Anxiety, underlying fear, and 'what is love'


#1

I’m going through all of this, took two weeks on session 3, moving on to week 4 and oooh the setback!

Through a lot of this, I’ve been feeling this underlying fear. Just scared, in general. Am I making good decisions? Is this the right thing to do? Am I a good enough parent? Am I doing what I should be doing in life? Is there a should be? What if there isn’t?

This ANT and ANF noticing and stopping has been, at first, not so great, but after week 2, much better. But I have an underlying fear question that I don’t know how to answer. What is love?

I thought: You know what? My past relationships / marriages, I was crippled by social anxiety and not being myself. I was, what I eventually called, Vanilla. Not enough me to really be ‘really me’ and constantly thinking that I was being judged.

Now I’m doing all of this, I realize now that my relationship is the most ‘real’ thing that I’ve ever had. My fiance is this man who is so incredibly supportive and seems able to take just about any conversation I throw at him. He doesn’t think people should ‘take over and help’ others. He feels that people need to stand up on their own feet and likes to offer advice where it might make sense, and otherwise - just kind of inspire or leave alone so people can figure things out for themselves.

So with me - that’s a really hard thing for me. He doesn’t judge. He wants me to be happy. He wishes I wasn’t so torn up inside and just wants me to want to marry and spend our lives together and happy.

When I am able, I can lean in, face my fears, and get sucked into life. This clears my head. When my anxiety is at the steering wheel, I question: What is love? How do I know that this is love? How do I know without a doubt that I am making the right decision?

I’m used to having everything ‘should’ and ‘judged’ and basing my decisions based on those judgements. Now I am stripping those away. I am scared. I don’t know how life is to-be without them.


#2

Sounds like you’re making some progress because your automatic negative thoughts are trying to keep you in check. Keep plugging away at the sessions and keep practicing on catching those negative thoughts.

You asked a few times how you know whether you’re making the right decision (at one point, asking how you know “without a doubt”). I argue that almost no decision comes without a doubt - even the decision on who you love. Life is complicated and messy and you make decisions based on what you know at the time and sometimes what your gut tells you. Then you make more decisions. And sometimes, you look back and realize that you could have made a “better” decision, so you use that knowledge when making future decisions. The concept of a perfect decision is one of those “shoulds”; it implies some ultimate judge who can score each moment in life and pick winners and losers.

So it’s great that you can lean in and face your fears, at least sometimes. The more times you do this, the more you will keep anxiety away from that steering wheel.


#3

Ariel, the “What is love” question to me looks like an ANT. Trying to drag you into some endless inner dialogue that will probably just make you feel worse. Do you ever feel better asking yourself that? I would just say “stop” and ignore ANTs like that.

I get similar thoughts now and then and sometimes I forget and find myself involved in an inner discussion leading nowhere. No matter what I reply, there’s always some “yes, but…” thought popping up. The ANTs always get the last word. It’s a waste of time and only makes me feel worse.


#4

Hey - I didn’t see this when you replied, but you just said some magic. I hadn’t realized the question “What is love” as an ANTS voice, but you are ABSOLUTELY correct! It leads me nowhere and makes me feel completely cut off, filled with fear, and immobilized.

Thank you!


#5

This has been an interesting post to read.

I agree with Silent_Cat who says it better than I could. I agree too with uabclst, “It’s a waste of time and only makes me feel worse.”

I think this is a great topic for helping people here to see how many ANTs we might have in different less obvious ways. I often get the question here, “Is this XYZ an ANT?” Or, I am listening to someone discuss some point or thought about their life in a way of defending it instead of considering that it may be irrational, or, at the very best, a waste of time to dwell on in such detail. In both cases, and in most all cases really, calling it like I see and feel it - yeah, it’s an ANT. This answer gets almost to be so redundant and, in a way, feels rude in its brevity. But without beating around the bush, yes - an ANT. And yes, why waste your time on it? That is the simple answer, but we all know how we go through these mental gymnastics and that simple answer doesn’t help at the time.

But now, with a perspective and with time doing the therapy, ArielSG has the ability to also see and feel it from the perseptive of this new, rational point of view. I think that’s where we get through this structured therapy, given the time and commitment needed to ready ourselves for new perspectives.

Our brains will go to amazing lengths to continue allowing and supporting these ANTs. Don’t feel angry. Don’t get thrown off the therapy because you still have these doubts. Hang in there, keep going. That will allow a new path to open up.