In this final episode of the “Fear of Intimacy” series, I’ll show you two simple and profound practices with the power to melt and heal your fear of intimacy. Remember: Fear of intimacy is part of the human condition!
Fear Of Intimacy, Part 3: How To Heal Your Fear Of Intimacy
What’s the single greatest thing that holds us back from finding the love that we seek and keeping it alive? It’s our fear of intimacy and the patterns that come out of that.
In this episode, we’re going to dive deep into understanding how to transform our fear of intimacy and I’m going to teach you two beautiful, life-changing exercises that will profoundly help you to be able to do that in your life. So stay tuned to the Deeper Dating podcast.
Hello and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. Today is our third in a series of talks about fear of intimacy, and today, we’re going to talk about what you can do to heal and transform your fears of intimacy.
I’m Ken Page and every week I’ll bring you access to the greatest insights and the most powerful practices I know, to help you find love and keep it flourishing, and heal your life in the process, because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of love, and the skills of love are the greatest skills of all. You can find the whole transcript of this episode on deeperdatingpodcast.com. By the way, if you like what you’re learning here, it would be a tremendous gift if you could subscribe on iTunes and leave me a review.
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It’s Not Smart to Just Keep Looking in the Same Ways
This episode is the third in a series of three episodes talking about fear of intimacy, because it’s such a huge, huge deal, and so much focus is spent on how you’re going to find your partner, but not enough is spent on how you can heal your fear of intimacy, which will heal your life and dramatically and profoundly speed and deepen your path to love.
It’s not smart to just keep looking in the same ways, because part of us is looking, and another part of us is blocking and sabotaging us, and that is true for all of us.
As I say, if you’re breathing, you’ve got some fear of intimacy. Doing this work, if you want a huge bang for your buck in your search for love and in your desire to have a life that’s filled with love, there’s almost nothing greater that you can do than learn the lessons of these past few sessions, and in some ways, very particularly the episode today.
Facing Your Fear of Intimacy Is an Act of Heroism
Just to kind of catch up on a few things that we talked about in the last two before I dive into the big one today. The first thing we talked about is a deeper understanding of our fear of intimacy and a concept there that was really important was, of course, first of all that we all have fear of intimacy and that healing it makes … It’s a kind of act of heroism.
Facing it, addressing it and transforming it is an act of beauty and heroism, and it’s going to give you rewards that are profound and long-lasting, more than continuing, trying to do the same old stuff that you did that didn’t work, really, really, I promise you.
Even though this is hard and deep and intense, it’s just really true. We also talked about how, behind every one of your fear of intimacy defenses, and again, assuming we all got them, behind every one of those is a treasured part of you that you’re trying to protect in the best way you can or the best way you could usually when you were a lot younger or had a lot less tools, but to understand fear of intimacy, we cannot just think of it as a pathology.
We have to think of it as a protection against insults, and hurt, and wounding to a precious part of us. When we do that, our world begins to open up and we have more compassion, and we have a lot more capacity to heal things than if we’re ashamed because we just think, “What the hell is wrong with me with this fear of intimacy condition?”
Acknowledge and Admit Your Flight Patterns
The next thing we talked about was seeing and admitting what I call your flight patterns, the patterned ways that you sabotage intimacy, the parts of you that close the door that the other parts of you were trying so hard to open in your life, and the recognition and the admitting of that. I used a quote which I love, which is from Vito Russo, and it’s,
“The truth will set you free, but first, it’ll make you miserable,”
And it ain’t easy to face this stuff. That’s why it’s an act of heroism.
Today, we’re going to talk about what you can do about these patterns, these hard and calcified, difficult patterns of fear of intimacy, of sabotaging of closeness, because …
Hopefully you’ve listened to the last two episodes, and if you haven’t, you might want to, and certainly you would want to if you can’t yet put your finger on ways that you have fled love, but you can still listen to this session because even without those, the lessons and the exercises I give you are going to be fabulous, and they’ll help you and also set a foundation.
How to Break Through Your Patterns
Today, we’re going to talk about how you can break through your patterns based on fear of intimacy, that hold you back from finding love, keeping love, enjoying love, cherishing love, and building a life that is richer with love.
We’re going to talk about fear of intimacy in two different ways today, and two very kind of broad and important ways. We’re going to talk about how to change your patterns, your habitual patterns that are blocking intimacy, and then we’re also going to talk about how to open to love because the greatest antidote to fear of intimacy is intimacy. Not in doses that we can’t bear, not in ways that scare us, but in gradual ways that are balanced by our own self-love.
We’re going to talk about how to do that. And for each of these two subjects the changing your patterns and the deepening into love in your life. I’m going to provide you with a really fabulous exercise, a powerful, seminal exercise to help you do that, and you’re going to do it right during this podcast while you’re driving, while you’re walking, while you’re doing whatever it is that you’re doing, you will be able to do this.
Our Heart Becomes Defended and Protected
I’m going to first talk about the broader subject to you. We are not going to leave the issue of the patterns and habits that you’ve created that maybe push love away. We will get to that, but we’re going to start with the foundation, the broader picture.
Paramahansa Yogananda was a brilliant spiritual teacher, said something really beautiful. I don’t remember the exact words, but he said that,
“As human beings, our hearts are prone to becoming harder and flinty, unless we do processes, unless we have things in our life that remind our heart to soften. It so easily becomes flinty.”
It becomes defended. It becomes protected, and God knows. I see that in my life again, and again, and again. If I didn’t have those wake up calls that remind me of love so many times a day, my life would become flinty and stale, and I wouldn’t know why that was happening because I would just think I’m doing everything I should be doing, but nothing would have been softening my heart, and those are the things that create the great healing. We forget that so easily. I forget that so easily.
The concept here is that left to our own devices in our own heads, our defense patterns will become really important. Our to-do list will become breathtakingly important. The people who annoyed us, and criticized us, and minimized us, and chipped away at us, they will become breathtakingly important. The difficulties, the complications, the whatever it is that makes our heart kind of flinty and defensive will just take on more and more weight and importance.
Intimacy is Inviting Us to Deeper Love
At the same time …That’s just … I mean, I think that’s how it is for most of us. For all of us at the same time though, intimacy is calling us. It’s whispering to us. It’s knocking on our door. Sometimes it’s yelling at us.
Sometimes it’s shaking us, and it’s inviting us to deeper love. For each one of you, for each one of us, that’s a really big question, and the question is, “How many moments in our day are we receiving the invitation to love; to love ourselves, to love the people we love, to love our lives, to love whatever it is we love?” That’s this huge and binary question is, “Are we receiving that invitation to love?”, because right now, love is calling you right now.
Love is calling us, and the act of remembering that softens our hearts and when our hearts soften, lots of different things happen. We feel sadness, we feel grief, we feel moved, we feel touched, we remember and we value and we start to treasure the people in our lives.
Wisdom Comes in When We Allow Our Hearts to Soften
These are all the things that happen when we allow our hearts to soften, and little by little, when we allow our hearts to soften like that, wisdom comes in, a sea change begins. All the parts of us that have been kind of like pulling us toward love, and for every single one of you listening to this podcast and these podcasts, I can absolutely assume that love is calling you, and that you’re looking for more in deeper love or you wouldn’t be here.
That call can sometimes feel like a yawning longing. It can sometimes feel very sharp. It can feel really lonely. It can also feel really beautiful at times, but it is precious and it is important, and all of these constructs we learned that we shouldn’t have, the pain of longing are, I believe incorrect.
That desire, that longing for more that’s within us is part of our greatness, and it’s what changes us. It’s the only thing that has the power and the fuel to get us out of the gravity zone of our own self-involvement. I’m going to teach you the exercise. Well, no. I’m going to share a story with you first.
An Odd Story of Fear of Intimacy and Getting Past It
This is a story of some family friends, and this is a story, an odd kind of story of fear of intimacy and getting past it. This is a story about my friends, Lil and Joe, who I’ve known since I was about 11 years old. Joe has passed away since. Lil is still alive. They are and have been amazing people.
Lil had no physical challenges. Joe was paraplegic, so Joe’s story is, he was a healthy, athletic teenager. He was body surfing in Rehoboth Beach, and a giant wave hit him and crashed him to shore, and he was then carried out to shore. When he woke up again, this young guy who had a girlfriend, and like a whole fantastic life ahead of him found out that he was completely paralyzed, pretty much from his neck down. He had some arm movements, but I guess nothing really from the torso down and very limited movements in his arms, so he felt like his life was destroyed. He went into a severe depression.
His girlfriend left him, and that really crashed him down. He felt like he couldn’t have a career, he couldn’t have anything, and he kind of really crashed, and then over time, kind of like began to find his legs, and he went back to school while he was still living in this rehab. He was able to take classes and he was studying to become an accountant. Enter Lil. One day, Lil’s friend …
Lil and Joe Met at the Unexpected Place
Lil was a nurse, and one day her friend said to her, “Hey, you want to come to this gay bar?” She said, “Sure. Why not?” That’s a long, long time ago. She was brave right there. Anyway, so she goes to this gay bar, and somehow Joe, who was not gay, ended up in this gay bar too, and they met in this gay bar, and they started connecting and they started talking, and they really enjoyed each other’s company.
It was completely intellectual at first, but they really, really bonded, and so they kept getting together and kept meeting. Finally, they got married. The church was not happy about this because they could not procreate. The families were not happy about this. Lil had a lot of real concerns about it, but she was really in love with him.
Letting Love Grow Until It Became Bigger Than Fear
Anyway, they had a wonderful, successful, rich, beautiful life together for decades, and decades, and decades. I interviewed them for my book, Deeper Dating, because I wanted to understand. I wanted to understand how Lil got over the fears that she must have had marrying somebody who was in a wheelchair, who was handicapped, who had serious health conditions that were potentially life-threatening. What did she do with her fear? Her answer was so fabulous.
She said, “My fear was never that much of an issue because I didn’t push myself to do anything I wasn’t ready to do. I talked to him. I got to know him, and as I did, my caring for him grew. My love for him grew, and finally, it grew to a point where there was no choice because I knew I wanted to be with him. At that point, he had gotten his degree, he was making good money, and he was really what we say in Jewish, a mensch, like a real stand-up person, but she said,
“If I thought about this in the beginning, I would have been completely terrified, but what I did was I let the love grow until it became bigger than my fear, and then there was no choice.”
Where Is Love Calling You?
For all of us, that’s the task. The task is to cultivate love that grows bigger than our fear. Now, I want to give you this fabulous exercise, and the exercise is this. I’ll tell you where it came from. A dear friend of mine was at her wedding. It was a Quaker wedding.
Someone stood up and was talking about how she kind of got through all of her decades of marriage successfully, and she said, “I keep asking myself this question, ‘What is love asking of me at this moment?’, and that has been the secret to my success in this relationship.”
Well, I’m going to ask you a slightly different question, and we’re going to do this repetitive question thing, which works beautifully and richly, so bear with me in this because I’m going to ask you this question, “Where is love calling you?”, and you’re going to soften your heart and you’re going to think what answers come up. It might be my pet, it might be my writing, it might be my music, it might be my grandmother. It might be this wonderful person that I’ve met who I’m building a connection with. It might be your best friend.
It doesn’t matter what it is, and you can surprise yourself with your answer, but I’m just going to ask you this question a few times so that you can learn where love’s call is strongest for you. Wherever that is, that’s the key to help you move away from the gravity zone of your smaller life, into one where you feel the beating heart of your humanity.
You Will Feel Love and the Aliveness of It
You feel your love and the aliveness of it, and I promise you that the more that you do, the richer and the more beautiful your life will become. Let’s do it. I’m going to ask you this question, and you just answer it out loud. You can write it down if you want, or you can just answer it out loud as you drive, as you walk, whatever. Then, I’m going to ask you again.
I’m going to ask you a few times. Let’s just do this and see what comes up. “Where is love calling you in your life?” It may be a place where you haven’t been listening enough, or maybe a place where you have. I’m going to ask it again, “Where is love calling you in your life?”
Again, whatever answer comes out. I’m going to ask it again, “Where is love calling you in your life?” Imagine saying a bigger yes to that. In many cases, that’s the place to start. I guess I’m going to ask it once more, and if you’ve tended to focus on things like your career, your art, your creativity, anything like that, that’s fabulous, but now, I’m going to ask you like, “Whose love is calling out to you in your life that you feel you could listen to with more treasuring, with more richness, with more enjoyment?”
Just Say Yes to Where Love is Calling You
Just picture doing that. Great. This is such an important thing because the greatest antidote to fear of intimacy is enriching the intimacy that exists in your life already. We do not have to get rid of our fear of intimacy first. We just need to say yes to love where it’s calling us, and to admit where we flee love.
Now, we’re going to go into the next part about that, which is the ways we flee love, because the thing is, as much as our hearts become flinty, our patterns become even more flinty, more stuck, more rigid, more like heels dug into the ground. We do not want to get rid of our patterns of behavior, including looking for love in all the wrong places, looking for love with the wrong people, being stuck in a relationship that’s not good for us, pushing people away who scare us because of their availability, not having time for the people we care about, all of these other ways that we do it. What do we do? How do we change these patterns?
Now, this is a huge subject, and obviously one that I can’t talk about fully here, but I am just going to say a couple of kind of broad meta thoughts that I think are rich, and teach you probably the most fabulous exercise that I know for healing patterns of avoiding intimacy.
How to Heal Patterns of Avoiding Intimacy: Ask the People You Love
The first thing I want to say is when it comes to stuck patterns, as much as we want to like feel like our intelligence and our willpower are going to work, our intelligence and our willpower are weak, weak tools. They’re like rubber wrenches. They don’t work. They’re like soft rubber screw drivers. They’re just not going to hold the force needed to get change to happen. What do we need?
We need relationships. Relationships with our self that work in a deeper way, and that’s going be the exercise I teach you. But also relationships with other people who hold us out to reality, the people who know you and love you most. All you have to do is say to them, “Could you tell me if you think you see any ways that I’m fleeing intimacy, or that I could do things differently or that you wished I did things differently in my search for love?”
Now, for most of us, our friends will tell us in a New York minute what those things are, but we never ask because we don’t want to know. That’s a very fierce, powerful piece of medicine. Ask the people you love that question, see what they have to say, and see if it rings true to you.
Get Support From a Learning Partner
The help and the support of a learning partner as I’ve discussed, a therapist perhaps, and if there is trauma, if you sense that there’s trauma holding you back, I really encourage you to consider getting therapy help, something I really believe in. There are methods of dealing with trauma that are very powerful. EMDR is one. Brainspotting is one. There are many different techniques that are specifically designed to help us deal with trauma.
Groups are also a really, really powerful way to help with healing and growth. If you have an addiction, a substance abuse addiction, you won’t be able to get over your fear of intimacy patterns until you get sober. I’m going to be really blunt about that, and I really believe that to be true. If you have an unstabilized, untreated, serious psychiatric disorder, address that. These things need to be the foundation of healing in the way that it happens.
There’s a wonderful book by Alan Deutschman. I’ve talked about this book before. It’s called Change or Die. What they … You may have heard this before in one of my podcasts, but it’s a really amazing story in case you haven’t. What he did, there were a group of people that I believe had had heart attacks and strokes, and their doctors told them,
“If you don’t change your diet, you will die.”
Not maybe. You’ll die from this. Of course, all these people committed to changing their diet, but over 90% of them over time could not do it, so he focused on those few people who actually were able to change their diet and sustain it. What was the key? They key was community.
We Can’t Change the Patterns on Our Own
They needed a framework that they believed in toward a new diet, and they needed to be able to fail again, and again, and again, and reframe and rewire at those points of failing – in the community with the support of other people who help them. For all of us, like if you’ve got some stuck pattern, get a friend to help you with it. Get support.
Don’t think that your intelligence, no matter how smart you are, or your willpower, no matter how fierce it is, are going to be able to get you over that hump. We think we could change these patterns on our own, but we really can’t.
We really do need support, so if it’s simple kind of stuff like you find yourself on apps too often or you’re not going out, use a buddy. Use a friend to help you with that. Find someone to go out with you to, and we’ll talk about this more in future points, events and places with people who share your values.
As wonderful as the online world is, I’m telling you, you want a big bang for your buck. Go to events and places that have people of the same gender you’re interested in, with people who share your values.
How to Heal Patterns of Avoiding Intimacy: Characterological Change
That’s a separate issue. That’s a really, really big one. Now, I want to teach you a process that I adore that creates what’s called characterological change. Characterological change means like your characterological stuck points are very, very hardwired, and it’s not easy to change them. This is a gentle and exquisite process that will help you change your fear of intimacy patterns gradually and over time.
It’s the inner mentor process, and I teach it in a much richer, more detailed way in episode three, but I’m just going to run you through it now, and I think you’ll love it. Okay.
Take a moment, and what I’d like you to do is just picture what you are like when you allow yourself to love. How that feels in your body, how that feels in your being, what it’s like when you are comfortable in your own heart, that wonderful place where you’re comfortable in your own skin, in your own heart. Just picture that, and remember a time that you felt that.
Now, just think of someone that you really love, not someone who has kind of broken your heart, but someone who you’ve had a good relationship with. It could even be a pet, it could be anyone, but someone who when you think of this person, you’re kind of filled with love, you really love them.
Picture That YOU on the Other Side
Just picture that person and the love feeling inside with that, and just hold these feelings and just imagine a you much further advanced in your journey, your intimacy journey, someone who could live from this space, less apologetically, more freely, more powerfully, more generously, more wisely, a you that kind of loves so fully and richly. It’s like the you are meant to be. The you on the other side of all of the glass ceilings within, all the fears around love. It’s a you who is just you. Just picture that you.
You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to be it. Just picture that you, and how it feels inside, what that would feel like to be that you. Now, just imagine that you are that you. Just imagine you jump into the role of this inner mentor, this you that you’re meant to be, this more evolved you.
Just imagine you’re in his or her skin. You’re there. You don’t have to earn it. You just imagine it. It’s an imagination exercise, but not totally imagination because it’s you, and you know what this feels like. Just allow yourself to imaginarily, inhabit this wonderful space of just being so fully and richly you.
From this role, look at the you of today, struggling, trying to grow, looking for love. What do you most want to say to the you of today, from this place you’re in, where you’re in the essence of your embodying this more evolved you? What do you most want to say to the you of today? What’s the message that you most want to impart from this fabulous place of being freely you? What’s the message you most want to impart to the you of today?
The Inner Mentor Process
Pass that on. Now, if you like, you could just imagine opening your arms and letting the you of today come into your arms, and that feeling of being both yous, the you of today and the you that you’re meant to be. Good. That’s your inner mentor, and if you do that process every day, every day, that part of you is going to tell you something different.
I do this every day pretty much of my life, and every day, you’re going to get a new daily meditation from this part of you, a new drop of wisdom, and the amazing thing is it always bypasses self-criticism. Somehow, this voice passes right by the self-criticism that can kind of eat us alive, and it’s a voice of wisdom and care.
It’s like the kind of parent we longed to have. This is a process called the inner mentor process, and if you do it on a regular basis around your search for love, you will get wisdom that will change your world and change your life.
Thank you for joining me in this episode!
There’s so much more about the journey to heal our fear of intimacy, but there’s such richness that we’ve covered so far in so many different ways. What I want to say to each of you is try these exercises. They will soften your path, they will fill your heart, and they will help you move from love to love, and when we move from love to love, our intimacy journey changes and our search for love changes, and we make choices that are so much wiser and so much better.
Thank you for joining me again in this new adventure in your own search for intimacy, and I look forward to seeing you next week. Once again, you can go to deeperdatingpodcast.com. You can sign up for my mailing list to get more information about all the work that we do, and have a wonderful week.