Posttraumatic stress affects relationships as well as the individual. We invite you to follow the research discoveries presented in the next two blog posts that covers the impact that posttraumatic stress has on relationship intimacy. Today’s post discusses Five Fears that Interfere with Intimacy. The next post will cover The Things To Do To Help Intimacy Flourish.
With PTSD, we seem to have more relationship difficulties such as divorce and avoidance of intimacy. Some appear to marry in hopes of recreating a pre-trauma life or escaping difficult circumstances before sufficient healing has taken place. For some, fear of intimacy interferes with connectedness. One research participant said, “I heard that love casts out fear, but in my case fear casts out love.” Schiraldi has identified five fears that interfere with intimacy and which must be neutralized in order for intimacy to grow. Otherwise, sufferers can sabotage intimacy in ways that include workaholism, picking fights, abandoning their partner, or drinking excessively. As you will see, these fears make perfect sense for anyone who has suffered trauma. The fears are:
Loss of control. In intimacy, we open ourselves up emotionally. This means that we are vulnerable to the emotions that accompany the intrusions of traumatic memories. This can lead to avoidance or anger to prevent loss of control over the memories. It is logical, then, to sufficiently heal so that intimacy might progress. In some cases, sufferers fear being controlled by their partner. This often happens after a traumatic experience/s where choice and control were taken away, especially when it was another human taking control from the victim. The antidote is to find a trustworthy person/s who can be viewed as an ally and teammate. In such a relationship, we gradually learn to relinquish or share some control.
Abandonment. When we have experienced abandonment by significant people in our life (or abandonment by their failure to protect us), we want to avoid experiencing this again. Feeling vulnerable to abandonment can cause us to
- Never love again
- Engage in casual sex without emotional involvement
- Be distant or revengeful in relationships
- Be clinging or have jealous insecurity
Rejection. To protect against experiencing further rejection, we might not let ourselves be fully known, or will reject the other person first. This fear arises from the feeling of being damaged and unlovable, and by the perception that people will reject us if they know our secret about the traumatic event/s to which we have been exposed.
Attack. In close relationships (including family relationships), we are more vulnerable to being hurt and/or angered by put-downs, teasing, or other abusive acts. Such behaviors are experienced as a betrayal of the unspoken pledge to support and protect one’s loved one. When we have become sensitized to danger, we have an even greater need for safety. Because of this vulnerability, we are likely to feel threatened by even small disagreements. A mindset of “You are either with me, or against me,” can develop, which makes communication difficult.
Our own tendency to hurt others. We may not see our anger, disappointment, or hurt as normal feelings after trauma. Also, we have difficulty understanding that our trauma-related behaviors hurt those around us. Trauma-related behaviors can cause our significant others to experience rejection, abuse, abandonment, disappointment, deceit, humiliation, and betrayal. Those experiences often undermine trust from those around us and can cause them to feel increased fear, sadness, remorse, contempt, disgust, and anger toward you.
Those of us with Operation Pegasus want to help people understand posttraumatic stress and how to self-administer the symptom management skills of the Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM). Contact us for more information about this life-changing treatment option.
The information about the Five Fears that Interfere with Intimacy is from Glenn R. Schiraldi; The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook; Lowell House: California; 2000. Our next post, from the same source, will cover the things to do to help intimacy flourish.