Fear of intimacy and closeness in relationships. (2023)

Fearing intimacy and avoiding closeness in relationships is the norm for approximately 17% of adults in Western cultures. As many readers understand, it can be maddening and even irritating to feel rejected and closed off when trying to get closer to someone you love. If you are an evasive person, you may be equally confused by unreasonable emotional demands andneuroticnature of the people you interact with. “What do these people want from me?” you can ask. You may be baffled by accusations that you don't care and are not there for your loved ones... when you feel that you care and love them very much.

The good and bad news is that this pattern is totally normal... But it's important to understand that avoiding intimacy doesn't necessarily mean someone doesn't care. Usually it is not even a conscious process. It is largely a biological reaction that has taken root in the structures of the central system.nervous systemto the rightpaternitypractices inchildhood.

Going back to my earlier description oftheoretical link: All children have a natural need to stay close enough to their parents so that they can get protection and comfort when they are scared or distressed. The way parents respond in these cases has a great impact on the development of the child.personality(Personality is defined as the way a person perceives threats, thinks, feels, and behaves in a characteristic way.)

Parents of children who avoid or reject intimacy tend to reject their children's perception of neediness or weakness. They can even usepityas a means of control (“Boys don't cry!”) and are likely to be very intolerant when children challenge them or tell their parents how they feel. If a child in this type of relationship tells his parents that he is angry (or frustrated, agitated, or hurt), the parents are likely to react harshly and reprimand the child for not appreciating and disrespecting him. This pattern often leads the developing child to falsely idolize the parent, because viewing it in a negative light will flood the child with anxiety.

Another pattern that promotes an avoidance/rejection style is when the parent is so emotionally distressed and fragile that the child cannot express himself without expressing himself.timeto push the father to the limit. Similarly, the "helicopter mother" may be so nosy and overly reactive to the child's emotional experiences that the child learns never to communicate these experiences in the presence of the parents. In this case, instead of the parent regulating the child's anxiety, the child is regulating the parent's anxiety.

To summarize, when neediness or negative emotions show up (for example, being sad and crying or expressingangertowards parents) are constantly received with intolerance, rejection orpunishment, children learn to avoid asking their parentsattention, comfort and support. In this case, the parents do not alleviate the child's suffering; nor can it be tolerated by the child. Therefore, the only way a child can cope with negative emotions is not to experience them.

People raised this way will begin to ignore social cues that could indicate rejection or marginalization. If a negative social cue cannot be ignored, the person may dismiss the cue as inconsequential (eg, "He's a loser. I don't care what he thinks anyway!"). In the event that the negative social cues cannot be ignored and the person begins to experience the negative emotion, the person is likely to engage in suppressing the unwanted experience and removing it from consciousness. This pattern is adaptive because as long as one is "okay" and can display neutral or positive emotions, the person can avoid rejection and maintain a semblance of intimacy in intimate relationships. If they become high achievers (eg, in sports, academics, work), they may even win parental acceptance and praise because their parents are likely to have high performance standards for their children. By extension, these children often grow up to be successful, hard-working, achievement-oriented adults who, at the same time, deny the need for closeness and reject any idea that they could be.anxiousthe vulnerable.


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Because closeness in relationships (whether peer or romantic) creates vulnerability and the potential for strong negative emotions, it is often avoided. This is not to say that avoidant people don't have friends. They might even be seen as popular, especially since they are likely to be successful incompetenceand areas of achievement. However, these people are unlikely to share their personal struggles with others and may feel socially isolated.

Because the avoidant person has learned to ignore and deny their own negative emotions, they will also have a very difficult time recognizing emotional cues in others.empathy. This person, for all intents and purposes, will be emotionally color blind. But like many people who are color blind, this person probably doesn't realize that he isn't accurately perceiving or adequately attending to the emotions of others. By extension, if you confront the avoidant person with revelations that he or she is emotionally unavailable and distant, he or she is likely to facedenialand strong resistance (because you don't actually see it). Obviously, this pattern will wreak havoc on close friendships,romantic relationships, it is includedleaderRelationships/followers at work.

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What can you do to change the default value?

If you're an evasive person, you're unlikely to think you have a problem. However, you may come to this conclusion indirectly after having problems at work, losing a relationship, or being dragged into counseling by your partner. If you're interested in changing your approach, here are some things you can do:

  • Practice reading other people's emotions, then check in with them (or a trusted confidante) to see how accurate you are.
  • When other people express negative emotions towards you, stand your ground and listen. You will probably be getting out of your skin and want to fight back, shut up or run away. Do not do that. Show the other person that you are still available and that you understand by reflecting on what she told you... and don't follow your understanding by saying "but..." and countering.
  • Learn to label and communicate your emotions. Don't say what you think ("I'm fine"); Say what you feel ("I feel threatened and this conversation is making me very anxious"). think about getting onechart to help you find emotion words.
  • Realize that your outward emotional calm and rational approach to relationship problems are likely toanxious peoplefeeling invalidated, discarded and more anxious. This will make the anxious person even more demanding and leave you with less room to breathe.
  • Don't put your work andcarreraagainst their relationships. Sooner or later, everyone fails in their competitive endeavors. When that happens, you don't want to look around and find that you're alone. Realize that you can be respected and loved even without having to be a high achiever.

If you're in a relationship with an avoidant person, here's what you can do:

  • Realize that when the avoidant shuts down and becomes repulsive, it means that he is anxious and trying to repress the experience of emotions. It's easy for someone else to say that... but try not to take it personally.
  • Remember that, even in denial, the avoidant person is afraid of strong and painful negative emotions. If the person shuts down, withdraws, or becomes too intellectual in the conversation, let it slide and try again another day.
  • If the evasive needs to escape, don't run after him. It will just run faster. Give that person plenty of space and a chance to feel anxious and miss you (of course, for this you'll need to be able to regulate your own anxious emotions).
  • Realize that if you need a lot of intimacy in your relationship, you may have chosen a partner who will have a very difficult time giving it to you.
  • Learn to communicate to the other person (with an easy touch) what you think they are feeling and why you think that. This form of communication can provide an emotional mirror that will help the avoidant person become more self-aware.

Everyone has strengths, and the person you avoid/dismiss may becharismaticand achievement oriented. You can excel at work and will be a good person to have on your team. By extension, the avoidant person has many attractive qualities, and the more challenging aspects of this personality may not be obvious until a closer relationship begins to form. If you are or are in a relationship with this person, be patient and keep in mind that it took years to learn to deal with emotions in this way and learning to recognize and deal directly with difficult emotions will take time.

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