Understand the Effect of Fear on Your Relationship With Telehealth Therapy
Many of us are in the process of recovering from the last year of living under the threat of Covid-19; we are vaccinated, pulling off our masks, and moving in to hug the people we have missed. We are venturing out into the world, whether that means visiting friends’ homes, dining in restaurants, or shopping in stores. Now that some of our fear is lifting and our focus is not solely on our survival and the safety of others, we are going about getting our lives back into balance.
This means looking at the ways that our relationship might have been knocked off-kilter during the pandemic and getting it on track again. It is an unfortunate reality that when we are operating in survival mode, we stop paying attention to other aspects of our life. Chief among these is our personal relationships. It is very likely that, with our hardly noticing it, the undercurrent of tension/alarm during the pandemic has had an impact on the way we relate to our partner. Prolonged stress has that kind of effect.
Fear has been a dominant emotion for all of us over the past year. It has affected every one of us, regardless of whether you are unaware, partially aware, or fully aware of having felt it. Fear is an appropriate reaction to danger. We need to feel it; it keeps us safe. But it can also make us self-protective and distrustful. Then we shut down emotionally, which causes us to stop being vulnerable and available to others, especially our partner. Fear can also leave us feeling overwhelmed and powerless. This may make us desperate to be helped or saved by someone else, and during the pandemic, often the only person to turn to for this would have been — you guessed it — our partner. So, we have conflicting reactions: We want to push away our partner, while at the same time, we feel an intense need for them. We often resolve this dilemma by forming a fantasy bond in our relationship. This is a largely unconscious, defensive strategy that we originally developed in early childhood to deal with pain and frustration.
The fantasy bond offers an illusion of being merged with and connected to another person. When we become fearful and self-protective, we withdraw from the emotional give-and-take of interpersonal exchanges to a fantasy of love. When we become anxious and alarmed, we forfeit our independence to maintain this imagination of being one with our partner. However, the fantasy bond eventually takes a toll as it replaces the actual love and intimacy between two people.