There are basically three reasons why we hold back . . .
We judge something about ourselves as unacceptable so we don’t want others to see it.
We believe another person will judge something about us as unacceptable.
We withhold as a way to punish the person we’re withholding from.
Think about it, either we withhold because we critically judge ourselves, we fear others will critically judge us, or because we want to punish the person we withhold from. Can you think of other reasons why you withhold?
Maybe an example will be helpful:
Many years ago I was a pretty anxious person—I judged myself harshly for this—and I held back from others, including my wife, Hannah, because I didn’t want her to see me as anxious. And then I would get angry with Hannah for not understanding how I was feeling. By holding back I made it impossible to get the support I needed.
Two simple, but profound strategies you can use
Withholding is the opposite of connecting. If you find yourself withholding, the starting point is to ask yourself, “Do I want to connect?” If your answer is “no,” then at least you can be honest and reveal that. You can say, “I’m not ready to connect right now.” In saying this you’ve broken the cycle of withholding. It’s a step in the right direction.
The next step would be to explain why. You might say, “I hesitate to connect because I’m seeing something about myself that I don’t like,” or, “I hesitate to connect because I’m concerned you’ll be critical of me.” Again, you’ve broken the pattern of withholding.
Why don’t people want to connect?
Different people comfort themselves with different levels of intimacy. And some people fear losing themselves through intimacy. Because intimacy can lead to dependency . . . and dependency results in blurring of boundaries . . . before I know it I’ve put my nervous system in another person’s hands. How that other person looks at me, how they feel, what they say—these things determine how I feel.
All of that changes when we understand and practice Live Conscious because then we don’t give ourselves away—we don’t lose ourselves even when we’re in intimate relationships. And with Perception Language we become less judgmental of ourselves and less fearful about other people’s judgments, because we realize that other people are always telling us about them, not about us.
You can stop withholding. Start by determining why you’re withholding. Is it your own judgment you fear or the other person’s judgment? Acknowledge this and you’ll be on your way.
The really tough part is if you are withholding as a way to punish someone else, and then the only solution is to go live alone in an igloo. If your choice is to stop punishing the people you love or go live alone in an igloo, either one is okay. Just do one or the other.