You may have a fear of intimacy because deep down you fear abandonment, rejection, or betrayal, all of which are fears that come from our emotional “wounds” in early childhood. (A childhood “wound” is a term that simply means the feelings and thoughts you have about yourself that come from being abandoned, rejected, or betrayed by your mom and dad, or other carers: such things cause all of us to feel unworthy and unlovable.)
As a child, you wouldn’t have seen yourself as really separate from your family: that’s not how children think. As a child, you just don’t know that you have worth as an individual in your own right. Instead, you think that your parents’ behavior towards you reflects your worth. When that behavior is not always positive, you pick up messages about yourself that become the reality of who you think you are. And a big part of this is how much you think you’re worthy of love. And another, of course, is your belief about much people want to love you.
Since knowing you are lovable is a big part of being comfortable with intimacy, it’s not hard to see why fear of intimacy is such a big problem for so many people. Intimacy is about allowing someone else to see you as you are, about sharing who you are with another person. And sharing yourself in this way can be a problem if you deeply feel you are somehow unworthy, or defective, or unlovable because of your childhood emotional trauma.
What happens in adulthood is that you find a way of being in the world which is designed to protect you from being abandoned, rejected, or betrayed once again because of what you see as your unworthy, shameful being. Of course, to some degree we all grow up with negative messages. And because society doesn’t really provide us with ways to heal, or healthy role models who can teach us how to overcome our fears and beliefs about ourselves, our emotional wounding in early childhood makes us feel that something is wrong with who we are (this is called toxic shame).
Most families reinforce the wounds by teaching children in ways both spoken and unspoken to “keep up appearances”, or not to let others see you as you really are. So it’s not hard to see where a fear of intimacy can come from! And of course, as long as you continue to react, albeit unconsciously, to the emotional wounds of your childhood, and the conclusions you drew about yourself from the behavior of those around you, you’ll keep on repeating the same old behavior patterns as an adult. You’ll keep getting involved with people who turn out to be unavailable (after all, what better way to protect yourself from the fear of intimacy than to hook up with someone who isn’t ever going to be emotionally available to you?). You’ll keep setting yourself up to be abandoned, rejected or betrayed (after all, that’s what you’ve been taught, or learned, that life will always give you).
And you’ll carry on looking for love in all the wrong places, and searching it out in all the wrong faces. In view of this, is it any surprise that so many people have a fear of intimacy?