Friday, August 16, 2013

ARE YOU READY FOR LOVE? Facing The Fear Of Intimacy

In our modern-day fast-paced society we are inundated with pseudo-therapists and reality show psychobabble. One of the terms caught up in the midst of that rhetoric is the overuse of the term fear of intimacy. However, the truth is that many of us actually grapple with this issue. But most of us do so unbeknownst to ourselves. If fear of intimacy is your cross to bear than that feeling you may be having in your chest, or the words resonating in your heart, may be signifying that this article is for you. Healing begins when we are willing to tell the truth. It begins when we are willing to bring the unknown from our unconscious to our consciousness. Then we can be empowered to make a different choice.

Today is an opportunity to look in the mirror and truly face your intimacy issues. If you do so this article can be the beginning of your recovery. Or maybe this article can serve as a guide for loving someone who is struggling with this topic.  Either way, if you embrace it, healing is abound!

The first step, if you are familiar with my style, is to start with a working definition. What exactly are we talking about? I mean, who fears love? Don't we all want to be loved? Don't we all want to have intimacy with our beloved and our friends? The answer is most typically a resounding yes! But again we are talking about a fear that is usually embedded in our unconscious mind, not something we walk around thinking about all the time. Below is a great definition to begin our discussion on overcoming fear of intimacy, quoted from PSYCHALIVE:
What is Fear of Intimacy?
Fear of intimacy is an often subconscious fear of closeness that frequently affects people’s personal relationships. This fear of physical and/or emotional intimacy tends to show up in people’s closest and most meaningful relationships.
Where does it come from?
This is a great question.  I promise you this not a "blame mommy and daddy" excuse.  Yet it is true that our references of love come from our parents.  Unfortunately, they may not have been very capable of filling that unconditional love tank, they may have been neglectful, or abusive, or maybe they were absent all together.  Whether they were or not, perception is our reality.  If we were failed in this regard, early on in life, the anxiety of being disappointed takes up residence in our hearts.  We then don't easily trust anyone to show up and love us, or maybe we don't feel very lovable. Then we become focused on an ideal love that we didn't get to experience.  As an adult this fantasy love cannot be fulfilled by others--nor could it--and our disappointment, and lack of trust grows.  While this may sound daunting, remember two things: 1) This processing happens mostly in our unconscious mind; 2) There is hope to get beyond it and fully experience love and intimacy.

What are some of the signs?

There are many signs that you may be dealing with this fear. It is not always happening on a conscious level, therefore an observation of your behavior is a good guide for making the assessment.  Keep in mind that this is not about judgement.  When we know better, we can do better. There is no harm in asking yourself some very honest questions.  Often I encounter women who say, "Oh, no I don't have a fear of intimacy.  I love being open and loving to my partner." Well, if only it were that easy to assess.  Like I said earlier, most people want love and, if asked, would say that they want to find love. Yet they quickly assert how it is all the other people that keep them from having it...You know, those women who are "not ready".  Well here is something to ponder, why would you continue to pick unavailable women if in fact you are so ready? Hmmm...that brings me to the list of questions to consider.  It is not about a one-time experience with one or two questions, but rather uncovering your relationship patterns.  If you are really feeling courageous, ask your inner circle for assistance in uncovering your behavior patterns:

  • Do you find yourself attracting unavailable women?  These women may already be in relationships, or not available for other reasons, such as working too much, extremely busy, live in another state, not equally yoked, not really open to love. If we choose people who are unable to commit to us, then it is easier than having to tell the truth about our own fears.  We can just say, look it is not me, it is her! And your friends might even co-sign that sentiment. I urge you to go deeper.  One thing is for sure, the only common denominator in your reoccurring experience is YOU!
  • Do you feel anxiety when things start to get closer in a relationship? That anxiety might manifest as boredom, or feeling an unexplainable sense of displeasure with your mate, or succumbing to the distraction of other women.
  • Do you have a fantasy love concept that no one has quite fulfilled yet?  You might find yourself weeding out lots of people because they are just not quite "right".  This perfectionist's view of romance will always leave you feeling disappointed.
  •  Do your mates or friends accuse you of being emotionally unavailable in your relationships? There are lots of ways to escape intimacy while remaining in the commitment, such as becoming a workaholic, cheating, overeating, sleeping too much, obsession with a hobby, or even getting "sick" frequently.  Sometimes people will rationalize away the availability for intimacy with these things.

These are just some of the ways to identify fear of intimacy.  Now take a deep breath and ask yourself, honestly, with no one looking--Is this me?  If you answered NO, then good for you.  This is still good information to provide some understanding for others in your life.  If you answered YES. Then it is okay.  Now that you know, you can recover.

How do we overcome fear of intimacy?
This is my favorite part of any article.  The healing and opportunity to make a more empowered choice is quite beautiful to me.  To that end, the answer is simple. The doing is more challenging, but the answer is simple:
  • Do some work on radical forgiveness. Start with your early caregivers. Forgive them for not showing up in a way that fully served your ability to give and receive love. Forgiving them is not a pardon for their behavior, but rather it is a recognition of your desire to release its hold on your life.
  • Next forgive yourself. Before this point you may not have been aware of your fear of intimacy. And if you were aware you may not have understood its full residence in your life. Now you are in a place of confrontation. You can look at that fear squarely and choose to deal with it head on, with courage, authenticity, vulnerability and support.
  • Practice new self talk and behave your way to change. Change comes with practice. When you feel yourself getting uncomfortable in your intimate relationships choose a dialogue with your partner instead of retreat. In addition, talk to that feeling in the pit of your stomach that is telling you to head for the hills. You can say, I know this is my highest desire. I know this is my fear coming up. But I am open and willing to love and be loved. 
  • Finally, ask for support. If you are open to therapy I would suggest starting with a good therapist, who has skill, compassion and insight. You can also share your revelation with your inner circle. Find an accountability partner who is willing to reflect back to you the person you want to be in love. This is not someone who would judge you nor impose their beliefs on you. This would be someone who fully supports your highest good. There are also a few really good books on this issue that I could recommend. See below:
Fear of Intimacy by Robert Firestone and Joyce CatlettThe Dance of Intimacy by Harriet LernerThe Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown
Remember that intimacy issues can show up in romantic relationships and friendships. So the benefits of recovering from this issue will be quite significant and rewarding. In whatever way you choose to embark on this journey to confront your fear of intimacy, my hope is that you choose healing. It may seem like a daunting undertaking, but I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel and you are not alone. Like with any other condition, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, etc, it is all about how fully you embrace your wellness. Fear of intimacy is no different. I wish you great success as you embark on your journey to CREATE LOVE.

        Nya Akoma! (Take Heart)

        1 comment:

        1. Thanks for the reading suggestions.
          I love this Imani; "Healing begins when we are willing to tell the truth", AND I like, "One thing is for sure, the only common denominator in your reoccurring experience is YOU!"; AND I like, "Do you feel anxiety when things start to get closer in a relationship?"; my response, Yes, I do !!
          Why do I feel like I'm on a Planet all by myself?!? When I do tell someone the truth (and not in an abrasive manner), I hurt them. When I keep the truth to myself; I carry the burden & I hurt. I feel like I'm on a Planet all by myself. How do I get off this Planet? Some people can't handle the truth, even when it's coming from your heart & with good intentions.