Note: this is the second of a two-part series.
If you grew up in an environment where you were made to feel inadequate, insecure and afraid to trust, you likely have a difficult time in adulthood with your ability to love and to be loved.
You will, more than likely, develop a fear of being controlled by other people, and you’ll attempt to mitigate that fear by either over-controlling your intimate partners (using any degree of exaggeration, manipulation, anger, threats, seduction or deception), pushing your partner away, or by running away from intimacy. You will be likely not trust people who say they love you, and you’ll act suspicious, inconsistent, confusing, insecure, jealous and perhaps paranoid around them. Your behavior will communicate: “I reject you. But please don’t reject me because I need you.”
Does this sound like you? If so, the following questions are for you, courtesy of Joseph Santoro and Ronald Cohen in the book The Angry Heart (New Harbinger):
- Does having low trust in your intimate relationships sound familiar to you? If so, what do you do to block connection and closeness?
- What behaviors on the part of your parents or other caregivers may have affected your ability to love or trust other people?
- What problems related to issues of control can you recall from your childhood?
- How would you characterize the level of trust you place in other people? Who do you trust most? Why? List the people—and the kinds of people—you trust least. Why don’t you trust them?
- Look at yourself in the mirror, then take out a picture of someone who cares about you, and try to imagine how that person feels about you. Now compare and write about how you felt looking at yourself in the mirror and how you felt about looking at that person who cares about you. In what ways are those feelings similar? In what ways are they different?
- How would you describe how trustworthy you appear to other people? What factors are responsible for your distrust of others? What factors are responsible for others distrust of you?
- How much trust would you ideally like to place in others? How much trust would you like others to place in you? What kinds of things need to happen in order for these ideals to become a reality?
- How would you describe your capacity for giving love? For receiving love?
- Describe your ideal capacity for giving and receiving love. What are the obstacles that are blocking you from achieving these ideals? How might you begin to overcome these obstacles?
If you’d like to change these dynamics, learn to combine your desire for independence with the opposing desire: to be interdependent and to merge lives with another. People who are interdependent know they can take care of themselves when they need to, but they want to be with and share their lives with intimate others. They want to belong, and being on a team doesn’t threaten their identities.
Challenge yourself to stay in an intimate relationship and to have a rational, reasonable, communicative discussion about what you want and need from the other person, what s/he needs and wants in return, where your relationship triggers are, and how you would like the other person to respond when you get triggered, fearful, angry or threatened.