Jessica was attending her first five-day Inner Bonding Intensive because she could not seem to commit to a relationship. She wanted to be married and have a family, and she had no trouble meeting men, but as soon as she started to really like someone, she would find any number of reasons to back out. In her late 30’s, her biological clock was ticking, but couldn't seem to break out of the pattern.
It soon became apparent that Jessica was terrified of losing herself in a relationship. She was a very kind-hearted woman and enjoyed giving, but invariably she found herself giving too much -- giving herself up. In time she would feel controlled, engulfed, smothered in the relationship. She would start to feel resentful about giving more than she was receiving and would end the relationship. This same pattern happened over and over.
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Jessica was very aware that she kept giving herself up in relationships, but she believed it was because she was attracted to strong, controlling men. She never found herself attracted to timid men who also gave themselves up. So she felt stuck.
She was stuck because she was operating out of a false belief that she was giving herself up because the man was controlling. In fact, his behavior had NOTHING to do with Jessica giving herself up.
Jessica gave herself up because underneath her fear of engulfment was a deeper fear -- a fear of rejection. She feared if she did not give herself up and do what a man wanted her to do, he would reject her. Her intent in giving herself up was to have control over the man not rejecting her. But in giving herself up, she was rejecting herself, so she would always end up feeling resentful and rejecting the man.
This pattern would start as soon as a man became important to her. As soon as he started to really like her, she would begin to fear losing him. In order to have control over not losing him, she was willing to lose herself. But once she started to lose herself, she stopped feeling attracted to him.
The underlying issue was that Jessica had never learned to handle the loneliness and heartbreak of rejection. Having experienced rejection early in her life from her parents, she was terrified of it.
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As children, none of us could handle rejection well. All of us had to learn protective ways of handling the pain of rejection. We learned to comply, resist, get angry, shut down or withdraw in response to rejection. We then carried these protections into adulthood, never learning healthy ways of managing the pain of rejection.
Jessica was invariably attracted to men who used anger as their way to protect against rejection, while she continued to use compliance and withdrawal as her protections.