Is your fear preventing you from letting love in?
Wounded Children, Scared Adults
Often, we fear and avoid love because we wish to avoid getting hurt once again. Those who have difficulty with emotional intimacy have unresolved past trauma, either from past adult relationships or childhood abandonment issues. For those raised in environments where they were not taught to believe that they deserved love,
“You accept the love you think you deserve.” Most of us have heard this. It makes sense in many cases I have seen where children lived in very abusive households and were taught that this was love. They often grow up to believe love is painful. One of two things happens, they avoid it altogether or end up in abusive situations as adults because they believe this is love. But what about children who live in households that are not outright abusive? Many children grow up in families that are not even neglectful per se. They have food and clothing, they go to school. What may be lacking is the belief that they deserve love, or love may have come with conditions.
These children then grow up to be adults who fear intimate relationships. These are some common issues that get in the way of intimacy:
Inability to be vulnerable for fear that the other person will use that information against you.
Feeling unloveable and unworthy of love or happiness. Because of childhood hurts, many of us feel like we aren’t worthy of love and happiness. These feelings can prevent you from falling in love.
Being terrified of happiness and self-sabotage. When things are going well, anxiety creeps in since historically this has always been followed by pain and disappointment.
Believing you are incapable of love (and therefore better off not trying). Feeling smothered and uncomfortable because someone loves you too much, fear that you will make the wrong choice or be trapped.
New relationships bring up painful memories. If you’ve experienced trauma in your past relationships, getting close to a new person may stir up your past hurts.
Letting Love In
You are worthy of love. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to love you, just like you don’t love everyone. There is also no such thing as a perfect person or perfect relationship. We are all flawed individuals, and yet we all deserve love. All relationships require care and attention to flourish, but not at the expense of your own self-worth. Two of the ways to do this are by setting loving boundaries and asking for what you need.
If you feel like your fear is getting in the way, examining past hurts is a starting point. This can be done alone or with a trained therapist who can help you to gain insight into how your past is still affecting you today. This is the first step toward healing. Making an effort to accept, love, and have compassion for yourself, including your flaws, is another step to letting healthy love into your life.
Learning how to be vulnerable is not easy, but it is a risk worth taking to be seen by another person. The idea is that you control how and when to share parts of yourself. This is not an all or nothing process. Taking time to choose your partner rather than jumping in can also help make sure the person is worthy of your love.
This is heavy work. As I mentioned before, you can certainly sift through your past alone. If you find yourself stuck, struggling to connect the dots, or wondering how to move forward, reach out to a psychotherapist. Make the commitment and take the time in therapy to really understand yourself. You are a worthy investment.