The fear of intimacy leaves me feeling like I am naked in a very spacious, public building. There is nowhere to hide or blend in with my surroundings. It’s just me at my bare essence. I’m left out here waiting and wondering how I will be weighed and measured by the passers-by. All my dimples, wrinkles and scars…I am exposed. My thoughts, my flaws, my past and my present hang-ups all out there for the world to see. I hate this space and I tend to avoid it at all cost, even though my hearts desire is to be united with someone someday. The very thing that I desire to move toward has at times had me paralyzed with fear. My avoidance tactics are many. My solutions are few. This week reader, I hope to take us on a journey to discover how to move past this fear of intimacy that often besets us.
I did some research to try to help us get an understanding of what a fear of intimacy actually is. According to Psych alive.org article, “Fear of Intimacy: Understanding Why People Fear Intimacy”:
“Most of us say that we want to find a loving partner, but many of us have deep-seated fears of intimacy that make it difficult to be in a close relationship. The experience of real love often threatens our self-defenses and raises our anxiety as we become vulnerable and open ourselves up to another person. This leads to a fear of intimacy. Falling in love not only brings excitement and fulfillment; it also creates anxiety and fears of rejection and potential loss. For this reason many people shy away from loving relationships. Fear of intimacy begins to develop early in life. As kids, when we experience rejection and/or emotional pain, we often shut down. We learn not to rely on others as a coping mechanism. We may even begin to rely on fantasy gratification rather actual interactions with other people; unlike people, fantasies cannot hurt us. Overtime, we may prefer the fantasy over actual personal interactions and real positive acknowledgment or affection. After being hurt in our earliest relationships, we fear being hurt again. We are reluctant to take another chance on being loved. If we felt unseen or misunderstood as children, we may have a hard time believing that someone could really love and value us. The negative feelings we developed toward ourselves in our early years, became a deeply embedded part of who we think we are. Therefore, when someone is loving and reacts positively toward us, we experience a conflict within ourselves. We don’t know whether to believe this new person’s kind and loving point of view of us or our old, familiar sense of our identity. So, we often react with suspicion and distrust when someone loves us, because our fear of intimacy has been aroused.”
This is only a brief snippet of the information that is out there. I know I’m just touching the surface of this topic and may need to take a deeper look at this. For today, let’s just look at the few things that are talked about in the above article. I must also add that this fear can be a hinderance to friendships as well as romantic relationships. Fear can be crippling, if you allow it to be. Those of us who have experienced any of the above feelings must realize that there is a definitive course of action to move past this fear. Yes, the triggers may still come but, yes, it’s also possible to not let those issues control your life and rob you of the happiness and intimate relationships that we were made to have. Here are a few tips…
Anxiety and fear of rejection or loss:
I know I am no different than your average Joe but, some days I feel like I have had a disproportionate amount of rejection from friends, loved ones and enemies as well. This is a hard pill for me to swallow. I went from being the girl who didn’t care about anyone at any time to the girl that cared about everyone, all the time. The latter seemed like the better option to me in my younger years. At least I didn’t hate everyone all the time and there was no ever-looming chip on my shoulder. The problem though, was that there really was a lack of commitment from me to anyone in particular. Although it would appear that I had all these “friends” none of them really knew me. It was easy to hop from one thing to the next and feel no sense of loss because I was never really connected or emotionally invested in anything. Today, I try focus on making real connections and living in the moment. I used to be so preoccupied with what was going to happen and how things were going to turn out in the end, that I was unable to enjoy the moment that I was living. As I shared with you in a previous blog post, I came to know that each connection I’ve had was for “a reason, a season or a lifetime.” This allows me to relax enough to embrace the present, one day at a time. I don’t want to miss out on gleaning the reason or enjoying the season that I am living in.
Fantasy gratification rather than actual interactions:
This one is a doozy. You know when you are crippled with fear you become immobile. There is no movement. That means a person is just physically or mentally “sitting” in the same place day in and day out numbing-out on whatever “substance” would keep them in this lethargic state. Some of us zone out on TV, some of us food, drugs, sex, internet chatrooms or whatever our preferred numbing agent, all to avoid real interactions with real people. Real people are so unpredictable and at times so hurtful. Sometimes it just appears easier to go it alone. After all, “I’m not going to hurt me.” Lies that we fool ourselves into believing. This behavior is indeed, us hurting ourselves. The most helpful thing I can say to help you out of this one is, log off! Turn the TV off! Go outside, join an interest group, call or visit someone instead of texting or emailing, interact with real people in real-time whom you can be your real self around. For some of us this entails joining a support group to help us break free of the addictive, fantasy behavior. I know that concept may sound crazy to you right now but, trust me, there is an amazing sense of comfort and healing that comes from fellowshipping with people who understand you and accept you just as you are.
This one is difficult to grasp because your whole life you have been with you. And you have seen yourself from this one perspective the entire time. Probably the perspective of one or both of your parents. If you had affectionate, affirming parents that’s great! However, for a large percentage of us, we were left with the hurts and hang-ups that we inherited. To think of yourself any differently means that you would have no idea exactly who you were. The first time I went through the process of healing, I remember thinking, “Well if these things are not true about me, then what is true? Or, if I stop operating under the direction of this negative character trait, then I don’t know how else to conduct myself.” I felt an utter sense of loss of identity. The good news is that the negative traits you have acquired can be unlearned and replaced with positive ones. There are beautiful things that God put in you from the time of your conception…ask God to help you see those things. They are present in you right now! As you discover them, write them down or say the affirmations to yourself in the mirror. Whatever works for you to remind yourself of who you are.
Today, I live and I love in a more authentic way. The goal is to get to the place where I can be naked and unashamed. (Genesis 2:25) I mean to use this as a metaphor or, perhaps literally, for husbands and wives. There are a few relationships that I am currently building that are the trigger of grief for me for different reasons. I’ve shared my fears and my thoughts with those I am in relationship with. That’s a good thing. As I write this, I’m realizing that the grief is also a good thing. These emotions let me know that I am living my life in a more exposed and vulnerable manner than I ever have before. That’s growth! Don’t miss out on all the positive interactions you could have just to avoid the few negative things that may or, may not take place. Live in the present and be intentional in your relationships reader. Be encouraged.
Holy Bible, Genesis 2:25