.
I think you just read all of our minds 🙂 always insync!
Yesterday I got a bad ear infection, within hours it turned into vertigo and I was so dizzy it made my nauseous which lead to throwing up. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever gone through and talk about out of control! My fiancé was by myself helping me the whole time. I would work myself into panic attacks every time I got sick. He was googling it and said that anxiety makes it worse and it hit me. Just breathe. It helped but it was still so bad we went to the hospital and spent the night in the ER, but he not once complained. He held my purse and gave the doctors all the information they needed. He even said he like rolling me around in the wheelchair, haha. Even though today he said it was scary and hated every minute of it… he didn’t complain not ONCE!
This is the second kind of big medical issue I’ve had in the past month and he’s been there holding my hand. These kinds of freak medical issues never happen to me I’m usually 100% healthy, no issues at all. And now all of this at once?! I think my fears took over and have been telling me nonstop that my body is trying to tell me something and the first thing I go to is “my body is telling me not to marry this angel of a man.” Then I try to talk myself out of it. Maybe my body really is trying to tell me “what else do you need to see that he is the best man in the world?!” After this post, I feel like this is all my fear… my fear of being this vulnerable with this amazing man. That I don’t deserve it. That he’s just going to fed up with my crap and leave. That I should just leave him now.
The past couple of weeks my relationship anxiety has gone through the roof. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve also been sick and leaning on him for help. It’s still very hard and I still constantly battle myself every day. I feel like I’m in my head too much. It just sucks being sick and HAVING to sit here with all of this and deal with it. I can’t go out and enjoy the nice weather or even workout. I can’t distract myself with something better. It’s here. It’s messy. And I have to work through it. It’s sad and scary. And I have to do it… as always, thank you for your blogs and community.
What a scary experience, Brittany, and not an uncommon one when you’re a highly sensitive person. What I’ve found is that healthy anxiety tends to ramp up when we meet someone with whom we feel safe, which I wrote about here (one of my earlier posts):
It’s as if our soul knows that it can finally unwind and collapse because there’s someone who will catch us. It’s a necessary falling apart so that we can put ourselves back together in a healthier way.
I love you Sheryl. Thank you xo
Thank you, Bee ;).
I’ve been struggling with a fear of serration, vomiting and death for as long as I can remember. And it still surfaces every time I feel dizzy, nauseous, or say goodbye to my parents or husband to get on a plane. Now that I have children, I’m doing everything I can for them not to feel those feelings, as they totally haunted my childhood until the end of elementary school (age 12 – I wonder why until then exactly).
What a “wow” moment to read the part where you write if we dig deep it’s all really a fear of feeling feelings – fear of life.
There are still big question marks about it all in my head.
Do you recommend reading “when things fall apple”?
Thank you Sheryl!
Yes, I absolutely highly recommend “When Things Fall Apart” and all of her other books. She’s also wonderful to listen to on audio as she reads her own work and she does so with tremendous warmth and humor.
Fear loss is massive for me, fear of losing myself is another huge one. I earned for my old self initially in the darkest days of my anxiety, By doing this amazing work during the past 5 years. I understand all the spokes that are included and related to my mind, ego, spirit and soul. I was so happy to be in my comfort zone for so long that i did fear change, challenge, and responsibility. As my mother was my anchor point. She made me feel, I needed her for everything. Which of course was true when i was a child. But when i became an adult I was ready to open my wings and live the life I am meant to lead. I just waited patiently until the day my beautiful man came into my life and lead the way to new beginnings. I do feel confident and a happy woman and wife and blessed to have stayed with this work and never give up. No regrets or doubts at all. The ego thoughts were convincing to walk away initially. So lucky to have you as my guardian angel Sheryl to stay because this is where I belong in the safe haven of our beautiful home. ???❤️?
Thank you, Angela. Sending loads of love across the oceans back to you.
Wonderful post. I have recently become obsessed with attempting to use scientific algorithms (of which there are many) to try to determine mine and my partner’s ‘compatibility’. This is based on a terror of not being in control, and the felt need for something science-y and ‘objective’ to back up my choice to marry my partner.
As I think you know, J, every time you feed the hungry demons that try to determine certainty through “science” you’re prolonging the path of getting free. Your time would be much better spent addressing the fear from the root, which is the terror of not being in control and moving toward an uncertain outcome.
thanks. I know that logically it is unhelpful to indulge it, but it often feels too painful not to. As you say, it is like being asked to (symbolically) die. I guess part of the work is learning to tolerate a degree of pain.
Not a part of the work. All of the work.
Wow, your comment was definitely a light bulb moment for me just now! If I’m at work (meaning I have google at my fingertips) and I get even the slightest ping of anxiety, I immediately look for validation somewhere about my relationship, that I’m doing the “right” thing, that I’m on the “right” path. I put “right” in quotes as deep down I know that right and wrong with this subject is certainly a made up concept. Anyway, I search for validation, reassurance, and certainty online and when I find it, I usually feel better.
I hadn’t realized that me doing this wasn’t really making me feel better, that it’s only feeding the hungry demons! It’s masking my anxieties and not diving deep into them, because doing so is painful and takes work. It’s a quick fix that doesn’t fix anything at all. Thank you Sheryl for this quick comment, I know my next step to work on. 🙂
So glad to hear it, Alyssa!
Such a relevant post for me today. I am in the midst of a huge life transition – 10 weeks away from becoming a mum for the first time and in the process of moving out of London and back to my home town with all the usual uncertainties of buying a home. It’s safe to say I am struggling through every minute of it at the moment and doubting my ability to cope with life in general. I just feel like I’m going through the motions while my head spins and spins with horrible theoughts.
When I read this things felt like they made more sense. My almost life long anxiety started in my mid teens with a sudden, debilitating fear of vommitting after nearly throwing up on the school bus. It challenged me for years, stopping me going out drinking with friends (maybe a blessing in disguise) and preventing me travelling and trying new foods. This manifestation of my anxiety has settled over time and although I still panic when about to be sick, it doesn’t affect my day to day life.
However, this post has made me realise how my anxiety manifests now can still be traced back to a fear of losing control. My life is about to change immeasurably and I have no idea what’s in store – apart from all the horror stories you hear from other helpful parents! Am I going to hate my new life? Am I going to hate my new house? How am I going to feel in a year from now? I suppose what I need to accept is that I don’t know and there is no certain answer for me to find on google, or the forums on here. I just need to wait and see. So much easier said than done and so easy to slip back into anxiety. I only have small moments of clarity like this at the moment. Hopefully they will start to grow.
Writing this has been helpful. I would like to do more journaling but struggle with where to start. If Sheryl or anyone has any tips that would be great.
Thanks for such an insightful post Sheryl.
You’ve had a very important moment of clear-seeing, Catherine, and I encourage you to build on that. This small moment of clarity is what you can journal on. Write more from this place. Expand on it. Set your mind free to explore more of what you tapped into here. This is how we grow the muscle of our wise self and become more comfortable with uncertainty.
I’m having a very hard time breathing into the groundlessness/hopelessness. The last 2-3 months have been very stressful, a job change, a big move with my boyfriend and my dad in and out of the hospital. This meant a lot of money being spent, a lot of healthy habits falling by the wayside and a lot of tension between my boyfriend and I. This past weekend my we were at a good friend’s wedding and I about lost it during the father/daughter dance because I’m pretty sure my dad, being largely immobile, will probably not be able to even walk me down the aisle, let alone dance with me. I’ve shut down. I’m feeling very insecure, very lost and majorly projecting these emotions onto my boyfriend. What is worse is I want to talk to him about it and I don’t even feel like I can do that, it just feels so useless and I’m afraid that it’s starting to affect our relationship. I feel like I’m at a good place with naming the fear and I’m working on being accountable for my own feelings but once I get there I just feel stuck. Does anyone have any best practices for how they deal with these feelings?
I have many posts on learning how to feel your pain, which sounds like is at the core of what’s happening for you right now. If you google “conscious-transitions.com + grief” many of them will show up.
Thank you so much for this post, this really hit home with me, since I have been living with the constant fear of death for as long as I can remember (alongside with the relationship anxiety). These words of Pema: ”a broken heart, a rumbling stomach, the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge” is something I’m living every day and it really is so hard. Do you have any words of wisdom what could the ”breathing into” this particular fear sound like? I mean, are there any words I (or my wise adult) could say to myself when the fear of death is in control (for example when I am once again terrified/sure that I might have some serious illness)? I think that I have tried to stay with the feeling and tried to tell myself that death is a part of life and there really are no guarantees in life, but so far nothing has really given me any relief with this constant fear. I would love to hear your advice on this.
Ps. So glad to hear that you’re planning a whole course about this subject! ?
I’ll be writing more about health anxiety soon. Stay tuned and sending you hugs in the meantime. I know firsthand how painful it is when health anxiety takes hold.
My bf and I will soon be moving in together and I have struggled with intense fear. It seems like he may be having doubts as well because of my fears and that I haven’t been super enthusiastic about this. I very much want to go this step, but I don’t want this fear to chip away at his enthusiasm for us.
I feel terribly guilty at times because of the relationship anxiety and wished it could be different. I recognize this as a long-held pattern of mine, but I don’t want to put him through a wringer with it! It’s just that I struggle to not dump the anxiety on him and if I try to hide it, it springs back even worse! I have taken the course and go to therapy when I can afford it, and work hard on everything discussed in the course and in this blog. I often don’t know how much longer I can keep up this struggle, especially if we do move in!
I have addressed fears and to treat them with love and compassion, but this has been the toughest struggle in my life!
I deeply appreciated your imagery of different feeling characters at the table with us. I immediately tried to do this as an exercise and it was incredibly powerful. I first pictured “loss” sitting across from me. I burst into tears just greeting Loss. I imagined Loss as a very meek, sad character, but filled with compassion and camaraderie. I’m not sure what that means. All I know is I’m learning more and more – 2 months into marriage and 1 month into pregnancy (yikes transitions!!!) how it’s far easier to convince myself that I’m “with the wrong guy” “on the wrong path” or in a “doomed relationship” than to really tap into these confusing and complex feelings. Thank you for providing another small stepping stone on this long, long journey indeed.
YES, Yachal. When you trust your imagination and find the willingness to feel the pain that arises the projections of “I’m with the wrong guy” will quiet down.
I’ve been with my partner 2 years and I stopped eating meat about a year ago, I’ve recently started taking dairy and that out of my diet and for some reason this morning I’ve woken up with a thought saying “what if I’ve changed and I’m not the same person I was when we first got together” yes I’ve changed my diet but I changed that because I believe in animal rights. Putting that aside I still love and want to be with my partner so why is it making me think that I’ve changed and making me think that “oh maybe you don’t love him cause you’ve changed” I’m still me, just my diet is different? Please any info anybody?
I´m following your blog practically since the beginning of my current relationship which started exactly three years ago. I was suffering from mild depression long before I met my beautiful girlfriend and this depression stemmed mainly from deep feelings of loneliness as I´m rather introverted and have very hard time to feel close to someone. Now I know that you are not a fan of spontaneous feelings to be a “life path indicator”, but they say that first love is the most intense and unrepeatable experience. I honestly think I´ve beaten that when I met my current girlfriend. It is my first serious relationship so I was quite shocked when I started to feel intense fear and anxiety soon into the relationship which escalated with me being in hospital for two weeks due to severe insomnia. But very slowly also with your help I started to learn about what real love is and to see that anxiety diminish. That fear I was feeling was actually fear of losing her.
But now sadly this nightmare is coming true and our relationship is coming to its end, not because we were fighting or anything like that, but because we can´t really decide where to live and also our differences about faith and culture are coming to the surface. I´m an atheist, from Prague and my girlfriend is from Žilina, Slovakia. She is Christian and she really misses her family and friends. She says she can no longer stay in Prague and has no one to share her faith with here. I didn´t know how to help her as I wasn´t brought up in christian environment, but I respect her faith very much and sometimes I went to mass with her. The problem is that I have one more year to finish my studies of Biochemistry in Prague and also there are no job opportunuties for me in Žilina and sincerely I´m afraid I would start feeling grudge towards my girlfriend if I moved there as she is probably feeling that towards me now :(. Please if you have any advice or a word of consolation, feel free to respond. Thank you very much!
Is the feeling of being at home around your partner, comfortable, something that can be created or does it have to be present from the moment you met? If so, how do you create that?
It’s not often present from the moment you meet (that’s the Hollywood version), but there’s usually a basic sense of “I like this person” or “Something is drawing me to this person” even if the anxiety is simultaneously present.
This blog post totally hit home for me and I found myself at ease reading the part where you say “this fear often first manifests as a projection onto your partner’s perceived imperfections, but when you commit to your inner work which, in essence, means learning to pull back projections and assume full responsibility for your well-being, you find that hidden inside the elaborate protection of your partner’s perceived failures is your own fear of loss.”
Recently, I have found myself in a realm of uncertainty. I have always needed a sense of control. I had this idea that I would be engaged by my 30th birthday which was in July. Its now September, and nothing has happened yet. I actually went out and bought myself a fake ring and it made my boyfriend feel super uncomfortable. That weekend he went on a bachelor party and i went out with some girls who are both engaged. My self-worth was at an all time low. at that point, I noticed I started fixating on my partners flaws. I love my boyfriend with my whole heart and that same weekend a friend of mine commented on how my boyfriend has this cute little stutter. I love this stutter, it makes him who he is. But now I’m finding myself OBSESSING over it. Afraid of every time I talk to him, being judgmental, trying to figure out why I keep thinking about it? If i cant be with him because of it? etc. etc. Its caused me to spiral into that dark hole of anxiety where the anxious mind keeps shooting questions every which way. After reading your blog post, I think its evident that me fixating on one of his biggest insecurities is a PROJECTION and that I am only doing this because I am so uncomfortable with the in-between…
Thank you so much for your work! I have been working with my relationship anxiety for awhile now, but I really feel like I’m starting to grasp the tools to break free. This article has spoken to me so much! It’s all about being soft to the experience of life and it’s micro-moments. Thanks you!
After going through every anxious intrusive thought that one can have during relationship anxiety, I am left with one rattling question that I don’t know how to answer. “Do I really want this relationship and my partner or any relationship at all”….through this process I have learned about the gift of choice. I get to CHOOSE to stay or go. I don’t HAVE to break up if I don’t want to. But I don’t know how to figure out what I want. I love my partner and everything that he is…so is that right there the answer to my own question?
I have a question for you Sheryl. I know a lot of this work is about learning how to be with painful feelings, and not avoid the pain.Through doing this work I have realized that I have been avoidant of pain. So I have the intrusive thought “what if you’re not breaking up with N to avoid the pain of a break up?”. Because I know if we did breakup it would be absolutely heart wrenching! So I get caught up in a tricky thought cycle about the topic of avoiding pain. I hope this makes sense. So what’s the best way to address this particularly sticky thought?
Hi Sheryl! In your relationship anxiety course you say that unresolved emotional issues is a red flag. What if if I struggle due to stuff that happened in past relationships and even my parents relationship. Is that something that can be resolved with a therapist? I think it has contributed to some of my ways… I think a lot of people here have emotional issues from previous experiences…just a bit anxious hoe this is such a strong red flag
I don’t think that’s what I say in the course, Lindi! We all have unresolved emotional issues – that’s just part of being human – so having issues certainly is NOT a red flag. What I say is that if you and your partner have unresolved TRUST issues because of an experience of broken trust in the current relationship that hasn’t been repaired and resolved this can interfere with feeling safe.
Ooo ok! That makes a 100% sense! Thank you for clarifying!!
Thankyou so much to everybody who is brave enough to shared their story. Although I dont know you and will never meet you, I feel supported in what feels like a really lonely, hard and painful journey.
I’ve always been in relationship where I’ve chased the other person. For years I dated people who were travellers and I knew I could never commit too but I would fantasize about us running away together because we were so “in love”. I’ve had a number of those people treat me with no respect but I always went back to it. It felt good to hit that pain again.
I’ve met my beautiful partner after 7 years of being single. The thing I’ve wanted the most was a loving, respectful relationship where I could share a life with somebody. He is this and so much more and it absolutely scares me. I broke up with him after a couple of months because I felt it wasn’t right. When he says “I love you” I feel a big wall against my heart and I just want to push it away. I can’t take it in just yet. I feel weak when I do. I feel weak to need him. My anxiety in this has caused me so much pain. I haven’t eaten and I feel too tired. My body is constantly hot and cold and I can’t seem to calm myself.
This blog has helped me so much. Nobody tells you about this stuff. I always thought love was going to be a drug that once I instantly had would make me feel so much better and would just heal everything. It’s done the opposite. I’m so lucky he is so beautiful, understanding and has a strength to hold me through.
Keep going with your journey. Keep going and learn to re-wire and understand that sometimes getting home or to a soft spot requires some pain. I feel like a loving relationship is where the true sense of self love happens.
Please continue to share and spread your words and pain. It helps me so much xx
I came across this post relatively late compared to when it was written (and also late in my healing journey unfortunately!), but as it has so perfectly applied to my situation, I just had to comment.
I am dealing with what seems like the culmination of an entire lifetime of anxiety during a time of transition within my relationship, political turmoil within the world and physical breakdown within my body. For so long now, I have been focusing entirely on the physical side of what is “wrong” with me, which happens to be mostly digestive in nature, adhering to strict low sugar/gluten/dairy diets, taking supplements, seeing specialists and functional doctors who have tested for everything under the sun and found nothing and staying practically housebound. It has been akin to living death, and a tinderbox for my anxiety. Coincidentally (or not), I have also harbored a serious fear of vomiting since about the age of five, to the extent that my fear of throwing up would often result in my vomiting purely out of panic—a self-fulfilling prophecy and a vicious cycle. The most debilitating of my current symptoms is chronic nausea. It is as though my worst childhood fears have manifested. Judging by the events that surrounded its reappearance, I believe that fear of loss (of control, of familiarity, of self, of life itself) is central to this phobia, and find it very intriguing that this fear may be influencing my somatic symptoms as well as the narratives anxiety constructs around the state of my health.
Managing physical suffering while attempting to address the realm of emotions is possibly the most challenging skill I’ve ever had to learn. It’s taken over two years (just a few months before this post first appeared, come to think of it) since the onset of my symptoms, but I’m finally in a place where I am able to turn inward and hear what my inner five-year-old has to say. I’m so grateful that I finally found this post and your work, Sheryl.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful comment, So, and it sounds like you’ve done very deep and very brave inner healing work. Sending love.
I am almost 22 and I’ve suffered from emetophobia through all my youth. It went so far, that I couldn’t leave the house for almost a year. At the moment I am trying to find a way back into life but I am still not free of this phobia. I’ve tried every therapy there is. Even unconventional ones like hypnotherapy, RTT, Brainspotting, Theta healing and many more. I feel like I have this believe, that a normal life where I am free from this phobia is not possible for me. And logically I know this is not true but I just don’t know how I am supposed to let go of this phobia. And my body adjusted to these beliefs, because I cant eat that much and I always have digestive issues, especially when I am out. Through this fear Ive developed a spiritual practice which I am very grateful for and which helps me, but it doesn’t help me not being afraid of being sick. (Or losing control)
I would love to know, if phobias are harder to let go of than “generalized” anxiety? I feel like I can deal with anxiety quite well but when it comes to nausea or throwing up, I cannot think straight. My whole body takes over with a panic attack.
Thank you Sheryl for your work! It feeds my soul!
Please read the book Dare by Barry McDonagh. Phobias are completely resolvable!
I have battled intrusive thoughts and anxiety for a while and through intensive therapy was able to understand my fears a lot better. Whenever I have a transition (moving overseas,wedding,finishing Uni) the intrusive thoughts flare up again. They didn’t anymore in the intensity the way I had them before my therapy.
At the moment, I do have phases of anxiety and find it quiet hard to move on from them. I can’t go back to my therapist as I live overseas. I would be interested in the course to learn more on how to practically soothe myself but whenever I have tried to meditate or use breathing, my anxiety flares up and tells me I could turn crazy or loose my mind because of mediation and then I am too scared to do it again.
I am also in a loving and very happy marriage (despite all the relationship intrusive thoughts that I have overcome) and I can see us becoming parents in the next year but I worry intensely about if I can handle it (pregnancy,worrying about the child). I have thoughts ‚what if I have postnatal depression and can’t Love the child or I turn crazy and hurt it etc‘.
It’s difficult for me as I have once overcome all this. Worked very hard and felt I can handle whatever comes my way but atm I fear I spiral back into it.
I hope I can find peace and my strength back. Is the course an option too?