ASK ABDI: HOW TO DEAL WITH THE TERROR OF INTIMACY?

QUESTION: I am fairly certain that the reason I haven’t been meeting anyone that desires emotional intimacy and commitment is because I am terrified of being completely vulnerable to someone and being hurt again. I am conscious of my pattern, in that I know that I want a romantic partnership on a conscious level, and that I am terrified on an unconscious level. Now that I am at a point that my conscious and unconscious are having some sort of dialogue, albeit disjointed, my question is: how do I go about healing this in myself? Where do I start? The obvious answer would be to open up completely to a romantic partner, but I don’t have one, and even if I did, I’m not sure I’d be able to fully open up at this point. So, what kind of “work” can I do on my own to foster the healing of this wound, so that I can desire something outwardly that I also desire inwardly?

ANSWER: Your assertions are correct and hold true for all of us. What we desire on a conscious level is many times what we reject or fear on the unconscious. The partnership bit is something that is more common than not, to varying degrees for different people. The fact that your conscious and unconscious “are having some sort of dialogue” is obviously a positive sign. In fact, just the awareness of this push-pull dilemma can help start to shift it.

Anything that supports and deepens this dialogue is helpful. That includes psychotherapy, mediation as well as reading and educating yourself on the machinations of the unconscious. To your point, one does not need a romantic partner to practice opening up. Start by making yourself vulnerable to the friends that you trust. It can be as simple as asking for a glass of water or letting people know how you feel when they greet you. Many times, it is too overwhelming to do these practices in places we don’t feel safe (like a new romantic relationship), so start where you are. And remember, the communication between these aspects of our psyche is a process, and not an event.