The Alchemist Approach to Social Anxiety

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Chances are that the way you’re trying to fix your social anxiety is leading to more social anxiety.

The reason for this has to do with Einstein’s over-quoted quote:

A problem cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created the problem.

In the case of social anxiety, as it is with most self-perpetuating, resistant emotions, what you actually need to do to resolve the condition is so far from mainstream consciousness that you’re going to think I am crazy when show you.

And I am going to do more than show you. This post is a guidebook with exercises you’ll need to do. If you do them, you’ll also have a chance to email me for free feedback, too.

So, allow the counter-intuitive concepts and practices in this particular social anxiety article to sink in. FYI, in case you’re wondering if this endeavor will be worth your time, the people who are most likely to give in to the ‘truth’ that is revealed here typically meet the following criteria:

• In your life you have suffered from social anxiety for 10 years or more.

• You’ve done a lot of work on yourself, but still suffer with social anxiety.

• You do not know if you will ever be cured of social anxiety and sometimes feel broken.

• You consider yourself an intelligent and even insightful person.

In other words, you’ve learned a lot as a social anxiety sufferer. You’ve read conventional books, been to therapy and tried 100 different social anxiety methods and treatments. And you’re probably exhausted of it all.

These characteristics may put you in a position to be open minded to just about anything that hints at progress.

You’ll need every ounce of that open-mindedness here. The solution for social anxiety is almost as irrational as the disease itself. The Alchemy of Social Anxiety will push your conscious mind to its limits. And it needs to do just that.

Simple problems lend themselves to simple solutions. Complex, self-perpetuating and highly resistant problems (that operate on autopilot and reside squarely outside of conscious control) require solutions that you have never, ever consciously considered.

social anxietyTo get to such a solution for social anxiety, you’ve got to create an entirely different understanding of the problem.

This algorithm is designed to elevate your thinking so that practical and hidden solutions appear. It’s not magic, however. When solutions become obvious – so obvious that you wonder how you managed to avoid them for so long – it’s the merely the result of a different thinking.

Different thinking doesn’t come naturally to most of us. And most of us endure the same old problems we’ve had for decades, day after day, year after year.

Do you suffer through life with social anxiety?

If so, I’m interested in teaching you – at no charge – a new protocol I developed called The Alchemist Approach to Social Anxiety.

I realized not long ago that I have successfully ‘alchemized’ my social fears. In other words, I have managed to take the lead of social anxiety and turn it into psychological gold.

I’d like to personally walk you through the process that I have been through, and learn from you at the same time. If you’re interested, then here’s what you need to do.

Here’s how it works:

I’ve written six questions below. Write down your answers to each question.

But before you get started, please read the following very thoughtfully.

First, I want you to understand how much I hope you find something helpful here. I hope you will take the process as seriously as I do. Not that I’m asking you to invest hours and hours, but I feel OK asking you to be thoughtful and sincere in your responses. It’s important for both of us.

Next, I’d like you to know that I ‘get’ social anxiety. As I mentioned, I’ve suffered with it. At this point, the meaning of the word, suffer, for me, is a little different than before. But I do get it. I know what a struggle social anxiety can be. It can define your whole life.

Before you write your own answers to the six alchemy questions below, please read my sample responses. Rest assured, I do not expect your answers to mirror these. Rather, I hope that these answers give you one example of the direction the process can take you.

Answer the questions when you have time and space, peace and quiet. Get into an open frame of mind and really believe that the answers you allow to come into your heart and mind will contain something of immense value for you.

Be open to the process, humble.

Here are the six alchemy of social anxiety questions:

social anxiety

1. For a moment, assume that your social anxiety were the greatest teacher you’ve ever had. What three critical life lessons do you believe it has taught you?

Sample answer:

Humility

I’m not all that. I’m just a person – no better than anyone else. In essence, humility is the life lesson – and personal holy grail that social anxiety has been trying to hand over to me.

When I am humble, other people are people to me – not objects. Their lives are real and I can connect with them better. I don’t have a great gift for connecting with people ‘on the fly.’ My meaningful connections are fewer and deeper. Social anxiety has essentially forced me into humility. I have not been able, emotionally, to parade myself around or call a lot of attention to myself, which would surely have been my natural inclination.

Without social anxiety and my drive to address it, I believe I would have turned out to be a severe narcissist. I would have wildly advertised my own delusions of grandeur and remained oblivious to the needs of others.

Social anxiety crippled my narcissistic self-promotion and forced me into submission. How could “God’s Gift To Humanity” be a social-phobe?

I needed that. Now, I am thoughtful of the few close people in my life and am capable of co-creating relationships on the principle of reciprocity. I am capable of loving another person. I don’t have much to offer on the social scene, and rarely participate, but for the few close relationships in my life, I have more to offer than I could have ever dreamed possible.

As a non-anxious narcissist, I wouldn’t have anything, really, to offer anyone, other than my own delusions about myself. I would have been all about getting social praise – a playboy, a self-promotional fool whose only interest is personal gain and self-aggrandizement.

I am not humble all the time. I still want to be God’s gift to humanity. The difference is, now I know how absurd this notion really is. If I weren’t shackled with fear, I might have acted as if I were all that (and more) without even knowing it – without self-awareness.

Boundaries

Social anxiety has taught me all about boundaries and my historical lack thereof. When I walk into a room full of people, why do I fear being the center of attention? Why do I think that they are thinking negative things about me? Thinking that I am the center of attention in their world demonstrates a lack of boundaries – not understanding that they are separate people with their own lives, feelings, fears and preoccupations.

Lacking boundaries has made me unknowingly presumptuous. This is tough to admit. And I have had to learn to look at others in a different way than ever came naturally to me. I have learned (on good days) to look at people as separate from me, having no idea, really, who they are and what challenges they face – having no idea, really, what they are thinking.

I’ve learned that not knowing what must be going on with others is a relief. It is exhausting to ‘know’ so much.

In a strange way, however, it’s more comfortable for me to assume people don’t like me and believe I am an illegitimate person. It’s more natural to barge into their psyches, take over, and destroy myself in their eyes.

Social anxiety has taught me to reconsider all of this. When I am clear in my boundaries and do not invade others’ minds and hearts with my assumptions, then I am free. I feel relaxed, open-minded and curious. I am capable now of understanding others in a much fuller way than would have been possible if I had not been given the gift of social anxiety.

Creativity and Flexibility

There I am, driving to a presentation in which I am the featured speaker in front of a large audience. I am panicking and wishing the earth would open up and swallow me whole.
What I am going to do? How will I get through this?

I am attending a social function and pretending to be comfortable mixing around with people. I’m not at all comfortable. I’m dying inside. How can I get through this?

They say necessity is the mother of invention – and in my case it is true. I’ve been forced to invent countless creative solutions to get out of a thousand social jams and still do what needs to be done.

How could I do sales presentations, training presentations, weddings and parties without having to manufacture off-the-wall solutions that would save me from myself? I’ve had to do all of the above. After 20 years of barely surviving such shenanigans, fully convinced that each episode would be my undoing, I realized just how creative a person I had become. Then, a life-altering question occurred to me.

If I found a way to survive all that, even though I endured many failures. How can I set my entire life up so that I feel safe?

Over a three-year period, I did just that. My business changed. My relationships restructured. My personal expectations shifted in my favor. I stopped working against myself.

Now, I don’t need to hide that much because I figured out how my life can work without having to put myself into situations that make me want to die rather than endure.

Summing it all up: Social anxiety has taught me character; to be who I am, allow others to be themselves, and arrange my life so that it works. I am happier and more well-adjusted than ever and would not trade any of my life for anything.

As anyone who arrives at this place is lucky, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I’m not fortunate because I never suffer; but because I do suffer. My social suffering is part of who I am and has taught me the most valuable life lessons – so many more than I can mention here. I would almost recommend an inconvenient dose of anxiety to anyone.

2. What would happen if you spent the rest of your life simply building on the life lessons that social anxiety has been teaching you?

Sample answer:

Those lessons have never come naturally to me, so I cannot say that I would commit to consciously building upon them daily. In my case, they had to be forced upon me by emotional pain. Uncontrollable anxiety gave me no other option than to learn what I needed to learn and to continue as its student to this day.

If I were to consciously and consistently focus on building more humility, boundaries and creativity as a daily pursuit, however, I cannot imagine any negative outcome whatsoever. My life would continue to improve, little by little, until my final day.

3. What would happen if you accepted yourself completely – as a socially anxious person?

Sample answer:

I am getting closer to a full acceptance, but do not think I will ever be there. I still want to change. I harbor a fantasy that I will somehow ‘snap out of it’ and become a social butterfly. Smooth – and so comfortable – even joyous and full of warmth in social situations of all kinds. I am driven toward this fantasy.

The more I accept who and what I am, however, the more I relax. And the less willing I am to expect myself to do what I do not appear capable of doing. I am learning to stop expecting myself to be someone else.

When you’ve worked on yourself as long as I have and still remain the same in certain areas of life, then maybe that’s just who you are and it’s time to accept it. This thought is a relief – a burden lifted.

Given everything you’ve written and considered, if you could start your life over, and end up in the present having lived your entire life without the social anxiety struggle, would you do it – and take the risk of becoming someone else, for better or worse? Keep in mind that this means it is entirely uncertain who you would become and which direction your life might take.

While I understand the immediate urge to say ‘yes’ to this question, my more thoughtful answer is, no, I would not relive my life without social anxiety and risk what might happen.

There is the risk that I would not have learned to be humble, which is a source of inner peace for me. There’s a risk that I’d be clueless as to boundaries and sorely lack creativity, which is the source of so much inspiration for me. There is the risk that I would never develop the self-awareness and intense interest in personal development, which makes up so much of who I am.

In short, the suffering has been worth it, given what I have gained.

To me, this means that I am closer to self-acceptance than I thought. That feels good.

4. What would you do if you knew beyond any doubt that there will never be a cure for your social anxiety?

Sample answer:

I’d cry. Somehow, I feel crying would be healing, though. It’s part of self-acceptance. I’d fully respect my limitations at last, which deserve more respect after decades of pushing against them. I would stop pressuring myself to be different than I am.

Part of the crying would be grief. Grief for the fantasy that would be taken from me, which is the fantasy of living in total bliss, free from emotional struggle. No one on earth has ever lived a life of total bliss. Who am I to expect such a life? We’re all living a mixed experience, and hopefully coming to peace with reality a little more each day. Everyone suffers. Everyone struggles with their demons.

So my tears would be a mixed bag of emotions. Relief, sadness, grief and, hopefully, letting go of overly-exalted ideas about myself. As far as I can tell, these exalted ideas have never brought me peace of mind.

Most of all, I’d want to teach others self-acceptance and the principle of “utilization.” Use what you’ve got, including your limitations. This is more than enough. Your limitations, and mine, do not make it impossible to live an extraordinary life. In fact, they hold the keys to extraordinary living.

In short, I want to alchemize my pain and limitations, which is to make the most of them and realize that they are not at all what they seem. They aren’t ugly or unfortunate. Painful, scary emotions are not lead. They are golden – we all need to make it so.

5. If you were moved to approach your social anxiety differently, in light of all the above, how would you do it?

Sample answer:

With more grace and fewer complaints. I intend to keep living my life, learning as much as possible about human nature, while becoming the most authentic version of myself that I can. I am no longer a child. I want to make the most of what I’ve got without insisting that any aspect of my life is unfair.

6. What have you learned here?

Sample answer:

I’ve taken another step into knowing that I am a human being, imperfect and vulnerable to pain. It’s so simple. I am an average human who struggles; sometimes full of joy and happiness, sometimes full of angst.

I need to allow the bad with the good. I want every experience I have in life – inside and out – to come and go freely, without my getting hung up by expecting more or less of it. For me, this is an ideal way to be – at peace with what is.

If you’ve really answered the questions above, I have a little more for you:

The purpose of the questionnaire was to encourage a self-accepting mindset in relation to social anxiety. Once you have that…then we can explore the idea of change and hold compassionate expectations. Of course, I am not guaranteeing any change whatsoever.

Still, I use a unique approach to working with social anxiety that really speaks to the heart of the issue. It’s a counter-intuitive concept that I have been using with my clients. Can I share it with you and get some feedback?

Here you go:

Once we become more accepting of social anxiety and stop resisting it with everything we’ve got, then we can move on to a more provocative idea that might be helpful.

The idea is this: Part of you wants to be criticized. And part of you loves to criticize. There is a win-win relationship in your psyche between these two aspects of yourself. The end result is social anxiety.

Depositphotos_19480133_s-2015Of course, you and I do not consciously want to be anxious, but some part of us – deep down – learned (long ago) that it is GOOD to feel the pain of criticism. Humiliation, embarrassment and rejection are things to seek out, according to the unconscious logic involved here.

This part of you – over which you have no conscious control – is actively seeking out every possible opportunity to get more of the same.

The interplay of these two parts – the part that loves to criticize and the part that wants to be criticized – has been running on autopilot We do not have control of it. I have always found it helpful to move in the direction of greater self-control. Of course, attempting to influence unconscious processes is quite the twisted venture, because the unconscious mind often operates on twisted logic – old beliefs and attitudes that are no longer relevant to present day life.

At any rate, It all begins with the fact that you have two minds – conscious and unconscious. Your conscious mind consists of the limited thoughts and awareness that you are most familiar with day to day. Your unconscious mind consists of everything else. The thoughts, feelings, beliefs, conflicts and drives that have such incredible impact on who you are and what you experience in life.

Did you know that most decisions are made unconsciously? Read more about this here:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080414145705.htm

The unconscious mind is powerful.

Let’s look at the evidence that your unconscious mind might love to criticize and want to feel abandoned, isolated or rejected.

Who wants to be rejected?

Consciously, no one that I know of.

Unconsciously – millions have already decided to be rejected – long ago – and continue to play out that decision day by day.

Let’s look at some things that could be evidence of an unconscious drive toward rejection.

inner conflictWhen you walk into a room, your mind automatically fills with thoughts that people are going to dislike you and you feel the symptom of fear, naturally. Consciously, you know this is absurd. However, thoughts still fill your mind and you feel anxious, as if it were really happening. Consciously, this is a nightmare. Unconsciously, it has become a habit.

Why has your unconscious developed the habit of filling you with thoughts of rejection? You could say that your unconscious mind is broken, but that wouldn’t be that helpful. Why is it ‘broken’ in this particular way?

Because it has adopted the disturbing idea that social rejection is a good thing – and the fear and pain are part of the goodness.

I know, I know. At best I am crazy. At worst, I am offending you. But please bear with me.

The bottom line is this: Your unconscious mind is doing what it believes is GOOD for you. It happens to believe that scanning for every possible opportunity for rejection, then acting as if rejection were the ONLY valid possibility – is a good thing to do. Your unconscious mind has made quite a commitment to rejection. Deeper aspects of your psyche may even find the whole process strangely pleasurable.

That’s right. If the universal pleasure/pain principle is true (we are all motivated toward pleasure and away from pain) then your unconscious mind must have linked pleasure to REJECTION. Otherwise, it would not continually give you that experience. Because of this very, very unfortunate link, your unconscious mind manufactures all kinds of opportunity to feel rejected. Anything that can possibly be interpreted as rejection is interpreted as such. Any potential for rejection – however unlikely – is seized upon and exaggerated.

Consciously, all this is exhausting and beyond frustrating. Unconsciously, it’s business as usual. It’s a well-ingrained habit that is employed automatically and effortlessly. The twisted reward is the rejection itself – the humiliation, pain, embarrassment, isolation and sense of low self-worth. This is why social anxiety has become the norm. Our unconscious minds are seeking it out on autopilot, as if it has mistaken the pain of rejection for pleasure; as if rejection were a good thing.

This makes sense out of the universal law of pleasure and pain as applied to social anxiety. We’re not avoiding the pain of rejection because – well – it is experienced as pleasure, deep down. So, we seek it – even creating imaginary scenarios that give us the experience of rejection where none actually exists.

How does reading this affect you? For me, I feel nauseous after writing it.

To think that I am setting myself up for rejection – playing out 1000 scenarios a day – because I somehow find unconscious pleasure in it – that’s sickening.

Take this opportunity:

Let me know how the above is sitting with you. You can contact me here. If you’re thoughtful in your inquiry, I will reply.

Now for the FUN part….

Social Anxiety Script Writing

social anxiety script

Harmonize with the incoming force. Blend with the attack. Then you can learn to control it, as much as it can be controlled. If you remain separate from it, you cannot influence the outcome, and it will control you.   – Aikido Principle

If – and only if – you have accepted that you (or a part of you) wants to experience the perpetual rejection of social anxiety, then you may find the following protocol helpful.

This is not a cure for social anxiety. It’s a process that intends to consciously harmonize you with the social anxiety attack. I believe this will be helpful if you do it wholeheartedly.

You’ve heard the saying: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

This is what we’re going to do. Until now, social anxiety – an unconscious drive toward rejection – has been playing out within you as an unconsciously determined mental script. It’s a powerful script. You have not been able to erase it. It’s stronger than you are.

Join it. Social anxiety is not bad – at all.

Consciously, step into that script. Become the script writer. Stop resisting what your unconscious mind is doing and jump in. I’ll show you how to do that right now.

But first, understand that there are plenty of solid reasons to write your own social anxiety script.

Social anxiety has been a great teacher. It has forced you to learn things that perhaps no other condition could force you to learn. Social anxiety has made a large contribution to who you are. So, stop fighting and join it. Consciously take on the role of the part of your mind that loves to be criticized.

And remember, the part of you that loves criticism is not to blame here. It’s not your fault. There is no blame that could possibly be justified for any part of you when it comes to social anxiety.

This buried part of you that loves to be criticized – it learned that it had to embrace criticism. It was forced to adapt, to tolerate and familiarize rejection. This just goes with being born and raised – and being subject to boundaries and discipline, as well as bad parenting and the painful experiences that are so common in the world.

There was no way for you to handle the overwhelming process of growing up without doing something with the constant perception of rejection. Eventually, rejection became  – deep down – a norm. It became comfortable and familiar.

All of us love comfort and familiarity.

Have you heard of the mere exposure effect? It’s a proven psychological phenomenon that demonstrates the power of exposure. The more we are exposed to something, the more we find ways to like it, even when we do NOT like it to begin with.

Read more here: http://psychcentral.com/encyclopedia/2009/mere-exposure-effect/

I’m suggesting that the mere exposure effect has a lot to do with perceived rejection and social anxiety. Social anxiety is the continuation of an old script. The script was written at a time when you could not do anything with the rejection you experienced other than make room for it. And the mere-exposure effect took over. Rejection became – deep down – something strangely desirable, something to embrace and anticipate.

You hate and fear rejection, consciously, as do I. Yet, your unconscious mind continues to dish it up like a favorite meal. Please be clear about the split between the conscious and unconscious mind.

Consciously, rejection is to be feared. At least, it is not pleasant.

Unconsciously, rejection is one of those old, familiar experiences that is so close to home that you can hardly separate yourself from it. To your unconscious mind, rejection is who you are, what to expect and – again, strangely  – so strangely and subtly – pleasant.

Can you open your mind – way open – and feel any subtle sense of pleasure around being rejected?

It doesn’t matter right now whether you can or can’t. Either way, consciously getting involved in your rejection script is an intelligent move.

social anxiety journalAre you ready to step in as your own social anxiety script writer?

It’s a risk, I know. But you know what? The social anxiety is going to be there whether or not you consciously acknowledge or join it. You can remain a passive victim of this script that harangues you with projected self-criticism, or you can step in as a conscious script writer.

Eventually, you may get so good at writing your social anxiety script that you’re able to write something new and different for yourself.

Best of all, you may discover something profound within you. You may open up to deeper feelings. And you’ll gain the opportunity to understand yourself at a whole new level.

Let’s get to it. Remember, you are consciously joining your repressed desire to be rejected.

There are two scenarios to script.

The first is to be done as a kind of meditation:

Recite the script to yourself, then turn your attention inward and notice what happens. Here is the script (you can change the wording to suit you):

I love to be criticized. I find pleasure in feeling rejected. I like being an outcast.

You are now harmonizing yourself with social anxiety’s attack. It should feel strange. It may make you sick to your stomach. You may feel grief or sadness. You may feel devious. You may feel relieved. You may laugh out loud.

I don’t know what you’ll feel, but any reaction is a good one. Say the script, turn inward, pay attention. Do some journaling.

Do this regularly and you’ll be on a growth path. Healing insights will come.

The second scenario involves goal setting. Rest assured, this will be the most bizarre and twisted goal setting exercise you will ever engage in! Yet, your unconscious mind does have a goal to feel rejected. That’s why it plays the rejection script over and over  – and over.

Next, write down and recite a rejection goal:

Today, my goal is to feel criticized and rejected as many times as I can. I’ll scan for every opportunity and every possible way to interpret the world as rejecting me.

Then, throughout the day, notice how many times you achieve your goal. Catch yourself interpreting others and circumstances in a way that leaves you feeling less than. When you do catch yourself, say, “I met my goal.”

It’s nuts, I know. But do it. You’ll learn so much about yourself! You’ll be consciously living from your unconscious perspective and drive. When you do, your perspective may turn inside out – and your psychological world may turn upside down. It can be a wild ride.

How long do you need to write and recite these scripts?

The only answer I can give you is this: It’s not magic. It’s a deep intervention and will take time to assimilate. Your whole life and identity may be organized around rejection and your fear of it. It can take some time to sort out. Dealing with it so boldly tends to intensify the process, but it still takes time.

Don’t be impatient. Stick with it, especially if the process stirs emotions and gives you any insight  – any new thoughts or feelings at all. I find with my coaching clients that it takes a few weeks to kick in and make a significant difference.

I am doing all this right along with you. I’ve used this approach to heal several other of my tendencies – like the tendency to rebel against any expectations that others may hold of me, even when I had agreed to the expectations. I’ve used it to deal with a hard case of narcissism. I’ve used this process to successfully lose weight and stop emotional eating.

I have successfully used it with my own social anxiety.

Please let me know if you have any questions – and I would love to hear about your experience in a few days.

If you’re ready to invest a few months into healing your social anxiety, then the best option is to do some more intensive coaching with me. You can check out my ideal type of client and contact me so we can talk. I use the Alchemy of Social Anxiety with client with success in my coaching – and we go well beyond this article, too, so that you can experience lasting relief.

yourachiileseelAnd keep in mind…underlying all chronic social anxiety may be a negative psychological attachment. If you really want to dig in and learn how your psyche got all twisted up, then you definitely want to read my book, Your Achilles Eel. This book is unlike any personal growth book you’ve ever read, I promise. And it explains very clearly how our deeper minds get programmed to seek out the negative.

Your Achilles Eel is required reading for my clients. You can get it on Amazon, or receive PDF copy of it for free by joining my email list below.

Get Your Free Copy (PDF)

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How Unconditional Love Undermines Romantic Relationships

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I think in a lot of ways unconditional love is a myth. My mom’s the only reason I know it’s a real thing.
– Conor Oberst

I don’t think many people enter romantic relationships with the intention of systematically undermining them, but that’s what happens much of the time. We could ask why this happens, but today I’d prefer to ask how. One way to undermine romantic relationships is to expect unconditional love.

Unconditional love is just what it sounds like: Loving without conditions. If you love me unconditionally, there is nothing I can say or do that would affect your love. There are no rules to be broken that affect unconditional love. This is love without limits.

We could argue that unconditional love applies well in many cases, such as the love between mother and child. Here, however, we’re discussing romantic relationships. How did so many of us come to expect unconditional love in romance? I can only speculate how this is the case! Regardless, unconditional love may do more harm than good to imperfect romances. And that includes yours and mine.

Guided by an expectation of unconditional love, many romantic relationships follow the same recipe for disaster:

1. Expect your partner to love you unconditionally.
2. See your partner as ‘in the wrong’ when he/she doesn’t live up to your expectation.
3. Fight like crazy, chronically.
4. Fantasize about being with someone who does love you unconditionally and revel in how they would treat you.
5. Break up, emotionally exhausted, after the delusions are over and you realize you’re stuck with someone who can’t deliver on your relationship dreams. Or, live for the rest of your life in relationship hell.

The source of the catastrophe is step number one.  When you expect someone to love you (romantically) without any conditions, you are expecting the impossible.

I know, I know. Spiritual gurus and relationship experts extol the virtues of unconditional love as if it were the ultimate solution. Heaven forbid someone loves you conditionally! How selfish. People who aren’t aspiring to unconditional love are portrayed as degenerates.

Who wants to be with a low life that can’t love without placing a bunch of conditions on that love? Conditions are suspect. Conditional love is selfish and manipulative, right? If you place conditions on your love, you may only be able to love prostitutes, who will love you right back under the right ‘conditions’.

Such is the propaganda of unconditional love. And when you challenge unconditional love these days, you’re putting your moral goodness on the line.

falseI have two things to say to gurus who preach unconditional love:

1. You’re naive, or…
2. You must not care that you’re misleading people because you’re selling something.

There’s nothing wrong with selling self-help and relationship mastery programs. Yet, knowingly selling something that’s impossible to get with any consistency is wrong. In the end, your customers wind up blaming themselves for not achieving the virtues of unconditional love in their relationships. Your followers are led to believe they are broken, when in fact your product is defective.

Fact is, looking for unconditional love in a grown-up relationship is a lot like looking for the Loch Ness Monster. We’ve all heard of it, we wonder if it’s real, but there’s little proof it exists.
Abby Rodman at Huffington Post

Let’s work the unconditional love problem with a thought experiment…

unconditional love in relationshipsPretend you and I enter a monogamous relationship.

Of course, we’ve fallen for the hype and expect nothing less than unconditional love of each other.

And love is a verb, right?  Real love is more than a concept. Love dictates your actions, too. You and I want the complete package. We want loving compassion, deep emotional connection, positive regard and regular physical fulfillment. These are the joys of true romantic love.

We want loving compassion, deep emotional connection, positive regard and regular physical fulfillment. These are the joys of true romantic love.

We’re off to a great start. Things are going well. Until…

I come home one day with a shocking confession: I’ve had an affair. It was a stupid, impulsive act that I will regret forever. But I did it. I am so sorry.

Would your romantic feelings toward me change? Would you sleep with me that night? Would you be able to maintain your enthusiasm, warm feelings and a desire for emotional intimacy? Could you imagine still getting goosebumps every time you saw me?

Or, would you be emotionally devastated and wonder if we could ever live in the same house again? Wouldn’t your entire future undergo and sudden, earthquake-like shift? Your love would reasonably morph into a mix of shock, betrayal, resentment, and confusion – and remain so for quite some time.

If you’re reading this and pretending your love for me would not be affected in any way, I don’t even know what to say. But I don’t believe you. If you’re saying to yourself: Of course I would still love you with a full romantic and unconditional love. The positive feelings in my heart would not falter. I would be ready to embrace you, make love to you and carry on without a hitch…..I am that evolved! Then, now is the time to exit this post. I am not as enlightened as you.

Of course your love for me would change. Loyalty is one of the most common conditions placed on romantic love. When you betray loyalties, all bets are off. The love changes when this condition is violated.

If you agree, then here’s where we’re at with the problem of unconditional love:

We love each other fully, under the condition of loyalty. Requiring loyalty protects us both.

Now we are already outside the bounds of unconditional love. It was easy to get here, wasn’t it? The idea of unconditional love falls apart quickly when you think about real life, what actual people go through.

But wait a minute, you say…

What about the polyamorous folks – those who live in open relationships. They can have sex with other people and still love each other. Aren’t they loving unconditionally?

No. Their conditions on loyalty are defined differently, more broadly. If your open relationship partner came home one day and announced, he or she had sex with a child, for example…

I’m sorry to introduce this topic. It’s only to make a point. Open relationships are not unconditional. In a polyamorous relationship, you can typically have sex with other people, under the condition that those people do not include children.

Loyalty in one form or another to the relationship seems to be a universal condition of romantic love.

I will love you forever, on the condition that you are loyal to me. If you prove disloyal, I will not be able to help falling out of love with you.

conditional loveWhoa! Stop right there!

Couples overcome affairs all the time and some even say the disloyalty was the best thing that ever happened to their relationship. They are so much stronger nowhorrible

Yes, this happens. And it’s great that some people can dig deep and get past the betrayal. I would argue that, because of the affair, the love is still affected, however.

The couple inevitably goes through a very painful, often emotionally void period in which love is dead or compromised, after which they must reevaluate and rebuild their foundation. This is a far cry from unconditional love. The condition of loyalty still applies and is the reason for the need to rebuild. As a result, the loyalty condition will probably become stricter than before.

People who rebuild after an affair are people working with their love conditions. This is not wrong. It’s real.

After rebuilding the relationship, what happens if the offending party cheats again? And again? Is love still likely now? If unconditional love were in play, then it would have to be. But it’s not likely – and may not even be possible for a human being to love a chronically disloyal partner.

The idea that you should love your partner unconditionally while expecting unconditional love in return is a horrific misconception of romantic love.

Try on these and see how you do….

Imagine that your partner:

Lies all the time. You never know when he or she is telling the truth.

Becomes a drug or porn addict.

Stops taking care of himself or herself (not showering, for example) for long periods of time.

Takes advantage of you – not pulling his or her weight, at all, around the house.

Refuses to work or contribute financially, period.

Spends tons of money behind your back, year after year.

Behaves badly in any number of ways, over and over, for years, and still expects you to be full of love, ready to serve and hop in the sack anytime.

Are you up for any of this? I am guessing not. But why not?

romantic loveBecause you have conditions on your heart. You don’t want to give yourself to someone who abuse you. You don’t want to invest your emotions into people who mistreat you. You want to avoid being dismissed or taken for granted.

I don’t blame you.

And I don’t want any of the above for my wife. So, I do my best to honor the conditions of our love. I love her. Why would I expect her to love me romantically regardless of how I treat her? Loving her, how could I possibly expect her to go right on loving me even if I were to chronically abuse her?

Expecting love in return for mistreatment is either naive or monstrous, take your pick.

Stop expecting yourself to love your romantic partner unconditionally. Stop expecting to be loved unconditionally. It sets your relationship up for failure.

Now, there are always people in wonderful, healthy relationships who claim their success is due to unconditional love.

I am so happy in my relationship with Steven. We love each other unconditionally. He’s always there for me. And he’s so responsible and loyal. I can depend on him for everything I need. Of course, I do the same for him. We’re so lucky.

You are so lucky, but not because of unconditional love. You’re fortunate because you and your partner are living up to each other’s expectations. You’re thrilled because your love conditions are satisfied.

What would happen if Steven suddenly stopped being there for you? What if he slowly grew irresponsible and disloyal? Wouldn’t your love slowly erode?

I guess what I am suggesting here is that we all square ourselves with what we agree to when we fall in love and expect to stay in love.

Do place conditions on your heart…

Don’t avoid reality and pretend you and your partner aren’t mere mortals. You’ve got conditions that protect your heart. Honor them. I suggest being overt about them.

I promise to love you and expect that you will:Check list love

• Be loyal
• Treat me with respect
• Take care of yourself
• Be responsible financially
• Spend enough time with me
• Meet my needs
• And I will do the same for you.

In other words, it’s OK to expect others to earn your love. And you should expect yourself to earn theirs – every single day. In this way, your relationship becomes dynamic and capable of continued evolution.

Finally, you may have realized that all of this has everything to do with honoring personal boundaries.

If you don’t have expectations (or conditions) in your relationship, how can you have boundaries? You both have needs. Are you going to stay in love if you systematically ignore those needs?

Unconditional love would suggest that, yes, you can (and perhaps should) stay in love. In fact, under the guise of unconditional love, you may feel defective if you can’t love someone who ignores your needs.

Think about it: Love somethone without any expectation that they will meet your needs or be receptive to your efforts to meet theirs. I know this might sound nice. Who wants to be that person who places either/or expectations and consequences on other adults? Do what I want or else…

I didn’t create human psychology, but I’m here to tell you that your partner should meet your needs….or else. You won’t be able to stay in love with otherwise. And you shouldn’t.

Many of my coaching clients have needed to learn to get clear about their needs and communicate them clearly. They’ve also had to pay close attention to their partner’s needs and negotiate their way to fulfillment. And it works when both parties are even a little open to the process.

Even when only one party is interested in the work (almost all of my clients are working with me individually) this kind of clarity about love, conditions and needs changes the dance in the relationship.

Forget everything you’ve heard about unconditional love and place conditions on your heart. You deserve the safety and respect and love that follows.

If you have a tendency to set yourself up for failure in relationships, or can’t manage to express your needs and negotiate happiness together, you might consider coaching. It can make a significant difference in your love life.

yourachiileseelAnd keep in mind…underlying all this may be a negative psychological attachment. If you’re not familiar with healthy romantic relationships, or if some part of you seems to resist them, then you definitely Your Achilles Eel. This is not a relationships book per se, but it will explain why some part of you may seek out painful, unfulfilling relationships.

You can get it on Amazon, or receive PDF copy of it for free by joining my email list below.

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If You Want to Accomplish Big Goals, Use Tiny Habits

We all love to set big goals. What’s missing are the Tiny Habits. Here’s how to put Tiny Habits to use for you…and more.

success goalsIt’s really easy to bite off more than you can chew, isn’t it? Of course you want to…

• Lose a ton of weight and get ripped
• Double or triple your income
• Bliss out your relationships
• Get super organized
• Stop procrastinating
• Commit to fully enjoying life

And more….

And all this needs to get done yesterday, right?

Enter reality. Most people never accomplish a goal once they set it.

92% of New Year’s resolutions fail 1
30% of people work the job they want 2
100% of YOU needs to avoid being this kind of statistic, right?

It’s not that you can’t accomplish great things. You can. But maybe we need to focus more on what happens after we set the goal – you know, the drudgery of the daily task implementation. What if we could make the daily grind almost as rewarding as the initial fantasy?

That would be worth figuring out, wouldn’t it? And that’s what we’re going to do today.

This brings up a real challenge. Thinking about big, shiny goals makes you feel wonderful. It actually secretes dopamine – the ‘rewards’ hormone 3. So, of course, you want to indulge in the dream of making millions or conquering that long-standing personal issue once and for all.

And when you’re done fantasizing about how glorious it will be when you succeed, reality is right here waiting for you. What does reality require? One tiny step at a time. Daily action. Persistent follow through. Ugh.

Your big shiny goal can get dull real quick, can’t it?

Well, I have a best-of-both-worlds solution that you really need to understand so that you can make motivation issues a thing of the past. It comes from a rigorously researched system called Tiny Habits. BJ Fogg of Stanford University is the originator of this model. 4

I was so impressed by the simplicity of Fogg’s methodology that I contacted him and had him certify me – after attending training – as a Tiny Habits coach. Tiny Habits is a behavioral revelation.

I’ll also draw of the work of one of my favorite authors, Dr. Loretta Bruening of the Inner Mammal Institute. Loretta is fabulous – and if you ever get a chance to do one of her zoo tours, do it! She’s an expert of the biochemicals that run our lives. I highly recommend her books.

Ok, here we go.

The key to reaching goals is found in the trenches of daily living…

Good Habits written on desert road

And the challenge is to keep your daily motivation high enough to take those daily steps and resist the temptation to prioritize that killer television series you’ve been binge-watching. After the joy of potential accomplishment wanes and the kids have been fighting all day, or you get a horribly timed piece of bad news, or get into a monster fight with your partner, or when you just don’t feel like doing what you gotta do. No dopamine highs anymore. Just work  – and with little reward. The big results you want seem far away and don’t appear shiny anymore.

Want to lose weight? Ok, you’re going to have to exercise when it’s the last thing on earth you want to do.  You must bypass delectable food when you’re craving it (and everyone else indulges all around you). All for what? If you comply with your healthy eating and exercise plan, you’ll wake up tomorrow morning a few ounces lighter than you are right now. It takes forever to get in shape if you’ve let yourself go for years.

Want to start a business and make big bucks? Ok, you can do it. But the big bucks won’t come right away. You’ll need to plug away for months and years with little reward before you’re where you intend to be. So – lots of extra work and zero extra dollars in the bank to show for it.

Want to bliss out your relationship? Perfect. Now, get ready to spend some serious time working through your mutual issues.  You need to talk…and talk. And fight. You’ll make your best effort for hours and still go to bed feeling frustrated and misunderstood. Breakthroughs will come, but only after you’ve invested serious time.

Are you discouraged yet? Don’t be. Most wonderful things in life come after an investing a ton of effort. Success is not easy or it (cliche, I know) would not be success. Given that most people live in a chronic state of mediocrity, you should be proud of yourself for committing to succeed at anything.

Now, how can you make life in the trenches of daily success-seeking easier on yourself. Tiny Habits.

I teach Tiny Habits to my clients often. Here are the basic principles:

tiny habits easy goals• You’re most likely to reach goals if you develop daily habits.

• In reality, doing daily habits can suck.

• When tasks are perceived as difficult, they require a high level of motivation.

• When tasks are considered easy, they require very little motivation.

• Make habits easy to do to achieve staying power.

• In short, you must trick your brain into cooperating.

Here’s how.

Let’s say you’re one of the multi-billions of people who needs to exercise more. You want to get off that large keister and get shakin’.

Great. Now, you won’t always feel like hopping on ‘ye dusty ole treadmill’ for an hour. In fact, you may loathe the idea on most days. In other words, your motivation is…..LOW. Very low.

According to Fogg, when motivation is low, the task must be easy to do. Doing simple, easy things doesn’t require being on fire with passion. It’s easy. You just do it.

What I am about to suggest should make all the difference in the world…

Undoubtedly, you think you need to exercise for 30-60 minutes. This is the daily habit that will lead you to your fitness goal, right? Of course, when your motivation is in the toilet, sweating it out on the treadmill for an hour feels like you’re being asked to participate in the Baatan Death March. Forget it. You opt to sit in front of Seinfeld reruns with microwave popcorn close at hand.

The fix is simple. Don’t consider your goal today to walk for an hour. Your motivation is too low to handle that kind of commitment. Instead, make your goal something so doable that you can’t help but accomplish it.

Your new Tiny Habit? Stand on the treadmill for one second. That’s it. Once you’ve made that teensy goal, celebrate your success. Pump your fist; give yourself a mental pat on the back. Let the dopamine flow.

Of course, once you’re there, chances are you’ll take a few steps. And a few more. However, you must celebrate for the mere accomplishment of standing on that contraption for one second. Wohoo! You did it.

It’s called Tiny Habits for a reason. The idea is to get yourself to do something – anything – to establish a habit. When the task is so ridiculously small, it’s not overwhelming. It’s a no-brainer commitment.

Make sense?

The Tiny Habits system involves a little more than choosing tiny versions of tasks, but this is one important component. Ditch the overwhelm. Make taking action a easy to conceive and do. Let your momentum take its course.

I’m using Tiny Habits to learn guitar. My tiny goal? Play one chord. Done. Then, I celebrate. Truthfully, on some days this is all I do. Most days, however, I keep right on strumming and get in a good practice session. I am learning one new song per week, on average. Fun stuff. And I am never overwhelmed or unmotivated. The tiny daily goal is too easy to worry about.

If you’re not motivated enough to do one simple, pathetically easy task that takes no more than seconds to accomplish, then you’re not motivated at all. Or, you may be unconsciously motivated toward the negative. In this case, choose a new goal or look deeper at your drive toward self-deprivation.

Yes, some of us are driven toward self-deprivation.

It’s a form of self-sabotage that prevents you from doing – well – anything fulfilling. There can be several reasons – stemming from childhood experiences – depriving yourself of fulfillment is the more attractive choice, deep down. 5

deprivedMaybe you learned that:

• Wanting things for yourself is painful.
• Desires lead to ultimate disappointment.
• Personal goals make you selfish.
• You don’t deserve to have good things.
• You have no right to express yourself.
• Other people are more important than you.
• Feeling empty inside is familiar – like home.

Self-deprivation can become a way of life. Imagining fulfillment might be a regular practice, but getting there feels like you’d simply have to become someone you’re not. Feeling fulfilled may feel downright wrong or even ‘dirty’.

Some of us live out our lives as an expression of self-deprivation. It’s sad – and avoidable. Tiny Habits may or may not be enough to overcome such an attachment to feeling empty and deprived.

A client of mine recently realized she felt bad – deep down – whenever she wanted anything for herself. She’d focus on a goal or personal desire, then inevitably distract herself. When I pushed to discover what’s behind the distraction, we bumped into a reservoir of shame. Shame that she could be so selfish and inconsiderate as to actually want something for herself.

Such an unconscious drive toward deprivation might even destroy self-motivation and render even the tiniest new habit useless and out of reach.

But even this is OK. Deeper work needs to be done, and some coaches are masters of deep work. Overcoming such attachments are a matter of course with the right approach. A good place to start is reading a free copy of my book: Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage. It’s a quick read that will explain how everything went wrong and how to make it right.

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If you’d like to inquire about working with me on any of the above issues, please fill out the coaching inquiry form. I’ll be in touch soon.