I think true emotional development really starts when you consider the possibility that you may have sociopathic tendencies. At least, that’s what I tell myself every time I ghost a guy on Tinder and pick up a new self-help book.
Growing up, I was the abandoned daughter of an unreliable addict, as a result, emotional closeness, vulnerability and intimacy were major issues in my childhood that spilled over into my young adulthood.
The sad thing is, I’m not the only one with massive amounts of anxiety associated with emotional closeness. If I had a dime for every time I have talked to a friend about how they or someone they know pushes people away, I would be so rich I would be able to buy CAPS and force all my friends to go there and figure out their issues.
The point is, many people struggle with emotional distance. This can be due to anything from fears of intimacy and vulnerability, to traumatic childhoods. That being said, a person doesn’t have to continue living a life of isolation. Intimacy issues are not a condemnation to a life of loneliness, they are simply tendencies that people, myself included, need to be aware of and willing to slowly change for the sake of our interpersonal relationships and our own wellness.
Fears of intimacy are characterized by an apprehension to form close physical and emotional relationships with other people. They can manifest themselves in people's lives in a multitude of ways. Some of the most common signs are relationship sabotage, serial dating, fears of commitment, an inability to communicate with partners and perfectionist expectations most people fail to meet.
According to my favorite self-help book “Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy,” the aforementioned personality traits essentially come from the same problem — control issues that stem from a deep seated fear of vulnerability.
In my experience, vulnerability is a truly petrifying concept that always seems to stand in the way of me micro-managing every iota of human interaction. It tends to carry a weight to it.
The problem with avoiding vulnerability is that it is essential to deep and satisfying human relationships. All relationships, from platonic friends to romantic exploits, require a level of vulnerability. These levels of intimacy that we share acts as the glue that keeps us all steady when times get tough. When we fear the glue that holds the delicate system of relationships together, our interactions remain superficial and deftly fragile, ready to fall apart at the first sign of troubled waters.
From what I have learned, there’s no quick fix for a fear of vulnerability and intimacy. It is hard work, of self-awareness and self-discipline and the work starts the moment you realize that you may or may not have isolated yourself from everyone who loves or could have loved you.
For me, I’m not kidding, self-help books help a lot. I also think talking to a counselor isn’t a bad idea either. It’s not an easy fix but once you become conscious of how you think and react in relationships the closer you become to being able to change the way you react.
As far as romantic relationships, it is important to recognize the difference between actual problems and the ones you create to distance yourself. If you are dating a person, and they are rude, dishonest and abusive, that is obviously a problem with them that you are not obligated to stick out. However, if you find yourself in situations where you run away from the commitment of a relationship in the first place, or you never let a significant others see you in a vulnerable state, chances are that is more of an issue with a fear of intimacy. It is a level of self-awareness that remains frustratingly situational.
Believe me, I am the last person to be on a soap box lecturing everyone on how they need to be more vulnerable with each other. I have tanked whole relationships because I felt emotionally exposed. But, as I am growing up and realizing the importance of emotional closeness with the few individuals I love, I am realizing the old saying of “it’s better to have loved and lost, then to never have loved at all” couldn’t be more true. I’ve spent a majority of my short life doing everything in my power to be by myself because for some reason that felt better than being disappointed.
This past year has really enlightened me, I have realized that life is too short to be afraid of loving, in order to truly live we must be willing to love and love hard. We need to face vulnerability head on and dive in deep into the waters of intimate closeness.
If we get hurt, so be it, we will pick up the broken parts ourselves and go on to the next great love.