Humans are social creatures and relationships are very important for us. Studies of orphanages have shown that without touch, the children within the orphanages will eventually die. Even when given food, water, shelter, and clothing, the interaction with another human being and touch is imperative for their survival. So, why is it then that some of us go for years without hugging another person? Why do we put up walls and distance ourselves from the people who love us? We need touch. We need people. So why do we isolate ourselves?
I think a lot of this answer stems from our fear. Fear of being hurt or abandoned. Fear of losing control. The list goes on.
I’m still learning how to lower my own walls and I think this is the thing I struggle with the most. I am incredibly stubborn and I don’t like to admit when I’m wrong. Being vulnerable scares me because it means that I have to give up control. However, I’m not sure what control I would be giving up by opening up to others. The only person I can control is myself. I can’t control what another person does and I don’t think it would hurt any less if I had a close relationship with them but had not yet let down my walls completely. Anticipating being hurt doesn’t prevent the feelings that would come if someone did something that could potentially hurt me.
Imagine getting a shot at the doctor’s office. You know it’s going to hurt so you do whatever you think you need to do to minimize the pain. You look at the ceiling, at the clock, out a window and you breathe (at least I do) because those things are distracting. We do the same things in our relationships. Instead of talking about important things, we let them build and avoid fights because we don’t want to say words we don’t mean or we associate fighting with abandonment (I used to). We block out the ones we love, we work late hours, we cheat, we abuse, all so we can minimize the fear or the pain.
What’s absolutely ironic about this is that we’re just causing ourselves more pain. We’re so afraid of being abandoned or of being alone so we try our hardest to control the relationship that we end up pushing that person away and our fears come true. This reinforces our fears and the cycle continues. Eventually some of us reach the point where we have no one and we have no idea how we got there or how to get out!
This cycle of fear isn’t healthy for us. Anticipating getting hurt keeps us in the mode of fight-or-flight and prevents us from forming functional and trusting relationships. Trust is so important for every relationship.
I think often times that I create my own problems by over-thinking and over-analyzing things. My husband could say one thing that I misinterpret and I blow it way out of proportion. Neither of us are perfect people but I sometimes expect him to be who he’s not and that’s unfair to him. I think this is common in many relationships.
I wish I had a list on how to open up and allow myself to be vulnerable but I don’t. It’s something I’m still working on and I think each person’s process has to be different. Everyone has different reasons for why they are afraid to be vulnerable. I think my reasons are relatively minor in comparison to other stories I have heard but that doesn’t mean they’re trivial.
Tell me how you feel about fear and relationships. Do you have a story about tearing down your own walls or an experience that applies? Tell us about it! We all like hearing about situations similar to our own.