The REAL Reason You're Afraid Of Intimacy (And How To Fix It)

Co-Founder of Inner Bonding By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Co-Founder of Inner Bonding
Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, relationship expert, and Inner Bonding® facilitator.

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Your heart and soul have a deep desire for intimacy, but if you fear it, you probably do everything you can to push it away, despite your best efforts. Over and over, you find yourself getting stuck in a game of tug-of-war: "Come close, go away."

Why? Why would you be afraid of something you so deeply want and yearn for?

You want to be deeply seen, understood, and known. You yearn for the delicious joy of connection, for the exquisite flow of love that occurs between two open hearts who profoundly “get” each other.

There is nothing more blissful and enlivening than intimacy. On the other hand, there may not be anything scarier.

The Two Major Fears of Intimacy

Take a moment to remember, when you were growing up, the times you felt very close to someone — a parent, a sibling, a friend. Did something (or things) happen that hurt you?

Did the person you loved reject you with anger, judgments, criticism, or withdrawal? Did the person leave you or die?

A fear of intimacy is not, at its heart, a fear of intimacy. It’s the fear of an insurmountable loss.

Was the person you loved controlling, engulfing, or smothering? Did you have to give yourself up to keep them?

Is your fear the fear of losing another person you love, or of losing yourself in a close relationship?

These are fears substantial enough to potentially paralyze you as soon as you experience romantic connection.

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Healing Your Fear of Intimacy

When you were growing up, you may not have received role modeling on how to lovingly, healthily manage rejection and engulfment from your parents or caregivers. But it's never too late to learn.

If you knew you could show up for yourself, now, as a strong, capable adult, would you fear love less? If you recognized yourself as an emotionally healthy person who could recover from potential rejection and loss, and set boundaries to stave off engulfment, would you still fear intimacy? If you knew you were strong enough to choose losing a partner rather than losing yourself, would you fear intimacy?

The key insight here is that a fear of intimacy is not, at its heart, a fear of intimacy. It’s the fear of an insurmountable loss. If you don’t truly believe yourself capable of recovering after the loss of a loved one, you become very vulnerable to losing yourself. And that in itself is terrifying. Avoidance of intimacy might seem like the wisest way to minimize the risk of getting hurt.

But when you do that, an even deeper heartache results. Intimacy is one of the most beautiful experiences in life.

Becoming strong enough to love means becoming strong enough to lose love — and to know that you will be okay.

So, how do you develop this strong self? This version of you who knows, without a doubt, that you’re capable of surviving loss and rejection? This happens, naturally, as you take steps toward learning to love yourself.

These six steps will guide you through that process.

1. Be willing to feel pain and take responsibility for your feelings.

All feelings are informational, letting us know whether we're loving ourselves or abandoning ourselves, or if others are being loving or controlling.

Step one is mindfully following your breath to get present in your body, and compassionately embracing all feelings.

It's about moving toward your feelings rather than away from them with various forms of self-abandonment, such as staying focused in your head, judging yourself, turning to addictions to numb out, or making someone else responsible for your feelings.

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2. Move into the intent to learn.

In inner bonding, there are only two possible intentions in any given moment:

To protect against pain, avoiding responsibility for it, through various forms of addictive and controlling behavior.

To learn about what you're doing or thinking that may be causing your pain — or what may be happening between you and another person or situation — so that you can move into taking loving action on your own behalf.

Invite the loving presence of your higher self into your heart, and consciously open to learning about loving yourself.

3. Learn about your false beliefs.

Step three is a deep and compassionate process of exploration — of learning about your beliefs and behavior, and about what is happening with a person or situation that may be causing your pain.

Ask your feeling self — your inner child — "What am I thinking or doing that's causing the painful feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, jealousy, anger, loneliness, or emptiness?" Allow the answer to come from inside — from your feelings.

Once you understand what you're thinking or doing that's causing these feelings, then you explore with your ego-wounded self to understand the fears and false beliefs leading to the self-abandoning thoughts and actions.

If you feel lonely, heartbroken, or helpless over someone, you ask yourself what is happening between you and another person that is causing these painful feelings.

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4. Start a dialogue with your higher self.

It isn't as hard to connect with your higher guidance as you may think. The key is to be open to learning about loving yourself. The answers may come immediately or over time. They may come in words or images or in dreams. When your heart is open to learning, the answers will come.

5. Take the loving action learned in step four.

You've opened up to your pain, moved into learning, started a dialogue with your feelings, and tapped into your spiritual guidance. In step five, you take the loving action that, over time, heals the shame, anxiety, and depression that have been the result of your self-abandonment.

Sometimes people think of "loving yourself" as a feeling you have to conjure up. A good way to look at loving yourself is by emphasizing the action, "What can I DO to love myself?" rather than "How can I FEEL love for myself?"

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6. Evaluate your action.

Once you take the loving action, you check in to see if your pain, anger, and shame are getting healed. If not, you go back through the steps until you discover the truth and loving actions that bring you peace, joy, and a deep sense of intrinsic worth.

Over time, you will discover that loving yourself improves everything in your life — your relationships, your health and well-being, your ability to manifest your dreams, and your self-esteem. Loving and connecting with yourself is the key to being able to love and connect with others and create loving relationships.

Loving yourself is what enables you to raise your frequency and co-create with spirit. Loving yourself is the key to creating a passionate, fulfilled, and joyful life.

Once you’ve completed this process, you’ll no longer be crippled by fear of rejection or engulfment. Self-love creates the emotional safety net you need to keep your heart open to love and intimacy — even when it’s scary.

When you heal your relationship with yourself and become strong enough to give and receive love, you will experience the incredible joy of intimacy.

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For a fuller understanding of the six steps, and to explore the self-love process more fully, check out our free Inner Bonding course.

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