“I don’t know why I resist affection. I guess it’s scary for me.” I have repeatedly heard variations of this phrase both professionally and personally.
Many people suffer from a fear of love with no clear awareness of where it stems from. Love is something that we all desire to give and receive; but for some, this seemingly simple expression of fondness becomes challenging to embrace - making it nearly impossible to share an intimate relationship with someone they love and desire to be with.
For people who experience this fear, real love may feel like a risk that intensifies your anxiety, as it grows. But why? Love makes you vulnerable. For some, vulnerability provides a sense of openness that triggers a need to protect oneself against potential loss, hurt, or rejection.
Where can this harmful perception come from? A fear of love is something that can be learned very early on in life. Recently I asked a client, who presented that she had an issue with receiving love/affection, to describe to me any connection she could make between her current response to love and her experience with love growing up. Just as I imagined, she stated that everyone she ever loved as a child either caused her pain, or abandoned her.
For anyone who has grieved the slightest extent of childhood emotional trauma, this is not an uncommon reaction to being loved in adult relationships. As an aftermath of these damaging experiences, it often appears that the safest option is to build a wall around the already broken heart. The perception is that, if I risk loving or giving someone the opportunity to love me, I will be hurt just as I was early on.
Feeling any degree of an undesirable response from those you feel were supposed to love you growing up, makes it hard to trust that anyone would genuinely find you worthy of love later on in life. These unconsciously conditioned thought patterns can cause you to nurture a destructive self-concept. Consequently, your negative self-perception becomes your identity and primary function in your personal interactions with others.
Ask yourself these questions:
Is this is a reflection of your current life situation? If you answered yes – there is still a chance for you to overcome, experience and enjoy the beauty of loving and being loved. The most beneficial thing about life situations is that they are forever evolving; they are never constant unless we choose for them to be - and there is always opportunity to evolve with them. Today is your day to evolve (love).
Written by Brianna Colbert, MA, LLPC.