A key indicator of infant and early childhood development is recognised within attachment theory. The child must be able to confidently leave the parental safe base to explore his or her world, just as the child must willingly return. Where we have problems is when the child either fears leaving their parent’s side or the child has little desire in returning.
Our chief fears, birthed in us from day one, are a fear of abandonment (or rejection) and the fear of intimacy (of trusting and having that trust rejected). What lies at the core of both of these issues is a fear of rejection. We fear relying on others and being betrayed, leading to a fear of intimacy, as well as of simply being rejected, leading to a fear of abandonment.
Now, whilst these fears of intimacy and abandonment emerged in our early childhood, we come back there in an instant when pressure mounts and we are tested.
Overcoming the Fear of Intimacy
The reason we may struggle in forming relationships, intimate and otherwise, may be because we feared betrayal. We may sense the risks taken to build a relationship are not worth the potential costs. If this is the case we may fear intimacy.
Overcoming this fear is about somehow recognising that there are generally more trustworthy souls in our world than untrustworthy souls. We ought to only place our trust in those we can trust. Unfortunately, for many of us, we have had to place our trust in untrustworthy people. When we were betrayed, and betrayal occurs because none of us is perfect, we found the hurt seemingly impossible to reconcile.
Overcoming the fear of intimacy is achieved when we can practice trust.
Overcoming the Fear of Abandonment
The reason we may struggle letting go in relationships, a reason we are clingy, is we fear being abandoned. This is because we felt abandoned often enough by an important attachment figure.
We couldn’t let go because we felt that if we did, the attachment figure may abandon us.
Overcoming this fear is about nurturing a safe sense of ourselves; a worthy sense of identity. This isn’t such a hard thing to do when we are adults. We simply get into the practice of getting to know and accept ourselves, as we exactly are. This way no matter who abandons us we never feel abandoned, because we have ourselves. And the best way of developing a worthy sense of identity is to believe in, and develop a relationship with, the living God. Jesus loves us.
Overcoming the fear of intimacy is about learning to trust again, by being shrewd in who we trust and in what situations. Overcoming the fear of abandonment is about developing a solid sense of ourselves; a worthy sense of identity. All things are possible when we fear neither intimacy nor abandonment.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.