Clichés are clichés because they are so true. “Once burned, twice shy!” is an oldie but goodie when it comes to love relationships..
So some people are afraid to allow themselves to love because they have been hurt in the past, usually quite painfully. I remember, when I was 16, being jilted by a young lady and making a decision that this was never going to happen again. Years later, I would get into counseling to learn how to undo this decision as I could not seem to let go and love somebody. It was a good decision eventually leading me to my wife who I am crazy about and have been married to for 38 years!
The problem with refusing to allow your emotions to go past an arbitrary boundary line may protect you from involvement and vulnerability but it also cuts you off from being able to give and receive deep and abiding love. The result is loneliness for the defender and frustration for those who care about them.
Often, people will tell themselves that they will not allow themselves to really care for someone until they trust the person completely. Their gauge for trust is based on feeling “safe”. As a result, they rarely get there because they do not understand that trust starts with a decision, not a feeling. Trust is developed over time as you accept a person at their word and then see them follow through with their stated intentions. Initially the experience is rather like getting into a wheel barrow that someone is going to push over a tight rope. The being in the barrow is the proof that you decided to trust the person. If you are sane, the initial feeling that goes with the decision will be one of fear and trepidation as the journey begins fraught with the possibility of a fall. With each step across the wire, your confidence slowly grows that this person is able to follow through and deliver you safely to the other side. So it is with loving someone. Trust is built one day at a time as the small promises of daily life with someone unfold. Does the person do what they say they or not?
Another aspect of fear of getting hurt is a lack of self confidence in the ability to recover from disappointment. As a counselor, I have had clients make statements like, “I just could not stand being hurt again!” as if being disappointed again would literally kill them. This grandiosity or distortion of reality is heard by the emotional centers of our mind and a subconscious decision to never love again because of the risk of being hurt is often made. How sad! I learned in the days that I was a salesman that each no or rejection I received to my offer brought me closer to a the next yes. To get to a yes, you have to be willing to talk to the number of people necessary to get it and that number will be different for each person.
Fear of getting hurt can manifest as a result of a poor self image. You look in the mirror and don’t like what you see resulting in the belief that a decent partner would never be happy with someone like you so why get your hopes up. Dressing sloppily, poor personal hygiene, and wearing dirty clothing are signals to the world that here is a person who doesn’t think much of himself or herself.
Another form of the poor self image is settling for a partner that is beneath the quality of the person looking. As a counselor I have witnessed many mismatches between people in vital areas like social relationships, career ambition, economic expectations, spiritual beliefs, parenting styles, and conflict management. These mismatches too often lead to a sense of chronic misery after the initial “fun” of being in love wears thin.
There are other contributing factors to being afraid of getting hurt. Whatever yours are, I challenge you to counsel with someone who has wisdom about the affairs of the heart to assist you in healing. Let go and love as you were designed by the Creator to do!