Fear Is Keeping You Stuck
You may have seen the clever, insightful diagram (“re-purposed” above) educating us about the discrepancy between what we want or say we want, and what we actually feel comfortable with letting ourselves experience.
Even if it’s a tiny bit simplistic, I think it’s a helpful description of how we inadvertently get blocked from real love and partnership because of deeply hidden and largely unconscious fears and resistance to love that keep us in a “comfort zone” of aloneness.
“Aloneness isn’t comfortable,” you might say! No, of course not, but it might be an unintended consequence of hidden fears deep inside. If “Where the magic happens” = Love + Lasting Partnership, then being in a relative “Comfort Zone” of aloneness or repeated relationship disappointments may be a way of steering clear of things in relationship that are uncomfortable and somewhat scary. Essentially, hidden fear(s) can interfere with our conscious desire to be in a loving, long-term relationship.
The wise and oft-quoted mystic poet, Rumi said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have [unwittingly] built against it.”
According to Rumi, it’s not that we need to go out and rummage around until we finally find love. Instead, we need to discover what blocks have come between us and love. Or maybe, what fears inside have created blocks that keep love from really entering into our lives?
Actually, It’s Reasonable
Let me run that by you again…
We’re smart. We wouldn’t knowingly create barriers to the very thing we say we want, would we? Of course not. But if we were worried about our vulnerability, had been hurt before, or felt some inner anxiousness about feeling rejected (or becoming too dependent) we might have some mixed feelings about it. Right?
Love is NOT just a cake-walk. By the way, I loved cake-walks as a kid. So much fun. Just wait until the music stops, land on the right spot and you get an amazing cake! Easy! Love isn’t like that. I know, it isn’t breaking news. Love also includes risks and potential losses, vulnerabilities, disappointments, commitments, and learning to rely on another person. And if we’ve been hurt in a relationship in some way in the past (and if you’re human, um…yes, that means you) then we have wired in protective mechanisms to keep us from getting burned again.
Fear x 5
In the blog/article The 5 Things That Are Blocking You From Love I wrote about 5 psychological dynamics that can basically be boiled down to fear, fear, fear, fear…and fear. Some form of fear or resistance is usually at the crux of our blocks and barriers to love and partnership. It might a be fear of getting hurt, a fear of not being enough, fear of losing something, of not getting what you want, what think you need, or what you feel you deserve; or sometimes, it can be an attachment injury or trauma from way back that has produced a forcefield of resistance in your nervous system, kind of like a low-grade PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
If you find that you keep saying or can relate to statements like, “I don’t get it, I keep meeting the same kinds of guys/girls,” or “I’m REALLY ready for love and relationship, but I just keep getting disappointed again, and again,” it’s likely that there’s something going on on a deeper level that’s worth taking a look at.
Real love isn’t just a blissful journey of ecstasy and satisfaction, and “happily ever after”. It is a wonderful way of experiencing intimacy and connection with another, but it does also include many things that are hard work and potentially risky and anxiety-provoking. We can get hurt, and experience loss in romantic relationships.
Because of that perceived and/or actual risk, on some level we may be concerned or nervous and therefore have mixed feelings about entering into an intimate relationship where there are both yummy, desirable experiences and challenging, scary ones to be had. And if that concern has gotten covered over somehow, at some point, there may be an unconscious “part” or “voice” inside you that’s scared, but hidden. We may actually have mixed feelings about love and relationships.
When that happens less-than-consciously, it’s easy for us to consciously say, “I want a relationship,” and at the same time another part of us is saying in the background, like a stray am radio station creating interference, “Whoa, slow down, I’m not so sure I do want that.” Part of the challenge can be that by definition, these unconscious or sub-conscious feelings and fears aren’t readily noticeable. But if you find yourself in a repeating pattern of saying you want love, feeling disappointed and frustrated in relationships, and maybe even resentfully watching others seemingly finding love easily, it may be that there are competing beliefs, and feelings within you about love and romantic relationship.
3 Examples of Fears that unwittingly and unconsciously prevent us from getting the love we consciously say we want include:
Fear of “Not-enough-ness”
Fear of Imperfection
Fear of Losing It
1. Not Enough-ness
A kind of Cinderella syndrome or the feeling like we don’t measure up or might not be good enough is a very normal human feeling. For the moment, I’ll call it fear of “not-enough-ness”, or the fear of not being enough of something and therefore unworthy of being loved and accepted, especially by someone we feel attraction for. It’s a painful, but ubiquitous human insecurity whether it’s conscious, unconscious or alternates between the two.
If you haven’t felt it, it’s probably not because it isn’t a part of your psyche, but rather that you have managed to push it so far down it doesn’t register consciously. This fear can keep us in a place where we long to feel good enough in someone’s eyes, especially someone we are drawn to and admire or are attracted to. Yet that longing can be a mask for the internal self-evaluation that we aren’t quite “something” enough and so we long to prove we are by being liked, loved and feeling accepted by another. That’s a natural need and feeling, but it can sabotage us in the pursuit for romantic love and effective long-term relationships.
What to do:
The antidote is to start to discover and bring to greater awareness the more fundamental feeling and belief-thought that we aren’t enough or aren’t fundamentally good and deserving. When we can say, “Yes, I like me and I love me, and I’d like a partner, but I’m still a great person and feel good and lovable regardless,” we are beginning to send out a different kind of vibe and draw in a new kind of person; someone that’s more likely to turn into lasting love.
The Fear of Imperfection is a sword that cuts both ways. We often experience it consciously as a concern that the other (someone we’re dating or initially attracted to) is not quite who we want or how we want them to be.
This idealized partner syndrome is basically searching for Mr. or Mrs. Perfect. If we keep finding fault with others and no one is quite good enough for us or just doesn’t meet our standards or expectations, we can get frustrated and discouraged. But is the problem that no one’s perfect? Or that we are searching for someone who will prove our goodness, worth and value by being just right. Perfect for us.
The thought process we go through may not be conscious, but underneath it may sound like: If I get that person (who I see as amazing, wonderful, just right) then they’ll make me feel good. I’ll feel good because someone I see as worthy and lovable wants and loves me. And that makes me feel secure. It’s a product of their goodness, that by proxy I get to partake in. Unfortunately, underneath that is the less-than-conscious sense or belief that I’m not good enough without them. I need them, I need someone amazing, to be amazing and feel good and okay with myself.
What to do:
An alternative to this is to acknowledge my own imperfection, and everyone else’s, and begin to love and accept myself and others for who I am and who they are: Beautifully, imperfect fundamentally good human beings. I am lovable and good, yet I have issues. And so are they.
3. Losing It
The old axiom, “They bigger they are, the harder they fall,” is a relative of, “The more I have to lose, the harder that loss will be.” The fear that greater joy, success and satisfaction is actually putting us a greater risk, especially when it’s held subconsciously, can act as a restrictor plate on our natural interest and incentive to find love. It can cause us to hesitate to really be open to love.
The unconscious and somewhat understandable conclusion that I’m safer alone or I’m safer in a marginal relationship that I don’t really feel happy or satisfied in can be a barrier to real connection. It can be scary to risk being in a wonderfully satisfying relationship with someone with whom we feel compatible and deeply connected. Why? Because the fear is that if I lost the love and relationship I cherish more than any other and have worked so hard to find, I’d be so devastated I wouldn’t know what to do, i.e., I might not be able to survive. We can make it safer in our minds to stay in mediocre relationships that if lost would feel hard, but not the end of our world.
What to do:
One way to work with this anxiety is to acknowledge the fear and process through it. It may include processing through past losses that have been unresolved inside our psyches that actually amplify that fear of loss. It can also be helpful to explore the assumption that our fear or dependency is based on. Yes, it would be painful and incredibly difficult to lose someone that important, but it’s part of the human experience. Loss is a built-in reality. Therefore, how to we stay open to life and the possibility of loss and cultivate a sense of resiliency and depth of goodness within ourselves, not just within our relationship.
The Bottom Line
We human beings usually get stuck when fear freezes us or throws us off course. One of the fundamental fears is that we are somehow not enough, not lovable, not acceptable, not wanted, and on, and on and on. It’s a painful part of living this human experience. Some of us over-compensate for those concerns and some of us, withdraw, hesitate, or shut down in some way.
If you have been frustrated with dating and unable to find lasting love and a reliable partner in your life, it isn’t because you aren’t lovable or worthy of love. Yet there may be some part of you deep inside that is afraid of that, has heard some version of that message in the past or just isn’t fully convinced of your true Goodness. These parts need attention and airtime to sort through complex feelings that are likely creating mixed messages inside of you and driving the frustrating repetition of disappointment in romantic relationships.
If you have questions about these sorts of dynamics or would like help exploring how you get stuck around love and relationships, please contact me.