Avoiding intimacy. It's what you do (usually unconsciously) when getting close to someone feels threatening, whether you're aware of those feelings or not.
If you're anything like most of us, you have a sweet spot of tolerance---a place internally when connection feels enlivening and nourishing---and also a point at which the intimacy begins to feel threatening and another point where too much space begins to feel threatening.
You're always negotiating around these places of security and threat in your relationships, especially your closest ones.
One of the main ways I see people deal with their fears of intimacy (when the closeness feels scary or threatening for some reason) is to think distancing thoughts.
Maybe this relationship isn't as meaningful to him as it is to me.
I don't think we can understand each other because our backgrounds are so different.
He's never done therapy, so he probably won't be able to truly meet me.
She chose to go skiing instead of do yoga, so I'm just not sure how much we have in common.
He ate the last piece of sushi without asking me if I wanted it, so he's probably not very empathetic.
At their essence, all these thoughts serve to keep you just a liiiiittle more removed, a little bit held back. Because after all, it's probably not going to work, right?
You find safety in judgement.
Except that you don't actually know whether it's going to work until you get into it. It's from inside the relationship (inside your heart) where you can tell what's working or what isn't because you can feel it. That kind of clarity doesn't come from standing outside it (in your head) looking in.
Sure, sometimes you think these thoughts because they're actually relevant, but check in with yourself honestly.
Are they cutting you off from truly dropping into the sweetness of the connection? Do they prevent you from getting closer or give you an excuse to pull back? Does this thought have you feel protective or generous of heart? Closed or open?
(You're aiming for open because even when you set a boundary with someone else, you want to feel open inside---to your own truth, to your own heart).
So what to do when you catch yourself avoiding intimacy by thinking distancing thoughts?
I've found that a mixture of tough love and deep compassion works for me, depending on the circumstance.
When I'm in my head and not really feeling the fear, but thinking distancing thoughts, I might say to the thoughts, "You don't know what you're talking about and I'm not gonna listen to you." And then I do my best to turn my attention toward my heart and not thinking so much. I get present. Pay attention to the moment. I'm not mean, but I am firm.
Other times, if I'm in a vulnerable, connected place where I feel afraid and the distancing thoughts arise, I might compassionately redirect my attention to simply feeling the fear and empathizing with myself. Often, just acknowledging my fear and feeling it is enough to dissolve the distancing thoughts and drop me into my heart.
Practice these and you'll find what works best for you.
You'll know it's working if you're able to let down your shields and feel connected and present in your own heart. That's where the gold is.
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