Have you ever found that every new relationship follows a similar pattern? No matter how different you think this new lover is going to be, it ends up just the same. It may be about self-acceptance or self value and I will not deny that the universe has a way to repeatedly present you with the […]
Have you ever found that every new relationship follows a similar pattern? No matter how different you think this new lover is going to be, it ends up just the same. It may be about self-acceptance or self value and I will not deny that the universe has a way to repeatedly present you with the same circumstances until you get the lesson that this very relationship, or type thereof, was meant to teach you.
What I am about to share is a story about self sabotage or fear of intimacy, the tale of your chemicals and inner functioning as shaped by your emotions and experiences of intimacy carving a fear of intimacy scenario. There is no-one to blame, your partner or yourself, which will only set you backwards. This is the story of the way back on responsible and constructive intimacy.
As explained in a previous blog on the topic, being aware of your shortcomings and working on them is merely an attempt to address the symptoms of our separation built-in mechanism. Coaching, developing communication and negotiating skills help but do not address the biological sources of our fear of intimacy and relationship issues. Is that to say that there is nothing we can do about it or that all relationships are doomed and we cannot escape fear of intimacy? Not at all.
I believe there is a solution for absolutely everything, even fear of intimacy; it just requires us to decipher what that is. Otherwise, why would I spend so much time writing or experimenting? I would never advise anything I have not being trying myself; that would be highly unethical.
Adopting new habits and lifestyles needed to improve our relationships and go beyond our fear of intimacy requires motivation, discipline and conviction. If it does not work straight away, we tend to doubt and give up. It might just be useful to understand what is at stake so we keep implementing the right solution despite unavoidable setbacks.
As mentioned in the previous blog, after climax we experience suppressed dopamine as a period of low energy and motivation. Sex satisfaction has the regrettable biological effect of filtering our perception of our partner and intimacy. His/her most simple request will appear to be nagging. When under the influence of this post orgasmic mood swings, our partner may seem annoying, boring, dull, irrationally jealous or all the above. And if the dopamine was not enough, other subconscious mechanisms come and spoil our promises of everlasting love: FEAR!
Meet your amygdala (almond shaped nuclei located in the brain): the part of our internal reward circuit which records emotions (all of them) and stores them carefully to protect you from painful experiences, essentially encouraging you to avoid things that hurt you in the past.
Let’s imagine that you amygdala associates intimacy with anxiety, fear, manipulation and control; then it is wired to perceive intimacy as a danger you need to avoid like a snake.
This fear of intimacy can be created through your own experience or that you witness as a child (from your parents for example) or both.
Whenever you experience intimacy, the amygdala will come into action, triggering the sympathetic part of your autonomous system – the fight or flight response – BEFORE YOU EVEN REALISE IT! Well, sometimes you can be in FREEZE mode. This also triggers the further release of other neuro-chemicals, such as cortisol, which will have an effect on your very health.
Cortisol helps us cope with extended physical or emotional stress and affect virtually all of our body systems. We experience it as chronic anxiety, insomnia and agitation. High levels of cortisol break down non-essential organs and body tissues. It starts to digest muscles, bones and joints to obtain key nutrients to feed vital organs. Not good.
The amygdala certainly does not realise that the fall of dopamine occurring after climax is a major cause of distress. Orgasm feels good (especially at the beginning), so the relationship must be the cause: the dangerous thing to avoid. Before you know it, the amygdala is running a program: orgasm is great, relationship is bad = fear of intimacy. Do you know people operating this way? If so, they are just where their genes want them to be. So while your amygdala is “protecting” you from your fear of intimacy and lead you to more genes-spreading relations, stable, generous and kind partners will not turn you on. Incompatible and unavailable, married partners – with flashing exit sign on their forehead – will certainly do. Oh dear!
Everything matters to your amygdala as it decides whether anything you are experiencing, such as a relationship, is safe or not. It is like a ticking time bomb in your subconscious, waiting for that moment when you are at a dip in the passion cycle – post-orgasmic period – to associate the uneasiness with your partner and subconsciously creates fear of intimacy as a natural and automatic defence mechanism.
You can always talk at length with your partner about what he or she did, said or did not say. Conscious analysis is one thing but your biology is running a program that is beyond the action of your rational mind. There is fear of intimacy between you and fear is irrational.
We can, however, de-activate our amygdala and train it to be loving. Similarly, we can control our dopamine cycle instead of being dictated to by our genes – we can engage in behaviors and thoughts that will trigger the neurochemical response we desire and promote, through intimacy, well-being as opposed to post orgasmic withdrawals.
To be continued
Aude is an ex corporate Lawyer with a passion for health, self development and independence which lead her to give up her former career to help others through health.
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