Longing for and Fear of Intimacy
What many of us want most in life is love. What many of us are most afraid of is love. Sad but true. Millions of people are plagued by the ambivalence: You want it and push it away. Just when you find someone who does love you, can love you and wants to love you, you sabotage the relationship in some way.
Are you single and longing for love but somehow can’t find a partner? Have you ever experienced having to choose between a person who is available and loves you – and someone who is not willing to commit, or unable to give adult love – and you choose the one who cannot love you? Are you always in love with the person you are not with, and unable to accept the love available to you in your present relationship? Have you had serial partnerships always leaving when the romance dies away and the going gets tough? Have you lost your sexual desire for someone you love even though, otherwise, it’s a good relationship? Or perhaps your sexual responses are great but you do not open your heart to love? If you answer yes to any of these, you are longing for and fearful of intimacy, carrying a fear of true love.
Why? It is because the child in you has been wounded in the past; so deeply and painful that you, as a child, had to stop that pain in whatever way you could: cutting off feelings, stopping your deep breathing by tensing your body, and by living a fantasy life. As adults we still use these means to protect ourselves from our childhood wounds and the people who wounded us. Only this time we look at our wife or lover and see Mommy; or our husbands or lovers and see and feel the feelings we felt with Daddy, good and bad.
If we don’t choose people who are like our parents, we make them like our parents. Ultimately we do this so that we can heal the pain of our past, grow up and get on with life. Harville Hendrix says, “We get married in order to finish our childhood.” Only then, can we go on to have an honest, soulful, complete relationship. It takes work and most of us want to quit before it’s done. We fantasize that it would be so much easier with someone else. Possible, but hardly ever true because it’s us making it hard, and we bring ourselves along to the next relationship. (I am not suggesting any of us stay in abusive relationships or ones where our partner refuses to work on him or herself.)
Meanwhile, we numb our feelings to avoid unhappiness. We really do want love. Our primary struggle is for happiness, but because of our past wounds and fears, our aim becomes the avoidance of unhappiness. Our conclusion: “If I do not feel, then I will not be unhappy.” The unhappiness we seem to avoid will come back to us in more painful indirect ways; the bitter hurt of isolation, loneliness, the feeling of missing or having missed the true goodness of life, and without being the most and best we can be. We also believe that if we isolate, stay alone, that we can avoid our pain. This is a solution we used as children so we try it again and fight against giving it up.
Our fear of recreating our original pain will not allow us to have love now. What once was our protector now becomes our saboteur. Our distorted Lower Self’s feelings fight to keep us from having what we truly want – love. Our self-created demon kicks up the most when we get closest to having love now. “You can’t have it; you’re too bad, stupid, worthless.” The demon may change your vision so that your love partner looks like the worst monster in the world. “Get far away from him/her.” Status quo, isolation, no feeling, is better, less frightening – in the short run; less soulful and less satisfying in the long run. But we feel trapped and stuck in our old ways, and we must work like hell with the assistance of heaven to get unstuck.
John Bradshaw said that the only time we may feel happy and free is when we’re single. Maybe true for many of us. It’s easier. We only have ourselves to be with, but ultimately not as satisfying and without the growth potential of partnering. We are born to connect with others – our biological, emotional urges move us constantly along toward connection with others. Our spiritual desire is toward that of union with another human being; it is the closest we usually get to experiencing Oneness on earth.
The Pathwork guide asks, “How can you receive what you long for – love, belonging, communication – if you neither feel nor express the occasional glimpses of feelings that the still healthy part in you strives for? You cannot have it both ways, though the child in you never wants to accept that.” We cannot belong and be loved while we dull our world of feelings into a state of numbness which prohibits us from truly loving others. Core Energetics can help us to feel our deep feelings and transform the pain so that we may be loving and allow love in. Let’s look at the challenges of partnership as the next great adventure of life. Take risks – open up. Feel everything we can possibly feel. And remember, we have choice at every moment. We can choose love over fear every time (well, as much as we dare). We can create love in our life. This is today and we’re adults. Most of us don’t really live with Mommy and Daddy; we just have them internalized. It’s time to let them go and embrace the possibility of now.