On my quest to improve my social skills I have come to what I understand to be a ‘final road block’ of sorts. The one last hurdle to clear before I feel like I could change the direction of my life. A glass ceiling.
That final hurdle is the fear of intimacy, commitment and vulnerability.
Often developed in childhood due to insecure attachements and abusive parenting, fear of intimacy is an anxiety induced at the thought or opportunity of closeness, intimate or sexual expressions and exchanges and feelings of mutual love between two peers or members of the immediate family. It is decidedly less pronounced when it comes to platonic friends and older extended family relations.
While this exact condition isn’t exactly common, it’s actually very similar in a lot of ways to the way an insecure guy might behave. Because at the end of the day, an insecure attachment always manifests itself as insecurity about at least one particular aspect of themselves or situation. So let’s relate the two to broaden the audience this take applies for.
Fear of intimacy sounds strange at first. Kind of like an oxymoron, probably, for most normal people out there. Maybe something like ‘very odd.’ If you come from a good household, chances are you have a secure attachment. This is a technical term that relates the child’s unconscious relationship and faith in their parents or providers ability to faithfully provide for them while they are young and vulnerable.
Good parenting results in children with secure attachments, which sets the stage for healthy child development starting in preschool or grade school right up through puberty which then serves as a spring board for, of course, intimate and sexual relationships in adolescence.
This is how it is is supposed to work. Children take their parents or guardians and hold them in high esteem, as good role models to look for in potential partners. Who then have children and repeat the cycle. Faith in a good role model growing up allows one to have faith and trust in a stranger, assuming that all others must share their positive experiences and childhood memories, simply adjusted for different families.
This is partly why anxiety disorders and insecurity can be so devastating and ‘contagious’ in a community, especially a school. Indeed, studies have shown that anxiety disorders are ‘contagious.’ If one coworker, for instance, is depressed their depression and affect will spread to their neighbors and soon enough the entire office will be feeling slightly down.
But why why does this happen?
Those with secure attachments assume that everyone shares strong positive family upbringings, partly because that was their experience and the experience of the majority of families in the world. It might be all they know, until they come across someone with an insecure attachment who often unintentionally leaves a wake of destruction behind them wherever they go.
The simple fact is that not everyone has a secure attachment, and that it is quite difficult but worth doing to reverse that damage and form new bonds to replace the old severed ones. Ones that can serve as a new secure attachment in adult life.
This is the direct cause of either low or high self-esteem.
If you are someone who gets anxious around people you care about — rather than overjoyed and happy, excited to meet them, then you might have had a rough childhood experience to work through. I encourage everyone who might be struggling with such an experience to take the steps to acknowledge and work through it.
I promised to make this relatable to a wider audience. So this is that.
If you are a guy who struggles because you are either a ‘nice guy,’ are too afraid of women to speak to them, or a guy who self-sabotages future relationships just before they begin (read: me) please consider the similarities of yourself to someone with a fear of intimacy. Sometimes all it takes to shift a mindset dramatically is to open yourself up to the possibility that deep down something just isn’t right.
What does this look like in the real world? The number one thing that manifests is you miss out on wonderful opportunities, one after another after another. And here’s the thing: you’re extremely lucky every single time you get to waste another opportunity that comes your way, because most people don’t get second chances. And this is the biggest problem those with a fear of intimacy face.
It just doesn’t register in their brains that they are missing out until well after they’ve had time to process both the ‘missing years’ others spent being intimate with themselves and those in their social circles and all the individual opportunities one misses in succession. I can make a list of names: ...
of girls I have talked too, but either suddenly stoped, never replied, never asked for a second or third date and never followed up on, or flirted with happily but never expressed a desire to stay in contact. Frankly, I’m tired of it. In fact, my worst case was a situation of mutual interest both clearly communicated, began dating for a couple months and then I froze up and never talked to her until a year later. Ouch.
This is what a lack of assertiveness looks like. Assertiveness is the act of making your intentions known while respecting the desires and wishes of others when they disagree. It’s wrong, and it’s wrong most of all because the person most disrespected is the very person doing it. They disrespect themselves.
I have been that guy that leaves a path a path of waking destruction behind me. A person who hasn’t ever officially entered a committed relationship because of my self-sabotaging ways tell me to run away in fear every time. A self denying myself my own intentions.
At it’s core, anxiety disorders are fundamentally about a person struggling to be assertive to themselves. A denying of their own wants and needs.
This is classic irrational avoidance. Something all people who feel anxiety in certain situations do when it isn’t actually warranted. People with social anxiety avoid talking to others. People with panic disorder freak out over specific situations which have no reasonable evidence. Some think they are having heart attacks, others fear crosswalks because they are sacred their legs will give out and be unable to get out of the way of oncoming traffic. Extreme and totally unfounded accusations that somehow the sufferer of anxiety convinces themselves are both rational and true. And so it is with fear of intimacy.
Hilariously one one of the world’s greatest gifts, perhaps even the meaning of life itself— and fearing it.
Its unfourtunate how mch power providers and future parents have over the lives of their children. Even when they are not directly involved, emotional trauma lives on well into adulthood for many people. Much of child development happens in the first three years, developmental windows open and close during this time. Windows which affect the behavior and mindset of people for years and years to come, until and unless something else comes along.
Men and women of the world, if you have irrational fears and anxieties the best thing you can do is acknowledge and accept that you have them and then embrace them so that you may begin to overcome and address them.
I don’t have all the answers at this time. But all I know for sure now is that you have to take risks, especially when there is potential for more. I must power through the gut wrenching fear rooted in my latent distrust of others, based on my automatic but faulty reasoning that other people will mirror past negative experiences. And often this isn’t actually the case, though not always.
This has been a therapeutic process for me writing this. Take what you can from it and I hope it is useful for some people.