Fear of Intimacy and the Child Inside

I was recently discussing with a woman her current “man trouble.” Her very serious boyfriend of two years was pulling back, lashing out in anger over imaginary slights, and accusing her of being too needy, too much of a drama queen.

She had been in tears for weeks, having exhausted every possible angle of approach, thinking, sadly, that she had no other recourse but to end it.

I inquired how things had been just before he started to act distant.

“That’s the crazy thing!” she told me. “Everything was going great! We were talking about moving in together. It really seemed as if we’d gotten beyond so many of our past issues.”

Then, he started to pull away. He was mean, said cruel things. The evening she called me, he had sent her a text message earlier, asking her to call him at a certain time. She was hopeful that they were going to be able to talk things out and turn them around. When she phoned him at the prescribed time, he dismissed her, groggily. “Sorry, I can’t talk. I’m half-asleep.”

She was gob-smacked! Of course she felt hurt, surprised, angry, rejected, and manipulated. She reacted organically and vocally to those feelings.

“Why do you always have to be so clingy!?” he snapped at her harshly. “I just can’t deal with your drama right now! I have my own problems!”

“You see! she said. “He accuses me of being dramatic but he’s the one instigating the drama!”

She was in tears, wondering what she had done wrong to make him behave that way. She was mentally going over her own behavior; wondering how she could behave differently to win him back.

The diagnosis seemed obvious: Classic fear of intimacy. (FOI) He was pushing her buttons with his passive-aggressive behavior; instigating her to act out in a way that would make her more easily dismissible. He encouraged her hopes, then smashed them down, and when she cried, he accused her of being too emotional. In this way, he undermined her confidence. Then, when she craved reassurance, he accused her of being “needy” and “clingy.” Now, at last, he had “good reason” to reject her. Making her the fall guy was an expedient way of avoiding his own intimacy issues. She was right – he was the one creating the drama.

The more she told me about him, the more the pattern revealed itself: A period of wonderful closeness and a sense of moving forward in the relationship, followed by retreat – usually with accusations on his part of her neediness, etc.

Here’s what I’ve learned about people with FOI: It’s not they don’t crave deep emotional intimacy. Most of them do, absolutely. But the idea of being so vulnerable strikes a primitive terror deep in their soul. This see-saw between opposing needs governs their lives – and, also, unfortunately, the loves of those who love them.

Usually FOI goes hand-in-hand with low self-esteem. The “logic” being: “If I let them see how I really am, they will quickly recognize that I am unworthy of their love, and they will leave me; that would be just too painful and humiliating. It is much safer to keep them at a distance.”

And most of them are not being purposely malicious, even if it sometimes feels that way. They are literally so overcome by fear, they cannot function rationally. They act out in whatever way will protect them most expediently.

The conscious and unconscious minds each speak their own language. Their systems of evaluating and understanding the world are completely different. The unconscious is based deep in the reptilian brain. Its internal “logic” is emotion-based, harmone-driven, heavy on the fear. It reacts at the first whiff of danger – both external and psychological. It’s extremely adept at hiding deep-rooted conflicts from our conscious understanding, because it doesn’t “trust” our conscious mind to protect us properly. I imagine it as a hyper-vigilant child of an alcoholic parent: Its job is to take care of us and protect us from the damage that our careless conscious selves will do: Intoxicated with love!? No, no, no! Must keep you away from the bottle!

The thing to remember is, the unconscious mind always believes it is working in our best interest. It thinks it knows best (and in many cases, it does!). When it regards vulnerability as a danger, it jumps into protect us from it.

Most of us have experienced at least a touch of FOI. We all feel a bit frightened when we start to recognize that we’re falling in love. The stakes are higher; there’s more to lose. The lucky ones are able to push through the fear, and embrace all the joy of true love.

For some however, that fear is crippling.

The exact distance at which others must be kept is different for everyone, but it is strictly monitored by the unconscious mind. Get too close, and the warning bells begin to clang! “Attention! Attention! Danger!” The gates fall; the armed soldiers march into position and the secret psyche is protected. (Likewise, should the romantic partner back away and the distance become too far, the charm kicks in to lure them back.)

These walls ostensibly protect, but in reality of course, they just keep the psyche prisoner.
Many who suffer from FOI are painfully aware of their problem yet despite an intellectual understanding of this ‘automatic response”, they still find themselves unable to alter their reactions/behavior. They may work on this issue, either alone or in therapy, yet each time they make progress, they may find themselves pulled back into to self-defeating behavior. Remember, the unconscious mind is a child! No sooner does the conscious mind understand and conquer one protective behavior, the unconscious mind substitutes another!

While it is frustrating, confusing, and painful for those on the outside trying to get in, it is probably more frustrating, confusing and painful for those who can’t help but protect themselves at any cost. If they cannot find their way through this fear, they must suffer through life without love.

If you are in a relationship with such a person, you may feel confused by the seemingly illogical push-pull. You may not understand contradictory or passive-aggressive behavior. While you may feel deeply emotionally connected to this person, at the same time, you might ask yourself if it’s worth all the pain and disappointment. In staying, you are forced to ride the other’s “fear cycles” so you swing back and forth, between deep love and angry hurt.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to calculate the emotional “cost-benefit” ratio. If you decide to stick it out and keep trying to break through, it can be very useful to have someone help you understand your partner’s behavior and motivations more clearly, so you are not pulled into a passive-aggressive or self-destructive dynamic.

If you need me, I am here!





Spring Cleaning

Spring is here and for many of us that means it’s time for Spring Cleaning.  We go through our closets and toss what’s out of date or what no longer fits us;  we wash the winter grime from our windows;  we move the furniture to get to those dust bunnies,  and often find something we’d long been searching for.

But when was the last time you did some spring cleaning in your psyche?  The last time you took stock of your habits and relationships,  eliminating the ones that no longer served you well?  Can you remember when you last cleaned off the lenses through which you see the world,  thus enabling you to see things more clearly?   When was the last time you pushed aside the attitudes you take for granted (i.e. the heavy furniture of your life) and looked behind, to discover feelings you thought you’d lost?

We all need to take stock of our lives now and then.   Maybe it’s time to cut loose that relationship that sucks your productive and emotional energy.  Maybe it’s time to look at a situation from a new perspective, even for a little while,  if only to notice how things feel different.   Maybe by breaking routine and forcing you to approach daily situations from a new direction, you will discover emotions and strengths you haven’t felt in a long time.

Change doesn’t magically descend upon us.  We have to be willing to work at personal growth and change.    You can start today,  by doing a little personal spring cleaning.

How to Make Someone Love You — Single Most Important Piece of Advice

For those of you who’ve visited my website,  have heard me lecture, and/or who have read my book, (Lucky in Love ),  you know that I have a rather extensive philosophy about what makes people irresistible in love.   The essence of it, however, goes hand in hand with my previous post:   Make people feel good about themselves.

This does not mean drowning people in false (or even real) flattery.  While this might get you dates,  it’s not the basis for a deep and meaningful relationship which will transform your (and their) life.

I am a huge believer in the transformative power of true love, and have dedicated my life to helping people understand what love really is,  and how to invite more of it into your life.  To  achieve this does take some work  — on ourselves above all, because in understanding ourselves at the deepest possible level,  we learn to understand others. And understanding others is the essence of love.

So, what is the single best  thing you can do to get people to absolutely adore you?

See them as they really are; see them they see themselves and see them as  they wish to be –  and help them reconcile all three.

When you can help another person see the potential for greatness in him or herself,  and if you help them navigate that path,  your value to them increases a hundred fold.

Single Most Important Piece of Advice when Looking for Love

Somebody recently asked me what the single most important piece of advice I could give to those looking for love.   I said, “Judge people purely on how they make you feel.”

Stop evaluating potential dates based on superficial things such as status,  income, appearance.  Consider only if you like the way you feel about yourself, deep inside, when you’re around them.   Do they inspire you to greatness or make you feel petty?  Do they encourage you be the best you can be or are they threatened by any success and independence you might achieve?

A “great catch” might make you feel temporarily proud that you are worth of such a prize,  but think about how this relationship is going to play out in the long run.  Does this person make you feel secure and loved?   Do you feel safe,  listened to,  understood? Can you be your natural self and always feel accepted? Are your feelings and needs respected?  Do you feel as if you’re a team of equals,  each watching out for the other’s best interest?

This does require a bit of extrapolation because, to a degree,  you have to be able to visualize and predict how you will feel in the future.

For example,  women LOVE to nurture and be needed.  It might be nice, initially, to be with a man who really needs and depends on her,  but how is it going to ten years from now, when she’s still playing the role of his mother?

Beauty,  money, fame, success may be initially seems like great “gets” in a partner, they will do nothing to guarantee your long term happiness (unless you are completely shallow and care ONLY about these things.)   For long term happiness, it’s more important to have a partner with compassion, understanding and respect.

And when you stop paying attention to the superficial qualities,  you start to look at people in different ways.  Someone you might have previously dismissed as “unsuitable” may suddenly shine in a new light.

Lucky in Love

Lucky in Love:
Secrets to Being Irresistible

Lucky in Love

Change your life! Order your copy now! Click here.

Wisdom distilled from many years of loving, dating, failing, picking myself up again, dusting myself off, and getting back into the fray. If you follow even 10% of the advice in this book, your love life will improve 1000%. I promise.

“I think Lucky in Love is one of the best books on the subject of love and relationships I’ve ever read. I run the matchmaking program at a large singles organization and immediately ordered copies for every member of my program.”

Lisa M, W. Orange, NJ

“Lucky in Love is insightful, funny and full of great advice. I’ve reread it dozens of times already, and every time I do, I understand Adrienne’s philosophy a little more. It’s especially helpful when I’m in the midst of relationship problems. This really helps me put things in perspective.”

–Diane G., Stamford, CT

“From the first page, Lucky in Love had my attention. It explores all those things you already know, intellectually, about love and explains them in a way your emotions can understand.”

–Brian B., New York, NY

“I’ve been carrying around Lucky in Love in my handbag since I got it three weeks ago. I reread it every day, and every time I do, I absorb a little more of Adrienne’s very wise philosophy.”

Sandra L, Brooklyn, NY

“This book makes so much sense. It should be required reading! ”

Kelly J, Astoria, NY

“Adrienne’s lectures are so inspiring, and this book is a continuation of her positive and amazingly useful philosophy. Often her suggestions require a serious change of attitude on my part, but every time I follow her advice and make that effort, I see the benefit in all my relationships.”

Rachel S, Great Neck, NY

Take Charge of Your Own Journey

How would your life and relationships be different if your primary goals in life were self- knowledge and personal growth?  What if, in your relationships with others,  you recognized that they, too, were on a journey of self-knowledge?  How would your relationships be different if you respected the journey of others?  What if,  without pushing or forcing them,  you gave them the space to experiences and discover for themselves?  What if,  by your behavior and knowledge,  you could be a shining  example for others,  so they might find a better way to live their lives and be happy?

Ideally,  isn’t this how a parent raises a child?   And isn’t this, then,  the purest form of love?

In this way,  we can recognize the humanity in everyone,  even our enemies.   We can feel compassion – not hatred – for those who do not take self-growth and self-knowledge as a personal goal.   They are the people who will muddle around through life, unable to find true happiness;  unable to form emotionally  mature relationships.  These are the people who cut themselves off or numb themselves from their own feelings.  They live in denial.

If you could maintain this recognition of the journey of others,  how different would it be dealing with difficult people?  How much more compassionate could you be?   How might your thinking and actions be different if you saw others in this way?

“A very nice philosophy in the abstract sense,” I hear you thinking,  “but how does this help me practically with [pick one:  my tyrannical boss;  my difficult relative;  my immature spouse, etc.]?”

Glad you asked…because once you understand the mechanics of this, it all becomes much clearer.  An example:

Jerri and Tom had been in a live-in relationship for a couple of years.  Tom was very jealous of Jerri’s friends and outside interests.  Initially, Jerri was flattered by Tom’s devotion and attention,  but eventually it became claustrophobic.  They would fight about it constantly.  Jerri loved Tom,  but she couldn’t stand his suspicion and his sulking and the inevitable arguments.  When, on the rare occasion she went out with her friends and left Tom home alone,  she would feel guilty that she was hurting him.  It was an untenable dynamic.

Once Jerri started to see her life in terms of a journey,  in which every experience, encounter and relationship is a lesson in self-knowledge, everything changed.   She began to question why she’d been attracted to Tom.  She started to examine the glue that held them together.

Initially,  she misinterpreted Tom’s clinginess as  “deep and abiding love.”   His possessiveness and jealousy “proved” to her that he would never leave her.  This placated her own insecurity and abandonment issues, which she had never confronted before.

She eventually came to understand that Tom’s jealousy was not a representation of his love for her, but rather a lack of love for himself – the flip side of her own coin.   Now that she was confronting and taking responsibilities for her own issues,  she understood that Tom needed to confront and take responsibility for his.   She no longer felt guilty when she didn’t give in to his unreasonable demands.  More importantly, she didn’t need his jealousy and possessiveness to assuage her own fears.

Now, when Tom got sulky,  instead of apologizing and feeling guilty,  she would remind him,  in the kindest way,  that he needed to deal with his own insecurity and fear of abandonment.  She simply shifted the responsibility back to Tom,  gently and lovingly.   Once she changed her behavior,  his only choices were to either embrace the change or end the relationship (to find someone else who would play his game, and allow him to continue with his limiting beliefs.)

To Tom’s credit, he was able to self-examine and grow, and their relationship is better for it.  Their problems haven’t vanished completely,  but the dynamic has certainly changed for the better.  Finally,  they are both taking responsibility for their own feelings and their own paths in life. They rarely push each others buttons anymore.  They have found a deeper love for each other because there is a growing respect for each other’s personal journey.

If you would like to know how you can take your journey to the next level,  please contact me via my website,  www.artofepiphany.com for one-on-one counseling or group lectures.

Be Careful What You Wish For…Your Wish Just Might Come True

Wishing for something is another way of saying “focusing mental and emotional energy on” it.   If you’ve never seen the movie, Bedazzled,  (either the Peter Cook-Dudley Moore 1967 version,  or the Brendan Fraser- Elizabeth Hurley 2000 version) I recommend them both highly…not just because they are both equally brilliant and hilarious,  but because the premise is a wonderful metaphor for how we desire.

Essentially,  Stanley sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for seven wishes.  All his wishes center around trying to get a certain woman to fall in love with him so they can live happily ever after.   The Devil,  however,  (being a devil) takes him at his word and each time,  gives him exactly what he asks for, which of course,  never turns out to be what he wants.  There is always some element which frustrates him and/or makes him miserable.

One of  Stanley’s big mistakes, is that he focuses too much on either superficial things or on the structure of the relationship,  leaving the Devil ample latitude to mess with feelings.  For example, in one scenario,  he is wealthy and powerful and married to the love of his life — just what he asked for — except she is in love with someone else.

Are you focusing too much on attaining goals which are only superficial to your ultimate happiness?   If you got EXACTLY what you wanted,  would that satisfy you? Make you happy?  Are you certain?  What about that situation or achievement would make you happy?  Is  there perhaps a surer path to that goal; one that may be more in your control?   More within your ability to attain?

These are questions a good life coach can help you define and answer.