Fear of intimacy: is often a 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.
Love is not only hard to find, but strange as it may seem, it can be even more difficult to
accept and tolerate. 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-defences and raises our anxiety as we
become vulnerable and open ourselves up to another person. This leads to a fear of
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 use
this coping mechanism because we learn not to rely on others. We may even begin to rely
on fantasy gratification, rather actual interactions with other people; after all, unlike people,
fantasies cannot hurt us. Over time, we may prefer these 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
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.
Another powerful Reason
Fear of Death: Our capacity to accept love and enjoy loving relationships can also be
negatively affected by existential issues. When we feel loved and admired, we start to place
more value on ourselves and begin to appreciate life more. This can lead us to feel more
pain about the thought of death. We fear both the loss of our loved one and of ourselves,
and in the process many of us unconsciously pull back from our relationships. Fear of death
tends to increase the fear of intimacy.
Even though the fear of intimacy is a largely unconscious process, we can still observe how
it effects our behaviour. When we push our partner away emotionally or retreat from their
affection, we are acting on this fear of intimacy. Holding back the positive qualities that our
partner finds most desirable, is another way we act on this fear.
We often try to make ourselves less lovable, so we don’t have to be as afraid of being loved.
These distancing behaviours may reduce our anxiety about being too close to someone, but
they come at a great cost.
Acting on our fears preserves (and intensifies) our negative self-image. Because by creating
that distance or separation, the loved one often "gets the message", and finally calls it quits.
And then we'll let ourselves feel that we've have "proved" our self-fulfilling prophecy, that
everyone who loves/loved us, always leaves. It's kind of like, "they're going to leave me
anyway, so why don't I take charge, rather than waiting for him/her.
However, we can overcome fear of intimacy. We can transform and develop ourselves to
stop being afraid of love and learn to let someone in, and feel safe at the same time.
We can recognize the behaviours that are driven by our fear of intimacy and challenge these
defensive reactions that preclude love. We can remain vulnerable in our love relationship by
resisting retreating into a fantasy of love, or engaging in distancing and withholding
behaviours. We can maintain our integrity, learn to “sweat through” the anxiety of being
close without pulling away, and gradually increase our tolerance for being loved.
By taking the actions necessary to challenge our fear of intimacy, we can expand our
capacity for both giving and accepting love.
NOTE: A workshop on this topic is available through Dawn Cove Abbey
|Fear Of Intimacy:
|Dawn Cove Abbey
"Roadside Assistance" For Your Journey Through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman M.A © 2007-2020
Questions and comments welcomed.
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