How do we learn to welcome and eventually embrace intimacy — the kind that helps you develop closer relationships? Like so many life skills, the answer may lie in some version of (wait for it) practice. While most of us crave intimacy it can also be terrifying to many people. Like a wide range of common fears, this one may lose its power when dragged out into the light. That’s why so many people are trying group therapy as an avenue to conquering a fear of intimacy.
What Feels Scary About Close Relationships?
Of course, answers to this question will vary from person to person. However, these varied answers often contain common themes. For example, people fear:
- Losing oneself in another person
- Being exposed and vulnerable
- Getting hurt
Many folks, as a result, will act out such fears by avoiding intimacy, shutting down, or sending mixed messages (pulling someone close only to push them away).
What Typically Causes These Fears?
Generally speaking, our adult fears are rooted in our early childhood experiences. As hard as it may be to accept, even the best caregivers miss crucial cues. Subsequently, as impressionable children, we are forced to endure:
- Chaotic parenting
- Caregivers who are otherwise occupied
- Caregivers dealing with mental health issues, like depression or anxiety
Deeply rooted in our oldest memories, these experiences feel traumatic and impact most of our social behavior as we grow into adults. In terms of relationships, our fears may manifest in behaviors like manipulation, codependency, conflict avoidance, mistaking sex for intimacy, and seeking validation.
Counseling is a proven form of treatment in such cases. Increasingly, group therapy is becoming a popular and successful choice for people struggling with intimacy issues.
7 Ways Group Therapy Helps You Develop Closer Relationships
1. Group therapy, by definition, focuses on relationships
We all start out in some form of a group relationship: a family. Group therapy also puts you and others in a setting that requires interactions, compromise, and conflict resolution.
2. Healthy communication with others
As a child, communication may have felt scary or too complicated. You probably learned to communicate in a way that worked best to survive in your family, but aren’t working as well in your current life. As members of a group, you have the opportunity to practice communication skills. You can learn the necessary skills to form healthy and productive connections with others.
3. You learn to take responsibility for your role in intimacy problems
Everything is out in the open. Guided by a leader, you and the others will learn to identify cause and effect. From there, you develop the essential arts of accountability, remorse, and forgiveness. The group format pushes people to stay and work through difficult moments, instead of running or hiding.
4. Social confidence is enhanced
So many of us struggle with variations of social anxiety. This can lead to unhealthy social habits. In group, you learn — through experience and feedback — how to curtail destructive impulses. Over time, they are replaced with productive behaviors.
5. Improved listening skills
Every single one of us can improve our listening skills. This is a lifelong journey. Group therapy teaches you to become more attuned to yourself and others.
6. You develop and hone your emotional courage
Imagine skills like:
- Reducing anxiety
- Respectful assertiveness
- Sitting with difficult feelings
In group, you train your emotional courage like a muscle. This newfound strength can and will, in turn, be transferred into your relationships in the outside world.
7. You gain validation and solace
This type of therapy helps you see that you are not alone in your life endeavors. Sharing together, you can be seen and understood. Your therapy peers offer secure sharing which can be a very powerful, validating, and healing experience.
Develop a Closer Relationship With Group Therapy!
Are you curious about group therapy? If you want to know if it is right for you, or if I’m the right therapist for your needs, contact me for a free 20-minute phone consultation!