Are You Afraid of Closeness? How We Create Barriers to Intimacy
We are constantly balancing the desire for closeness against fears of being abandoned or betrayed.
Barriers to intimacy may center on fears of being criticized and rejected, or alternatively, of being engulfed and controlled by our loved ones. Both stem from the absence of a strong sense of identity and autonomy.
Sometimes, we fear that if others really know us, they won't like us. Their opinion of us becomes more important than even our own; we make them our judges and live in fear of being criticized.
Afraid of "saying the wrong thing" we reveal little about ourselves, and stifle intimacy.
In other instances, the desire to be close is outweighed by fears of becoming overly dependent or vulnerable. We mistake the interdependence of intimacy for loss of control.
People who have difficulty trusting others often fear the vulnerability that is integral to intimacy. They fear that if they open their lives to others, the information they reveal will be used to humiliate, ridicule, or embarrass them.
Some people have been so emotionally damaged that they can't trust at all and they may turn to drugs for a temporary sense of connection with others.
Trust is the basis for all intimate relationships. Other prerequisites for intimacy include:
- Self-disclosure: sharing feelings, thoughts, and values
- Shared control of the relationship: giving equal importance to both partners' feelings and desires
- Sensitivity to feelings, both your own and those of your partner
- Ability to resolve conflict in mutually acceptable ways
- Autonomy: a clear sense of one's own identity
- Vulnerability: willingness to let down usual defenses and be candid
Therapy helps clients overcome fears so they can experience the warmth and closeness of intimacy without unrealistic fears of being controlled or criticized.
Within the accepting, non-judgmental atmosphere of the therapeutic relationship, one can develop and practice intimacy skills that can then be transferred to intimate relationships outside the therapy setting.
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Carol A. Henry, LPC, LMFT
Carol serves clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where she works with individuals, couples, and families. She has facilitated training workshops for businesses, consciousness groups, as well as area recovery and church groups. Her counseling services include web-enabled video counseling. More information: www.carolahenry.com