QUESTION: I have been having a difficult time with dating recently, and have had much heartbreak. I feel like that lone soldier back on the desert dune. This time in a sandstorm. Fed up with the pattern of being alone. Tired of living small. An unwanted side effect of all this is a sometimes crippling intermittent profound sense of anxiety. 

I just want the things most people want: a healthy sense of self/self-esteem and enjoyment in being myself, a sense of wonder and respect at the privilege of being alive, a fulfilling relationship and sex life (maybe even a family of my own), a happening and satisfying career in the arts, great friends, some fun, enough money to meet my needs, and some freedom to explore.

I fear that I’m not doing enough or not dealing with something that is blocking me from the things that I want out of life, keeping me forever stuck in my patterns. Is there something I’m not seeing here? The lack of love life is really exasperating and puzzling. One common thread to the women that seem to reject me is that they’re all pretty hot. Maybe I do not have enough going on to attract really desirable women? I used to… but perhaps I had more currency in my younger days, and now woman are looking for a provider and I seem like a bad investment? Feeling at a loss and I want to be in reality about all of this. Is it all just a matter of trust?

ANSWER: First and foremost, it is important to find ways to tolerate this acute anxiety when it comes up. It is such an unmanageable feeling that it takes a concentrated effort to sit with it, but sit with it we must. The next time you feel anxious, force yourself to physically sit and feel. Not think about the anxiety, not project into the future or past, just sit and feel. Anxiety is such a powerful energy that it can color our whole life and lead us to action that is not warranted or paralyze us when action is needed. There is no one way to face this but to delve into it and find a way to tolerate it, even if it is in small measures at a time.

Look at avenues to address the relationship piece. Psychotherapy can be useful here, even if just to have someone mirror back what we are up to. Patterns or behaviors that we might be blind to can be obvious to another set of eyes and ears.

That’s a whole list of demands you got going on there for life to fill. Good on you for your clarity. At the same time, make sure that you check and see where that list is coming from. How do you know all those things will bring you what you desire? How much of it is coming from ego and how much from your core? Check and ground yourself in the present moment as you move forward in creating what you desire. Do not be so sure that you know what feeds you.

One thing pops out of what you wrote regarding your quest for relationships: being rejected by “hot women”. We all have a specific set of qualities, both physical and emotional, that we find attractive or sexy. What you are describing is more of a wounding that you are pursuing. I have talked at length about negative pleasure. It is the principle by which we sexualize early childhood wounds as a way of surviving them. When we are wounded at a young age, the Eros principle is what we can use to make the pain tolerable. This leads to the confusing pain/pleasure pattern that is sexually charged. We then repeat this pattern as adults unconsciously, over and over, until the conscious mind becomes aware of the unconscious aspect at play. So go deep into the feelings that these women evoke in you. What do they have in common? As painful as the rejection is, what part of you is relieved or even thrilled at it? This is not a mental exercise, but an emotional one. Dig deep on this one and see if any of that makes sense. I assure you that your reasoning is not the issue, your choices are. Follow the smoke to get to the fire.

Going forward, instead of dating the same type of woman, pay close attention at the onset of the dating process. See and feel if there are any similarities between the women you were previously drawn to and the woman sitting in front of you. If yes, proceed consciously and cautiously. If more signs reveal themselves that you are down the familiar track, run the other way. This can be a difficult thing to do since the depth of the wounding makes the sexual attraction strong. Sit down and write down the similar qualities in these women if you can not see the pattern clearly. There will be a common thread in their behaviors. That can help inform you if you are repeating the pattern.

It must be remembered that this is not a healthy wanting, but rather craving something that is detrimental to our psychic welfare. Drinking salt water will only deepen our thirst, even though the salty liquid looks similar to clear water that can quench it. When you have hurt enough, you will stop this pattern. You can crack a couple more teeth or stop chewing on corn kernels. Remember that we are all terrified of intimacy, truly. You are no different. You can see all of this as bad luck, age, what have you. Or examine what part your own psyche is playing in keeping love at bay.