"I'm passionate about helping people transition from anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and loneliness into wholeness, aliveness, and serenity. Whether you're single, dating, getting married, or becoming a parent, transitions are profound opportunities to heal the self-limiting beliefs that are preventing you from opening your heart to love and fulfillment."
About Sheryl Paul
As the daughter of two psychotherapists, I grew up with the language and theories of psychology running through my blood. As a young girl, I vacillated between dreaming about one day being either a writer, a therapist, or a midwife. Having found the confluence of these three arts through writing about and spiritually midwifing people through life’s transitions, including the transtion of transforming anxiety, self-doubt, and depression to serenity, self-trust, and joy, I feel deeply blessed to be living in the heart of my calling.
While my writing and counseling work have primarily focused on the specific transitions of getting married and becoming a mother, in recent years I have felt called to broaden my practice to include the lifelong transition of life in all its beauty and complexity. For whether we’re on the verge of leaping into marriage, getting a divorce, suffering through anxiety or depression, struggling with an addiction, or birthing a new identity as a mother, we find the same issues of self-trust and control appearing again and again. The story line may change, but the spiritual seeker quickly finds that the areas that need attention reappear at deeper layers of the spiral on life’s journey.
I utilize an effective, 6-step process called Inner Bonding cradled within the spiritual context of transitions to create a powerful framework through which I can assist clients in finding their own voice, exploring the stories and beliefs that interfere with hearing this voice, confronting their need to control and the perpetual practice of learning to surrender, and guiding them as they make their way through life’s challenges and joys. My decade of working with clients in transition combined with my years of a loving marriage (not without continual consciousness and hard work!) and the privilege/challenge of being a mother have solidified my firm belief that, while guides are often necessary to help us find our way through the labyrinths, no one outside of ourselves and a spiritual source has the answers. In fact, I believe that, whether we’re talking about parenting, marriage, or anxiety, there are no definite answers; there’s only the process of discovering what’s right for you.
In 1997, I graduated from Pacifica Graduate Institute, a depth psychology program founded upon the teachings of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, James Hillman, and the study of dreams, archetypes, myths, and the myriad ways that the unconscious manifests in daily and nightly life. As a writer, poet, and epic dreamer, I encourage my clients to explore their own creative outlets as pathways for connecting to Spirit and finding their own truths.
In 1999, I launched my unique business, Conscious Weddings, and a year later published my first book, The Conscious Bride, which broke the taboo of discussing the underbelly of the wedding transition. In 2003, my second book, The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner, was published, and in 2004, I began working with impending and new mothers through Conscious Motherhood.
Since 1999, I have counseled thousands of people worldwide through my private practice, my bestselling books, my Home Study Programs and my website. I have appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top media shows and publications around the globe.
To sign up for my free 78-page eBook, “Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes“, visit my website at http://conscious-transitions.com.
Sheryl Paul Success Stories
If you’re having any relationship, engagement, or marriage anxiety, I strongly encourage you to purchase the Conscious Weddings E-course. The website, message boards, and Sheryl’s advice saved my life! I’m now 27 years old. I have been married for a little bit over a year. My husband and I started dating when we were 18 years old and have been together for 9 years. We met in high school and then dated throughout college. We also lived together for 3 years before we got married. I always knew that I was going to marry him while we were dating. I just thought, “I can’t wait to get the ring, then all of our problems will magically disappear and we’ll live happily ever after.” Ha, I was very naive because of all of the Hollywood images that had been put into my head since I was a little girl.more
My husband proposed with all of my family around us. My first thought was, “Oh my God, what have I done, we can’t get married, I don’t love him enough. I can’t believe I led him on for 7 years, I’m a horrible person.” What I didn’t realize is that those thoughts were completely normal. I believed the thoughts because I had the thoughts so they must be the truth. This was NOT the case at all but I couldn’t see it at the time. I was normally such a happy, loving person. What in the world was going on? I was now the girl that wasn’t eating, wasn’t sleeping, didn’t want to be around anyone or anything. I couldn’t get out of bed, I sobbed many, many times a day. Where did this amazing person go? What was happening to my relationship? Was I going to run, break my husband’s heart, and not marry him after all we had been through? I went into a deep, dark depression. I was depressed throughout my entire engagement. I had never been depressed before in my life! Now, I was at the doctor getting medicine for anxiety? I was completely different from everyone else, this is horrible. This had to be wrong, this had to be a bad choice. Right?
I found the E-Course after I had been married for several months. After I spoke with Sheryl and all of the people on the message board, I realized that this wasn’t wrong. My reaction was completely normal. I dealt with the extreme anxiety my entire engagement. After I got married I still dealt with mild anxiety for quite some time. However, I used many tools that were provided for me through the e-course. I have now been married for a little over a year. I didn’t realize way back then why I was having the anxiety. I now understand that I had the anxiety because I felt so safe in my relationship. This was the first person in my entire life that I could fall apart in front of and he would be there helping me along. I found out that my fear had a lot to do with my parents’ divorce, my non-relationship with my father, and an abusive ex-boyfriend from the past. I had to work through those fears and accept the fact that my husband was nothing like my father or my ex and that he was not going to hurt me in anyway.
Now I get anxiety very rarely. The anxiety doesn’t really bother me that much because I know that it is just lies. My husband and I have a great marriage and I’m so happy that I stuck it out and married him! We are now back to the relationship we had before we got married, except our relationship is so much stronger than I could have ever imagined. Thank you, Sheryl, thank you message board friends, thank you to my wonderful husband, and I also thank myself for having the courage to make if through such a difficult time in my life.
- Janelle, 27, Pennsylvania
A Groom's Success
A.G.’s Story: A Groom from North of Englandmore
Before I met the woman who was to become my wife, I hadn’t done an awful lot of dating. I’d had one serious girlfriend when I was at University, which lasted for a year, there were a few flings and the odd encounter that lasted into the following week, but for the majority of what became a ten year spell, I was single and desperate to find love.
The date was 1st September 2009 and I was required to introduce myself to, and make feel welcome, a new member of my department. He was a rather surly individual who gave very little away and didn’t seem interested in making much of an effort. There were other new starters there that day in other departments and everyone was together for their induction. My obligations towards our faculty’s newest recruit became a secondary priority as I chatted freely with a ray of sunshine. I was immediately attracted to her, and within a couple of weeks we were an item.
Things progressed rapidly. Within six months, we’d moved in together and before our first anniversary, I’d popped the question. In the run up to the proposal, I’d started to question whether or not it was the right thing to do, but I thought that that was natural and even healthy; it meant that, although I wasn’t hanging around, it wasn’t something I was taking lightly. A huge difference between her and recent flames was the reaction of my friends and family; my mother in particular was bowled over by how lovely she was. My closest friends had continually warned me about women that I’d been attracted to before and they’d always turned out to be right. This time they were all in agreement that I was the luckiest son of a builder in the world.
With all this reassurance, of course I was doing the right thing. There was a problem, however. My subconscious wouldn’t let it drop. ‘You shouldn’t be doing this. You’re making a mistake. You don’t love her.’ There was no evidence to support any of this, so my mind started to invent things and torment me with them. ‘She’s too loud. She’s not as witty as you. She’s not as clever as you.’ None of which should matter, even if they’re true, which they’re not. I was able to keep these thoughts at bay for the most part until mid April, two months before the wedding, when I started to fall apart with fear and anxiety. I remember coming to the decision that I didn’t have any love for her. ’She’s not the one’, I thought. I couldn’t believe what I’d done. How could I have been so stupid to let things get so out of hand so quickly? There was nothing else for it. Imminent though the wedding was, I couldn’t go through with it. I went home to break the news to her.
She asked me if I still loved her. I said that I didn’t know. And with that, our engagement was over. For the next few minutes I tried to explain what I was going through. I said that for some reason, I was having to let go of the best thing that had ever happened to me, but I didn’t know why. As I spoke those words, I knew that to end it was not what I really wanted. Within half an hour, we’d patched things up to the extent that we were re-engaged but I knew that I had a lot of work to do. I still felt as though I didn’t love her, but I couldn’t find any real reason why. I went to a couple of different therapists who tried their best to help me with these intrusive thoughts but time was running out.
I spent a huge amount of time searching the internet for advice on cold feet and general wedding anxiety, none of which was helpful. ’Doubt means don’t’ they all yelled at me. Two weeks before the wedding, I found the Conscious Weddings website. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Every account, every story, every emotion, they were all just like mine. I learned so much about myself. About how my perceptions and expectations of marriage had been shaped by the media in the form of romantic comedies and how if your stomach doesn’t do somersaults every time they walk into a room, it means you don’t love that person. I realised, although it seems obvious now, that if that’s the way it is, then there isn’t anyone who has been with the same person for more than two years who can claim to be in love.
Thankfully, with the help of Conscious Weddings, I was learning that that isn’t the way love is. I was learning that love is a choice, not a feeling. I was learning that real love was deciding to commit to someone, even after the feelings of infatuation have faded. I was learning that, although I could leave at any time, the anxious feeling of doubt would still be there waiting for me when my next relationship reached a similar stage. Most importantly, I learned that the problem was inside of me, it had nothing to do with my other half. I learned that I’d spent my whole life trying to run away from myself. I learned that if I wanted peace, then I had to tend to my inner child, whom I’d neglected for so long.
It’s taken a long time, but I can say without any shadow of a doubt that I love my wife, and I love being married. If you’re reading this now after searching the internet for reassurance, then, as cliched as it may sound, I know how you’re feeling. Trust me. Do the work on this e-course and you’ll be more than fine. You’ll find your way to a kind of love that you didn’t know existed.
As I said earlier, love is a choice. Now, I’m no fan of The Eagles, I find them uninteresting and formulaic, but the lyrics from the song Desperado sum it up beautifully:
“You’d better let somebody love you,
Before it’s too late.”
Good luck. You’re not alone.
- AG, North of England
I’m sharing my story in an effort to inspire some hope for those of you still in the thick of things.more
I’m Anne – I am 30 years old and live in Chicago. I got married on July 23, 2011, so I am now a wife and newlywed…wow! Something I wasn’t quite sure I could pull off in the throes of anxiety! I have been with my husband for 5 years; we got engaged in February 2011, something I had been wanting for a year or so. Almost immediately I started to panic. Since I didn’t think that response was appropriate, I went into a tailspin from there. The first few months of engagement were so hard (no sleeping, no eating, sobbing, feeling alone, etc.) and then I found this course, which was the best thing that could have ever happened! It allowed me to feel my feelings, to address them directly, to hear stories to make me know I wasn’t alone and to start working on myself.
The engagement was really up and down. I have never done well with change in general and I think in this case the changes hit in stages, which required me to work through each of them individually. First, I was a fiance and I had to get used to that…took a while, but eventually I did. The second stage happened because the thought hit me – “I’m about to be a bride!” ACK! Then I went BAM, back into a spiral of anxiety. I worked through that and eventually got used to the idea of being a bride. Then, finally I realized, “Okay, now I am about to be a wife!” and the cycle continued. Once I realized I was just diving deeper into the transition and going layer by layer into my new identity it helped take some of the power out of the anxiety and I could figure out where it was coming from. Figuring that out was a huge help, because isn’t not understanding WHY you feel a certain way a huge portion of why it’s so scary?
Early on the morning of my wedding day I felt kind of numb…not excited, not terrified, just kind of like a normal day. Then a little later in the morning I got really, really nervous and I thought, “If today is going to feel like this, I don’t know if I can go through with it.” I spent part of the morning with my mom and sister and part of it alone before the bridesmaids descended and the day got going. That alone time was essential to get me through the numbness and then the fear. I prayed, I journaled, I took a walk, I prayed, I read, I did the wedding day meditation from the e-course 3 times, I prayed some more. Then, miraculously, at around 11am, I crossed over. Crossed over into joy and appreciation and excitement and, you know what? Peace. Actual peace. It was the most wonderful thing.
After that point I had the most amazing day of my life. Sheryl and other brides are right when they say it is overwhelminglywonderful when you look out at your guests and see so many people who love you and support you and want the best for you and your husband. I had a session with Sheryl the week before the wedding where I told her I was afraid I would run – she assured me I wouldn’t and I didn’t! You couldn’t have kept me from going down that aisle!
One thing that helped me was that I did not have huge expectations for my wedding day. I knew marrying Michael was a great idea, that he was a solid choice. And I knew I wanted to be married, even if fear told me I didn’t, so I was going to go through with it. When talking to my sister about my fears a few weeks before the wedding she responded with, “So what if your wedding day is tough? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t marry him. Maybe you just get through it and engagement sucks and your wedding day is just okay. You are still making the right choice.” So I went into the day being very open to whatever feelings would come and somehow by doing that, by taking the expectations off myself and not feeling guilty about how I felt, I found joy again. My advice would be the same as Sheryl’s – let any feeling in and don’t beat yourself up about it. Feelings come and go and they are so unreliable that it is always a bad idea to look to them for cues about how to make decisions.
So, we have been married for almost 6 weeks and it’s been lovely. It has surprised me how comforting it already is. There are still anxious times, moments of, “Oh wow, this is big, what have I done?” but they pass much more quickly. I do the same “So what?” kind of thing others have talked about here instead of reading into the anxious questions like I did before. I used to think the thoughts were a sign that something was wrong, that I should run, but that was all a lie. Making the decision to marry even though I wasn’t sure I should or could do it was a huge slap in the face of fear; now we have made the decision and we are going to own it. That is that! I feel little moments of anxiety and I definitely don’t feel 100% like myself, but it’s all a part of the journey and I don’t have to have it all figured out today. My mom told me it is super important to be very kind to myself in these first months/year of marriage. It’s been so busy and there has been so much change so I’m trying to take her advice and not “should” all over myself. My advice is to take the time to heal and get used to things and definitely find the courage to open up to your partner about what you are going through. Talking through fear deflates its power and gives your partner a chance to help you.
I know I am so blessed to have had a wonderful wedding day and good first weeks of marriage – I know not everyone has that experience. Remembering that day does give me joy and hope in moments of fear, but it’s not just that. I don’t have it all figured out, but I do know a few things that work for me. Working through the course and having a session with Sheryl was vital. I still read posts and go back through the exercises in the e-course to keep myself grounded. Finally, I choose to love Michael every day. I just choose it beyond what my feelings tell me to do. Oftentimes, feeling follows choice/rational thought. Sometimes it doesn’t, but what’s done is done (how romantic right?!) and I’ll keep owning this and eventually being a wife will feel as normal as any other role I have had. Until then I’m not going anywhere and because I made a wise choice, neither is he. It’s amazing how people can love us even though we are so broken and messy and ugly sometimes.
Keep hanging on, friends; there is light on the other side of all of this. Going through this is so hard, but as we keep going down the path, we are gaining such wisdom, depth, understanding and love. It’s so hard to believe, but we really are blessed. I am getting through it and you all will too.
- Anne Harman Solheim, Chicago, IL
“Before I found the E-Course I was very lost and very scared. I have described it as feeling like I was in a very dark, deep forest without a flashlight. Once I embarked on the course I realized I actually had a flashlight, I just had to learn how to turn it on. With a lot of patience I learned how to take care of my feelings centered around my fears. The moment when I knew something was working came around the time when I had built up enough courage with working through the lessons, journaling and support of the forum that this had nothing to do with my partner, but just fears that were trying to protect me from getting hurt by love. I think there does come a point after you’ve panicked enough that your psyche says, okay, that’s great and all, but what are we going to do about it? The course helps you with finding your way out. With each fear you shine your light on, you realize, oh, that’s not scary at all or there is no way that makes any sense or oh, I don’t actually believe that, and then you keep moving forward.more
“Soon I realized how good it felt to take care of myself. These fears didn’t begin with my now husband. He didn’t cause them; they had always been lurking. And, in a sense, I always knew that. But fears are scary. Just like anything that involves risk. As a young child, I was always afraid of the dark, sleepovers, trying new things. But I have a heart that wants to explore and wants love so it pushes me. And for the kind of gal I am, it’s not enough for me to just “jump out of a plane”; I need to prepare and take care of myself while I’m in the process of taking a risk. A loving form of self-care was the missing piece. There had been no way for me to show the scared part of myself taking the risk that I’m being taken care of. When I began to realize that I could do that, jumping out of the plane seemed okay. Sure it was scary, but I could do it. The e-course and the forum gave me the tools. Kind of like a parachute and protective goggles
“If you’re reading this right now, I know you’re scared. I know how fear can paralyze, what it can say to you. It’s scary stuff. But that’s at the heart of it: it’s just fear. And fear really isn’t as big as it thinks it is when you shine the light on it. If you work hard at taking care of your feelings around this transition, you will get to the other side. And it’s more beautiful and rich and full than you could ever imagine and nothing like fear could have ever predicted!
- Ashley B.