Healing the Fear of IntimacyBy Dr. Margaret Paul
November 30, 2009
Are you sick of being afraid of intimacy? Are you ready to have the wonderful experience of emotional intimacy in your life?
Yes, of course we want that, but there are very real fears that keep us from opening to emotional intimacy in a primary relationship.
What is the first fearful thought you think when you think of feeling close to someone?
"I'm going to be rejected or I'm going to be abandoned."
"I'm going to be smothered, engulfed, controlled. I will lose myself."
"If I lose the person I love through death, I can't handle the pain."
These are the fears that are behind the fear of intimacy. It's not the intimacy itself, but the bad things that can happen that are sometimes part of an intimate relationship.
These fears come from the pain of having been rejected, or of having lost ourselves in a relationship, or of having too much loss without knowing how to handle grief. These experiences may have been so painful that you are afraid to experience them again.
Is this pain inevitable in an intimate relationship? Yes and no. The pain of rejection or engulfment is NOT inevitable. The pain of losing a loved one through death may happen and is always a huge challenge, but would you really rather live a life without love than face this challenge?
The key to healing the fears is developing your loving adult self.
For example, you are in a relationship with someone you really love. One day, out of nowhere, your partner gets angry with you, shuts down to you, or threatens to leave you.
If you are operating from the ego, wounded part of yourself, your reactions might be:
"What did I do wrong?" (Taking it personally and feeling rejected).
"What do I have to do to fix this?" (The beginning of losing yourself).
Then you might also get angry or shut down to avoid feeling rejected, or you might scurry around trying to make things right, taking responsibility for your partner's feelings. Out of your fear, you would try to control your partner.
If you are operating from your loving adult self, your responses might be:
"My partner is closed right now and trying to blame me or punish me for something. My heart hurts from being treated this way, but I know that his or her behavior has nothing to do with me. I cannot cause another person to act this way, nor am I responsible for how he or she chooses to behave. If my partner leaves, I will feel very sad, even heartbroken, but I can manage this feeling with deep compassion and tenderness toward myself. Now, I wonder how I can best take loving care of myself until he or she opens up?"
As a loving adult, you would not take your partner's behavior personally and feel rejected by it, nor would you give yourself up trying to get your partner to open up. You might ask your partner what's wrong with an intention to learn, and if he or she opens up, then you can have a productive conversation. If not, then you would compassionately tend to your own heartache and do something loving for yourself - take a walk, call a friend, read a book, and so on.
You would not fear being left by your partner, as you would not be abandoning yourself. You would know that you will take loving care of yourself.
Developing your loving adult self is a process that takes consistent practice. When you shift your intention from trying to have control over another not rejecting you, to taking loving care of yourself, you gradually develop your loving adult. The more powerful your loving adult self is, the less you fear intimacy. You no longer fear rejection because you no longer take others' behavior personally, and you no longer fear engulfment because you no longer give yourself up to avoid rejection. As a loving adult, you learn how to manage loss so that you don't have to avoid love.
The Inner Bonding process is a powerful process for developing your loving adult. Practicing the 6 steps of Inner Bonding gradually leads you out of your fears of intimacy and into the ability to truly love yourself and take loving care of yourself, so that you can share love with others.
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Today, notice if your intent is to get love or approval from others or to give love to yourself and others. Trying to get love or approval will always end up causing suffering. Giving love to yourself and others brings joy.
By Dr. Margaret Paul