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The Fear of Engulfment Hides a Fear of Rejection

By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006

Do you give yourself up and then resent the other person? Do you fear being controlled? Discover the underlying cause of these issues and what to do about it.

Fear of RejectionJim was attending his first five-day Inner Bonding Intensive because he could not seem to commit to a relationship. He was lonely and wanted to be in a relationship, and he had no trouble meeting women he was attracted to, but as soon as he started to really like someone, he would find any number of reasons to back out. In his early 40's, he was tired of this, but couldn't seem to break out of the pattern.

It soon became apparent that Jim was terrified of losing himself in a relationship.

He was a very kind-hearted man and enjoyed giving, but invariably he found himself giving too much - giving himself up. In time he would feel controlled, engulfed, smothered in the relationship. He would start to feel resentful about giving more than he was receiving and would end the relationship. This same pattern happened over and over.

Jim was very aware of the fact that he kept giving himself up in relationships, but he believed it was because he was attracted to strong, controlling women. He never found himself attracted to timid women who gave themselves up. So he felt stuck.

He was stuck because he was operating out of a false belief that he was giving himself up because the woman was controlling. In fact, her behavior had NOTHING to do with Jim giving himself up.

Jim gave himself up because underneath his fear of engulfment was a deeper fear - a fear of rejection.

He feared that if he did not give himself up and do what a woman wanted him to do, she would reject him. His intent in giving himself up was to have control over the woman not rejecting him. But in giving himself up, he was rejecting himself, so he would always end up feeling resentful and rejecting the woman.

This pattern would start as soon as a woman became important to him. As soon as he started to really like her, he would begin to fear losing her. In order to have control over not losing her, he was willing to lose himself. But once he started to lose himself, he stopped feeling attracted to her.

The underlying issue was that Jim had never learned to handle the loneliness and heartbreak of rejection. Having experienced rejection early in his life from his parents, he was terrified of it.

As children, none of us can handle rejection well.

All of us had to learn protective ways of handling the pain of rejection. We learned to comply, resist, get angry, shut down or withdraw in response to rejection. We then carried these protections into adulthood, never learning healthy ways of managing the pain of rejection.

Jim was invariably attracted to women who used anger as their way to protect against rejection, while Jim continued to use compliance and withdrawal as his protections.

In order for Jim to sustain a healthy, intimate relationship, he needed to learn to manage the pain of rejection. We all need to learn to manage the loneliness and heartache of rejection in order to stay open and create intimacy in a relationship. No matter how good a relationship, there is always going to be rejection. There is no such thing as a relationship where you never feel rejected.

In order to learn to manage the pain of rejection so that he would no longer give himself up, Jim needed to practice Inner Bonding so that he would stop abandoning himself in the face of his fear of rejection. He needed to develop a loving adult self who could speak up for him and help him to not take rejection personally, as well as who could bring in Spirit to comfort the heartache. Jim needed to practice Inner Bonding until he was strong enough to love, which means strong enough to keep his heart open in the face of rejection, strong enough to be willing to lose the other person rather than lose himself, and strong enough to be open to intimacy.

Jim did practice Inner Bonding on a daily basis and he gradually learned to speak up for himself and not take rejection personally. As a result, his fear of rejection diminished to the point where he was no longer willing to give himself up or withdraw in the face of a woman's controlling, rejecting behavior. Jim is now happily married and looking forward to starting the family he always wanted.

Learn how to attract the partner of your dreams! Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Attracting your Beloved."

Join IBVillage to connect with others and receive compassionate help and support for learning to love yourself.

Photo by Tertia Van Rensburg


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Creating the habit of thinking about love and what is loving to yourself and others will keep you connected with Spirit. When you are with Spirit, you will not be in fear.



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