When you’re neck-deep and soul-soaked in anxiety, when you’re having trouble eating, sleeping, and basically functioning, when the love you formally felt for your partner has been eclipsed by indifference, doubt, or numbness, when intrusive thoughts invade your brain day and night, you will inevitably ask, “When will I feel better?” This question hits at the onset of anxiety when the symptoms are full-tilt misery, it hits when the excruciating first set of symptoms starts to abate, and it hits when people find my work and sign up for my courses. “When will I feel better?” they ask, with desperation in their voices.
My response: It takes time. As we live in a culture that conditions us to expect immediate results and relief this is soften a difficult concept to accept. Hungry? Order fast-food. Lonely? Send a text. Need a sexual release? Watch porn. Have a headache? Pop a pill. Our fast-food, quick-fix, instant gratification culture is eroding our capacity for accessing one of the most important resources we need as humans: patience. In our warped sense of time, we expect relief now. We’ve lost our appreciation for slow-cooked experiences, from literal food to the emotional realm of soul. We no longer write letters and wait with anticipation for a response. We no longer pull up a chair for loneliness. We’ve nearly lost our capacity to be in any regard, from sitting by a fire with no sound other than the crackling of the flames to lying in the grass and staring out the sky without a phone by our side.
But there is no way to rush healing. The soul, like animals, continues to move at its own pace, according to its own rhythm; its clock cannot be altered by technology. This is a source of frustration to our modern minds that have forgotten how to wait, but if you can shift your focus a few degrees and slip into a new context, one that understands slow living and slow healing, you will find some exhale.
Ironically, we now, as a culture, need patience while we develop the art and skill of patience! We need patience as we learn to find more compassion for ourselves, as we un-learn the defenses and mental habits that we erected a long time ago in order to try to stay safe and avoid risk and now rewire those micro-moments so that we respond to ourselves with kindness instead of cruelty.
As the Archbishop Desmond Tutu shares in The Book of Joy:
“I think it takes time to learn to be laid-back. You know, it’s not something that just comes ready-made for you. No one ought to feel annoyed with themselves. It just adds to the frustration. I mean, we are human beings, fallible human beings. And as the Dalai Lama points out, there was a time… I mean, we see him serene and calm. Yet there were times when he, too, felt annoyed and perhaps there still are. It’s like muscles that have to be exercised to be strong. Sometimes we get too angry with ourselves thinking we ought to be perfect from the word go. But this being on earth is a time for us to learn to be good, to learn to be more loving, to learn to be more compassionate. And you learn not theoretically.” The Archbishop was pointing his index finger at his head. “You learn when something happens to test you.” p. 92
We are so hard on ourselves, and this built-in perfectionist is compounded by the implicit message in the culture is that we should have it all figured out right now. If you start meditating, you expect relief within a matter of days or weeks. When you start excavation your inner world, you expect this exploration to yield immediate results. When you enter into a relationship or get married, you expect to feel all of the feelings of love at the onset. We’ve lost the longview and have adopted the belief that it should all happen right now. The Dalai Lama has been meditating nearly his entire eighty years of life for hours every day and he still loses his patience and gets irritated at times.
Parallel to the need to cultivate patience is the recognition that, when it comes to healing, there is no finish line. From what I’ve seen through working with clients and delving into my own inner world, we each carry a handful of challenging spots that, at each transition or breaking point, can find an element of healing. For example, if you struggle with the need to control outcomes or caring what others think, these core issues will illuminate in stark relief at key thresholds in your life – like getting married or becoming a parent – offering you an opportunity to shine a light of consciousness on them more powerfully than during other times, which will lessen the power they wield in your life. But that doesn’t mean they will magically disappear. We heal in layers and spirals, peeling away like an onion so that we arrive closer to living from our core, so that at each layer of healing we find more spaciousness and well-being. The core issues still live inside of us, but hold less court each time we heal a layer.
When we truly cultivate the mindset of patience and understand that we heal in layers and spirals, we step into the river wherever we’re at. In other words, we stop resisting the process of life, stop expecting it to be different, stop waiting to “feel better” and instead find sustenance and meaning in the process itself. There is no there; there is only here. And here, in this moment, the entire universe is revealed. Here, in this moment, is the opportunity to learn and grow and feel your pain and, in doing so, open up the pathways to joy and grow your capacity to give and relieve love. It’s not out there. It’s not in another house or city or job or partner. It’s not when you finally get pregnant or when your baby arrives. The work of learning about love is here. The path of finding joy is now.
We are all participants in this grand experiment of what it means to be human. Our classroom is planet Earth. Our teachers are fear, doubt, pain, and change. We can rebel against our teachers, falling prey to the belief that when life gets hard we’re being singled out or punished in some way, or we can accept that we’re all in this together. We are all challenged in different ways, at different times. No two paths look the same, but they all share the common theme that there is no way to be a human on this planet without experiencing pain in some form. Pain is not the tormentor. Pain is the teacher. Fear is the friend in disguise. Anxiety is the messenger. When you shift your perspective, everything changes, and what was previously intolerable because you were trying to get over it and control the pain as fast as possible, now unfolds into a journey of discovery.
Two songs that speak to the theme of this post:
Your articles are like the voice of a calm, patient and kind friend who doesn’t just comfort but guides by sharing his/her wisdom. Needless to say they are an inspiration when I read them every week. But these posts and the stories that people share below are also a regular reminder that healing needs time and patience and work.
Thank you, Anna. I’m so glad the articles speak to you.
By the way, especially this post spoke to me and it reminded me of somethingg I wrote in my diary last month. Like so many, I am a perfectionist, but I’m not very trained yet in recognizing the traps that I keep falling into. Then, last month, I wrote out a list of every unspoken demand I make of myself. Very quickly I reached 44 items, but I could have gone on. and it reminded me of somethingg I wrote in my diary last month. Like so many, I am a perfectionist, but I’m not very trained yet in recognizing the traps that I keep falling into. Then, last month, I wrote out a list of every unspoken demand I make of myself. Very quickly I reached 44 items, but I could have gone on. When I saw that list, of demands I’ve built up over 24 years of living, I finally confronted all these demands weighing me down, from “I have to speak more than ‘just’ two languages” to “I have to know about music” to “I have to come across as more assertive”. I never challenged them before – because it never seemed to me like I was hard on myself. Writing it all out felt so freeing because I just looked at it and said to myself: my goodness, who on earth is actually this perfect? And even if they are, does that guarantee they’re happier? Why would those two things even be connected?
So, these days when I get down, feel pressured or overwhelmed I look at that long, crazy list and tell myself: “I’m fine as I am now”. It will take me a while to really start feeling those words as true, rather than just knowing and rationally arguing that they must be true. But if I keep going inward and actually listen to fear, pain and anxiety and what they actually mean, I think they can start to feel true somewhere along the line.
Thank you for inspiring me and so many others!
(Oops, sloppy copy-paste mistake in the first bit, that’s why it looks a bit odd.)
Fantastic, Anna! What a great exercise, and I’m sure you’ll inspire others just as you’ve been inspired. Blessings to you.
Thank you for sharing this Anna. I think this exercise would be great for me and relate to the ones you said!
And Sheryl if you read this: I love this song by Trevor Hall and always thought it’s so fitting for this work. Love his stuff in general! And Alanis Morissette also :).
Gorgeous songs, both of them ;). And that exercise would be a great one for you.
Thank you both!
Thank you Sheryl. For so long I was rushing to the finish line to.feel better. Thank you for this post
It’s our instinct to rush to feel better, Nat. It takes a real discipline of mind and shift in perspective to realize that there is no finish line.
I soo needed this, Sheryl! I literally was just talking to a CM about how frustrated I am with my recent relapse after doing really well for a pretty good chunk of time. I feel like I’m back at square one. I was proud of myself for setting the wedding date and booking the venue and was actually experiencing pure genuine excitement and happiness. I had so many moments where I thought, “thank God for Sheryl’s work, thank God for my wonderful fiancé,” and I would cry with gratitude. Now, that I’m back in an anxious/doubting place, I’m doing my best to just remind myself that relapses are normal, that every time I draw closer to more commitment, fear will pipe up. It’s comforting (as uncomfortable as it is) to know that it takes time to fully heal, that there’s nothing wrong with me or my relationship, that I’ve learned and healed some, and there’s more to be healed.
I’m glad it came at the right time, and I’m thrilled to hear that you’re having long stretches of clarity! And I wouldn’t call the ebbs “relapses” as it makes it sound like healing happens in a straight line with “relapses” times when you “go backwards”. Healing happens on a curve, truly in layers and spirals, and anxiety is part of the equation, not something separate from it.
I feel like I could write exactly what you just did to explain how I’m feeling. For the past 6 months, I have been experiencing those stretches of clarity and it felt GREAT! I looked back at the times I was in this pit of fear and thought “how did I allow myself to think these things I’m so in love and so happy!” and well, here we are, and a “relapse” just occurred. The thoughts that finally didn’t bother me as much anymore came back (what if i cheated? what if im supposed to be with someone else? where my obsession would focus on one old guy friend) and sure enough I fell back into the pit of despair. Like Sheryl said, I wouldn’t call it a relapse although that’s exactly what it feels like when its happening. I feel defeated and disappointed. These thoughts have caused me to experience the same numbness, fear, and distance that they once provoked in the past. Its funny because just two weeks ago my boyfriend came to visit me at work and I got butterflies and felt that in loveness feeling and just pure happiness. I was seeing clear. I remember thinking wow, I am so in love. and then BOOM! Intrusive thought. I feel as soon as we begin to recognize them and label them like Sheryl explains, it will reduce their power. But again, its so hard to do sometimes when you fall into fear. Sending you positive vibes girl!
As always Sheryl, AMAZING post at just the right time. Love all that you do!
I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling, too, and are experiencing a gross “ebb.” Use those moments of clarity as your guideposts! I have experiences like that, too, where I look back at anxious moments completely perplexed, as though it happened to another person. Similarly, I’ve had days where I’ve felt so much love, following be apathy, doubt, extreme anxiety. So much of this work is acceptance, the ebbs and the flows, and recognizing that we can’t be perfect. Hang in there!
Amazing post as always. I am curious for your thoughts on these “micro moments.” Currently I’m in this rough state where I feel like I’m over analyzing every interaction and thought I have just about every minute of the day. For example I’ll be with friends and laugh and an intrusive thought will ask, “did you really think that was funny?” I’ll be out golfing enjoying a lovely day before a thought creeps in, “are you sure you’re having fun?” Or I’ll be with my one year old daughter and she’ll smile and I’ll think, “I didn’t react as happily to that as I should have.” I know it’s silly but sometimes it makes life a grind!
That’s a common stage of healing, Alex. You have awareness now and it’s bringing you up into an overactive head-space. The antidote is to bring compassion to the pattern and say something internally like, “Oh, there’s my head again,” thereby witnessing it instead of fusing with it. Then ask, “What would I be feeling right now if I wasn’t in my protected head space?”
Sheryl, I wanted to ask you if it is normal to think “and what if this thoughts are distracting me from feeling that my relationship is over?”, because almost every time you say we need to ask ourselves what’s really needing our attention inside, this though pops up and I get scared. My logical sense tells me that, if that was the case, I wouldn’t have questioned my relationship so much and I would’ve ended it months ago, but instead, I suffer from huge anxiety about having to leave my relationship because my mind tells me to do it.
Thank you so much for your news letters. I probably wouldn’t be where I am in life without them! I have struggle with anxiety and depression my whole life. I got married 2 years ago and it has been a roller coaster! He was in a car accident and was diagnosed with a mild tbi and it is very difficult at times. Your newsletters always put me back in the right mindset when my thoughts start spiraling out of control.
Thank you, Kaitlin. Whatever helps us stops the spiral of thoughts is a blessings, indeed.
Thank you for sharing your love, wisdom, and kindness. I cried reading this and it felt wonderful.
Deep seated within is my ego telling me I am not loved, I am not liked, unless I am perfect. I have learned to turn inward, and been anxiously tuning into myself, to fill my bucket of self love and self trust. The voices are like little babies, like you mentioned before, in need of being held. It can be so scary to be my own loving friend and parent my inner child. it sometimes feels so impossible to talk back to those voices and be loving, when I think I am not loved. I fear sleeping because of this. It can feel so difficult at times.. How do you lovingly and patiently accept these feelings Sheryl? What does acceptance look like in these situations? What is acceptance ( I ask myself this question all the time)?
I know from meeting you on my course that you have direct access to a very loving and wise part of you. The more you tap into that place, the more it will become a habit to believe it. But as I write about here, this takes time and patience. We develop habits and patterns over decades and then expect to unwind them in a few months or years. It doesn’t happen that way. You’re on the right track, Behnaz. Keep doing the work and you will shift in time.
My partner of five years broke up with me last night and blamed me and my anger on it. He said things hadn’t changed, and I could not change. He said I was the love of his live, that we could work anything out, and then he shut himself off. I had looked at the relationship, owned and talked about the parts of me that needed healing, and thought we could work at things from a different angle but he refused. I’m so paralyzed and afraid. I will try to have patience but it is so hard right now.
I’m so sorry to hear this, Jasmine. Please know that relationship challenges are never one person’s responsibility. We co-create our dances together – both positive and negative – and if your partner is at all open to it I would suggest that you both read the book, “Hold Me Tight.” In the meantime, all you can do is attend to your broken-open heart right now and bring compassion to your grief and fear. Whatever happens, you will be okay, and you will learn in spades because of this experience.
Thank you for your loving response. I am trying to be open to feeling although it is so painful. Could you recommend any readings/ processes to work with. I feel myself lost without a guide. Thank you:)
Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing <3
Thank you, Bluebell.
I’ve read through some of your blogs this morning as I’ve written all of them down in a list and I’m working my way through them and they are helping a little bit. I’m writing down main points that stand out to me as my main intrusive thought is that I don’t love my boyfriend because I can’t feel it.. but for two days I’ve been struggling with the fact that I work on a bar and if I see a attractive guy or group of guys, when I’m working I’m wondering if they’re looking at me, I feel like I need to make myself look good at doing my job and I do find myself looking in there direction a little bit but just to see if they’re looking over. & sat here writing this my heads saying “why do you feel like you want to impress them? Why are you bothered about looking and other people or if they’re looking at you when you’re in a relationship. You obviously don’t love your partner” and this makes me feel so sad. I don’t act on any of this. If a cute guy was to approach me and start talking to me I would completely give him the cold shoulder. I make it known that I’m not interested or available. Before my current boyfriend I was single for like 5 years and I loved the bar when I was single as it was a good way to meet a guy. But now I’m not interested in that. If I see a guy that I would of originally thought “wow” at if I was single, I look at them now and think “yeah you are good looking” but i pay no attention to it.. my current boyfriend is the first person I’ve ever imagined spending my life with and seeing an actual future with. Please someone respond.
There’s a girl and guy I work with at work that were dating, they broke up a few days ago and now I’ve found myself thinking “do you find him attractive, do you like him” and he randomly pops into my head but I don’t like him like that and I don’t actually find him attractive. I think maybe I just don’t know how to deal with a break up around me when I’m dealing with all this anxiety myself. All my anxiety and intrusive thoughts only appear when I’m on my own like I’ve said many times, but the second I have my boyfriend near me or in the same environment as me it fades away. I feel more relaxed. I think maybe I’m being too hard on myself. Because I’m in a relationship I think I can’t be nice and chatty to the opposite sex cause then it makes me feel like “oh you’re being nice and chatty to them, you obvious like them and are flirting with them” which is why I act so blunt towards guys. No matter how much my anxiety plays up on me like this. My boyfriend is still the only person I want to be with and have a future with.
When I lay here and look at the ceiling I feel like I am reverting back to when I was a child. Like I am clinging onto my childhood as tight as I possibly can.
I need to let go of it. It is not who I am. It is not who I have to be forever.
When I look at Tyler my fear says that I see nothing. That I see someone who I will pass on the sidewalk one day and not know anymore. I don’t want him to become a stranger that I don’t know. I want him to be and still be my best friend. My person.
I love the way he snores when he sleeps. The way he loves me unconditionally. The way he looks at me and touches me.
I have never felt so loved and cherished. It makes me feel uncomfortable sometimes because inside I don’t think I deserve it.
Marriage will not make me stuck. It will not make my feelings change. I have not faked my love or denied the truth for 5 years. I have been so happy. So in love. So safe and comforted.
When I look at the ceiling I revert back to 12. Hurt. Lost in the world. Scared and vulnerable.
– this was my way around my anxious feelings when I woke up in a panic in the middle of the night. This morning I woke up feeling like I know I will be okay. I know I have love for my fiancé and that he is my truth. But I have to accept that it is okay to be scared. And it is okay to leap into the unknown of the future. 12 year old me has to let go.
What a moving comment. Last night, while watching a tv show portraying the ‘secret life’ of a 5 year old, I cried deeper than I have done in a long time. I felt so sad for the child who was shouted at by teachers at nursery school and right through her childhood. I felt SO disliked by both adults and other children. The things we unknowingly carry forward…amazing
LOVE Trevor Hall! Green Mountain State is another favorite for me!
Thank you as always for another beautiful teaching. With your help I’m so much more in touch with my relationship fears and anxieties, and you’re right, they do fall away (or least hold less of an impact) with time. I’m reminded of another post of yours from a little while back, Anxiety is a Game of Whack a Mole, because now that I’m in a more stable place with my relationship, I’m finding myself anxious about things that never used to really bother me in the past (ie, “I found a girl attractive, I must be gay now!” or “Once I asked the boys I used to babysit to give me back rubs (nothing beyond that)–did I sexually abuse them?”). Looking back to when before my engagement anxiety hit, I remember constantly being in an “anxiety du jour” state from my earliest years throughout high school, college, and beyond: What if I have HIV? What if my parents die in a plane crash? What if I die in my sleep? I’m hoping this is just my anxiety flaring up in another way. If so, how can I work on not believing that voice, which sounds so true in the moment? Years of therapy are helping me, but I keep thinking I must be missing something because the anxiety just rears its head in new ways. Thank you again.
It’s about getting underneath the thoughts and attending to the core feelings of grief, rawness, vulnerability, and fear of the unknown that need attention. Sometimes we attend by allowing ourselves to move through the grief process (crying, journaling, telling our stories) and sometimes we need a different kind of spiritual attention to attend to the fear of the unknown and the fear of death. In this sense, a spiritual practice is essential, and is often the missing piece of many therapy modalities.
Hi Sheryl. This week I just wanted to link you to a Humans of New York post: https://www.facebook.com/humansofnewyork/posts/1592158504191577:0 It’s about an Argentinian man in his 30s who has never felt ‘real love’ (heavy inverted commas, there). The comments really surprised me; I expected to be spiked by people affirming his false ideas of love. Quite the opposite and very comforting.
P.s. my partner and I are moving in together and so far, I’ve successfully moved through some erratic thinking unshaken. Very much looking forward to making evening meals with him and creating our own nest. I wouldn’t be feeling so okay about this without your work. Thank you, eternally, for arming me with the truth. xx
Beautiful wisdom Sheryl, just what I needed today. The not-enoughness of the ego pitches us into patterns of co-dependency with the external ever so often. The counsel you offer is like living water at such times. Nothing for it but to drop into the rapture of being forever incomplete. Strangely, the minute you do, there is completion, exhale, peace. Forever this dance of the form and the formless.
Beauty, beauty, beauty, Mangala. Thank you. x
Thank you for the post Sheryl. I am not very patient and tend to rush things – with disastrous results. I like the part indicating that pain and fear are not our enemies or something bad, as our culture proclaims.
I have a question. In our society it is expected that a couple should have children. I do not feel that way – meaning I don’t want to have to children. Do you have any posts or articles that talk about this? Thanks.
I’m so relieved to have found your site. I’ve been reading your articles on relationship anxiety, trying to find my own North Star, and reset my compass. After many years, I find myself in a good relationship with, I believe, a good man. And I’m terrified. Things were easy to start when it was casual, I didn’t care one way or the other. But now I am in love, and it’s pertifying. When I feel this kind of anxiety, all partience goes right out the window. It’s all I can do to sit with a white-knuckle death grip to keep my mouth closed, not express every frightened thought that crosses my mind. I am afraid of sharing some of my anxiety with him in case he thinks I’m crazy or too high-maintenance, or fragile. I have an impossible time asking for help, I am much better at giving than receiving, and when I do, afterwads I’m afraid at giving too much in case he runs, or thinks he’s already won the prize and doesn’t have to try anymore. You can see how insane all of this must sound, I’m sure.
Sheryl, what comes first? A situation that causes clear, credible anxiety, or is it that anxiety creates the troublesome situation in the first place? Some days I am consumed by my own thoughts and doubts, and I want to laugh because it all seems so crazy and pointless; a giant tangled mess that can never be solved.
Welcome to my site, NorthStar. As you continue to read through my site, your question will be answered to some degree, but it’s only truly answered when you learn to work with the anxiety effectively. Make sure you read this article:
I was wondering what your thoughts were on two HSP’s in a relationship. I began struggling with relationship anxiety about a year ago, but also notice that my boyfriend has a lot of the same tendencies as I do. While we both have problems with anxiety and depression, sometimes I find myself getting extremely irritated with him and just plain drained being around the sometimes negative energy. We really pick up on each other quite a bit, but I have a hard time being there for him when things get hard without feeling extreme pressure to fix and make it better. The issue is that I feel so obligated to fix and make him better because his emotions deeply effect how I feel. He doesn’t expect me to fix him and has told me so, but often sounds many thoughts and problems off of me and it really makes my relationship anxiety worse. I want to be there for him. He is doing his own work, and I have brought this up to him, but am wondering how two HSP’s can support one another, but not feel so utterly frustrated/exhausted and annoyed at one another for feeling down/anxious. I truly want us to work, despite the heavy obstacles we both face. We understand each other so well, but the downside seems to be this.
Hi Leah –
I have a lot of thoughts on two HSPs in a relationship, especially since I know it very well firsthand ;). There are challenges and blessings, just as in any pairing, but what matters more than the personality type is each partner’s willingness to learn and grow. I touched on this dynamic here (you would like fall into pairing #2):
This article really resonated with me. I’ve generally been someone who can endure pain I guess, but lately since the anxiety has gotten worse I find it harder to be patient. Worst of all, it’s causing me to really conflict with my boyfriend and almost every single time we do talk or be around each other I find something to pick on and argue about. He’s such a nice person, and I bring out this horrible side to him and judge him so much. We actually just argued earlier about me saying how he doesn’t pay for me and expects me to do everything. Financial things have never been an issue for me before, and I don’t want to be this bitter girlfriend. Because the anxiety has been present from the beginning I feel like I haven’t gotten to know him outside of this bubble of anxiety and that makes me think that maybe I don’t truly love him. I wish things weren’t so bad between us, and it’s mainly because of me. I don’t want to be the type of person to kill his confidence but I am the red flag because I am so incredibly mean to him. Please help, I genuinely feel like I have to break up because I can’t see myself changing towards him even though I want to. It’s like something comes over me and I’m unable to be kind or nice.
I remember a few years ago, I was in such unbearable anxiety, that i did question to myself, When will i feel better.. Everyday. Whats wrong with me, i said to myself .. why, why, why, projecting it onto my wonderful man. As soon as I did the first course, i noticed a bit of a shift, my thoughts improved slowly. I was so busy with work, which made the day go quickly and I didnt have time to think more about the state i was in. Looking back now I do feel so proud of myself for sticking to my guns, not giving up on my relationship. Nothing in life is a quick fix, everything takes time. Rome wasnt built in a day. When you live in the city everything is fast pace, people rushing here and there. Where as in the country people feel and look happier because they do things slowly and properly. My mother always said, nothing turns out if you rush into it. And same goes with relationships. All we need is patience and thats when we make a change. I feel its ok to have setbacks, as tomorow is always a better and clearer day..
Yes. Well-said, Angela.
Sheryl, I hope you had a beautiful and romantic Valentines day ??as you deserve to be spoilt rotten, in what you desire, Im sure it was nothing materialistic, only the love from your family. ???
I did, Angela. Thank you ;). xo
You say on here that love isn’t a feeling it’s action. It’s making your partner a sandwich even though you don’t feel like it.. but my head responds to that with “you can do anything for anyone and not feel like it, it doesn’t mean we love all of them” I am really struggling with it because I’ve always thought love is feelings and that you know 24/7 a day that you love them, but I don’t have this.. my anxiety and head plays up more when I’m at home and my partner is at work or vice versa jusy whenever we are both apart. But as soon as I see his van pull up, some days I don’t feel excited and then I have some days when I do feel excited that he’s home. As soon as I’m with him and next to him and in his arms, all the anxiety thoughts disappear and I feel calmer. Please help. I can’t afford the course just yet
When I do say to myself that I love him, I get thoughts like “stop pretending that you love him, stop lying to him and yourself” 🙁 I don’t want to lose him, I want to be with him so bad and to love him 🙁
It’s all classic relationship anxiety, Katie. The more you read through my site, the more it will make sense. This video may also help:
But how do I know if I love him if I can’t feel it? When the thought comes up that I don’t love him, I ask myself “why don’t I love him?” And all I can say back is “I don’t know” I have no reason not to.. I’ve never had a boyfriend that makes me feel so content and comfortable. I’ve only ever had 2 relationships that I class as proper ones and the first one ended when I was 17 and he cheated on me and I remember having a little cry but I don’t remember actually feeling sad about it, the relationship lasted about 15/16 months and I didn’t think once “do I love him” and now I’m with my current boyfriend after 5 years of being messed around and used by guys and this boyfriend is the best, he is so loving to me and caring, shows so much affection to me and tells me all the time “I love you so much” and sometimes when he says that it spikes me and sometimes it doesn’t. He is the first person I’ve imagined a future with but he did really hurt me once when we broke up and like I’ve said before I felt like I kinda accepted it towards the end and then we got back together and since we have been back together I’ve been having all these thoughts amongst other ones and sometimes I worry “what if me accepting the break up was my way of no longer loving him and now I’m just with him because I want to be but not because I love him anymore” I’m so scared, some days it’s so strong that I feel like I should set him free, but I don’t because I don’t want that
i am defiantly in the same boat, the thoughts and feelings of what you are saying hit so close to home.
we just need to have faith and thank god for Sheryl! im going to do the relationship course, lets do it together and come out of this so strong and more in love then ever, not only with our partners who are amazing but also ourselves
This post is great, I believe so much of my healing has to do with patience. I always thought of myself as such a patient person that was my best quality. And I do have a lot of patience in many areas but one place I realize I really struggle is in relationships. Im not really sure where it exactly stems from but I put an immense amount of pressure on having the perfect relationship. Im constantly looking around at everyone else’s relationship figuring out why theirs is so much better then mine. They have more sex, they have such a “connection”, her in-laws are so much better then mine, they have way more fun together, they just work and flow. I try to douse it with the truth and say everyone is on a different journey, you have no idea their real feelings, how they got where they are or whats in their future. But then I always come back with, yeah but I know they feel better then me and at least have a great connection. I started this anxiety over 2 years ago, I started doing the work on and off about almost 2 years ago. I no longer have extreme anxiety 24/7, I no longer live in extreme fear that I am in the wrong relationship, I can function in my everyday life 80% better. So I do see major improvement and I try to be patient with that but I still have the same intrusive thoughts(not to the point of making me ill), still have a very hard time feeling connected (once in a great while it will come easy), and feel irritated with my husband more then not. I still feel like an exception to all of this a lot of the time. Would you consider this a normal rate of healing?
There really is no “normal rate of healing.” We each heal and grow at our own pace and according to our own timetable. Where you’re stuck is believing that your irritation and intrusive thoughts have anything to do with your choice of partner. Your over-focus on other people’s lives is a clear indicator that your well of Self is low and possibly dry, and that your work is to learn to fill your Well from the inside out. No partner in the world can do this work for you or “make” you feel alive and full. That’s your work and yours alone, and your attachment to believing that you would be happier with someone else or in someone else’s relationship is an indicator that you’re not taking full responsibility for your well-being. Time for the next layer of healing!
Sheryl, the words “Thank you” don’t seem to be sufficient for what I feel towards your work. I’m so grateful that I found this site, for the relationship anxiety I feel and doubts that pop up are most definitely quiet now, and I am able to feel these stretches of clarity and overwhelming love for my partner. Reading this post made me think of a blog post I wrote last night in a moment of inspiration;
“It seems that my clearest moments always come at this time of night, when I’m reluctantly wide aware and he is lightly sleeping away next to me. My most inspired moments, my most content moments. I must remember this, I need to remember this moment of content-ness, of enough-ness. How I feel in this exact moment; fortunate, enough, lucky, content, happy. When anxiety strikes I should channel these times when I feel alive. Not at a highest high and most definitely not at a lowest low, but a static clarity that lightens the dog from my head, and brings me the stillness I crave in the times of chaos I so often feel in my mind. I am in love with him, I sleep another night next to him, and I am allowed to feel peaceful about that. Right now I need not to worry, I just need to lay in the emptiness that makes me feel the most fulfilled.”
I know I will feel anxious again, I know I will doubt again; But I am not afraid of it anymore. I know now that it will pass, that I don’t have to make decisions among my panic, that this is all a part of my story. Of course, I say this now while in a stretch of clarity, but I try to remind myself of these things while stuck in a rut. I struggle to embrace the anxiety and the pain that comes with it, but your site is usually the first place I go to accompany my deep breaths, and I cannot thank you enough for that.
Thank you, Alyssa. Your words are beautiful, as is the documenting of your journey. Thank you for sharing here.
I asked myself “When Will I Feel Better?” a few minutes ago and was reminded of this post, which reminded me of what I wrote here. It helps a little bit!
I was at my hot yoga class last night (something I started after my anxiety/panic began as an effort to relax and connect with myself) and during the last few minutes, my instructors’ playlist was playing “Hallelujah.” (This was the first class I have been to where the instructor played music with lyrics; I don’t think I’ll go to her classes again) I have no idea why, but for some reason the thoughts that came to my head were my boyfriend dying and this song playing at his funeral. I imagined resting my head on the side of his casket and sobbing. In the middle of my yoga class, tears were running down my cheeks after an hour of what was supposed to be relaxation and rejuvenation! I don’t know where these thoughts came from, but now, the next day, I am struggling with doubt and anxious thoughts again. I try to remember my content moments, I try to remember to take deep breaths, but it’s so hard to bring myself back to that level of consciousness right now. Do you have any tips for trying to bring yourself back down to earth when your head is up in the clouds? Thank you, Sheryl, or anyone that answers!
Sheryl I been trying to connect to my anxiety, and see with clear eyes what its telling me, and so far the only thing i have been able to connect to is that if i have to take full responsibility of my feelings even though they been hurt or stories comes up even if they have some true in them, could it be that the truth if the message of the anxiety is that I m believing things that are not true and thats why i am anxious? Thats the only thing i can think of when i think of my anxiety is getting scared for believing something that i dont know with certainty to be true, that way i am not holding my husband responsible for my feelings even though acted in ways that were not correct but he is not doing them right now, so so then what is my anxiety telling me if its not about him? that I am living in the past, that i am not accepting uncertainty? that i am believing my own stories? could that be the message? I am trying to put into practice the work taking full responsibility that its not the relationship that is wrong but how i see things in the relationship?
is that a good start? I just need to clarification if i am going the right way taking full responsibility.
I guess what I was trying to say is could it be that the message of the anxiety is that I am believing things that are not really true, thats the only answer i been able to receive when i think about what is my anxiety trying to tell me, and so far i got that if its not about my husand and its about me, then it most be that i am viewing things in our relationship with distorted eyes and i am believing my own stories about him, could that be the message?
maybe also that i have not grieved the past? that i feel jealousy? that I feel less than someone else and I m believing the lie?
So far the only thing i got was that i am believing things that are not and even if they were true i would be ok. could that be a good start?
I have been doing better lately but now my mind has been reverting back to old thoughts. I wonder if I will ever feel better, when will I feel “in love” and would I feel anything if my husband said he wanted to leave me or if something happened to him? What a horrible thing to think! I am trying to convince and have had no luck yet. This is when my thoughts started to be filled with anxiety again. Why do I have to worry so much about it feeling enough or not feeling a certain way?
We’re all addicted to the feelings in this culture, M. It’s how we’re raised and conditioned to view love. But love is not a feelings. It’s an act of will, a choice, a discipline, a practice of giving. If you’re hoping the feelings of love will magically appear, you’ll be hoping for a long time. It’s up to you cultivate your aliveness and your spark.
Sheryl, I am sometimes confused when you say ‘love is not a feeling’ (as in, ever). There are times (sometimes long periods, sometimes short) when I feel very certain of my love for my boyfriend and I feel loving and appreciative and lucky and attracted. I guess I call this ‘love’, but when I compare it to your belief – ‘love is not a feeling, but a choice’ etc I am left wondering what this feeling is – is it infatuation? This concerns me, I feel like I’m doing okay, but as I am having ‘loving feelings’, I fear the worst is yet to come for us and one day this will disappear. I hope you don’t mind my query, it is not meant with any disrespect. I just want to understand…
I know that we should not expect our partners to make us feel this way, but surely, they can? Sometimes without us cultivating it? At least, consciously.
Appreciation, gratitude, and warmth are certainly feelings associated with love. It’s not that love is NEVER a feeling. It’s that it’s not ONLY a feeling.
I understand 🙂 thank you.
just a question, after you start feeling better, less anxious and more comfortable, can the anxiety always come back if you are prone to it ? will you ever be 100% not to get the anxiety back? because with me it comes and goes now kinda like tides at a beach
Yes, anxiety will almost always come back. The problem is not the anxiety/intrusive thoughts/worry but how you respond to them. It’s like meditating: the goal isn’t to stop the thoughts – that’s not possible. Rather, the work is about learning how to RESPOND to the thoughts in an effective way so they don’t take over your life and be able to come back to an anchor point of stillness and wellness. We can’t control the thoughts. We can only control how we respond.
Hi guys! This website with its blog etc. has contributed so positively to me. When I first saw it I was so relieved to know that I am not alone in this. Three years I have started dating someone who I love very much. WE fit each other well and have the same interest. I really feel as though God has sent him to me. When we started dating I started my MBA at the same time. So my studies has always been my number one priority. Just another piece of information…before him and the studies I was single for 5 years and I was working fulltime for 5 years before studying again. During our three years together I have had on and off anxiety feelings and extreme intrusive thoughts. This happened almost every three or four months. So it wasnt constantly. Another piece of information is that four eight years I have been in a industry where I hate what I do and therefore I studied the MBA. Now I am finished and I am not in a better place career wise. And this upsets me even more because I feel so unsuccesful in life. Anyways, when I get to those cycles where I am overthinking things I start overanalysing things. The problem with this being that I beieve everything that I thing and make myself unhappy. At this stage I feel like but what if I am in a reationship that I am not suposed to be in. but I know that I want to be with him but I am convincing myself that I shouldnt. I would just like to know if anyone ever feels like this? and if anyone experiences it from time to time. Cause for me it comes and goes. I have been in two long relationships previously and I was ust as unhappy. I spoke to my sister this morning and she said that since I was small I have been a anxious girl. I dont know what to do because I am pushing someone away who I want to spend my life with. I am asking questions like who knows that we are meant to be, what if hes not the one, what if he really doesn’t make me happy. I can honestly say that as a person I am not happy and I know that it isnt his responsibility to make me happy…that is my own responsibility. When I see him I am not that excited but I spoke to my mom last night and I know I am more of a closed off serious person but for me I am thinking that this is signs that I am not into him.It feels as though my mind is taking over my life and my happiness COMPLETELY. I would just appreciate it if you guys can let me know what you think and if there is anyone who can relate 🙂
I’ve had a pretty good day today with my intrusive thoughts and kept telling myself “I don’t have to feel love all the time to know I love him” when I’m around him I’m happy and it feels right.. but then I started thinking and sometimes I feel annoyed if he’s not home on time to take me to work, not annoyed with him but annoyed at the fact that I have to get the bus, I do a fair amount of the time hope he will get me something that I see I like when we are out together but at the same time I like buying things for him, I just don’t like spending money on myself so I hope that he will. & then I remembered that you say on here that love is giving and not expecting anything in return so then my head made me think that maybe I don’t love him because quite a lot of the times I’d like/hope/expect him to get me something instead of me buying it myself 🙁 is this a sign that I don’t love him?? I love treating him even when I don’t necessarily have much money to do so..
Hi sheryl, I was wondering if it is possible for you to do a post about the transition from high school to college. I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost a year and he is the most amazing person I’ve ever met. He has helped through such rough times and he never gives up on me, but I still have an intense feeling of needing and wanting to run. And I’m terrified I’m going to do it when I go to college because I feel like I have and want to, but I don’t want to lose him. And I feel so guilty because he is such an amazing person. I keep telling myself I am going to choose love, but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels wrong. I don’t want to lose the person who never gives up on me and has so much faith on me. He has promised that he won’t let me break up with him. But, I still feel like I am going to.
Hi Sheryl I was wondering I think I know what my core problem is and i figured out that is abandonment and rejection, how do i work with this feelings to recover from this wounds? do you have any suggestions?
True to the spirit of this post, working through the fear of abandonment can take a long, long time, and there are many facets which include (but are not limited to): learning to show up for yourself as your own loving, consistent parent; learning to tolerate the fear of loss, which usually means developing a compassionate response to difficult feelings; learning to reach out to your partner for reassurance and being able to take it in (most people need A LOT of reassurance in partnership); digging into the past and uncovering the root sources of the wound, then engaging in “time travel” where you go back to those times with your loving parents in tow and sit with your hurting, abandoned child. All of these can be done through daily, committed practices, like journaling and mindfulness. And of course the guidance of a skilled and loving therapist is irreplaceable.
Thank you so much, I am going through a lot of pain last year and this year have been very painful and my husbands behavior spiked a lot of pain and hurt in the abandonment and rejection part of me which have also spiked insecurities and jealousy, its been very difficult but i think that today i understood that one of my issues with my husband was that he rejected and abandoned me or acted in ways that were pushing me away and very mean and at my core it its very painful to be close to him and have emotional intimacy because all the pain has emerged and its so big that sometimes its very hard to deal with.
What can i do, do i keep choosing to remain close by choice even though it feels almost impossible sometimes and work with my core abandonment and rejection feelings?
I recently went through a lot of anxiety with someone I’ve learned to care about very much. Someone told me “it sounds like this is like OCD for you…” so I researched a little &I came across a website talking about ROCD (Relationship Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) & when I saw the common obsessions and compulsions that it entails, I realized that I have almost every single obsession & I perform every single ritualistic compulsion listed. Is this the same thing as relationship anxiety? I’m CONSTANTLY checking & checking & checking in my mind & I literally feel crazy.
I’m feeling very discouraged. I hate knowing that I will likely deal with this forever. I don’t feel like it will be fair on my partner to stay when I’m constantly trying to make sure I love them when they are always 100% sure. I feel like being single for the rest of my life so I don’t have to hurt anyone else anymore. 🙁
Hello everyone, this article really speaks to where I am at the moment. Just this morning I had a conversation with my partner in which I expressed to him that I am so tired of feeling grief, despair and so on. I wondered out loud that maybe I will never feel true joy and I showed him how I move about on a scale from terrible to ‘a bit happy’. He encouraged me to continue to do the deep healing work and meditation and I exasperatedly told him that I have been doing the deep healing work and meditation for a number of years and I still feel like this. I think I needed to voice how tired I feel and importantly how frustrated and fed up I feel with the process. I love that Desmond Tutu said it takes time to learn to be laid back. Oh man! Could that be my lifelong lesson? On the other hand I do feel that I have become more laid back in a lot of ways. I certainly care a lot lot less about some things. As always, I appreciate a piece of writing that acknowledges that the road is long and that this does not mean I haven’t been working hard enough, as my inner critic is bound to assume. One thing I am taking away from my experience is such a deeper sense of compassion for anyone feeling a lot and working through the excavation. Maybe this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I know that I do love more and more and more each day and I see the vulnerability and tenderness in sentient living beings so so much and my heart just wants every single one to feel and know Love. Love to all x
Some days ago I finally decided to stop sitting around and get myself up. After months of obsessive Google searches that I kind of got addicted to, I finally haven’t been Googling for 3 days. Instead, I decided to read one of the articles you write, Sheryl, everyday. That was my article for today, and it really spoke to me, specially the part when you said “After feeling anxious, indifferent, numb”. Today I’m not feeling excited to text my partner, I’m not sad because we will see each other only on the first of March and I feel like I’m faking every conversation, like I almost can’t stand him. And this scares me and makes me anxious and I just wanna cry because those are the symptoms of falling out of love, and I don’t wanna feel this way… But I’ll stay calm. I’ll breath. I’ll trust your words, Sheryl, and be kind to myself, and my partner. A part of me is scared I’m just lying to myself in hope things will get better, and they won’t… But I want to take that risk anyway.
Dear nosebleed, I wrote the comment above yours and I know just how you feel. I am currently feeling indifferent and irritated by my partner and even affronted that he is sick with a cold. BUT I know I have been here before and I know I am going through some huge changes and processing it all as best I can. Maybe you are too. I know that I am not falling out of love, even though those anxious thoUghts are still there. At the moment I need to be loving to myself no. 1 and then I can reach out to my partner as best I can. It’s not a lot at the moment but it’s something. Having felt this way before, I know that it will change. I know that I am just feeling delicate and things will be OK. I hope this helps xxxxxxx
Dear becominglove, thank you very much for your kind words, they do mean a lot to me. It sure helps to know that I’m not alone in this and like all things, this too shall pass. I’m too taking care of myself and dedicating some time to the things I like and I can say it is helping, I’m actually feeling better today 🙂 I hope you will feel better, too, I’m cheering for all of us! xxxxx
My pleasure Nosebleed. It also helps me so much to share my own learnings and insights with others. It opens my heart 🙂
Love and strength for your journey xxx
When do you know you are healing ? Can you feel it ?
Yes, you feel more clear and calm – less anxiety – and also better able to respond to the anxiety effectively when it does arise.