Excessive Fear of Being Controlled or Losing Oneself
The term ‘engulf’ in itself is usually associated with something negative. The meaning that might naturally come to mind could be ‘to be swallowed up’.
Being swallowed up is something to be feared.
The fear of engulfment is the fear of over immersing yourself in a relationship. Do you fear a situation where you depend on one person for everything? A situation where you are nothing without that particular person, and you want that individual to feel the same way toward you? You most likely have a fear of engulfment.
In essence, you’re afraid of either being swallowed up or swallowing people up in a relationship. You might begin to sabotage your relationships because of the fear. Note, however, that the fear you have is not of being engulfed — it is of the thought that the engulfment will last a lifetime. As a result, you are fearful of either getting rejected or developing intimate relationships.
This fear could stop you from enjoying any forms of love: love from relatives, friends, or a partner.
What Causes Fear of Engulfment?
The root cause of fear of engulfment might be embedded in the fact that it is a social phobia. Social phobias are a form of anxiety disorder that hinders people from forming close or deep relationships with someone.
This fear of engulfment could be a result of different dysfunctional relationships. Having experienced a relationship that has gone so sour can make creating a new one very difficult. It could even be connected to the relationships you’ve made as a child.
Fear of being abandoned could also be contributing to why you are afraid of engulfment. You suffer in constant fear that love or warmth will suddenly vanish.
A fear of abandonment, in many cases, can be traced back to childhood. A child who has been abandoned physically or emotionally by an important adult figure could carry that fear into adulthood. Growing up in a dysfunctional family where nothing was permanent could also be a contributing factor.
People who are afraid of engulfment are also terrified of being controlled. They fear anything they perceive as dominating and might retreat from it. The fear of being judged by others is another subset of the fear of engulfment.
What are the Symptoms of the Fear of Engulfment?
The fear of engulfment could manifest in several ways. If you suffer from this phobia, it could manifest itself in your intimate, professional, and even familial relationships.
Your fear of engulfment phobia may likely surface in instances when you long for an attachment with someone. People suffering from this phobia have a heightened risk of sabotaging the relationships they care about the most. A deep emotional state of yearning could potentially trigger this phobia’s symptoms. People suffering from this fear could end up shutting everything and everyone out.
Symptoms of this condition include:
● Serial dating
● Fear of commitment
● Difficulty in expressing feelings
● Inability to communicate
● Sabotaging relationships
For people with a phobia of engulfment, communication is easy only at the initial stages of the relationships. However, as the relationship grows closer and deeper, this phobia’s sufferers would likely retreat from the relationship and start a new one with a different partner. But the cycle gets repeated: the phobia sufferer tends to follow the same path taken in the previous relationship. Hence, a pattern of serial dating emerges.
Fear of Commitment
Adding to this phobia’s complexity is that the pattern of short-term relationships only reinforces the fear of getting engulfed in a commitment.
Difficulty Expressing Feelings
When you have a fear of engulfment, you do not see your feelings as valid. You might suddenly become silent in a relationship, thereby sabotaging it. When your feelings go unnoticed by the other person, your thoughts retreat to the idea of the need to end the relationship.
Inability to Communicate
Because you keep most relationships shallow, communication is neglected. Just like the relationship, every form of communication is kept shallow.
Sabotaging can be done in several ways — for instance, accusing the partner of what hasn’t, or just being unlovable intentionally.
Self-Help to Treat Fear of Engulfment
Getting rid of the fear of engulfment starts with embracing your vulnerabilities.
If your fear of engulfment resulted from something that has happened from your childhood, getting professional help is highly encouraged. Such cases tend to be complicated and, hence, may require sensitive considerations to therapy. The fear of engulfment psychology might be too heavy to handle alone, so consult your medical provider.
Life is Full of Uncertainties
This phobia could also be stemming from being terrified of not knowing what will happen next. As you strive to shield yourself from the uncertainties, you start asking: “Will they remain this way?” “Will I remain this way?” Afterward, the fear begins to set in.
If possible, find ways to learn to understand that in life, there are no guarantees, and that’s OK. This especially holds when it comes to human relationships. Nothing is predictable and perfect. Embracing uncertainty is part of the thrill of life.
Making a conscious decision to forge a positive relationship may also help reduce the fear of engulfment.
Have Compassion for Yourself
Self-compassion may come easily to many people, but not for people who suffer from a fear of engulfment. Phobia sufferers tend to have an increased level of rejection sensitivity.
If you suffer from this fear, know that you are worthy of love and other great things. Encourage yourself — think of what you’ll do to help another person in a stressful situation, and then direct the compassion responses toward yourself. Doing something that will help comfort you physically or mentally — such as taking a walk, taking a rest, or doing a quick exercise — may also help.
Take a Look at the Past
In most cases of this phobia, a traumatic event in the past is the root of the problem. If possible, when you think about what happened, try to extract details that you can use to create the future you want. Doing so may help you realize the possibilities for a different narrative.
Give It Time
Overcoming fear doesn’t happen in one day — this applies to everyone. Keeping this in mind might help you to not give up once you’ve decided to address your phobia. The adjustment phase is always the hardest. When you feel you’ve found your footing, but along the way suffer setbacks, don’t be too hard on yourself. Setbacks are normal. It’s OK to start over.
As you look at your past, if you can, try setting goals for yourself. Note what you want to happen differently in your life. Believe that you deserve companionships and relationships, just as much as anyone else.
Sufferers of this phobia tend to be perfectionists. If you have this phobia, know that compromising on goals is OK. If you start feeling inadequate, where you feel you lack certain qualities, push back the thought. You deserve a love that is true, sincere, and deep.
Whenever you start feeling fear, push back by remembering goals. Be patient: in time, and with kindness from yourself and the people you trust, you’ll surely achieve your goals.
Romantic comedies might not be the reality, but finding true love is a reality everyone deserves.