I am often asked an important question. “How do I learn to float and accept when one person makes me anxious?”  This question is asked by people that will often explain that they experience anxiety or even panic when in the presence of a specific person or group of people.  Often, there is a history of abuse, or there is ongoing abuse of varying types (mental, emotional, or even physical).  So the question I am really being asked is, “How can I float through being with someone that has harmed me or is harming me right now?”

The answer is simple.  You are not required to accept and float through abuse.  Not now.  Not ever.  I am teaching you how to become non-reactive to irrational fear.  Fear that feels real, but has no basis in reality. This is why we learn to accept that fear and float through it.  This is why we surrender to it.  Because in doing so we learn that there is no real danger, and that we no longer have to be afraid.  When in an abusive relationship, there is REAL DANGER.  REAL HARM is being done.  Your fear and your anxiety are justified!  I am not teaching you how to float through that.
My old friend Joe Ryan joined me to discuss this important topic and share his experience with abusive relationships.


Your takeaways from this episode:

  1. We do not accept and float through fear based on real harm and real danger.  We do not accept abuse, and is it not incumbent on an abused person to find a way to “cope” with that abuse while still being attached and in the presence of their abuser.
  2. When in an abusive situation, your solution is not to float and accept.  Your solution is to make yourself safe by putting space between you and your abuser.
  3. You cannot expect to make lasting progress in anxiety disorder recovery when you are still subjected to real harm and real danger on a daily basis.
  4. Often, leaving an abusive relationship is difficult and is done slowly because of the intense feelings and fear it can trigger.  Leaving an abuser may bring about feelings of guilt, betrayal, and abandonment.  It may feel like you are doing the wrong thing and hurting people when you leave. This is common. Again, your job is to make yourself safe, not to take care of your abuser or those people surrounding your abuser.
  5. You CAN use the tools I teach to help you navigate through the difficult feelings and the anxiety you feel while leaving an abusive situation.  The tools can help you find safety.  They do not help you stay in an unsafe situation.
  6. Leaving is hard.  Sometimes it feels harder than staying.  But in the end, getting into that safe space where you do not have to worry about being hurt all the time means getting the space to work on your anxiety and other issues more productively.


Being abused is painful.  Leaving an abusive relationship is also painful in many cases, but leads to better days and is worth the struggle.  Use the tools you learn here to help you build the life you deserve rather than to remain stuck in a life you don’t want to be in.


For more discussion on anxiety and abusive and controlling relationships, including tips on how to safely exit this kind of relationship, check out podcast episode 97 featuring the team from Long Island Against Domestic Violence.

Joe Ryan is the creator and host of  “It’s Not You, It’s Your Trauma“, a podcast focusing on trauma and trauma recovery.  You can find Joe and his podcast at https://joeryan.com.


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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)






Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Graduate student and therapist-in-training. Author and educator on the topic of anxiety disorders and anxiety recovery. Former anxious and depressed person.