We are one body. We are one mind. We are one human family. Whatever inner struggles you’ve endured have been shared by millions of people, not only now but across time. Crossing over the chasms of heartbreak, trying to find your way through the cracks in your heart as you pick your way through the rubble and walk slowly through the dark caves is a universal experience. Your loss, your anxiety, your fears, your insecurities… none of them are unique.
And so it is with intrusive thoughts. You may have lived your entire life believing that you’re the only one to feel tortured by thoughts like, “What if I don’t love my partner?” or “What if there’s something wrong with me?” or “What if I harm a child?”, but if you’ve spent any time on my site you know that you’re not alone. As I wrote in The Wisdom of Anxiety, there isn’t an intrusive thought that I haven’t heard from the cross-section of my global highly sensitive, anxious audience, so whatever thoughts are clamoring at the edges of psyche, know first and foremost that I’ve heard them before and that you’re not alone.
Oftentimes, as evidence of the collective unconscious of which we’re all a part, an intrusive thought will show up in stark relief in my work, which means I’ll hear the same thought daily from clients, course members, and readers. Then I know that we’re in the realm of the collective, the great ocean of psyche where all fears, struggles, and shadow realms live, and it’s time to write about it here. This is why blog readers will often leave a comment like, “It’s like you’ve read my mind again!” I’m not a mind-reader; I’m a listener. I listen deeply to the threads that emerge in the individual human psyche, weaving them together through my writing to reveal one collective quilt.
Recently, the intrusive thought “I deserve to punished/suffer” rose up from the deep ocean waters, a thought that stems from a core shame belief that says, “I’m bad. I’m wrong. I’m broken. It’s always my fault.” Over and over again, on the Trust Yourself forum, among the members of my 9-month course, with clients, on my small group calls for relationship anxiety, and on my Instagram page I heard this refrain.
Truth be told, shame always arises in healing work, for it’s at the core of our inability to love ourselves and accept safe love from an available other. But there are different offshoots of shame, and the one that I’m currently seeing arose first from an exercise in the Trust Yourself course on intention where we talked about choosing an intention to grow or remaining in the default intention to protect and stay safe. The members piped up and said, “What if I don’t want to grow because I don’t deserve to heal?”
My response: Start where you are. Move toward this part of you and become curious about the inner character who believes that because you’re bad or broken you deserve to continue to suffer. The truth is that you’re intrinsically worthy of love, belonging, and healing, but this character either doesn’t know that or, more likely, chooses not to know that. So you start there, flooding this part with the light of attention and responding from a wise place inside until it starts to loosen its hold.
Why would a part of you choose not to believe in your essential goodness and instead stay fused with shame? There are several reasons:
Habit: You’ve grown around the belief that you’re not worthy of love and healing so it feels familiar. The ego clings to anything familiar and balks at the new, whether a mindset, a belief, a habit, or an action.
Control: As a child, you developed this belief because if you’re the one who’s not worthy, you can try to do something about that (be perfect, be emotional, not have needs, etc), but if you admit that it was your parents who were incapable the helplessness and despair you would have felt as young person would have been too much to bear. The belief that there’s something wrong with you gave/gives you the false illusion of control, because you can change you but you can’t change your parents. If you choose now to believe that you’re worthy of love then you have to face the excruciating pain that your early caregivers were incapable of meeting your needs.
Refusal of Responsibility: When you stay attached to this belief, you can refuse the call to take responsibility for your healing that hinges on committing to your inner work and daily practices. Again, it’s much easier to remain fixed to a familiar belief than it is to accept the truth, which is that you deserve to heal.
Once in an intimate relationship, many people struggle to see this core shame directly and instead project the belief that you’re not good enough onto your partner in the form of “you’re not [funny, attractive, interesting, intelligent] enough.” If your partner gets too close, they might see that you’re broken, so the belief that they’re not enough keeps them at bay.
The belief that you’re not worthy of love and deserving of goodness is the #1 belief that prevents you from loving and being loved.
It can take years to remove the projection that says the problem is your partner and touch down into this core belief; to see it directly is like looking at the sun in that the pain of it is so bright it’s searing. But this is the work that must be done if you’re going to learn how to love and be loved without the restriction of the defensive layers.
There are no quick fixes when it comes to healing. If I could wave a magic wand, eradicate your core shame, and infuse you with a direct transmission of your essential goodness – that you are worthy and deserving of love, that you are whole and beautiful exactly as you are – I would. But unless you live in a Hollywood movie, healing doesn’t work that way.
Instead, it’s a slow, moment-by-moment process of meeting ourselves where we are and learning to relate to the protector characters who brilliantly arose in early life to guard the gates of the heart. When we meet them face-to-face and learn how to relate to them with curiosity and compassion, they wield less power, for it’s in the seeing and facing that we realize that the inner characters of shame-and-fear are like the Wizard of Oz: they have a big bark but behind the black curtain stands a scared, little inner part.
If you struggle with relationship anxiety and are seeking further support for what it looks like to peer inside the inner labyrinths of Self and unravel the core beliefs that prevent you from loving and being loved, I invite you to join me for the first LIVE round of my Break Free From Relationship Anxiety Course. Together, over eight weeks, we will unpack the information and tools that will help you identify the root causes of your relationship anxiety and learn to unmask the projections that are preventing you from showing up with your full heart for the loving, available partner who stands before you.
We will talk about the difference between flags and red flags, explore the unique factors of your personality type that primed you for relationship anxiety, unpack the four realms of Self and how they relate to relationship anxiety, and explore in depth how to heal your intrusive thoughts at the root. Plus we will be meeting six times through live, group coaching calls where you will have the opportunity to hear other people’s stories and connect with me directly. Note: All calls will be recorded, so if you can’t make the live calls you can listen to the recording afterward.
For a complete breakdown of what the course includes, please read through this page. The LIVE version begins next Saturday, June 7th, 2020 and I look forward to meeting you there.