First, we have to understand what commitment is all about. Commitment is a state of dedication. But we can simplify commitment in this way: To commit to something is to give your energy to something… To put yourself into something. The more committed you are to something, the more of your energy and therefore yourself you put into that thing. If you sit with this idea of commitment for a minute, you might already be experiencing the awareness of what exactly scares you so badly about commitment. If not, I want you to ask yourself “What is so scary about giving my energy to something or putting myself fully into something?”
I’m going to give you a hint here: Most fears on this earth, (if not all of them) boil down to the intense fear that something will be lost. For example, even if your fear is that you will gain problems, the flip side of that fear is the fear that you will loose inner peace.
The most common fear that is experienced by people who fear commitment is the fear of being trapped and therefore loosing freedom. If you fear commitment, your fear has caused you to develop an addiction to the sweet security of escape. Decisions are the ultimate fear if you fear commitment. You especially fear making decisions because you feel that by doing so you will lose options. You fear making the wrong decision and being trapped with the potential consequences (especially losses) of that choice. And this is your personal, subconscious definition of failure. Obviously this fear, like usual builds its roots in childhood. In an ideal childhood environment, we would learn that we will always be loved and that mom and dad will always return. We would learn that even if we misbehave, we would still be welcomed so we do not have to be perfect in order to be loved and included and not abandoned. But this is not the case for many of us. For many of us, especially those who fear commitment, we had to grow up too fast to a world where the message was, “You DO have to be perfect according to my definition of perfect in order to be loved, included, not abandoned and get the things you want”. In this atmosphere, responsibility became something to be feared. It came with too much pressure. The stakes were too high. So we learned to avoid it. We grew up in an atmosphere of control, not an atmosphere of love and intimacy. We were brought up to have one foot in and one foot out because we could not trust one or both of our caregivers. If you do not trust someone, there is no way to be fully invested in them. So instead, there is a constant state of emotional panic. It is obvious to see then why the sensation of freedom would be so incredibly important for us to keep hold of. It was our indication of our level of safety. This is especially important to recognize if you have a fear of relationship commitment. People who fear relationship commitment actually have the deep, desperate need for intimacy and a secure relationship that they can rely on. But they fear abandonment and/or engulfment so much that the idea of either loosing their partner through it not working out, or losing themselves to (being devoured by) their partner causes them to freeze up. This is their attempt to stay safe. For those of you who suffer from relationship commitment phobia, relationships and love were not about love when you were younger. They were about control. People in your life, especially primary caregivers, were interested in control and as such they were not concerned with your best interests, they were concerned with theirs. This made you unsafe emotionally, physically or both. To stay safe, you quickly saw that you had to keep the control. You always had one foot in and one foot out with them. Now, in relationships, you do the same. You subconsciously seek to always be in control and have an escape ready while avoiding personal responsibility. This makes you very passive aggressive. One way you gain back control is to freeze up. When you clam up or freeze up, no one can do anything about it. They are absolutely powerless to your unmovable state. This, in conjunction with not committing to either decision, feels safer to you. When you freeze up, your survival mechanism has been triggered. When you can’t perceive any escape because you can’t decide between fight or flight, the only thing left to do is freeze. This is what gives the commitment-phobe the feeling of dragging their heels or turning into a rock or existing in a state of living death absent of momentum.
So what should you do if you can clearly see that you are afraid of commitment and you’re ready to face that fear and actually commit to something?
- You must recognize that while commitment phobia is real, it is also true that there is no such thing as genuine commitment phobia. This is why… You cannot actually live one second of the day where you are not committed to something. Your energy is going completely into something at all moments of the day. The question is, into what? For example, the person who is not committing to a relationship out of fear has already chosen to be fully committed to freedom. The person who is procrastinating has already chosen to be fully committed to distraction. The person, who refuses to make a decision, has already committed to being irresponsible or shall we say to whatever perks come with not being responsible. So, any time you find yourself not committing to something, it means there is something else you are much more committed to, often on the opposite end of the scale. Take time to discover these subconscious commitments to find out what you are really committed to in life and decide if those are things you actually do want to consciously be committed to. What DO you really want to be committed to? Take notice that this is a very different question than “what should you want to be committed to?”
- Get present to the negative impact of not committing. In order to change something, you have to see that there is a need or reason to change. See what it does to yourself and what it does to others when you do not commit. For example, see the opportunities you have lost by not acting on them. See the rejection other people feel. See the success that you have not achieved because where you were unwilling to give it your all, someone else was. If you need to, make a list so you can really become conscious of what this has done, is doing and could do to your life.
- Love the one aspect of you that is afraid of committing. Now that you have become present to the negative impact of not committing, step outside your fear of commitment aspect of self and focus with compassion and love toward that aspect of yourself that is terrified and who was controlled and who wants to stay safe so badly. If you resist this self by trying to force it to change because you resent it, you will only be trying to control yourself and so you’ll start to become passive aggressive with yourself. Instead, approaching this aspect with love, desiring it to shift because you want the best for it. This will cause an inner transformation.
- Become more aware and dedicated to what you want than what you don’t want. If you are afraid of commitment, you are in a state of avoidance. Your energy is more focused on what you don’t want to commit to than it is on what you do want to commit to. If you feel the avoidance crop up in you (that internal resistance, like trying to open a clam shell that will not open or trying to move forward against lead weights), figure out what you do not want and use that to define what you DO want. Then commit to that. Put your energy into that. If you are afraid of relationship commitment, you may decide that it is too hard to commit to the whole relationship itself, but maybe you can commit to something smaller within the context of the relationship. For example, you may decide to commit to communicating with the other person every day.
- Get present to what you need and meet your needs. Needs are a real enemy of those who grew up in controlling environments. People who fear commitment will suppress their needs and not communicate them and try to convince themselves and others that they do not have them. This is especially important if you’re struggling with a relationship commitment phobia. Relationships are about mutuality, not control. It’s about accommodating each other in a way where both people’s needs are met. If you do not express your needs and deny them whilst trying to meet your partner’s needs, you will eventually feel controlled by them and at their mercy; without even knowing it’s because you never expressed your needs and never gave them a chance to meet them. To understand more on this subject, watch my video on YouTube titled: Meet Your Needs.
- Get deeply in touch with your feelings. People who fear commitment feel they must cut off their emotional connection as a way of feeling in control and thus emotionally safe. This is why in relationships, being with a commitment-phobe feels like a push and pull. To begin this practice, watch my video titled: How to Heal The Emotional Body. Especially sit with that feeling of being trapped. If you fear commitment, you are in the business of constantly trying to mitigate and avoid future pain. So the willingness to feel (including things like pain) stops this unhealthy avoidance pattern. It can no longer subconsciously rule your life. If you are struggling with a fear of commitment, you are not very self aware and you are prone to lying to yourself to avoid deeper truths. Really being with your feelings will reveal the deep, real, gritty inner truths of yourself. These are the truths that will help you to create a life you really want.
- Explore the idea of ‘perfect’ so that you can let go of the idea of it. The inner critic is trying to keep you safe to the detriment of your very life. You can’t get this life right, as much as you may want to because ‘right’ is a judgment call according to personal perspective. You will never find a partner who is perfect either, or the perfect job. Finding fault with everything may just be a way to justify your fear so you don’t have to take the risk to move forward and through it. It will help to deliberately shift your focus to the positives about any given thing that you want to commit to, but are afraid to commit to. Love is the opposite of fear. So, if you’re afraid of your partner, what do you love about them? If you’re afraid of the job, what do you love about it? If you fear making the decision, what do you love about the decision or about making decisions in general? Criticism goes hand in hand with perfectionism. To understand more about criticism, watch my video on YouTube titled: Criticism.
- Practice meditation. Meditation will take you out of the unconscious states of panic that throw you into avoidant, escapist control dynamics. This will allow you to shortcut the self-sabotage and instead make you present with exactly what is right here, right now in front of you. You can start with mindfulness meditation. To understand how to do this, watch my video on YouTube titled: Mindfulness Meditation (the observer self).
- Commit to increasing your self-concept and self esteem. If you struggle with a fear of commitment, you struggle with self-esteem. This is especially true for those who avoid committing to relationships because of potential abandonment. If you never invest your energy into something fully, it never yields results that cause you to feel good about yourself. So committing to things will actually increase your self-esteem. What do you appreciate about yourself? What are your strengths? Take an inventory of your positive attributes and anything that causes you specifically to feel good about yourself.
If you suffer from commitment phobia, it is completely understandable why you are the way you are. You learned how to be this way to survive the world and subsequent worldview that other people set up for you when you were younger. You have every right and reason to stay this way. It doesn’t make you wrong or bad. But consider that any commitment is a risk. Including the commitment to non-commitment. You will die one day and I can promise you that did not come to this life to arrive at death safely. The greater risk in life is not taking risks and waiting for opportunities that may never come. The risk you take when you are afraid of commitment is not really living. No success will come unless you invest your energy in something. And I can promise you; it’s already invested in things, just not the things that make for a successful life. You cannot get this life wrong. So break free from the paralysis. You have been thinking that commitment will trap you, when in fact it will set you free.