I recently told a friend that I currently feel “stuck” in my writing, mostly because I usually write about things I’ve learned or find interesting, but much of what I’m learning lately has to do with my current situation after a heartbreak. I never wanted to be the person posting sad quotes all over facebook or, worse, saying hurtful things about an ex-partner. It’s a fine line to walk between sharing my experience and sharing something that might hurt someone else. But after talking with my friend, I realized that I need this outlet. Writing has long been part of my healing process, and I have personally experienced the words of Glennon Doyle as truth:

“After I write, I feel calmer, healthier, and stronger. Every time I fling an internal demon onto the blank page, that demon turns out to be much less scary than I thought she was. I am becoming less afraid of myself. I wonder if this is because I need to check my shame levels daily, like a diabetic checks her insulin levels. Truth telling becomes my shame checker and my relief. It’s a holy purging of the painful fullness of my secrets.”

I say all that to say this: While I will still endeavor not to write about anything that will hurt someone else (it’s one thing to purge my own secrets, but another thing entirely to publish someone else’s), I ask your forgiveness if this blog becomes less “Inspirational Thoughts and Stories” and more “Healing After a Breakup” for a little while. Feel free to stop reading until we resume our normal programming. :)




“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?”
–Kahlil Gibran

“Sadness and happiness are the same emotion. They affect our bodies in the same way. We just call one ‘good’ and the other ‘bad.’”

My boss said this to me recently, and in the past I might have disagreed. But a few days ago, while processing with my therapist why it’s been so hard for me to stay away from my ex’s social media (which I’ve committed to doing), she told me:

“She’s your heroin. Your body still craves the hit.”

I told her this made sense when my ex posted something that made me happy (something I might be able to interpret as her thinking about me, for instance, like a quote that had to do with heartbreak or a post about something she did or learned while we were dating), but asked how that could be the case when, as happened much more often, the post was something that hurt (a picture of her new girlfriend or a trip she took that we had planned to take together). Wouldn’t it seem much more likely that I wouldn’t want to look, because it hurts so badly? She answered by saying the same thing my boss had said:

“Your body responds to both emotions the same way.”

She went on to explain that every time I look at my ex’s page, my body receives a rush of dopamine and adrenaline regardless of whether what I see makes me happy or hurts me to my core. She said that my body still craves—and will always crave—the adrenaline rush that chaos, dysfunction, and even pain provides, because that is what was normal during my formative years—that is what was wired into me as a child. She says there is a part of my body that actually enjoys pain, because even though my brain considers it “negative,” it still works within my body as a “positive”—an adrenaline rush that not only feels exciting, but also feels paradoxically comforting, because it’s normal and familiar. (I remember telling my ex once that she felt more like “home” than anyone I had ever dated. And she did. There is a reason for that.) My therapist says the goal now is not to stop desiring the rush, because that will never happen, but to retrain my body to desire healthy methods of receiving that rush. In order to do this, I must continue abstaining from unhealthy sources of adrenaline (like stalking my ex’s facebook page) and seek out healthy sources (like riding motorcycles and horses, challenging myself with new things like rock climbing or paddle-boarding, and taking trips.)

It’s hard to admit that I entered (and stayed in) an unhealthy relationship precisely because I wanted an unhealthy relationship, and it’s equally difficult to admit that the reason I’m having such a hard time getting over it is because my body still longs for that dysfunction.* But they say that recognizing the problem is half the battle, and if taking steps to heal is the other half, then I’m getting there, slowly but surely.

I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution, but this year I’m making two: To write the things I feel I need to write, regardless (within reason) of previous ideas regarding what I “should” or “shouldn’t” write, and to seek out healthy forms of adrenaline and avoid those which perpetuate the cycle of dysfunction.

Anyone wanna go skydiving?


*Please understand, I’m not saying my ex was dysfunctional, just that our relationship was, and that is at least partly due to the dysfunction I brought into our relationship.

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The Best We Can

I’m always reluctant to post about relationship-related things here on the blog, because I never, ever want to “throw someone under the bus” or say something hurtful. I have tried to mitigate this in various ways–blocking mutual friends, sharing with only a handful of people, and sometimes sharing only within the privacy of my journal. But I had a major breakthrough last night, and wanted to share in case it might help someone else…

I’m the kind of person who needs to make sense of things in order to heal (not sure whether this is a good thing, but it is what it is.) In an attempt to make sense of a past relationship, I have spoken to five therapists and read over forty books on narcissism and emotional abuse–not necessarily because I believe I have dated narcissists (although I may have), but because most books written on the subject of relational abuse are written from that perspective (and just to clarify: all narcissists engage in abusive behaviors, but not everyone who engages in these behaviors is a narcissist. We all engage in narcissistic behaviors from time to time and to varying degrees, which is why it takes a trained professional to diagnose true narcissism. I am not defining anyone from my past as a narcissist). Still, many of these abusive behaviors have been present in my past relationships. Yet no matter how many of these behaviors I’ve been subject to, none of the books have rung completely true to me for one reason:

They all maintain that those who engage in these behaviors don’t actually have the ability to love. They consider all expressions of love as a form of emotional manipulation (called “lovebombing”) rather than an articulation of true feelings. They also say that the person participating in narcissistic behaviors is consciously and purposefully engaging in the abuse. But no matter how much lines up with what I have experienced, I just cannot see those I have loved as having never loved me or having been purposefully or consciously manipulative or abusive. Rightly or wrongly, it just doesn’t ring true for me. Plus, it forces me into a position of seeing others as the “bad guy,” and I just have no desire to see anyone this way (I’m a firm believer in something Brene Brown’s husband once said: “My life is better when I work from the assumption that everyone is doing the best they can. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”)

Then, last night, I read this, from a contributor on Quora (lightly edited for better flow):

“The terms ‘Whole Object Relations’ and ‘Object Constancy’ play a major role in the roller coaster that happens in a narcissistic relationship. Whole Object Relations is the ability to see both good and bad in self or others at the same time. Object Constancy is the ability to maintain a positive emotional connection to someone when feeling hurt, angry, disappointed, etc, OR with someone not physically present. These two abilities are developed during childhood, and those with NPD do not have these functions. So the infatuation begins and they see you as the person of their dreams. Remember–they can’t see bad characteristics at this point because they’re focused on the good characteristics. They’re idealizing you. So the reason it can feel like they were putting on the performance of a lifetime pretending to fall in love is because they also thought they were falling in love. They weren’t acting or mirroring your every move, they were infatuated and obsessed. But eventually, because the nature of the disorder causes a hypersensitivity to their self image, something harmless or even imaginary will lead them to feel slighted. So one day, you forget to hit send on the ‘I love you too’ text and suddenly their feelings are crushed, ego deflated, and they’re burning with betrayal because things were going so well, and they can’t understand why you’d do this to them. They forget any good qualities they had been seeing in you, and are now convinced you’re a terrible, manipulative person who only wants to hurt them. Begin devaluation phase.”

So according to this commenter, it wasn’t that certain people had never loved me, it was that some people were incapable of maintaining their love for me. This made a lot more sense to me, so I looked up “Whole Object Relations” and “Object Constancy” and this is what I learned:

Whole Object Relations is “The ability to integrate the liked and disliked parts of a person into a single, realistic, stable picture—as opposed to alternating between seeing the person as either all-good or all-bad.

In other words, it’s the ability to see people as being both right and wrong, kind and unkind, good and bad, etc. But someone who lacks Whole Object Relations is incapable of doing this. They think in terms of extreme black or white and see everything as right OR wrong, kind OR unkind, good OR bad. There is one major problem with this type of thinking when it comes to relationships:

“If you need to see people as all good or all bad, every time someone does something that does not fit into your current bucket, you will either have to deny reality and ignore what is happening or you have to switch them into the other bucket. This means you could be seeing someone as all-good one moment and tell the person, ‘I love you’ with great sincerity and then two minutes later, when they do something you do not like, now see the person as all-bad and with equal sincerity say, ‘I hate you.'”

Object Constancy is similar and is defined as:

“The ability to maintain a positive connection to someone that you like while you are angry, hurt, frustrated, or disappointed by his or her behavior.”

Those who lack Object Constancy literally cannot love someone and be unhappy with them at the same time. If someone does something they perceive as wrong or hurtful, the loving feelings disappear.

Suddenly, so much of what I have experienced in troubled relationships makes perfect sense. I have actually been told by an ex that she “fell out of love” with her last girlfriend because her last girlfriend kept doing things my ex didn’t like. I thought that was strange at the time, but assumed there must be more to it I just didn’t understand. But she also used to tell me she she didn’t know how long she would still “feel the same way about me” if I didn’t stop doing things that hurt or upset her. I always thought this was a manipulative tactic, but now I see that it wasn’t. She was literally telling me a truth about herself–that she is incapable of maintaining feelings of love toward someone who is doing something that upsets her. So this ex was constantly pushing me to do what she wanted me to do not because she was a horrible, manipulative person, but because she needed me to be exactly what she thought a partner should be, or else she literally lost (or was at risk of losing) her feelings of love toward me. She would tell me this, over and over again, and I never could understand it. Instead, I fought it, tried to change her mind, or, eventually, just acquiesced. This set us up for a horrific cycle, because after doing the things she wanted and needed that ultimately did not feel right to me, I would inevitably rebel and hurt her all over again.

This was the missing key I needed to understand the unhealthy cycle without resentment or blame. Because although the books kept insisting that love was never present, I know I was loved. I know they were telling the truth about their feelings toward me. But now I know they were also telling me the truth about themselves all those times when they told me their feelings would change if I didn’t stop doing (or start doing) what they wanted/needed. (Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that they never loved ME, but an idealized version of me they created in their mind. But I know those feelings were 100% sincere, even if misplaced.)

I feel SO MUCH BETTER understanding this, because the idea of seeing someone I have loved as the “bad guy” just doesn’t sit well with me. But understanding that someone can be incapable of truly loving (or maintaining love for) someone due to extreme black and white thinking helps me to stay compassionate while also recognizing that the relationship was not, and never could have been, healthy. It helps me to stay in that place of love and compassion and remember that everyone–no matter how hurtful their actions may be–truly is “doing the best they can.”

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Their trauma is ours. Our healing is theirs.

I’m going to share something that might seem a little “woo-woo,” but I believe in it wholeheartedly and find it fascinating…

Yesterday, my therapist and I were talking about trauma and how it affects not only the person who lived through it, but also their children. And not just in the way you might think. A traumatized parent doesn’t just teach their children to be fearful through their words and actions. Children of traumatized parents are actually born with fear inside their DNA.

In 2013, a study was published in which scientists trained male rats to become fearful of a smell by pairing exposure to the smell with an electrical shock. Later, they ran an experiment on the offspring of these male rats and found that the babies were also afraid of the smell even though they had never been previously exposed to it. Not only that, but they were also born with more neurons in their noses and more brain space devoted to detecting that particular scent.

The implications of this are widespread and, to be honest, frightening. This means that I am not only dealing with fears and anxiety related to my own trauma, I am also dealing with the results of trauma passed down to me by my parents. This is shocking enough on it’s own, but last night my therapist told me that the woman who pioneered a method of brainspotting dedicated to generational trauma has discovered that trauma—and the healing of trauma—does not only affect the future, it can also affect the past.

(This is where it’s going to get really woo-woo.)

She shared the story of a client she’d been working with who suddenly broke into heart-wrenching sobs and kept repeating “This isn’t mine. I don’t know how to explain this, but this sadness isn’t mine.” My therapist then explained to her how generational trauma works and asked her to stay with the experience and tell her what she was thinking and feeling and allow herself to feel it. As the client continued to sob, she started seeing visions of bombs exploding and people running and realized she was in Germany during the war. As it turns out, the memories belonged to her grandmother. But the most incredible thing? As the granddaughter began the work of healing, the grandmother (who suffered from extreme depression and PTSD) also began to heal.

The idea that the healing of one generation could affect the trauma of a past generation sounds crazy, right? But many of those who have spent their lives working with this type of trauma have seen this multi-generational healing take place time and time again. They have seen entire families become healed from disfunction on both sides of the family tree when just a single member of that family heals. And if that seems too crazy to be true, consider this: in an experiment called The Double Slit Experiment, scientists have found that the simple act of observing something changes it. If that weren’t fascinating enough, it was also discovered that this change happens regardless of when the observation takes place. In other words, even if the detection happens AFTER the event, the mere act of observation changes the results.

There are energies that govern this Universe we cannot begin to understand. We are all connected.


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Owning My Story

During one particularly ugly fight, my partner made a list of all the horrible things I had said to her. These are a few of the worst. There are many, many others. I share them here as a way to bring to light what I would normally seek to hide and prevent the shame of having said them from holding power over me.


A few weeks ago, my (now ex) partner created a facebook group entitled “Own Your Story.” Created on the basis that “shame cannot survive exposure,” she hoped to establish a safe place for people to share things they felt shame over. This is something I have utilized my blog for, for years. It is a place for me to share things I would normally keep hidden and secret–things I least want people to know–because I know first-hand that there is a power in sharing. Over the past year, I have said and done many things I am deeply ashamed of–things NO ONE has known about, until very recently, when I finally gathered the courage to share with some of my closest friends. I now share publicly in an effort to remove the last remnants of shame and make myself accountable in the future. This is my story….


“Why did you stay?”

The first time I ever met someone who relayed the story of an abusive relationship, this was the first question I asked. She, like so many others I later met, couldn’t answer. I never understood that.

Until now.

Now, I know. Now I understand–from the perhaps uncommon perspective of experience as both the abused and the abuser–how abuse happens so incredibly slowly it’s difficult to recognize while it’s happening. I understand how, even once you see it, you can’t quite figure out how you got there. I understand how, even after months of experiencing (and, in my case,) inflicting suffering, you can’t quite figure out how to end it. How to leave. And so you stay. You try. You work. You hope. You read nineteen books on creating healthy relationships and twenty-three books on overcoming emotional abuse and speak to five different therapists about your trauma and triggers and childhood wounds and none of those numbers are exaggerated. You cry and beg and plead and negotiate and make promises you find yourself incapable of keeping.

I am not ignorant. I am an extremely self-aware woman of 41 years who has studied psychology as a hobby since childhood. Every behavior I tolerated and participated in over the past year were things I knew about BEFORE I entered this relationship. And yet, I found myself powerless to stop it and powerless to change. This is a very, very difficult thing to admit.

I have debated long and hard about sharing this story (semi) publicly (I will block our mutual friends), because it is not just my story. But because writing is my primary way of overcoming shame, I know that sharing is an important step, and it is an especially critical step at this time in my life. As this is not just my story, I will remain vague regarding the details, but I must make one thing clear:

I am no innocent.

What happened between my partner and I over the past year marked one of the worst (and, paradoxically, best) periods of my life, both in how I was treated and in how I treated others. I would eventually liken this period to the image of my partner and I building a snowman, passing balls of snow between us, gathering more snow with every pass, until the snowman we eventually erected became the very definition of abominable. That is not ALL we built, however. And that is what has made it all so incredibly difficult. I did not—and still do not—want to end this relationship. But neither can I stay.


“You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart — your memories, your truth, your version of things, in your voice. You own everything that ever happened to you. Tell your stories.”
—Anne Lamott


My version of this story started on our first trip together. Her version may start earlier. Perhaps when I invited her over for the first time, and she saw that Jon and I still acted as a married couple in many ways. Or perhaps during those times when I refused to limit the frequency of my phone conversations with a recent ex. But for me, it started when our plane landed and I did what I had always done when away from home: texted my (then) husband to let him know I’d arrived safely. At the time, Jon and I were still legally married and living together. We had not had a sexual relationship in over two years, but remained best friends and had decided to continue cohabitating for the sake of our children. My partner had known this from the time we met, over six months prior, and I had told her that this, and other friendships with exes, had been the downfall of some of my previous relationships. I warned her not to date me if she felt she would have a problem with these relationships. She assured me she wouldn’t. But that day, she said she felt threatened. She felt that in texting him, I was relying on Jon as a caregiver and she didn’t appreciate me checking in. We argued about it for quite some time, but everything she said eventually sounded reasonable, and I thought “well, it’s not a big deal. I’ll just text the kids to let them know.”

From that moment, our relationship became run by fear and insecurity as each of us worked diligently to make the other feel “safe.” We genuinely thought this was what we were supposed to do—that this was what a healthy relationship looked like–each of us taking responsibility for the other person’s emotions. Sometimes this was voluntary and we both gave things up for the benefit of the other. Often, however, it was not. Through a series of emotionally-charged and verbally abusive conversations, seemingly logical arguments, threats, and a very, very, very slow inch-by-inch push of boundaries, we both ended relationships that were extremely important to us and stopped doing things we once loved. It all made sense to us at the time. I recognized that some of my boundaries with exes were unhealthy, and she recognized the same in other areas of her life. We genuinely loved spending time together and let other interests lapse. The problem was that mixed in with things that were truly logical and reasonable and good was an undercurrent of extreme fear, insecurity, and control. Soon, we were unable to go more than a few days without descending into horrible fights. As time went on, we both found ourselves saying and doing things that felt completely out of character. After months of this, I began reading about emotional abuse, horrified to discover that not only was I being abused but, worse, I was abusing my partner. I made a list of things I was doing that fell under the definition of abuse and went through a number of therapists seeking someone who could help.

Over the course of those sessions, I began learning why I was acting out, why my behavior had gotten so far out of control, and why I was allowing abuse to happen to me. I learned (and am still learning) how events from my past had caused excessive trauma and how, in this relationship, my core wounds were being (to use the words of my therapist): “deeply, somatically triggered” in a way they never had been, before. This caused me to not only accept behavior that I ordinarily wouldn’t tolerate, but also caused me to lash out in horrific ways that were extremely out of character and incredibly damaging. The same can be said for my partner, as I was also triggering her deepest core wounds and causing her to act in ways that were uncharacteristic.

I am DEEPLY ashamed of the ways I treated my partner—the things I said and the ways I acted. I offer no excuse and share this as a way to both combat the near-debilitating affects of shame and also to hold myself accountable in the future.

This is not who I am. This is not who I want to be.

She and I have since begun a period of no-contact. I do not know if this will be permanent, and I do not know what will happen from here. I cannot help but hope that we will eventually heal and make it back to each other, but for now I know I must remain single and work on the things that have brought me to this place in order to prevent it from ever happening again. There are no words to express the remorse I feel for everything that has happened over the past year. It is not possible to articulate just how much regret I carry. The only comfort I have is in knowing that I will not stay in this place. I will not continue to be this person. I will figure this out, and I will change.

To all those I have hurt along the way, to those I gave up, to those I forced my partner to give up (even if you never read this), and to my partner, especially:

I am deeply, deeply sorry.


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A Little Leaven

“I am convinced that the negative has power. It lives. And if you allow it to perch in your house, in your mind, in your life, it can take you over. So when the rude or cruel thing is said, I say, ‘Take it all out of my house!’ Those negative words climb into the woodwork and into the furniture, and the next thing you know they’ll be on my skin.”
—Maya Angelou

I can still remember what it felt like, shedding my uniform the moment I got home as if it were covered in filth, the hot tears rolling down my face, the lump in my throat as I choked out the words: “I just don’t like who I am anymore!”

I was twenty years old, working a job I loved with people I didn’t. My co-workers at the nursing home were sarcastic, nosey, impatient in their care, talked badly about each other and the residents, and complained all the time. And little by little, I found myself slipping into those same behaviors utterly against my will. I sometimes felt nearly possessed–completely powerless not to engage in acting that way, no matter how hard I tried to stop and even though I found my own behavior abhorrent.

It was the first time I’d ever experienced the principal Angelou talks about here–the one referenced numerous times throughout the bible admonishing us to be careful of the company we keep. Because it is a law just as reliable as the that of gravity: We become like those we spend our time with. Whether we want to or not.

Eventually, we begin to consider it normal. Sarcasm is “just how we talk” in our family. Gossip is “just what we do” with our friends. Criticism is “just how we motivate people.” Nasty, hateful, condescending remarks are “just how we cope.” But that experience, twenty-some years ago? It taught me a very valuable lesson about the power of influence: If a certain behavior is not a part of the character I want to build or who I want to be in this world, then I must limit my interaction with those who participate in that behavior. No matter who they are. No matter how much I love them.

Since that time, I have carefully guarded the energy I have allowed into my home and diligently limited my interactions with those who participate in behaviors I wish to see less of in my own life. I have even censored my facebook feed to keep from being bombarded with negative comments and sarcastic or condescending humor (this is especially difficult during election years!) But recently, I have been slipping in this area, and have found myself repeating those same words from so long ago:

“I don’t like who I am, anymore.”


It is a painful, but necessary, realization. And the steps to change this will be neither simple nor easy. But they are necessary.

“Energy is contagious. Either you affect people, or people infect you.”
– T. Harv Eker

There is no middle ground.

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Taming the Dragon

“The brain sees what the heart wants to feel.”
–Shallow Hal

I read this recently and thought it perfectly summed up something I’ve been working on for a few years (and more so lately): Paying attention to the motives and meanings I assign to events that happen in my life. When it comes to romantic relationships, especially, I can easily assign negative meaning to otherwise neutral events, because even though my heart doesn’t actually want to feel rejection, it is hyper-vigilant about looking for rejection in an effort to protect itself, and so I constantly interpret events based on that fear. For instance, if my partner chooses to spend time with friends or family instead of me, my story becomes: “she would rather be with them.” Or if she’s conversing with an ex who tells my partner they miss her, I assume this must mean the ex still has romantic feelings toward my partner. And God forbid my partner reciprocate that sentiment, because then all hell breaks loose inside my mind. If my partner “like’s” other women’s pictures on facebook (and especially if she comments on them,) if she doesn’t text to say “I love you” when I leave the house, if she’s too busy with friends or family to talk when I call, if she shares something funny she sees with someone else rather than with me… these all get interpreted in my mind as some version of “she doesn’t care” or “she’s going to leave” and there are literally thousands of ways my fears and insecurities can be triggered on a daily basis.

The interesting thing to me about this is that it’s not something that happens to everyone. I know plenty of people who don’t assign this sort of meaning to events and circumstances, and my therapist says this is because these people have am inner sense of safety that keeps them from being afraid of rejection and abandonment, and it allows them to interpret events like this from a place of love and acceptance instead of fear. By contrast, I am hyper-vigilant in searching for any evidence that even remotely looks threatening. Because I hold the terrifying belief that people are going to leave or suddenly stop loving me, my mind feels it must constantly look for threats and work to keep this from happening at all costs. As a friend recently said: I am constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, and trying to do all I can to keep it from doing so. Unfortunately, this means that I not only look for potential threat, I also find threat where none exists, much like the survivor suffering from PTSD whose heart might race at any loud noise, regardless of the source.

This tendency to interpret events through the lens of what we already believe is called confirmation bias. I have written about this in depth before, but in brief, confirmation bias is our tendency to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms what we already believe. It leads us to subconsciously ignore facts that run contrary to what we assume is true and actively search out information that confirms our opinion. You can easily see this play out if you’ve ever had an overly-sensitive friend or partner who gets offended by a missed call or canceled plans. No matter how many calls you’ve returned or how many get-togethers you’ve attended, the day you miss one, this person feels hurt and rejected. You may reason with them saying “but I did x and y and z, how can you think that I don’t care?” But in that moment, they’re caught up in their story—interpreting the missed call or event according to what they already believe or fear—and cannot be convinced otherwise.

Why? Because “the brain sees what the heart wants to feel.” (Or, in this case, not what it “wants” to feel, but what our past experiences and trauma have taught it to feel and work to protect itself from.) The good news is that with effort we can literally re-train our minds not to think this way by paying close attention to our thoughts. I wrote more about that here, but one quick and easy tool I have found and am working to apply is a suggestion by Martha Beck, who says the best thing we can possibly do in this struggle is to imagine our fearful thoughts as coming from a little dragon perched on our shoulders whispering terrible things. She says rather than believing those things, struggling against them, or trying to find 1,763 ways to keep ourselves “safe” from what it tells us, we must simply pet the dragon on the head and say: “there, there, thank you for sharing. Now go to sleep.” (Similar to a process I described years ago, here.)

Today, I am reminding myself that my dragon particularly loves to whisper tales of rejection and abandonment, and if I listen I will find these things even where they do not exist. Today, I am reminding myself that fear is just a feeling, and right now–right this very moment–I am sitting in bed with a laptop in front of me and none of the terrifying things I am afraid of are happening. As Jonathan Fields once said:

“Fear is an anticipatory emotion. Once you’re in the moment and you have the ability to actually respond to what’s in front of you, fear becomes nearly impossible to sustain.”

I don’t want to spend one more precious moment of this life making myself miserable ruminating over something that might happen. I don’t want to spend my time miserably trying to figure out how to keep from feeling future pain, while inflicting actual pain on myself with thoughts of fear regarding the future. My worry has yet to result in a problem-free existence, and during those relatively rare times when the things I fear actually do come to pass they’ve never been as bad as what I anticipated them to be, and, one way or another, ALWAYS come with the strength I need to get through them.

Today, I am reminding myself:

“Worry is a misuse of the imagination”
– Dan Zadra


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Yesterday, my therapist and I spoke about control. Specifically, the desire to control people and things outside ourselves. She said exactly what every mental health professional and book I’ve ever come across has said–that the only thing in this world we can control is ourselves. But then she added something I’d heard, before, but never quite understood. She said that when we feel fear, it is because we do not TRUST OURSELVES. That fear is a lack of confidence in our own ability to manage the things that happen or might happen to us.

She went on to say that this lack of confidence is the root of all anxiety. That those of us who suffer with anxiety are constantly looking to control everything external about our lives, because we are afraid that if the thing we deem bad or scary happens to us we will not be able to handle it.

“Every fear has a root,” she said. “Our job is to find that root, because once we find it, we can then address the core need that drives the fear.”

For instance, I struggle with “FOMO” (fear of missing out.) Whenever my partner goes places and does things without me, I become anxious and afraid. But that fear, like every fear, has a root—it’s not about my partner doing things without me, it’s about the fact that somewhere along the way I learned that others going and doing things without me equaled rejection and abandonment. So my core need is to belong and my fear is a lack of confidence in my ability to handle rejection and abandonment.

Here’s the amazing thing about this:

If I walk the fear backward, I eventually get to the root of my own lack of confidence, and that is something within my power to change. To give an easy example, (though not one I’m currently struggling with) if I walk backward through the fear, the statement: “I am afraid my partner will cheat on me,” eventually becomes: “I am afraid of rejection, losing my partner, and losing trust” which eventually becomes “I am afraid that I cannot get over rejection, I cannot get over losing my partner, and I do not know how to trust once trust is broken.”

The difference might seem slight, but it changes everything. In the first statement (where most of us usually stop), the only possible action I have to prevent my fear from becoming a reality is to constantly monitor my partner for signs of cheating and try to control their behavior in an effort to make sure that never happens. With the last statement, however, the solution can be found within myself. I can learn how to handle rejection in appropriate, healthy ways; get over loss; and trust again, even after heartbreak.

And in that tiny, tiny shift, the world suddenly looks a little less scary. I may not yet know how to trust again if my partner cheats on me, but I can learn. And in that, there is a tremendous amount of peace. My job becomes less about making sure nothing “bad” ever happens, and more about making sure I can handle whatever happens. Whether it’s the loss of a home, a job, a relationship, physical health, or the failure of achieving a lifetime goal, my focus changes from making sure these things never happen to building the skills and acquiring the tools necessary to become confident in my ability to travel successfully through everything that comes my way. As Glennon Doyle once said:

“Every time I’ve walked through the mess that I thought would burn me up, I’ve come through unscathed. And after doing this often enough you learn that you can go through anything. The secret is not that I have to avoid the fires, but that the fires will never burn me up.

I have learned that I am fireproof.”

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