If you have been hurt deeply in the past then leaning into love can feel like running into battle without protection. Romantic love can seem easy, almost effortless early on, but once we have been hurt, we feel like we need overprotected for the next round of love. Too much self-protection makes it difficult to move forward and while it may serve the purpose of keeping us from harm, it also blocks us from making meaningful moves toward something better.
When our battle has ended and we realize we have survived lost love, we feel like we can live freely once again, but it is not always an easy transition. We may want to stay protected and believe we are keeping ourselves safe from further heartache, pain, and harm, but we are also shutting ourselves off from all the good things in life. We will miss out on the meaningful moments if we try to completely protect ourselves from pain and may end up feeling heartache anyway.
When we are hurt by others, it is easy to shut down and stop trying to connect with others. Our goal may be to prevent our hearts from experiencing pain, but it tends to lead to further pain because we are so cut off. We want to believe we are being realistic, even wise, in closing ourselves off from intimacy and this makes sense. We believe if we remain open to pain, it will come. Humans are intelligent enough to avoid things that are painful. We go into protection mode as a defense against pain. Until we are truly ready to deal with the pain and go through the necessary steps, we will not ever be able to make meaningful connections.
People avoid dealing with pain because it hurts to do so. Though it can help with the healing, it can be a painful process. This means that some who, in trying to avoid the pain, would rather close themselves off, crawl into a cocoon, and blame others for being cruel. They may convince themselves that this is the safest way to live because that is what the past has taught them. It can seem to dangerous to be vulnerable and love someone else.
Whether we like it or not, human connection is the most crucial aspect of a fulfilled, happy life. Next to shelter, food, and water, human relationships are at the top of the needs list. Even those these relationships are difficult to maintain at times, they are important and cannot be ignored. We are biologically wired for human relationships. Life would be purposeless without family, friends, and intimacy. We all have a desire to be loved and accepted for who we are and to offer the same. Even newborns need to be held, cuddled, and embraced for healthy psychological development. Those who do not receive this can develop psychological issues and in some cases, die.
It is important to be aware of the dangers of shutting everyone out and to learn to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. When we lose this ability, we also lose the ability to feel joy. We cannot selectively numb emotions, we either feel all or feel none. The good news is we can love and still be protected. It may still hurt at times, but you will survive the pain. This begins with loving yourself and trusting in your own judgment. You must treat yourself with respect, love, kindness, and compassion. When you do this, your true self is brought forward and you realize it is okay to fight for a meaningful relationship without carrying the heaviness in your heart.
People can question themselves when they feel rejected and this pain can be physical at times. This causes some to close themselves off from others because someone has chosen not to love them. They then internalize this as no longer being worthy of love. You have likely already heard that you must first love yourself to be loved by others. This is very true if you have ever been hurt because loving yourself means the pain does not run quite as deep. When you have self-love, you can accept love from others. This self-love serves as protection that allows you to remain vulnerable and open to others, but still strong enough to not shut down if hurt again. All emotions are part of the human experience and it does become easier to make intimate connections over time. If you are hurt, take time to heal and evaluate what happened before jumping into something new. Learn from what happened, feel the loss, and then let go so you can move on.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable means opening up parts of you that have been closed off. It is difficult to express because you must access parts of yourself that others may not approve of, but the views of others will not matter when you have a strong sense of self. Once you are aware of your self and comfortable, you can be open to your vulnerabilities and will no longer feel the need to be closed off. It will take lots of strength to honor all of your self, but it will be worth it long term.