While talking about dating and relationship anxiety in episode 130, I touched on fear of sacrifice, loss and being trapped. In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I explain why part of our struggle to be, do and have the things that we want, romantically and otherwise, is about us being afraid of what we associate with the consequences of getting what we want.

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Some nuggets from the episode:

  • “I can do what I want when I want.”;”I won’t have to answer to anyone.”;” If I’m not in a relationship, I don’t have to be perfect.”;”I can stay in bed if I want.” These are just a sample of things people say would happen if they weren’t in a relationship. They also believe that they wouldn’t have to deal with hurt, neediness, arguments, demands and feeling unworthy. Some of the things we say sound like what we used to look forward to about growing up and getting away from our family! And, some of our associations are based on what we observed, for example, in our parents’ relationship.
  • If we see a relationship as something that someone else has that we have to try to get, that we have to earn, then that makes that person an authority. If our other ‘authorities’ are our parents and caregivers, then you can see how we can end up associating relationships with fear of winding up with a version of our parents.
  • Fear of sacrifice – sacrificing too much of ourselves or having to sacrifice, for example, career, money, freedom. There’s a fear of loss and the pain that comes with that. There’s a fear of being trapped in the wrong relationship with the wrong person or being unable to escape our circumstances.

Many people associate with relationships with loss of freedom and experiencing pain.

  • How afraid we are influences whether we avoid taking the next step or moving on to the next stage of our life.
  • We often fear the very thing that we want to the same degree that we desire it.

What are we afraid of?

  • Winding up in a relationship similar to our parents.
  • Being like one of our parents.
  • Ending up with someone who is like a parent who we’re afraid of or don’t get on with.
  • Not being like our parent(s) – fear of appearing ‘disloyal’ and ‘ungrateful’.
  • Overshadowing our family.
  • Being ‘too successful’.
  • Losing our family.
  • Alienation and abandonment.
  • Losing control.
  • Having control.

If we associate something that we want with adverse consequences, so with being in pain, feeling guilty and as if we’ve betrayed people, loss of ourselves, money, career, etc., we’re not going to be, do and have the things that we want. We will delay and avoid them.

It’s possible to be afraid despite no actual danger being present.

  • In talking with people who have a pattern of short relationships where they became incredibly anxious within a few dates, or they tended to bail at the same point, it became apparent that it was their associations with that stage of the relationship that drove their behaviour. If their parents had a long, difficult relationship after a short time together, they fear the same happening to them. Or, they fear winding up with someone like the parent they regard as the source of pain. Conversely, though, because their parents had or have a long relationship in spite of those issues, they, once they’re in a relationship, seem to think that they can force it to work [because it ‘worked’ for their parents].
  • Many of the women I’ve worked with have a fear of turning out like their mother. They associate the problems they experienced with their mother, who she became or the potential she wasn’t able to realise, with getting into a relationship or having children.
  • We rationalise to ourselves in situations that reflect our fears that things should be different because, for example, we feel as if we’re loving harder [than our parent(s) did] or that we’ve been and done more to earn a different outcome. It’s about trying to be the exception to the rule. We think that we can have an outcome that doesn’t reflect our fears and beliefs.
  • When you have a fear of being abandoned for someone ‘better’, you might opt to avoid relationships altogether. It’s like, ‘Well… if you’re not in a relationship, you can’t be left.’

It’s one thing to be afraid of being hurt, but if we believe that relationships are a source of pain, we’ll behave in line with that. We have to act in line with our beliefs, otherwise, it’s not a belief. Cue the self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Our parents and caregivers were raised in a very different time. Their relationships, also, were created and built in a different time. It’s very easy for us to look at theirs and think that they’re perfect or awful, but devoting our efforts to replicating or avoiding their experiences takes us down a painful path. We can’t recreate their lives because we’re not of that time and we’re not them.
  • Sometimes we become so consumed by trying to avoid being like one, some or all of our family, that we neglect to recognise that we’ve already bypassed that. We’re often trying to avoid something we could never be especially given that we aren’t in their past circumstances.
  • Why should they get two lives and you get none?

Spending your time trying to avoid isn’t the same as spending your time trying to show up.

  • Our experiences will challenge us to confront our fears through our experiences. We’re not supposed to spend our lives literally living in fear.
  • Ask yourself: Who (or what) taught me that relationships look and feel like this?
  • Consider your last relationship where you were in pain or struggling. When you think about who you were in this relationship, how you were thinking, feeling and behaving, where have you felt similarly? Odds are that you’ve felt this way around certain people from your past (even if they were entirely different situations) or that certain experiences are associated with these feelings. The similarities are the associations.
  • If you’re repeatedly in the same situation, try to acknowledge what you’re afraid of sacrificing. What do you think you will lose as a result of being in a relationship/healthy relationship/different situation? Do you have a fear of being trapped and if so, who and what is that about? Are you afraid of being in control or out of control?
  • The purpose of the pain of our experiences is to wake us up to who we are and what we truly need, desire and deserve. If we’re selling ourselves short in what we’re pursuing, we’re going to experience the painful side of that with the hope that we might recognise that and allow us to be more.
  • Our parents limitations don’t represent ours.

Links mentioned

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