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LOVE. Fear of Intimacy + Our Defense Mechanisms to Love

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

Intimacy is the process and act of being able to let your guard down, show up as your authentic self and be met with compassion. It is the act of being vulnerable and trusting that the other person won’t harm you. It is being able to share and accept someone’s inner-world and experiences. Intimacy is connection. And even more, intimacy begins with connection to yourself before a partner, for we can only allow someone in as deep as we have allowed and accepted ourselves. And the deeper we can allow the depths of intimacy with ourselves becomes reflecting in not only our relationship to others, but our pleasure in our sexuality, as well.

Being intimate with yourself means looking inwards to see your old wounds and emotional injuries, insecurities, shame, and all the stories we’ve been telling ourselves as fact. How we get here is through the powerful practice of vulnerability.

Now, I get many of us can have a hard time around vulnerability, because it would mean that we would be acknowledging that we have qualities that may be less than socially ideal.

If we want to be truly intimate with ourselves, it will mean embracing and honoring our vulnerabilities as strengths, rather than burying them, overcompensating, or putting up defenses. Which will cap our pleasure, relational, and sexual potential.

When we’ve experienced relational injuries in the past, our automatic response is to want to prevent ourselves from exposing yourself to the same devastation again. As a result, We build defenses, like armor, around our emotional injuries that prevent us from showing up in all of our vulnerable glory. Defenses such as self-deflecting or self-deprecating humor, anger, and being a know-it-all, people-pleaser, or perfectionist are meant to protect us from the awful feelings of our wounds. Yet, it simultaneously armors us from being able to really connect with who we are and what we really want.

One of the ways we can identify armor is by the projections we place onto others. When we project, we focus on the shortcomings of others in order to shift the attention away from our own flaws and insecurities. An example here is someone who engages in perfectionist behaviors. There’s a hyper-focus on the flaws and mistakes of others, while internally there is a battle for maintaining specific expectations of the self for value.

Another way we can identify armor is by identifying safety behaviors. Safety behaviors are those we engage in to avoid situations that could potentially create embarrassment or evidence to support a negative belief about yourself. Safety behaviors may be avoidance, daydreaming, numbing, deprivation, impairment, showing up late, leaving early, overbooking self, overworking, verbally acknowledging our shortcomings, etc.

The problem here is that instead of helping our anxiety or protect from our fear, it actually maintains and prolongs it. Essentially we are telling ourselves that ‘if I just maintain myself between these parameters, I am fine.’ But what happens when we enter into a situation that tests this?

Hiding behind our fears only perpetuates shame and dysfunctional narratives. When we stop the hurtful personal narratives, something beautiful happens. We are able to relax in our own skin and show up as our authentic self.

So it takes some work. But don't worry, I've got you. Check this exercise below for a guide to creating insight with your own patterns. Then take a scroll through the gallery of different characters of behavioral patterns we can identify with that block love come coming in.


1. Identify your underlying emotional injury from early in life (think of painful experiences with caregivers or friends).

2. Label your internalized beliefs and false assumptions about yourself and love.

3. Identify your defense mechanism(s), which are the ways you protect yourself or have learned to deal with the false assumptions you discussed above.

4. Examine how your defense mechanism prevents real vulnerability.

5. Take off your armor and reject your defenses by identifying ways to be more vulnerable in order to bring more intimacy into your life.

Want more? Tune in to this week's Eat Play Sex podcast episode 80 where we dive into the different characters that we take on to protect ourselves + inhibit intimacy.

Check out below for the types of characters + strengths/underdeveloped skills to help us improve our ability at letting love in.

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