Philophobia (fear of love) could be stopping you getting the love you want. Find out if you have philophobia and how to cure it.
Attachment Theory tells us that we’re wired to pursue love and acceptance, which makes the fear of rejection understandable. But might there be a corresponding fear that is less visible — the fear of being accepted?
Much has been written about the fear of rejection, but not about the fear of acceptance. The fear of rejection makes obvious sense. If we’ve had a steady diet of being shamed, blamed, and criticized, we learned that the world is not a safe place. Something within us mobilizes to protect our tender heart from further stings and insults.
This protective mechanism doesn’t make subtle discriminations. Our defensive structure not only safeguards us from the prospect of rejection, but also from being accepted and welcomed. The scanning antenna that protects us from danger often gives false readings.
Being Accepted Can Be Frightening
There can be scary implications for being accepted. You’re at a social gathering and you meet someone who apparently likes you. They ask for your phone number. What now? You notice that you’re suddenly flooded by fear. You wonder, “What if this person begins to see who I really am? What if they don’t like what they see? And what if they really like what they see. What then?”
Being accepted and liked might be scary if:
1. You have blocks to receiving.
You may not know how to deal with compliments or positive attention. You might shut down and erect defenses to being seen. If you allow a connection to happen and then at some point they no longer accept you, that might really hurt! So you play it safe by keeping distanct as a preemptive defense against possible future pain.
2. You cling to negative core beliefs.
When someone likes or accepts you, then negative core beliefs might quickly rush in. If you’re convinced that you’re unlovable or that relationships never work out, you might suppress your aliveness and play it safe.
3. You have an avoidant or ambivalent attachment style
The fear of acceptance may be operating if you tend to avoid emotional engagement in relationships. In addition to fearing rejection, you might keep distant because you don’t trust that any connection or acceptance will last. If you’re ambivalent about relationships — that is, some part of you wants connection and another part is frightened by it — you might succumb to fear and pull away at the first sign of discord.
Overcoming the fear of acceptance may mean exploring blocks to receiving and examining core beliefs that keep us stuck. This might involve a radical change in your self-image. Viewing yourself more positively and the potential to love and be loved more hopefully, means that your life might change. Change is often scary.
It also can be scary to accept ourselves. Practicing radical acceptance(link is external) — embracing ourselves as we are –means not judging ourselves but rather honoring the full range of our feelings and desires. It can be scary to open to our human hurts and sorrows and accept that this is simply a part of being human. Shame blocks us from seeing and honoring our true feelings.
Shame creates an inner contraction that prevents us from accepting ourselves as we are. We may strive to be perfect in order to avoid being shamed. We may think we have to project an image of being strong, intelligent, humorous, or unruffled in order to avoid being rejected or humiliated. These shame-driven behaviors disconnect us from ourselves and isolate us.
We move toward a courageous self-acceptance as we realize that we’re a vulnerable creature — just like everyone else. Our shame begins to heal as we notice when it’s operating and bringing gentleness and kindness to ourselves.
When you are with someone whose demeanor or smile or kind words suggest that they respect, like, or accept you, how do you feel inside? Do you notice some inner squirming or discomfort? Can you allow those feelings to be there and be gentle with them? Perhaps take a breath and let in how it feels to be accepted. You might learn to like it.
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John , Ph.D., MFT, is author of the award-winning book about relationships as a spiritual path, Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships(link is external). His other books include The Authentic Heart (link is external)andLove & Betrayal (link is external). He has been a licensed marriage and family therapist for 35 years in the San Francisco Bay area and has conducted workshops internationally. www.johnamodeo.com(link is external)