Turn to Face Your Fear

by | May 4, 2015 | 20s, Anxiety, Intrusive Thoughts | 75 comments

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMost of us spend our lives running from fear. We run from the bear chasing us in the dream. We run from the vague sense of discomfort that seems to follow us on a day spent alone, in silence, away from the distractions of crowds and noise. We run from the things that scare us most, whether it be flying, public speaking, or intimate relationships.

It’s natural to run from fear, of course. It’s pure instinct to run from the wild animals and places that lurk in the underbrush of consciousness. We could say it’s the most primal instinct of all species to hide or run in the face of fear. But, interestingly, it seems that one of the paths to emotional freedom is facing the inner landscapes that scares us most.

When I attended a dream workshop a couple of months ago with Jeremy Taylor, one of the most fascinating elements discussed was how our unconscious – through the gift of our dream life – encourages us to turn to face our fears. One woman shared an archetypal dream about a bear chasing her, and the group, most of whom were well-versed in dreamwork, encouraged her to engage in an active imagination dialogue with the bear and ask what it wants. “What is it that you want to share with me?” or “How can I help you?” are important questions to ask the “scary” figures in our dreams. The overriding and ego-paradoxical philosophy is that when we stop running from the figures and instead turn to face them we realize that they are actually here to help us.

Jeremy Taylor shares a man’s fascinating dream in his book, “The Wisdom of Your Dreams”, that illustrates this point quite poignantly. In this recurring dream the man is being chased by a fiery dragon, and in a moment of lucidity he turns around and demands to know why the dragon is terrorizing him. The dragon telepathically responds, “I am your smoking addiction!” Taylor shares the dreamer’s description:

In that moment of lucid realization, the dragon suddenly seems to change. It doesn’t really look any different, but its ‘expression’ seems to change. It begins to look winsome, almost charming – ‘Puff the magic dragon’ – more like a big, old familiar, friendly family dog than a menacing, deadly fire-breather.

My lucidity allows me to look even more closely at the ‘transformed’ monster, and I see clearly that there is a nasty, sticky brown slime covering its entire body, and that noxious smoke is oozing and sputtering from every orifice, even from around its eyes, and from under and between its scales. I smell this awful, rancid, repulsive odor coming from it. My revulsion returns, and in the dream I look at it and say with all my heart, ‘Get away from me! I no longer want you in my life!’

When he awakened, Alex was amazed to discover that he no longer craved the sensation of smoke in his lungs. Perhaps even more important, the desire for the instant and reliable ‘companionship’ that smoking had always given him was also gone. He has not smoked since the dream. (pp. 181-182; for the full description and analysis please read the book)

So we ask the question: Is our fear actually a helper in disguise? If you’ve ever turned to face your fear, you know that it’s often through riding directly into the middle of the fear-storm that we grow the most; that, in fact, when we walk through fear we often have a direct, felt-sense of the divine. Since we are no longer sent into the middle of the forest alone for a vision quest, is fear, and especially panic, the modern spiritual warrior’s training ground?

From what I can see the answer is yes. Which means that every moment of fear – especially our greatest fears – is an opportunity to heighten our capacity to love. Which means that every time we can walk through the portal of panic we discover God on the other side.

If you’ve ever suffered from panic attacks you know how utterly terrifying they are, how they send us to the brink of feeling like we’re either going to die or go crazy. We then avoid the situation where the panic initially hit, thinking that, by doing so, we can avoid the fear. But this only serves to increase the fear. Just like every other emotional state, fear ultimately wants to be known and seen. When we push it aside and avoid it, it slithers like an unwanted child into the darker recesses of psyche until it has no choice but to morph and re-emerge as anxiety, intrusive thoughts, or panic about another situation. The ego believes that we can package fear up and isolate it into one section of our lives. The unconscious has other plans.

At some point, usually when the fear grows big enough and interferes with our daily functioning, we are called to face our fears directly. This requires tremendous courage, for who in their right mind would actively seek out the wild beast in the darkest part of the forest? The light and inspiration is knowing that we must walk through the fear to arrive at love; there seems to be no other way. So we gather up our courage and resources of support and walk. Or the panic hits us and we have no choice but to face it. As I quoted from Pema Chodron a few weeks ago:

“Our challenge is to train in smiling at groundlessness, smiling at fear. I’ve had years of training at this because I get panic attacks. As anyone who has experienced panic attack knows, that feeling of terror can arise out of nowhere. For me it often comes in the middle of the night, when I’m especially vulnerable. But over the years I’ve trained myself to relax into that heart-stopping, mind-stopping feeling. My first reaction is always to grasp with fright. But Chogyam Trungpa used to gasp like that when we was describing how to recognize awakened mind. So now, whenever a panic attack comes and I gasp, I picture Chogyam Trungpa’s face and think of him hasping as she talked about awakened mind. Then the energy of panic passes through me.” (p. 93)

And then she writes:

“If you resist that panicky energy, even at an involuntary, unconscious level, the fear can last a long time. The way to work with it is to drop the story line and not pull back or buy into the idea, “This isn’t okay,” but instead to smile at the panic, smile at this dreadful, bottomless, gaping hole that’s opening up in the pit of your stomach. When you can smile at fear, there’s a shift: what you usually try to escape from becomes a vehicle for awakening you to your fundamental, primordial goodness, for awakening you to clear-mindedness, to a caring that holds nothing back.” (p. 93)

On the other side of a panic is a softened heart. On the other side of resistance is an increased capacity to feel compassion. On the other side of fear is love. Every time we walk through panic with a smile we soften a layer of fear that has encrusted around our hearts. Panic is the portal to an almost ecstatic experience. Why are we never taught this?

I had this experience a few years ago when I faced my childhood fear of driving on mountain roads that was catapulted into phobia after I had my first panic attack at 21 while driving on the freeway. After that first attack over twenty years ago I could barely drive ten minutes. Eventually I learned to white-knuckle it across Los Angeles freeways, but never without panic nipping at the heels of my mind. Over many years and a lot of hard inner work, the fear of driving diminished, but the fear of mountain roads, which has been with me since childhood, never faded. After reading Jeffrey Brantley’s “Calming the Anxious Mind”, I finally decided to turn to face this particular fear and, on our next family vacation up to Estes National Park in the Rocky Mountains, told my husband that I would do the driving.


Up the Mountain

Driving into the center of my fear,

like the eye of the hurricane,

moving toward that which has gripped me for 19 years,

for lifetimes,

I finally say yes:

yes to the sensation of

hands on my throat,

my tongue as thick as wool,

throat like desert sand,

my breath stopped short.

I almost said stolen but

there is no enemy here,

it is only this:

my fear-body.

I observe it now from the

part of me smiling from the

corner of my mind, the part that

knows that I am not this fear.


We climb higher into the mountains

and as I breathe into the fear it

swivels like a revolving door,

and I see in a moment of clarity

that fear is the door:

On one side panic and

the other side God

so that the mountains are no longer my enemy

but my deepest comfort – how could I not have seen it before –

the majesty protecting me,

the glacier gliding me into this adventure.

“Why are they so beautiful?” my son asks.

My thick woolen tongue still catches my breath,

I remind myself to connect to spaciousness:

If I am observing my fear who is the I that observes?

A space.

And then

a thousand flowers on my tongue,

a rainbow of butterflies come to

drink nectar, to drop my

throat with dew,

Great Mother here to bring water and warmth.

as are the angels of poetry.

I’ve resisted this fear for so long that I forgot that it

can be a doorway into other worlds.


And then

the peak.

“It’s the homestretch,” my husband says

I grab his hand as tears break free.

“I did it,” I whisper.

The perfect beauty unfolds as if it’s here for my eyes only,

as if the mountains are applauding and the

lake sings its praises,

ever more blue to my soul that has walked through a layer of fear,

as if the air around me says, “I am here to support you,”

and I know

we are not alone.

When we gather our courage, walk toward the edge and jump,

we open to invisible hands.

I hear a voice:

God lives in the fear.

I didn’t know.



We all have our mountains to climb. We climb them in the middle of the night when we’re awakened by a nightmare or the dark fingers of the unconscious find their way into conscious mind. We climb them in our relationships when fear tries to steal us away from the risk of loving. We climb them every time we move toward the fear, and, in the same seemingly paradoxical breath, move toward love.



  1. Oh, wow, I needed this. I’m flying on Friday and it’s been pretty rough inside this time around. Thank you!! 🙂

    • Flying is a great opportunity to face fear for many people, as it brings us face-to-face with feeling out of control and, thus, death (even though we know intellectually that flying is the safest form of transportation). If it helps, try keeping my son, Everest, in mind, who literally laughs more the more turbulence there is! It’s what Pema talks about it in terms of smiling at the fear (except that he’s truly excited; not scared at all). If you can keep an image of smiling or laughing in mind, the fear will diminish.

      • That’s an AMAZING visual!!!

      • Thank you, Sheryl! Yes, completely out of control and death. I will definitely work with that visual. 🙂

        • And remember that fear can be “AHHHH” or fear can be “WHEEEEEEEE!”, like riding on a roller coaster.

  2. Thank you so much! I’ve been on this journey for 3 months and it’s getting a lot better! Every time I start a new relationship fear enters my mind! This time I am choosing to go toward it and work through it. It just so happens that I am in the best relationship of my life and my fear is the most intense fear that I have ever had.

  3. So so beautiful, Sheryl <3 perfect timing

  4. Thank you for this, Sheryl. Your timing is always incredibly perfect.

  5. Wow this amazing and of course came at the perfect time. I’ve been feeling so much fear around death and suffering, I think often about the animals and it just breaks my heart every day. The pain and suffering they go through, the pain that us humans cause them and yet they have done nothing to us to deserve such cruelty. I think that awareness itself can be too much at times and I find myself running from that overwhelming grief. Afraid that if I relax into i’ll spiral into despair.

    I really love this part “every moment of fear – especially our greatest fears – is an opportunity to heighten our capacity to love. Which means that every time we can walk through the portal of panic we discover God on the other side” so beautiful.

    • “Afraid that if I relax into it I’ll spiral into despair.” This is such a common fear about grief, Smiccile, and I assure you that the opposite is true: when you tamp down the grief and try to avoid it, it morphs into anxiety, depression, and ultimately despair. It’s the paradox of living from an open heart: the more you feel the pain, the more you open up the pathways for joy to flow.

  6. I remind myself when I am scared that fear and excitement is actually the same (the chemicals released in the brain is the same fr both excitement and fear) so it is how we perceive this that effects whether we feel fear or excitement. I know there’s a lot more to this but just a good thing to keep in mind when scared of something 🙂 x

    • Yes, Robert Heller said, “Fear is excitement without the breath.”

  7. So when your fear is revolving around a relationship how do you look at it as excitement?

    • You breathe into it and then acknowledge that fear, excitement and love all live together the same chambers of the heart.

      • Thank you so much Sheryl! With the help from you and an amazing counselor I am learning a lot! This is probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever had and I’m only 27.

        • Hi Sheryl, I’ve been doing medicine work for three years and last August had a terrible experience, which landed me and chemical and stress induced psychotic like symptoms.

          With a narcissistic, misogynistic, and bipolar father, and a mother, who rejected her femininity, I’ve been wrestling with intrusive thoughts and images that have led me to deeply second guess my female identity. “Is this the real me?” “What if I got it all wrong” “Am I really just like my mother?” Coupled with a very fleeting sense of disgust.

          Do you have any thoughts or encouragement you might offer to help properly frame my perspective?

          Thank you 🙏🏻

      • Wow, that makes things clearer. Sometimes I feel excited and full of love for my partner coming home, which very quickly can turn into fear. They all live together as one. I don’t know where I would be if I never found this website x

        • Yes, it makes sense now. Every time I think of a relationship with this special man that has been awesome to me I feel loved and happy, but after a few moments I start to fear so much that I feel like giving up. In that moment of fear I don’t feel attracted or connect to him, which then I see it as I sign that the relationship is not right or that I’m just forcing myself to like him just because he is a nice guy.
          The hardest thing in my case about the fear is that it does not only make me feel uncomfortable, it makes me feel nauseous which then I end up throwing up. I hate that because even though I try to walk through the fear, it gives me these physical symptoms that are almost impossible to control.
          I don’t want to give up, I will try to keep thinking that it is all excitement.

          Sheryl, do you think this fear of relationship could be a fear of losing my parents or transition into adulthood? I remember when I was 8 years old crying at nigh just thinking if my parents die I would be by myself. I’m very close to them, and whether I feel anxious I just want to hug them, as if that fear or relationship would take me away from them.

  8. LOVE this! As I once again begin to work on myself with the help of a therapist – this time for other anxieties outside of my relationship – it didn’t occur to me until your post that my current incarnation of anxiety is my fear screaming to be noticed once again. Thank you!

  9. Sheryl,

    Can your post today be applied to any type of fear? When I was in grade school I got really sick at school with appendicitis and threw up in front of my classmates. I was yelled at by the school janitor and then made fun of by classmates after. The experience was very traumatic and I have had a fear of vomiting in public/in front of anyone ever since. I was able to mostly get over this in high school unless I was on the spot-preforming at a sporting event or giving a speech. The fear would come up so strong that may times I couldn’t go through with these situations. Fast forward several years and the fear came up again when I was planning my wedding…the intense fear that I would get sick while everyone was watching me get married. I almost didn’t go through with the wedding because of this! I ended up having a fairly large wedding and was under extreme distress leading up to it and the whole day of my wedding.

    I find what you said-that if you ignore or try and push away the fears-they come back in the form of anxiety. Now, a few years after my wedding, the fear has crept into almost every part of my life and I have anxiety eating in a restaurant, riding public transportation, flying, going to other peoples weddings, funerals, etc. etc. etc.

    As I approach 30, I know how irrational this is but it seems unconscious. Can you comment on such a specific phobia? Is this just another fear that there is an underlying fear of uncertainty that I need to work with?

    Thank you for allowing me to share this here- I have never told anyone about this because I am so embarrassed!

    • These kinds of phobias are more common than you think, Morgan, and I’m glad you found the courage to share it here. When phobias are connected with a specific trauma, as it is for you, I would encourage a more body-based approach that goes directly to the unconscious, like somatic experiencing or EMDR. It usually only takes a few sessions to release the trauma, and then you can work more directly with the fear of uncertainty.

  10. Awesome!!! I had an experience of panic yesterday when after reading an article on allowing the wounded inner child to express her pain was a part of grieving. It was interesting the many distractions that were offered as diversions. I had never experienced this kind of fear. However, I told myself that it was time to allow my inner child to speak of why she tends to procrastinate as I could not seem to access that part. Incidentally, a friend of mine pointed out that I should change the word procrastination to avoidance as the very word had s punitive underpinning. I found my inner child on top of a pile of dirty clothes in the “dirty clothes closet” and she told me how she felt when our mom died when we were 3, but she told me she was frightened by my shaming her. I had not realized I was shaming her with my fits of rage when we were all alone. It was an amazing revelation into this fear which at 60 was definitely timely to witness. I had never realized that my rage scared her until I rememberEd once my granddaughter sensed my frustration and said I was “scaring her”. She was 3 at that time. My inner child said she would come out when she felt safe. So…I am looking for ways to stop this raging when we are alone. Thank you for letting me share.

  11. This brought tears to my eyes, so beautiful! Thank you Sheryl.

  12. I love this, Sheryl, and have shared it with my partner, my mother in law, my best friend. I too had panic attacks at age 21, and a morbid fear of driving, that I only completely conquered at age 31 (ironically at a very low point in my life, when my relationship to my mortality dramatically shifted for a short while). I always felt broken and defective because of my panic attacks and my driving phobia (and friends, ‘in jest’, often made comments along those lines: ‘My Clara’s broken, I need a new one’). I carried so much shame, and a desperate need to compensate for my defectiveness. Now, in my mid-30s, having worked with you and with other wise sages, I have learned to understand my fear differently, and have had the experience now many times of fear transforming into ecstacy – into God, as you put it. This message is so important: God lives in the fear. Thank you Sheryl, for giving voice to this wisdom.

  13. Sheryl, your words are such a gift to me. Thank you for sharing why I can welcome fear, and for your poetry of your encounter on the mountain.

    Also, you recommended a book last week (Attached by Emir Levine) that I read in its entirety over 3 days. Its message went through me like a river whose dam had been removed. I am continuing to soak in it, and practice encountering my fear as I move more and more to being fully present. Truly, many thanks.

    • I’m so pleased to hear this, John. Very pleased.

  14. Hey Sheryl,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a year now, and I want to thank you for helping me tremendously. I have dealt with everything you write about. But right now I’m not anxious at all. After a huge fight with my bf, it’s like i closed off completely. It happened before… but I don’t know. Is it normal? Does it happen when you get tired of your anxiety and want everything to stop?
    I would really appreciate if you could answer, but I’ll understand if you don’t. Thnak you for everything you do. Sending love from Croatia.

  15. But Sheryl, when the beast in my dreams says I need to break up with my bf, how can I do that? I don’t want to, I want this anxiety to go away, and Im crying while writing this Im so lost. So very dissapointed in how my life turned out. Im so tired having this knot in my stomach that wont go away, telling me i must leave this amazing man to recover from this nightmare. I dream about it and I live it. For nine months now and Im starting to believe that this is how my life was meant to turn out. I feel no lust about anything really when Im this deep, my parents and friends try to help me but there is really nothing they can do can they? Gone to a CBT therapist for 8 months, and she has given up hope, I can sense it, this last thing we tried with ERP didnt work out, it didnt help one bit.

    • Have you taken any of my courses? CBT and ERP will help you deal with the thoughts but they won’t address the anxiety from the root. Have you read through my entire site? Much to be gleaned if you’re willing to put in the time.

  16. Oh. My. God. That was AMAZING!
    I am so grateful to you for writing that! Its like a eureka feeling when one reads this post. Its beautiful and so inspiring!

  17. Hi Sheryl 🙂

    When reading throug the blogposts on this website it is weird in how many stories I recognize myself… And it gives me new insights. I realized that I am one of the highly sensitive people of this world and that I have a very distorted view about love. I was not scared in a relationship with many ‘red flags’ and now I have a great relationship and I have this constant have this ‘fear feeling’. And I can continue for a long time, since you wrote so many great stories.

    What spikes my anxiety.. and I am sure that it is my fear voice speaking.. Is the fact that in many of your stories I notice spiritual grounds and arguments. Since I am from a very ‘down to earth’ culture, my minds says immediately: Very nice you found recognizable stories, but you are not that spiritual, with you it won’t work that way..
    And than I am back at square one :(.. Do you also work with clients who live in this ‘down to earth’ cultures.. do you have any advice?

    • Hello Anne,

      I’ve had an Experience that is similar to yours. my partner and I have the same spiritual beliefs so the fear doesnt stem from that but it does spike my anxiety that a lot of people have fear around that! I have been working with my therapist a lot and my fear stems from fear of loss! That is the root of my anxiety! I am so scared of losing my partner that my brain comes up with new fears every day! Sheryl, is this common?

    • I’m curious what you mean when you say “I’m not that spiritual” because to me being “down to earth” is as spiritual as it gets : ).

      • I think a better word that describes my culture is ‘straightforward’: when you think something, it must be true. When your anxious it’s just what it is, act on it but don’t look for other ‘explanations’ to justify your thoughts.

        After your reply I started looking for definitions of spiritual and there are a variety of definitions.. One defintion really spoke to me and relates to the transition we are all goin through: ‘Spirituality is the praxis and process of personal transformation, either in accordance with traditional ideals, or, increasingly, oriented on subjective experience and spychological growth independtly of any specific religious context. In a more general sense, ti may refer to amost any kind of meanignful activity or blissful experience.’ (Wikipedia)

        After reading this definition I realized I am indeed more spiritual than I thought, especially since the fear has increased.
        Another thing I realized (and this is thanks to your blog and it is rather spiritual) is the fact that I am more spiritual and sensitive since my current boyfriend. It is like he softened/lowered/opened the wall around my heart. He is the first man who makes me think about myself and how I am feeling. He helps me to make me think positive about myself and secure about our relationship.
        Logically, while he was working on my walls around my heart, the fear increased.. My fear thinks it is more safe to have these high walls so no one can hurt me.. But actually, it is a good thing that this fear increased.. because it is my own responsibility to work with these walls, my boyfriend cannot do more than he is doing for me. Now it’s up to me! And I am going to be as dedicated as he is, that is the least I can and what he deserves after all his hard work!

        While writing this post it makes me sure I have to start journaling like you recommend. When reflecting on what is happening and what I am feeling, makes me realize many new things about me and my situation.

        Thank you for your reply and making me reflect on this.

        • I’m very pleased to read this ;).

  18. Sheryl, thank you for your thought provoking wisdom and for sharing your open heart through poetry. Your words “as I breathe into the fear it swivels like a revolving door” truly resonate. I so often find that Im afraid to allow myself to experience the fear and move towards it. When I do breathe into the fear and communicate with my fears, as if they are friend not foe, I feel the walls come down and I see things clearly, lovingly. I wrote a show and performed it last week. After all the buildup and time spent working on it, it came and went and I found myself growing depressed and picking my partner apart. I felt uninspired and quickly turned to blame him for my lack of esteem and energy. All weekend into the week, I’ve been impatient with his silence. He is a quiet and introspective man and I do get annoyed sometimes when we’re on a date and there are long moments of silence. When we aren’t having invigorating conversations I immediately go to “we’re not connected.” Or “maybe we don’t have enough in common.” And “have we grown apart?” But then, after reading your post, I turned inward and realized again that since my show ended I have not been connected to ME. Thank you for reminding me to breathe into the fear. Today it feels good to connect with myself.

  19. Hi sheryl, Love this blog! Today anxiety decided to say hello once again. I thought anxiety left me for good because i have done the work. I now know i need to keep working on it.. Sit with it. I am getting better and better so mych closer to a peaceful free mind. I wanna as you Sheryl or anyone else a question. I have had all the overwhelming symptoms of anxiety. One of the annoying symptom is my eyes seem to feel tired and watery. Does anyone get this?

    • Yes my eyes Sometimes feel that way too! Also, when you did the work the first time to get past your anxiety, how long did it take? What was your fear telling you?

  20. Its like my eyeballs wanna pop out. My eyes feel nervous. I hope i make sense here.

  21. Sheryl, why do I feel so apathetic towards my relationship and why do I find my partner such a bother? I’ve currently extremely frustrated with how stagnant my life is. I am so annoyed, so angry at the lack of passion in my relationship, not only that, but I haven’t been doing my music, my work ethic has always been poor in school, and I want to make progress and be a more consistent student but it feels pointless because of how getting into a local university is especially when I’ve made a mess of my first year due to my relationship anxiety. I feel so powerless in my life, i feel so frustrated dealing with my thoughts and temptations of lust and I’m lock up with fear whenever i think about me possibly developing feelings for others and i am so afraid because crushing on someone used to be so overpowering that i lose all my common senses. I can’t seem to find a strong common interest between me and my partner despite being together for over 10 months and I find myself constantly looking at her flaws, to the point that when I’m going to meet her, my first thought is whether I’m going to find her attractive today. And she often treats me as the one she can go to when she has problems, and I was happy with it but now I just frustrated with the futility of it all that I really can’t be bothered anymore and I just sigh whenever she starts, I hate this. I really just want to know how I can handle this

    • Along with these, the fact that this is my first long term relationship makes it even worst because of how many stories of first relationships never lasting and how the lack of strong feelings makes it harder to sustain. Is this fear, why do I feel so frustrated to the points that I tear but yet function completely normally until I have to interact with my partner? I feel so defeated by everything, i feel like every other woman is more attractive, i feel like everyone else is doing so well in their life, i feel like a disheveled mess but I’ve really been trying to improve.

      • Smiling in the face of fear tires me out, I don’t have the energy to be positive. :'(

        • Kevin,

          I have had very similar feelings! Just remember that just because you find someone attractive does not mean they are a good match for you! A lot of the people may also be unavailable when you have a loving girlfriend! Has the anxiety been going on since the beginning? Mine has, and I am slowly but surely moving past it! Keep working hard! I’ve gone through this with almost every relationship I’ve been in and Sheryl is right when she says on the other side of anxiety is serenity. It’s hard to believe when we are going through all of this work, but it’s true! There is a reason that you are sticking with this relationsjip! Don’t give up! I have to repeat that to myself almost every day but it is getting better!

          • The anxiety came in almost immediately after I entered the relationship, and I struggle to find reasons for why I’m attracted or why I even like her. It keeps coming back and it fades once in a while, but I really don’t know how I can handle this anxiety for the rest of my life. I really want to find a reason to like her, but I don’t know what

    • Wow, it’s so strange hearing how similar your feelings are to mine. It helps me, so thank you for being brave enough to share. I too have had anxiety from the start, but pushed forward because a voice knew someone who really loved me was good for me even if the rest of me screamed no! Now I’ve come face to face with all the anxiety and it’s so so hard. I have those feelings for others who I don’t know, and after I feel so guilty & ashamed. I’m slowly realising all these feelings are about me, projected onto strangers, onto my partner onto my family. They are all parts of me that I want to integrate/heal. It’s funny when you say how lust can feel overpowering, that’s how a lot of my own feelings can be (ESP lust) which lead me all over the place, anything but stay present and listen to myself. This work is really hard though, so talking to a counsellor/using sheryls support would really help. I’m realising a lot of how I feel was stuff I never resolved as a child with my parents and now I have to step up and support myself through all of these tangled and conflicting feelings. But without an achor of support encouraging me to stay present, I would have and maybe even still at times, run. But how long can you run from yourself??

  22. Carmen,
    Thats a relief im not the only one. When i first found beautiful Sheryl 2 years ago. I was feeling so overwhelmed with anxiety, I had all the thoughts, do i really love my husband, am i just settling. I couldnt function mentally and physically but with Sheryls course. The wedding ecourse. I started to feel i understood what anxiety is about. I would say every month i got better. I didnt resist i just sat with it. I did nearly gave up on my relationship thank god from the enormous support from Sheryl, family and friends and pyschogist. I stayed strong. Everyone told me it wasnt my partner that gave me anxiety it was me. Like everybody on this planet. We are all affraid of taking a risk for LOVE. thats why we feel this way. Even though we feel we are ready our thoughts play games with us OUR EGO interferes.

    • How great that your family is so supportive! It is so true that our ego interferes! I love my boyfriend SOOO much when I don’t have fear! I am so thankful that other people go through this too!

  23. Carmen & Kevin,
    You guys are fear warriors. Ok you havent given up, even though anxiety is exhausting and you feel tired of this. relationships are worth it. LOVE. Is worth it. I know exactly how you guys feel.. Believe me it will get better. I know it feels like this anxiety which i call a bluff will never dissappear.. But it will diminish..Nothing of us are getting punished we are only growing as an individual. We are transitioning. I still do ask myself when are these horrible feelings of anxiety going to end. It will end. Serenity is within us and we will feel the peace of mind. Practice and change our thought process. I try my best not to focus and look for someone or something to distract me. Laughter, journaling everyday. Music helps me the most. I have faith in you guys. Your doing great work.

    • Angela thank you so much for your support! Great to know your story too!

    • Thank you so much. I tend to stray towards a negative mind state, and the fact that my aunt mentions how love at my age is nothing more than ‘puppy love’ and seeing people who can look past their partner’s flaws and still be together. And how I always find myself attracted physically to really attractive women or even just the thought of receding to my own mindset of chasing unavailable women scares me. And the fear makes the temptations even more prevalent which amplifies the fear, and I’m just depressed with all of this. And I get so irritated when she comes to me about problems I don’t know the solution to, I feel so powerless. Especially when she is particularly prone to anxiety and panic attacks. I want to help her, but I don’t know what to do about her problems and I just end up being frustrated in the end

      • Kevin,

        I think that this process is a gift because we’re all learning what real love is! Look at it that way! There are other people in this world that we will always find attractive but that doesn’t mean they are emotionally available like out partners are

        • It’s so difficult to deal with her emotional states, my insecurities and her insecurities. I find it harder for me to trust myself to share my problems with her, and it made her feel like I’m excluding her from this relationship, and I really feel so empty and I don’t know what to do with this relationship

          • I just want to know if I’m serious about this relationship

  24. Carmen,
    Its such a pleasure! We are at the right place. In most of my relationships i suffered anxiety, i did see physcologists , therapists you name it ive seen them all. Most of them said i was in a toxic relationship and i believed it, and i left my past relationships. Since meeting Sheryl, i know that wasnt the case at all. It was me all along. I am a very sensitive person and by doing Sheryl’s inspiring work I needed to feel my feelings and not focus on my thoughts because there only thoughts coming from fear. Thats all it is we are just fear of getting hurt, risking commitment is huge. Like Sheryl said unless there is a RED FLAG then your in a loving relationship. And even so you can still have the possibility to sort things out. I have never been a quitter. I never give up. Thats my motto. My husband is the most amazing and caring person I have ever met. I would be crazy to let him go over this bluff. Good luck Carmen x

    • Thank you Angela!

  25. Oh Sheryl I so needed this today. This week has been full of waking up in panic, the night sweats, the pit in my stomach – and then I look at the man sleeping next to me and think it must be him. Thank you for this beautiful writing.

  26. Sheryl, is it normal that when you’re anxious you’re more irritable toward the people who love you the most? I have a twin sister and we’re best friends but when I’m having feelings of uncertainty toward my boyfriend I become irritable toward her.

    • If anyone else has insight on this let me know! I just feel like I want to shut myself out from everyone! Like I crave just being alone.

      • I understand how you feel, when I am facing problems of my own, or anxiety, my parents, my partner all seem extremely irritable to me, to me it seems like you just need some time to yourself to take breather away from life for a bit. It is normal! And I’m sure all of us have experience extremely strong irritation toward people close to us!

  27. Just started reading the book called “the untethered soul.” I highly recommend it

  28. Kevin and Carmen,
    I went through such irritability with my family, work colleagues, husband. I tried to hold back my irritable stmptoms, it was challenging and frustrating. Just horrible, i felt guilty when i lashed out at my mum and brothers. I didnt want to feel this way but thats anxiety. I tried to talk to it and say go away anxiety your not welcome. I am committed to making this commitment. I love my husband, even though i couldnt feel at the time. Deep down i knew i really loved my husband. I didnt feel the butterflies in my stomach with my husband from the first day i met him. It concerned me, and i now know its infatuation. Those feelings are only temporary. Real love is more than just infatuation like Sheryl says. Love needs time to grow it dosent happen from the first instant you meet someone. This culture tells us lies. Love is not a fairytale its real experiences. I hope i helped.

    • Yes this definitely helped! Thank you

    • “Love needs time to grow it doesn’t happen from the instant you meet someone”

      Love this. Thank you x

  29. Now I am at the stage where I feel empty and just feel like crying when I’m around anyone! I feel like I’m driving my family nuts!

  30. Carmen, I understand how u feel, what i use to do is step outside and take a breather. You need to some me time, tell ur family u need to rest. Im sure they understand. Do you also feel they drive you nuts? and there probably not doung anything wrong. Just noise elevated voices drove me up the wall. I wanted to scream.

    • Yes I do feel like they drive me crazy sometimes 🙂 I’m so glad other people go through this too!

  31. Louise, your welcome, im only learning from Sheryls work which Has helped me to understand. And through my experiences I like to preach how it truly is. X

  32. Sheryl, can relationship anxiety actually make you fear that you truly don’t care whether you stay with your partner or not? I have been having the worst anxiety all year over the thought of not loving my partner enough, and then it turned into the fear that I did not love him at all. Now it is the fear that I don’t care at all and just don’t want to hurt him. I want to be with him, but these thoughts feel so real. When I’m about to go and spend time with him, I have terrible anxiety and get sick to my stomach because I’m afraid I won’t feel anything when I’m with him (I hardly ever do anymore). Does this sound like relationship anxiety, and is there anyway to deal with this on your own or is counselling a necessity?

    • Also, is it normal to doubt that it is relationship anxiety at all?

      • Classic ego-line designed to convince you to walk away ;). It’s essential to call those ego-lines out on the mat so that you can identify them and not become fused with them.

        • It’s almost like it is more depression than anxiety, though. Does that normally happen? Something tells me it’s not going to work out, that we weren’t meant to be, and after denying it for months and months, it’s almost like I’ve accepted that, even though I don’t want to. I just feel a lack of connection lately. I know you answered something similar, but how young do you think one can be who is capable of dealing with this? I’m almost 20, so everyone thinks it’s because I haven’t “lived my life yet.” But I just really want it to be him — or I thought I did.


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