The Two Dimensions of Fearing Intimacy


Intimacy is an integral part of the recovery process, with each journey being a wholly personal and emotional venture. However, while intimacy is an essential part of recovery, it is also one of the most difficult and vulnerable parts of the process, and an individual could be resisting these feelings of intimacy for a couple of different reasons. An individual can feel as if they are trying to protect others from themselves and any shame or guilt they may harbor or are protecting themselves from others, stemming from lingering feelings of betrayal.

Defining Intimacy

Intimacy often has romantic connotations attached to it. However, this is by no means a necessity. For those in recovery, intimacy is simply a willingness to engage in an emotional, even vulnerable conversation with another and does not necessitate any kind of romantic undertone whatsoever.

Having an intimate relationship with one’s therapist is a relationship based on safety and a willingness to share one’s emotions genuinely. Under this understanding of intimacy, great relationships can be born with professionals, peers, and family members without romantic expectations involved.

Avoiding Intimacy to Protect Others

The idea of protecting others from one’s self is a tricky slope and often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The idea stems from an individual harboring intense levels of shame, guilt, and self-criticism. An individual may be reluctant to emotionally open up to anyone to spare them from hearing about or vicariously experiencing these intense feelings. This is a natural defense mechanism wherein an individual can convince themselves that they are protecting others while simultaneously saving themselves from opening up to an even more vulnerable state.

However, this approach also doesn’t typically allow for the healing to even begin in a meaningful way, as an individual will shut themselves off from progress as a whole. Being unwilling to open up means that an individual will not be open to view themselves differently and will have to take an emotionally intimate dive to prove they are deserving of healing from another’s perspective. This step needn’t be anything grand; instead, it can begin as sharing a single vulnerable line with a therapist in an entirely individual setting.

Protecting One’s Self Against Intimacy

This approach involves harboring feelings of betrayal from one’s past, often stemming from physically or emotionally traumatic experiences, especially in one’s childhood. This can create an intense feeling of distrust in others, making it very difficult to be willing to receive help regarding one’s situation. Trust, being such a fickle concept, can be incredibly difficult to capture, but these intimate relationships don’t need to be developed in a day. Instead, they build up over time and can begin with simple questions, favors, or actions such as someone borrowing a pen and returning it.

Intimacy is an intimidating thing, especially for those in recovery for addiction, overcoming trauma, or working through any co-occurring mental health disorders. At Valiant Living, we understand that developing an intimate relationship throughout recovery is essential, even if it isn’t easy, which is why your time with us is spent curating a supportive atmosphere and space for you to feel as free and transparent as you want to be. Our caring professionals will work with you daily throughout your stay to develop meaningful relationships to help you better embrace your changing future. For more information, call to speak to a caring, trained staff member at (303) 952-5035.