Withholding Love: A Short List

Artwork provided by Christopher Paul

Withholding: Means to suppress or conceal.  Does it work very well when it comes to emotions? I would have to err on the side of “no”.

Withholding or concealing our feelings and emotions in relationships is not conducive to connecting and bonding with another person. It creates a divide; picture two cliffs facing one another and a valley separating them. The valley is the HUGE space created by the shadowy hidden and unknown of what the authentic intentions, feelings and stance are of the other person.

It is unfair to everyone.

Withholding doesn’t give a clear foundation to building a relationship, only a foggy one. The non-clarity creates assumptions, drama, confusion and a feeling of insecurity by the party who is not “in the know”.

A facade creates a wall; a barrier to true vulnerability and intimacy. So, why do people withhold their feelings from someone they care about, a friend or a lover? Well, fear tops the list and really, in essence, is the list. The list of fear items falling under why one withholds looks something like the following:

  1. Being vulnerable
  2. Losing control
  3. Trust of oneself and the other
  4. Wanting to keep appearances
  5. Self-Sabotage
  6. Holds the numbness wall in place
  7. Fear of intimacy
  8. Self-punishment and punishing another
  9. Anger and Resentment
  10. Self Protection
  11. Fear of pain and hurt

The list can go on from there. Once again, I used to be a withholding-a-holic.

Pretty much all the items on the list were ME. Being vulnerable, saying what I truly felt, would have been self-annihilation, because I would have seen myself as out of control. I walked around with a poker face emotionally, so no one knew my hand. Looking back it was so much pain to live behind a wall of numbness, not ever giving in and admitting how I really felt about someone or my relationship with him or her.

I didn’t trust myself or anyone else. In reality, trust creates safety and security; the cement for the foundation. I felt if I gave too much “true” information about how I felt, it would be used against me. My warped thinking believed if I was authentic emotionally, sharing too much, it gave someone else the upper hand; there was no self-protection and I was in danger of suffering a lot of fear and hurt.

Regarding the punishment issue, I didn’t want someone to know how I really felt; they had to earn the right to hear what I felt. WTF? Really? And as I like to point out to my clients, we never get to punish others without punishing ourselves. I was so deeply entrenched in my prison that when I look back now, I find it hard to believe all the pain I endured and relationships I destroyed, because of my withholding from others.

Had others known my true feelings, we would have had a deeper bond, one that was invested in and felt safe. I had no idea what safe and secure meant; I thought it was keeping up the appearance of strength. That would make me the winner, right? Wrong…oh so wrong.

How could I expect anyone to stay around when I was starving this person for affection, attention or how I really felt; I sabotaged any positive outcome from ever occurring in my past. I actually made others believe something was detrimentally wrong with them through my withholding, I needed to feel better than them—afterall they were weak and out of control! I was a player in a play performing and only I knew the lines to my contrived scenes. The flattened audience lacking confidence, worn out, and tired from trying to figure out where they stood, finally left before the final curtain. Where could happiness have possibly nestled in my relationships?

My courage came slowly. I held certain beliefs about myself, which ranged from believing as a small child that I was alone and independent, to the painful experience in my mind that I was unlovable, unworthy and undeserving of receiving love, attention, appreciation, allowance, acceptance and affection.

Even though I was scared shitless, I started to change my perception of my beliefs from their point of origin, literally “forcing” myself to take different action! It’s the feeling of wholeness and well-being that keeps me going. I gave up the goal of being alone and disconnected. That is of course what I was really trying to do, prove that belief right, I am meant to be alone and untouched by human pain.

Now I am a fool. A fool for love and authenticity. And man, does it feel better! It is still scary, yet the most freeing experience. All the years, I wasted being locked up in the fear of losing and being hurt, even though it is exactly what happened to me anyway! Others may think I am weak or feel too much. It doesn’t change my feelings if someone doesn’t like what I say, agree with how I feel or want to disclose how they feel. My real feelings are not contrived or for the manipulation of a relationship. Its hard as hell  to be authentic, but worth it, even when I want to close down or push an important person away.

I do dig deep to open to lovingkindness and compassion.

I NEVER used to dig deep, everything used to be a strategy, down to the words and pauses I used when speaking to someone who was emotional; I was a very cold intellectual. Brrrr!

I laugh so hard now at my apparent silliness; I could have been happier so much sooner, and I say it as I again take the emotional risk of saying what is true for me, WHICH MAKES ME FEEL SO ALIVE and able to say the craziest things! I always want a positive outcome, but I don’t control it anymore (cuz that worked so NOT well); I can only hope for the best.

No one can ever make it safe for us, we do it for ourselves and it’s always a choice of clinging to fear or opening to love.

The Road to Happiness….

Is paved with potholes, hills and valleys;  bridges broken down leaving a rope to hang onto to as you swing across the gorge and of course, flashing lights telling you to go back the way you came! All choices, will inevitably have potholes. As we get older we realize no decision we ever make will be completely pain free or without challenges, such is life. The choices made from the heart and not the head, at least those provide a sense of fulfillment and happiness–no matter what the outcome! Why?  Because you did what you really wanted to do at the time–you decided what was true for you. Heart decisions may even provide a deeper sense of happiness, or let’s call it “joy”. If you would’ve asked me 15 years ago if I made choices from the heart, I would probably have given you a puzzled look. I had no IDEA there was a difference. I made decisions in logic and facts or what I perceived was the correct thing to do based on any of the folowing: my expectations, others’ expectations, society’s dogma, and the list goes on… nevermind though, that I had no clue as to what the right thing was for ME! And honestly, I was pretty darn miserable.

Fast forward to the present time.

I wake up everyday pretty much ready to greet the day–a sense of joy, giddiness or peace is how I pop out of bed! This is in contrast to the many years spent waking with the twinges of anxiety, overwhelm and stress, dreading what the day may bring me; that foreboding feeling of the other shoe dropping out of the sky. I share the difference, because what I now experience is a sense of well-being, what I call “happiness” and I know one thing that is very true…. it has very little to do with your external circumstances.

I have watched clients of mine experience the same transformation. Many times they have wanted to quit on this journey and take a detour; me too! Happiness is a major commitment, but the rewards are the sweetest fruits of your labor.

Happiness comes from authenticity.

Knowing yourself, trusting yourself, loving yourself, being completely bare-boned honest with yourself (illusions aren’t allowed), valuing and honoring yourself…..and then knowing your truth and communicating it to yourself and others. All this culminates into ACCEPTING yourself–the good, bad and the ugly–warts and all. What is true for you, may not be true for someone else…and that is okay. The key is to get past all the “shoulds, coulds, woulds” and get to know the desires, wants and dreams you hold deeply somewhere inside of you. When you live in a place of authenticity, you live in happiness.

No longer do the things that used to completely rock your world or devastate you have the same impact, you will find that another beautiful gift has arrived with your happiness… emotional resiliency. The inherent ability to be able to sustain a sense of well-being through almost any event in this life. The circumstances that in the past would have kicked your butt, may not even register much of a blip on the radar screen. A break up with a significant other that may have sent you to set up camp in your bed for a week; hugging your balled up tissue and empty pizza boxes for comfort, engulfed by depression and unable to just plain cope…..may be quite a different experience when you have resiliency. You may find yourself feeling like you are having an out of body experience as you realize you are able to keep on trucking on down the road. And its not because you are in denial or unconcious; oh no, no, no…in fact you find you are allowing emotions to come up and visit. It’s also not to say that you aren’t sad or experiencing very strong negative emotions; the reality is you may have just lost someone very important to you. What I am saying is… you have the inner resilience, the feeling of your own value, making your perspective quite different than when you depend on your true sense of happiness to be fulfilled by another human being (which is an impossibility and will be addressed in another post).

When we are unaware of ourselves, much of our beliefs about happiness may have much to do with our early belief systems. What we expect or think we need from others in regard to happiness may stem from childhood, IF we again, are not operating from “who we truly are” and what we want for ourselves (not for others to give to us). Our inner happiness, the sense of constant well-being will NEVER change because of another human being, its a huge responsibility to give to another and still, it cannot be accomplished regardless of how much someone may want to give happiness to you. People can definitely add to your sense of happiness; but it is not up to them to fulfill it, it is as a job doomed to fail. Our happiness only changes with us first and last, when we make the commitment to giving ourselves the authentic presence of true happiness. 

If you have a suggestion for a topic, please feel free to email me at Tracy@13degreez.com.