I have a fear of opening up to people even my family. I have heard it described as fear of loving someone and being loved. That sounds about right. Advice? Thanks.
I suspect that it is not so much a fear of being loved as it is a fear that if you do love someone or they love you, something bad will happen.
Those who have a fear of intimacy are afraid of things like:
- losing someone they get close to
- being hurt
These fears are a result of negative underlying beliefs. For example, maybe you can relate to some of these:
"If I get close to people, I will get hurt."
"If people get close to me, I'll just end up hurting them."
"If they knew who I really am, they would reject me."
"All relationships break up."
"It would be a terrible thing if that person rejected me."
"It is weak to rely on others, so I only rely on myself."
"No one could ever like me for who I am."
"This relationship will be just like that one from my past."
"It's safer to never get close to anyone."
You may relate to some of these and probably have some other beliefs, too, that lead to the idea that intimacy is somehow not a good idea. The fact that you asked this question suggests that you want to overcome the fear of intimacy so you can enjoy closer relationships, but at the same time you're not sure how, and not convinced that you really do want to be close to others.
The best way to overcome fear of intimacy is to challenge your underlying beliefs. Select one belief, and ask yourself some questions to be as objective as possible:
- Is this the only way of looking at the situation?
- What is the evidence for and the evidence against this belief? Which list is more compelling?
- How can I test my belief to see if it is true?
For example, if you believe "I can't stand being rejected," set up a situation where you can actually practice being rejected to prove to yourself that it is not so scary. David Burns calls these "shame attacking exercises." You could go out in public and ask every person who passes by, "would you like to join me for dinner?" Most people are likely to say no - rejection - and you will have the opportunity to find out that you CAN stand rejection after all. You can use experiments like these to test a variety of fears.
Will I really die of embarrassment if X Y or Z happens? Would A B or C really be a terrible thing? Try it to find out.
You can find out more about rational and irrational beliefs by taking this Rational Thinking Questionnaire by Aldo R. Pucci. It will provide suggestions for how to make your beliefs more rational and realistic. We all have some thinking that could be improved!