The Shame in Shame

Dear Dr. Darcy:

I have such a hard time forming friendships/relationships.  I have trust problems and huge sexual intimacy issues.  I don't like being touched and won’t even go to doctors for fear of having a physical examination.  I did see a therapist for social phobia, but I was too embarrassed to discuss my hang-ups.  I don't understand why I just can't seem to connect with people. I'm so lonely. I just want to be able to form a relationship.  I can hardly manage a friendship, let alone anything else, as soon as there is any hint of a sexual interest, it sends me into a blind panic and I head for the hills.   What the hell is wrong with me, Dr Darcy?

ANSWER

You’ve got some issues, girlfriend, but nothing that you can’t work through.

I’m sorry that you entered therapy and weren’t able to fully disclose your difficulties.  I’ve heard stories like yours more times than I can count.  You are not alone, you are not crazy and the challenges that you describe are not insurmountable.

You’ve complicated your issues by attaching shame to them.  There is nothing wrong with having trust issues.  The bigger problem is that you’ve judged yourself for having these issues, and that judgment is causing you unnecessary embarrassment.  It’s like you stubbed your toe and then punched yourself in the leg for registering pain.  I underscore this for you in the hopes that you can at least make peace with the fact that like the rest of us, you are imperfect, and there’s nothing wrong with having some baggage.

People develop trust issues in response to being hurt.  It’s a natural, useful defense response from which few of us are spared.  In a smaller portion of the population, this response is so heightened that it inhibits our ability to form new relationships, platonic or otherwise.  All you need to do is dial down the volume on this response and you’ll be on your way to making some friends.

It’s unfortunate that the therapist who you saw didn’t conduct an extensive enough assessment at the beginning of treatment during which those issues would have been revealed.  Maybe recovery from your issues starts with your willingness to try therapy again, and this time I’ll help you find a therapist who will be a bit more proactive in the session so that the burden isn’t completely on you to disclose every emotion that you’ve ever felt in your life.  The question is, can you trust me so that I can help you…