Shame and Intimacy
Men and women both seek connection and intimacy. But the expectations that shame generates breed insecurity. It makes us more vulnerable to shame and connection, and authenticity becomes more difficult. Real intimacy requires connection to our real selves. We have to be in touch with our vulnerability to express it. Even then, it can be too frightening and carries shame-anxiety. Instead of receiving nurturing and closeness, many men and some women separate love and sex and substitute sex for love to avoid the anxiety of intimacy. Sex is also used to allay anxiety, fill the emptiness, lift depressed feelings, and build identity and self-worth. But loveless sex sets the stage for impotence and depression later. Although both partners may be gratified sexually, they’re often not fulfilled, nor does their self-esteem benefit. It can potentially leave them with guilt, shame, low self-esteem, and feeling even emptier than before. Sex can become addictive since there is short term pleasure, but the emptiness is never filled.
New partners must be found to ensure excitement and avoid intimacy. Affairs and sexual flirtation with someone outside of a committed relationship are often initiated to boost self-esteem, but deceit risk damaging the partner and the relationship, creating more shame. Over time in long relationships, sex may be divorced from all feelings and become machine-like, especially when any emotional connection has waned. It’s dehumanizing to both partners and their needs for real connection are never met. But emptiness is neither fillable from sex, nor from exerting power over others. Meanwhile, the gap between a person’s real self and the persona they believe they must project gets ever wider.
However, shame and psychological emptiness can heal with psychotherapy and self-love and compassion. (See Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You.)
©Darlene Lancer 2018
Written by Darlene Lancer JD, MFT