Anxiety & Emotional Intimacy + 4 Tips If You're "Allergic" to Closeness

Counseling for Anxiety, Trauma & Relationships in Long Island, NY.

Counseling for Anxiety, Trauma & Relationships in Long Island, NY.

You say the word Intimacy and most peoples’ minds go to sex. passion. drive. connection. But intimacy is so much deeper than just that. Intimacy means closeness, and presence - of mind, body, soul and spirit. “ Emotional intimacy involves a perception of closeness to another that allows sharing of personal feelings, accompanied by expectations of understanding, affirmation, and demonstration of caring” {wikipedia, 2019).

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Emotional Intimacy is something we need in all relationships, not just in romantic ones.

It’s what lets the other person know what makes your heart smile, what makes your hurt deeply, what sparkles your day with joy and what brings you down. And, in romantic relationships intimacy also includes sexual intimacy but the quality of your sex life is directly connected to your ability to be emotionally intimate

Now, you probably know that emotional Intimacy is what allows us to live a more meaningful life, because as research proves, our quality of life is only as rich as our relationships are.

Are you lonely AND “Allergic” to Emotional Closeness?

Knowing all that, do you still sometimes feel that although you desire closer relationships when it comes to really snuggling up with someone emotionally, you cringe? You’re not alone. Many people want closeness but when it comes down to it, are frightened due to a range of reasons.

Are you connecting from Intellectual Intimacy VS Emotional Intimacy?

Many people share, that although they desire closeness, when it comes down to it, they’ll quicker engage from an intellectual place than a heart-centered place.

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Examples of intellectual intimacy are sharing about things you care and think about; your favorite songs, your favorite author, discussing a work related issue or something you’ve found intriguing.

You may even share more personal facts about your friends, family or kids, but it’s all from a brainy mindset.

Heart VS Mind

When Intellectual Intimacy keeps you “safe”.

If you find that you’re engaging from a guarded place, or that you withhold sharing your true feelings, thoughts, worries or hopes, you may be hiding parts of yourself in order to stay emotionally protected. You may worry;

“Will I be loved and fully accepted for who I am, with all my quirks, and all?

And though that concern is so valid, as humans, we all yearn to feel close, to feel connected and felt emotionally, mentally and physically.

Letting other people “in” comes with risks, yet without it, our lives often feel empty.

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Here’s an example of someone who wanted closeness yet was torn in the struggle.

Debra was a passionate, strong willed woman who wanted to feel closer to two of her close friends and also expressed desiring to let her husband in on her inner-most secrets, however, when she attempted to share more deeply, or when one of them engaged with added attentiveness, she felt uncomfortable, as if suddenly feeling invaded upon.

Thought her friends and husband expressed feeling left out, Debra felt like she had a wall that she simply couldn’t drop.

Debra landed up in therapy because, as she describes “an excruciating feeling of disconnection and loneliness”. “I used to feel fulfilled by attending my art classes, sharing my creativity at my weekly poetry slams and staying up to date with my current research projects , however I have’nt been feeling satisfied lately”. She goes on “ I thought I needed to keep focusing on my “abilities” to feel ok, but I think I’m realizing it’s human warmth I’m seeking. On the one hand I so badly need it, and on the other hand, I’m left feeling confused and scared. What’s going on with me?”

If there’s a wall, there’s always good reason for it.

We got to know why Debra kept people close, but still far. When Debra took the time to get in touch with her body, she sensed what her walls and fences felt like in her body.

Her “fences” were there to let her know that it isn’t safe to open up.

These were defenses from years ago when keeping people out helped her focus on her hobbies and dreams, and allowed her to function optimally in her home life that was filled with chaos and instability.

However, at this point in life, her relationships were solid and there was no actual threat to her sanity. She needed to adjust her fences to have less thickness, as well as adding some windows and doors as she was in a safer place with those in her life.

Defenses: the brain’s way of dealing with discomfort and providing protection from emotional stress.

As adults, we may be engaging with others from an intellectual space instead of an emotional space, due to defenses we have in place. Defenses are a compromise the emotional and rational part of the brain make: “you can share this much, as long as you keep me safe.”

Defenses are patterns of unconscious, conditioned responses to past experiences.

You can shift them with gentle awareness and behavioral shifts.

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If you learned it’s not acceptable to express anger, upset, be sad or get frustrated, then you learned to only bring your “happy face” when engaging with others. If your trust was broken, if you were shamed for trying something new or if there were themes around beliefs, values and love, you learn to accept it and not challenge it.

If you were taught that girls are meant to be quiet, and you have a loud need to be heard, you may have shut down. If you learned that boys are meant to be “strong” and you struggle with feeling confused { as many humans do}, you may feel ashamed of your self doubt and shut it down. You do this because at our core, we all need to belong somewhere, and we’ll do what it takes to “fit-in” at any cost, because belonging = safety.

However, when we divorce ourselves from our natural, healthy range of emotions, we don’t fully allow ourselves to be seen, heard and understood. So, if you’re an adult seeking to sooth the nagging feeling of emptiness and want more meaningful relationships, here are some tips.

Ready to unblock the emotional bricks and invite true connection?

5 Tips to Invite Emotional Intimacy

1) What’s my fear?

Get to know what you’re “allergic” of, as in, what you’re truly afraid of. Are you afraid of being rejected or ashamed for your needs, your “weirdness” or your sensitivities? We all want to be seen as strong, courageous and capable, but we al have weaknesses and limitations, and that does not make you unworthy of love and affection. Get to know what you fears are so you can keep them in check.

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Are some relationships triggering these fears because the other person isn’t sensitive or is emotionally neglectful or passive aggressive? Those are signs for you to reassess if this is a good relationship for you (often not!). Or, are you holding back because you’ve been in an abusive relationships, and not giving the current person a fair shot?

You can heal the hurts of the past and learn to create more “flexible fences of protection” while you engage in new relationships.

Remind yourself that you are always filtering who you’re letting in, and how much. Let the fear know you’re listening to its worry and will do what you need to protect yourself so that you can allow yourself to become closer to others.

2) Be Brave & Bring up the Elephants in the Room

No matter how “tough” you, your friend or your partner seem, we all have insecurities, worries and fears. Especially when you’re in an intimate relationship, where you want things to go really well, it can feel frightening to bring the topic of fear, change and judgement in. However, when you’re able to dive into your courage and say “ I realize sometimes I worry this will end”, or “Do you think I’m weird for liking x,y,z…” or “Do you have a difference of opinion on this topic than I do?”, you’ll be opening the door to more honestly.

Having a conversation about the fears you each have, a possible shift in dynamic, about this ending, about emotions that come up and about differences in preferences, beliefs or values will actually allow you to feel safer and closer to each other. It’s the hiding, and feeling like you need to tip-toe around each other when relationships get tiring. Be bold to get more honest in your relationships.

3) Vulnerability, a necessary route

We all know that being vulnerable is at the bedrock of real emotional intimacy. Vulnerability I’m referring to here is about the emotional aspects of life who make you who you are. If you’re going to really let someone in, it’s important that they know what it was like for you growing up with an alcoholic dad, with a special needs sister or a highly critical older sister. In relationships we inevitably face dynamics that remind us of things from our past, as our mind and bodies are always trying to make sense of things that were confusing.

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So if you’re more sensitive to conflict because as a child { or in a past, unhealthy relationship } conflict involved you hearing someone smashing glass and slamming doors, you explaining this to someone close to you can help you have safer conversations when conflict does arrive.

Think of every relationship as an opportunity for each of you to have a reparative, healing experience.

As we evolve, we connect with others from a more evolved place. Being open, letting go of shame and practicing transparency about what makes you feel safe, what you appreciate in each other and how to bring meaning and joy to each others’ life is underlying in every interaction. This doesn’t need to be in a deep meaningful, hour-long conversation. Sometimes its a brief chat over coffee or chatting on your ride home from work; it’s more about the openness in your heart to let someone in.

4) Invite a Two Way Street

The path to emotional intimacy is a two ways street; it needs to feel safe for you, and the other person, to disclose. We each have specific things that make us feel safe to share. You’ll want to encourage your partner, friend or whomever you’re connecting with to be more open as you deepen the relationship, but also be sensitive to honoring their limits.

If your partner {friend or loved one} is by nature a more private person and doesn’t crave as much emotional sharing, try to understand that without taking it as a rejection or criticizing him/her. He/She may share something very personal with you a few months or years into the relationship after feeling like he truly trusts you, and that trust took time to earn.

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Remember, just because you may be the one sharing more {or less}, it does not mean you’re not being emotionally intimate. As long as you can both openly be real, truthful and honest with each other, you’re allowing intimacy to grow and develop.

As you grow, you’ll learn who feels right to keep investing in, and which relationships add joy to your life.

If you’ve been wanting to deepen your love relationship, your connection with your family or with close friends, I invite you to try one of these tips. Of course, use your judgement in how, when, and with whom to share.

Want deeper relationships but have anxiety, depression, irritability, fears or low self esteem that keep you stuck?

Sometimes, when you’re doing all you can but you’re still feeling disconnected from others, it may be related to a mental health struggle. In those instances, it may be important to get one-on-one support.

Counseling and Psychotherapy provides individualized support, guidance and healing so you can experience relief and show up to life, love and possibilities with more energy and hope.

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If you live anywhere in Long Island, NY and are seeking support, feel free to reach out here.

Our offices service clients across Hempstead and Nassau County including any of the Five Towns {woodmere, cedarhurst, lawrence, inwood , hewlett}, Long Beach, Garden City, Merrick, Freeport or Mineloa.

At Integrative Psychotherapy we provide science based methods including EMDR, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, “parts work” {internal family systems} and cognitive therapies to help our clients heal from emotional issues and begin living the life they imagine.


Focusing on you, dear reader - I’d love to hear from you!

I’d be interested in hearing the ways in which you’ve deepened your relationships over the last few years.

What has changed in your life or in your relationships, or what is one small thing you’re hoping to shift as you digest this blog?

We all learn from each other, so I’d love to hear from you, so go ahead and post your comments below!