4 Ways Childhood Loss Makes You Afraid To Love — And How To Break Free From It

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Are you afraid to love? Are you convinced you’ll get left behind? Starting something, only to find an excuse not to get too close? Are you in and out, often pushing someone away?

A number of childhood trauma and losses can be at the bottom of your fears. The death of a parent. The child of divorce. A parent’s illness. Abandonment. Neglect. Abuse.

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When there was no one to count on as a child, of course you’d be scared. You want and need love, but maybe, over and over, it seems like someone leaves you. They fall away like ash through your fingers.

You can’t make it stop, so you seal yourself off.

You’re in a time loop of the past. All the things you felt then, you feel now. But you won’t let yourself. So, you learned of different ways to stop your feelings.

Here are 4 ways your childhood loss makes you afraid to love.

1. Nothing seems to matter.

Falling in love equals danger. You’re afraid of love. Why? Because everything mattered once or twice or maybe more times than that. It hurt when they left.

So now, you tell yourself nothing matters. No one matters. No one will ever matter again.

You create a bubble around you, as though you live in a cave. No one can enter. Then someone does, even though you yell, "Don’t come in!" And, a red light goes on.

But, you’ve met someone? It happens sometimes. You tell yourself, "Nothing can matter, remember? It’ll just be a little fling."

Let yourself get too close, open up desire, and all your mixed-up feelings come right back. Wanting love and not wanting it. It’s too scary. That’s the trap.

And when your "nothing matters" mantra doesn’t work? You have to have other ways to protect yourself. So, what do you do?

2. You ignore all your feelings.

You start ignoring your feelings and try to keep them locked up. There are many ways.

You might tell yourself that feeling of love is just another fleeting feeling. You don’t take it seriously. Maybe you drink a bit too much to get control over what seems to be a threat.

Pushing aside that person who just entered your sacred space is another strategy. Maybe you can make them go away before there’s a risk you might be left behind.

Certainly, you can try to make your feelings go away, in one way or another. Right? Find fault with them. Create a fight. Tell them you need space, or that you’re not ready.

You’re in one big fight inside yourself being afraid of love. But maybe you can ignore that fight if you don’t open up your feelings. So, you pretend not to care or to not need anyone at all.

3. You say, "I don't need you."

You say you don’t need anyone. You want to believe it. But that’s not true — everyone has needs. And when you ignore your needs, it makes you very much alone because you’re afraid of love.

Maybe you tell yourself it’s better that way. Alone is safer, right? Well, maybe not.

But maybe you need to convince yourself — only this moment matters. There doesn’t have to be any future. Just a little fling? Don’t let anyone get under your skin.

You try to stop it, but what if someone does get inside your bubble? You tell yourself, "Don’t get too close now. Don’t open up. Don’t remember your past. That spells trouble."

None of these strategies — to manage your early losses — really work. So, what does?

Basically, get to know the whole package of any new person who comes your way. But, mostly the whole package of you. Ignoring it makes you destined to repeat it.

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4. Ignore and you'll repeat it.

If you ignore your feelings or the past, you’re going to repeat it in all of your relationships or while you're trying to be OK with being alone. Why?

It’s familiar because all those feelings and experiences still live inside you, as hard as you try to push them away. You can’t get rid of them just because you pretend that they aren’t there.

So, what’s really going on underneath these determined self-protective maneuvers and your fear of love? What is it that you’re repeating?

It’s complicated, but one thing might be: Not feeling wanted. Losing a mom when you’re little, having no dad or one that fled, being neglected — those are losses that scar you.

Is that Pandora’s box hidden inside? Those early losses can make you feel you did something wrong weren’t important enough to stay — they weren’t wanted and never will be.

Why are you afraid to love? What's behind your fear of not being wanted?

So, you fall in love and find yourself in a complicated dance, trying to stay tough without a care in the world, especially for them. Another big lie to yourself.

But all you can see is that person you could "maybe" love, leaving you if you aren’t careful. You try, "Nothing matters. Ignore it. I can survive without you, you know."

It’s all about staying in the box where you’re stuck that feels safer, rather than opening up your heart. That box is like a coffin, though. And it’s created out of fear — fear of feelings.

You’re afraid of love, being unwanted, not as good as someone else, being rejected, and being jealous of others.

All the ways you think you could lose love right when you need it — that’s your past talking.

But the past is a time loop you’re caught in, day in and day out. Love is real. At least, it can be. But if love is to enter the picture, relics of the past cannot be ignored.

Getting free of your fear to love.

Anything can happen, even love. You're telling yourself, in the voice of the time loop (remember, it’s the past): "Today, tomorrow, yesterday, it’s all the same."

You’re afraid of love. Love is scary if love has hurt you. But if you don’t take the chance, you will stay stuck, hiding in that seemingly "safe place" out of fear.

Getting unstuck means making a change by admitting you’re scared, but trying anyway. Know that your mantras of "No one loves me. Everyone will leave," aren’t really true.

Be OK with needing someone, or at least work on it. Be willing to risk your life — at least, that’s how it feels — to love again.

Don't stay stuck in old losses that made you believe no one will stay or that you aren’t enough to make them want to. See those losses for what they were — and are.

That’s the only way to get out of the time loop of old hurts — by going back over the past, in slow or fast flashbacks, and coming out the other side with someone you couldn’t imagine existed and don’t want to live without.

RELATED: 8 Ways To Stop A Fear Of Love From Slowly Destroying Your Relationship

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Dr. Sandra Cohen is a Los Angeles-based psychologist and psychoanalyst, who specializes in treating persistent depressive states and childhood trauma. Contact her if you have any questions about finding the right therapist for you.

This article was originally published at Sandra E. Cohen, Ph.D's Moving Forward Blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.