"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable... The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." - C. S. Lewis
It seems safer, doesn't it? There was a time when shutting down was a survival mechanism for you. It kept you alive, kept you fighting, kept you pushing through to the next day. Your internal Protector came to shield you from the pain you were experiencing - and thank goodness for that.
But now, in the aftermath of imminent danger, you may find that your heart is still shut off. Possibly hard. Definitely withdrawn. During sexual intimacy, you may find that you completely shut off or go into autopilot. It may feel like you are "hovering outside of your body" or that you are only focused on the physical sensations - none of the emotional. Your partner might sometimes step back, wondering, "where did yo Either way, you know that you don't want to be this way anymore. You don't want to withdraw from the safe people in your life that want to love you. You want to give to those you care about. You want to be FREE.
This takes time, dear one. It truly does. There were some intense and harsh realities placed before you at one time: possibly along the lines of "I'm not safe here" or "these people are unpredictable" or "my needs will not be met."
I hope that your environment looks different now, and that you have the space to heal. If you have that space and are unsure of where to begin...that makes sense to me. There's so many layers here. Please give yourself grace for your journey. You are here, attempting to take care of yourself: that is worthy of magnificent celebration, truly.
Your story is why therapists like myself and several others out there exist. We spend our time diving deep and training so that we can learn how to stand alongside you and empower you. And, perhaps, when you're ready....encourage you to explore what love can look like for you.
Love. Or whichever word you'd prefer to use.
Not in the way that others defined, distorted or demolished the word and its meaning.
Love as you believe it should look and be pursued. Love as it was truly intended to be.
Lewis, C.S. (1960) The four loves. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Tracy, S.R. (2005). Mending the soul: Understanding and healing abuse. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.