So close and yet so far


In the last month or so of therapy, I have come to identify one of my central struggles. I must have had a blind spot to not realise that this issue defines how I relate to others and see myself.

I fear intimacy.

Those three words seem alien on the screen. After all, I value my family and large circle of friends. I actively seek out friendships and human contact. How could I possibly fear intimacy if I am anxious to maintain closeness to others?

Well, it’s something I am trying to make sense of, with the help of DS (my therapist Deep Soul). There wasn’t a lightning bolt moment as such but, like a detective, I pieced together “here-and-now” therapy moments to come to this conclusion. DS hasn’t disagreed with my finding.

It would explain all the anxiety I have whenever we’re alone in the room. I reckon that if you had to look up intimate in the dictionary, this situation would feature in the top five! How often do we have an active other who is fully present for us? There is nowhere to run when I am on the couch and he is sitting in front of me. It’s like I can’t handle the closeness, even though consciously I love being able to vent and have him listen and interpret. What am I so scared of? Or why I am scared?

Happy Holloween…

I told DS that I think it’s because I’ve either had a limited experience of happy intimate relationships in my formative years or that I have never had a true intimate relationship at all, even if I’ve been under the illusion that it was intimate. Basically, I am working with a wonky model or map of how relationships are supposed to be. Relationships with my parents were based on compliance, authority and respect. I have a heart full of empathy for why they were that way and that this doesn’t make them bad people. But it does leave me with confusion and pain in relating to others on a deeper level at times. I don’t have strong, formative memories of being able to completely trust someone and be loved for who I am, not what I do or say.

In my heart, I know that intimacy is about being vulnerable and also feeling safe enough to assert views and personality to another. I believe intimacy is based on two people being authentic at any given moment. What makes this confusing in therapy is that DS gets to sit in his authoritative chair waiting for me to open up and speak. The imbalance terrifies me. The blank slate position triggers all sorts of feelings:

– Shame at not being “worthy enough” for someone to open up to me about who they really are and their own weaknesses
– Terror at having to give some or all of myself without reassurance or reciprocation
– Loneliness of the therapy relationship in terms of its one-sideness
– Sadness at feeling like I need to give up on my spontaneity in order to not break certain boundaries in therapy
– Confusion and anger at this catch-22 situation

In our session on Monday, it emerged that I seem to be afraid of enjoying the intimacy of a relationship without feeling loss at the same time. This was after I mentioned that it’s difficult to enjoy the caring moments between us because I know that I will have to eventually give up the relationship. He then asked about the feelings of loss I might have in relation to therapy ending at some point.

The question was innocent enough but I interpreted it as DS telling me I need to just accept there will be an end and more frightening, that it’s something he’s been thinking about a lot.

Don’t take a pill and don’t phone me in the morning…

After the session, I had the impulse to e-mail him and say I was taking a month’s break to escape from the confusion and hurt. It was also a passive form of “punishing” him. I decided to wait and see how I felt the next morning. I’ve been doing a dedicated mindfulness programme for two weeks and when I woke up the following day, I was mindful that the impulse was based on my fear of intimacy i.e. Let’s run away before things can get really hectic between us! I realised I would only be punishing myself and would feel very sad if I couldn’t go to therapy every week.

At this point, I accept that I will need to continue with the journey. At the same time, I have never felt more vulnerable. Wherever this leads, it feels like I have uncovered something important about myself.

Should I go against all my fears and send DS a message this week, letting him know that I became mindful of wanting to escape and that I am feeling vulnerable at the moment? This would prepare him for what to expect at our next session. I also feel alone and really need to feel like he’s there for me.

Or should I wait and raise it next Monday? Is part of therapy learning to bear this pain alone?

**Penny Siopis. 2010. Little Flame. Ink and glue on canvas.

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13 thoughts on “So close and yet so far

  1. I totally understand the feeling of urgency of needing to share your personal revelations as soon as possible, but I’m venturing to bet the experience will be more valuable shared and received in person. Beautiful, tender post, by the way. It sounds like you are making tremendous inroads.

    • Jay says:

      You are so right SFL… I think chatting about it in person would be the most beneficial. Hmmm, maybe I was thinking of messaging him because it seemed like a “safer” way to let him know. Less chance of rejection.

      Thanks for being so kind and for following my therapy journey xx

      • Oh my gosh, thank you for sharing your journey with us. I missed you in my blog roll! It had been a while since your last piece.

        What did you decide to do?

      • Jay says:

        Lol sometimes I read my posts and think, gosh I hope I don’t come across as whiny and repetitive! I missed being here.

        Your wise words resonated with me and I decided to wait until the next session. It’s not a life or death matter and I don’t want to bug him unnecessarily. I am willing to sit with the stuff I have until Monday.

        Plus, I really want to be in front of him and see his reactions and body language ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. mindspawned says:

    Intimacy is like a whole new language I don’t speak. Luckily it’s still a language that can be taught. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Jay says:

      You had me laughing here because you are so right. Perhaps we need to find an “intimacy for dummies” book and throw in an intimacy dictionary for good measure. Thanks for making me feel less alone!

  3. ptero9 says:

    Dear Jay,

    You say so well, what I often feel myself, and what was for me as well, something that therapy amplified about relationships and vulnerability.

    “How often do we have an active other who is fully present for us? ”

    Spot on, I think! My sense is that so many people are afraid of many different things that we train each other what we can and cannot say, do or think. When I was younger I felt as if I was picking up on others fears and reflecting back to them a silence in reaction to the fear I sensed. That led though, to incorporating the fear in myself and it was for many years crippling.

    During my years in therapy, I began to call it ontological fright because it felt so primitive and raw. At some point I began to discern between feelings that were more truly mine and began to take more chances with other people. Risking offending others felt like I would be annihilated in the process. Little by little, I discovered that I wouldn’t die from taking risks with others even though it was painful and scary sometimes.

    There is a lot of fear in the world, and perhaps as it should be. We may suffer confusion in a world that tells us to go out there, be confident and be yourself. But, our world is full of horrible things, along with joy and beauty. Compared to a hundred years ago, or going back even further, we live somewhat insulated lives. We no longer walk out the door and fear encounters with wild animals (or rarely), we don’t have struggle to kill our own food and we have, most of us anyway, shelter from the cold, rain and wind.

    My point is, some of our fear serves us well, but it’s tricky to discern the nature of fear and whether or not it is serving us well.

    I love how vulnerable your writing is and really appreciate your ability share here.

    • Jay says:

      Wow Debra, you always manage to hit the nail on the head with your wisdom and insight! It’s so true what you say about fear… Even though it has a very good purpose, we shouldn’t necessarily give into it. After all, we might just have highly over-active amygdalas ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Inch by inch, I’m starting to walk the path you’ve taken in terms of risking it with others. I know for certain that a lot of my beliefs about other people and what they might be thinking are actually just the byproduct of my own wonky filter… And that I can get into a terrible downward spiral if I act upon my own imagined fears. Easy to confuse other people when this happens.

      Thanks again x

  4. Ellen says:

    I so well know the feeling of needing to express something to the T right away, unable to wait a week. For me, it’s been OK to email between sessions, but every situation is different. I don’t feel I could stand it sometimes, I really don’t. I admire your fortitude. I think the same kinds of fears would have been triggered off in me with that kind of statement a about endings.

    For me, the therapy relationship isn’t intimate the way others might be, for the reasons you said – it’s not reciprocal, so it’s based on some imagination on our part, about what they are like. However, it is intimate in other ways. Hmmm…confusing.

    • Jay says:

      Ah Ellen, sorry to hear this is also something you struggle with. Therapy can be quite a lonely journey sometimes if you’re going through a patch where your feelings involve your therapist and the people in your life don’t really get the therapy relationship.

      As for the intimacy in the relationship, I have to admit I’m also confused. Had to chuckle at you mentioning imagination on our part. Wonder how often the lives we imagine of our therapists match up to reality?

  5. sherryd32148 says:

    Were you in the room when I was talking to my therapist last week? I swear you must have been because we discussed much of what you’ve written.

    Brilliant. So dang insightful!


    • Jay says:

      What synchronicity Sherry ๐Ÿ™‚ I do believe we encounter things at just the right time. It seems quite a few of us have the same troubles. How did the discussion with your therapist end?

  6. […] went to my therapy session last night after deciding I was going to resist a pattern of avoiding intimacy and difficult feelings. The idea was to tell my therapist DS (Deep Soul) that I had considered […]

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