ASK ABDI: WHAT INDICATES MY FEAR OF INTIMACY?

QUESTION: You have said to me that I don’t really want intimacy; that if it were really being offered, it would scare the shit out of me. I am not arguing your statement at all. Based on the men that I have brought into my life, it looks that way. And yet, my “perceived” desire is to connect intimately with someone on all levels. So, I need some help to understand what it is that you perceive, aside from my horrible track record, that indicates my fear of intimacy? Do I have the look of someone who is afraid of intimacy? I’ve been sitting here trying to look at myself. Is it that I don’t understand what that entails? I just need a little “direction”, as I’m grasping at things without really having anything resonate.

ANSWER: This is an important question and one that never makes sense consciously. Not intellectually anyways, until we hit a bottom. The mind says: “I really want love, I am looking for love, now I am open to love, who the hell doesn’t want love?” Experience shows a different picture: we have a hard time connecting or sustaining intimate romantic relationships. Sometimes the same unwanted patterns repeat over and over (“my horrible track record”). Or if in a relationship, we feel distant or not intimate. Pay attention that you do not shame yourself over this. We repeat patterns not because we are idiots, but because we can not see clearly. You are engaged in healing this issue, which is most important. This stuff is painful enough without us kicking our own teeth out in the process.

The obvious but usually overlooked part of this question is this: the person asking the question/wanting intimacy is not the part of the personality that pushes it away. Read that over several times. Intellectual understanding is like standing on top of a boat that keeps getting hit with something from the bottom. The water looks calm on the surface but the sudden movements of the boat tell us there is something below. We can not get the full picture by just looking at the surface/intellectually understanding.

So, self-examination can not just be an intellectual exercise, that is just looking at the still ocean surface. The “track record” in your words, is how we know something is going on under the water. We have to inquire as to why we are getting thrown around in the boat with some force, as if in a storm while it is sunny outside. And mind you, we all have some version of this going on, even when in a relationship. For some of us, the rocking boat is caused by a sea lion, for others it is a pissed off Moby Dick. We all wear a thousand masks without even being aware of the fact. Many of our identifications, including spirituality, can solidly fall into this category. Unless we have been ripped open, the masks are firmly in place. This allows this unconscious dance to continue unabated.

One point on a graph does not make a trend. Several points on a graph do, that is the indication that something is amiss. When we keep repeating the same patterns while consciously wanting the opposite, we know that the unconscious is running the show. You do not have a “look” of someone who is afraid of intimacy; it is simply that you have an unconscious pattern of choosing unavailable men. It stops there. You can spend as much time as you would like analyzing this issue, but that will not necessarily heal this pattern. You are working with a wonderful therapist, keep that work going. 

We can learn and study all we want; ultimately the work is done in life. The best piece of advice that I can give you is to practice noticing the types of men you are attracted to. You have already been doing this to an extent. As I have said to you, if the person feels similar, pay extra attention and be on your toes. You have to learn to tolerate someone who is more healthy for you. I have talked at length about negative pleasure. This is what is going on: we attach pleasure to early childhood wounds in order to survive them. The unconscious will keep repeating the same pattern over and over. The conscious mind is not privy to this situation. Until we get hurt and realize that the situation is not healthy for us. It is no different than an addiction: we pick up the substance even though we know it is not good for us. So you have to learn not to pick up the drug. 

Do understand that we all need to heal this inner wound. We all have our types that we are attracted to. If a potential relationship feels different, explore it. If we met a set of identical twins that were our type, and one was healthy and one not, we would immediately be attracted to the one that would not be appropriate. That is negative pleasure at work. You have to work hard to not only not take that road, but to learn to tolerate the healthy one. The woman reading this is nodding her head saying, "Well, of course". The unconscious is looking at her saying “good luck with that”. The unconscious can not be wrestled nor overpowered. It needs to be seen and understood and reintegrated. This is the whole point of shadow work. Getting our ass handed to us over and over is the only way we start to understand that there is an unseen force at work. But it is not us at the mercy of some outside force. It is all aspects of ourselves that have been disowned. Work at rolling your sleeves up even further and invite back these parts into the light of your consciousness.