Curing Your Fear of Intimacy in Relationships

250px-Dramaten_mask_2008aMost everyone carries fears about intimacy and being vulnerable.  We are afraid of being hurt, abandoned, rejected, humiliated, or betrayed.   Some of us are more afraid than others because of experiences that shaped us growing up.  Attachment style with our parental relationship serves as a model for adult experiences, particularly in the most intimate of relationships.  When a parent is emotionally absent, dismissing, inattentive, constantly distracted or downright cruel and rejecting, the distress confuses the child and desperate behavior begins to intensify.  As adults these children fear the threat of rejection or abandonment more than others.  They can become extremely clingy and angry, overwhelmed by their unmet dependency needs and unable to contain anxiety.  Often, they become people pleasers to receive approval from others.

Adults that have a negative self-image are fearful and doubting in their ability to keep a partner interested and maintain a loved one’s attention.  They worry excessively about rejection.  They are emotionally dependent and constantly feel unappreciated.  In intimate relationships they are romantically obsessive and jealous.  They tend to take hostages and are preoccupied with their partners.

Some adult children are dismissing and come across as emotionally disconnected, cold, and uninterested in intimate relationships.  They can waver between being distant and cut-off emotionally, to being critical and controlling.  These people are cynical and have negative views of others.  They are particularly guarded, mistrustful, and reluctant to self-disclose in most intimate relationships.  They tend to have more break-ups and are less invested in partnerships.  They feel less grief or distress when they have break-ups than others experience.  They just don’t seem to care as much.

Those who don’t care at all and are emotionally shut down as a result of trauma are often incapable of human intimacy.   If their behavior is characterized by a lack of remorse, lack of empathy, manipulations, and emotional coldness they may be a psychopath.  True psychopaths are constitutionally incapable of normal human interaction.  If you are in a relationship with someone like this, run, get out.  You cannot experience genuine intimacy with someone who abuses power and control and deals with emotional discomfort by blaming and attacking.

Many of us have these problems because we are afraid of being hurt or betrayed.  We still want intimacy, but are afraid of depending on someone and then getting wounded again.  These experiences are a driving force in ambivalence about intimacy.  The more painful and unresolved our earlier experiences are the more we crave intimacy and the more we feel threatened by it.  This is demonstrated by “come close”, “go away” relationship behavior.  We get close, get afraid, find fault with our partner, feel hurt and sabotage the relationship.  We then find ourselves alone, crave closeness again, and the repetitive behavior starts all over.  So if you sabotage intimacy and see it as a negative behavior you want to change, focus on the fear that fuels your actions.  You can learn to be compassionate with your fears and with others.  When you can see your fears and needs more clearly you can stop the cycle.  Love is what we really want and often we are afraid of love without consciously knowing it.

If you love someone and want more intimacy, and a decent relationship, you can learn how to create intimacy better.  Find out what your partner needs and how to support those needs.  If you pay attention and care about your loved one’s feelings, you can learn to be a better (not perfect) partner.  And when you stay in a relationship over time you can build your capacity for intimacy.

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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to create healthy relationships.  And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-compassion and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.

Roberta

Caring About How We Think in Abusive Relationships

"Thinking" Courtesy of Wikipedia

“Thinking” Courtesy of Wikipedia

Researchers of cognition estimate that people experience upwards to 60,000 automatic thoughts a day, and for most of us 80% of our contemplations are negative. These negative  thoughts are repetitive ideas that we continuously tell ourselves throughout our lives. They are primarily formed from experiences with feelings and actions in our family environment and intimate relationships. They are not facts and are often not accurate reflections of reality. Especially when our family communication patterns are destructive and our intimate relationships are abusive. Our inner dialogue has a strong effect on  emotional states, actions, and how we cope with life.

Imagine you have a problem with an emotionally abusive partner that you are trying to cope with. You could think, “This is not about me, I can manage, even though it is difficult,” or, you could think, “This is hopeless, there is nothing I can do right, I’m completely overwhelmed and it’s impossible to make a change.” How might you feel, think, or act differently in these situations? If you feel anger or resentment, the challenge is to acknowledge it, learn from it, and then release any self-destructive thoughts.

Thoughts can affect your reactions to your partner’s emotional abuse and your ability to cope with it too. In particular, thinking his or her abusive behavior is about you. Participating in the emotional cruelty with your partner is likely to make you feel more helpless to change and to suffer more. In contrast, thinking that makes you feel competent to cope with the relationship can make you feel better about yourself and allow you to change the circumstances. When you feel misery, force yourself to think grateful thoughts. When you feel blamed, reassure yourself that who you are is okay.

Thoughts often seem to be out of our control. Even so, the truth is that we can learn to monitor our thinking, notice thoughts that are more or less helpful, and make choices about how to counter or change those thoughts. By doing these things, we reduce thoughts that contribute to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and increase thoughts that contribute to feelings of competence, confidence, and determination. These thoughts can then help you a) act more effectively with your partner and b) stop creating your own emotional pain c) help you leave your relationship. This also helps you make emotionally fulfilling choices like spending time with loved ones, accomplishing your work or educational goals, or reducing the negative effects of your abusive partner.

The three steps to changing your thinking are to:

1. Notice your thoughts (if you are feeling bad, you’re thinking negative thoughts).
2. Ask yourself, “Is the thought helpful or harmful. Is it accurate?”
3. Change your thought, if harmful or inaccurate; counter it with a positive coping thought and behavior.

Thoughts can be empowering thoughts or self-defeating thoughts. They can be thoughts that reinforce you to believe in your value or thoughts that punish you for being or making a mistake. Looking at your own relationship experiences, which types of thoughts are most likely to be helpful? Where does your mind hang out? Make a list of these inner dialogues to help you notice the thoughts that make you feel bad. This action will help you to stop attending to the seemingly involuntary thought processes and the continuous negative monologues.

Questions to ask for empowering coping thoughts in an emotionally abusive relationship are:

1. Am I blaming myself for something over which I do not have control?
2. Are there any strengths or positives in me or the situation that I am ignoring?
3. Have I had any experiences that show that this thought is true all the time?
4. If a friend had this thought, what would I tell him or her?
5. Have I been in this type of situation with my partners before? What happened? Is   there anything different between this situation and previous ones?
6. What have I learned from prior experiences about the signs of an abusive relationship that could help me now?

These actions will help you in emotionally destructive relationships and can help you get through times of stress in healthy relationships. Listen to that voice in your head and do what you need to do to take care of your thoughts.

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Thank you for reading this article. I’ve dedicated my personal and professional life to the importance of non-violence and self-compassion by teaching from my experience. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to put an end to the self-judgment and critical thoughts. And, as I learn and grow, I teach self-acceptance and give advice I use myself, in the hopes that it helps you to improve your own life.