«I often see philophobia, the fear of falling in love and starting a relationship»

«I often see philophobia, the fear of falling in love and starting a relationship»

Jesús Vega, a health psychologist, argues that it is normal to “not be able to do everything.”

The expert argues that if our parents have not met our needs, we may suffer emotional dependence.

04 Jul 2024 . Updated at 11:31 a.m.

A stable job, being productive at it, a partner, a house and children. “Society never stops imposing things on us, it never seems to be enough, and if we don’t meet its expectations we can end up feeling like failures.” These are the words of Jesus Vegaa health psychologist specializing in acceptance and commitment therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. He has just published I can’t handle everything either (Desclée de Brouwer, 2024), a guide to caring for and prioritizing mental health.

—In a book about “not being able to cope”, you start by explaining the types of attachment. What do they have to do with each other?

—Attachment is the emotional bond that we establish with our primary caregivers, usually parents, in childhood. In the end, this ends up significantly affecting adulthood. If our parents have not attended to our emotional needs, it can affect us in the form of emotional dependence. It basically consists of the person not being able to break off a relationship, even though it causes significant psychological distress. If in our childhood we have always had parents who were always arguing, with violent conflicts between them, it may be more likely that I, in adulthood, tend to seek romantic relationships with a partner that bring me that stress, that suffering, that pain, because it is what is familiar to me. That is why it is important that we analyze what our type of attachment was in childhood, because it will allow us to be aware and avoid repeating those patterns. The objective is to avoid those dysfunctional relationships in adulthood.

—If I have experienced this type of attachment, can it be remedied?

—Exactly, of course you can. Attachments are not irreversible. By going to a mental health professional, you can work on them. If we go to a psychologist, they can provide me with that corrective emotional experience, that space in which I can communicate and express how I feel; just as if in my adulthood I meet people who have a secure attachment, they can transmit it to me through the bond. If they listen to us, validate us, support us, we can also move from an anxious attachment to a secure one. The opposite can also happen. We may have had a childhood in which our parents have taken care of us, attended to our needs and it has been a happy childhood, and instead, in adolescence, we have suffered bullying in high school. In the end, that creates this insecure attachment in me. Attachment is not static.

—How common is it that toxic relationships occur with people who are very close to us?

—It is a topic that comes up a lot in consultations because those people with whom we spend the most time and live with are the ones who affect us the most in our emotions and daily life. In the end, social mandates, the messages that society transmits to us tend to be that in the family everything must be forgiven. They transmit to us the message that, whatever happens in the family, I have to put up with whatever happens.

—And shouldn’t we?

—No. We have to protect ourselves within the family. If we are suffering violence, whether physical or psychological, we have to set limits on that. Even if we have internalized those messages, it is not always like that.

—What is philophobia?

—It consists of that fear of falling in love and starting a relationship. In the end, a romantic relationship in adolescence characterized by that possession, that control, that pathological jealousy, can do me a lot of harm and make me suffer from that philophobia. Even if in my childhood I saw that my parents’ relationship was very stormy, full of arguments, I relate romantic relationships with that suffering because I have learned that love implies pain since my childhood. That is why that philophobia can arise.

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—How common is it to suffer from it?

—I see it a lot in my consultations, people who suffer a lot when they are starting to get to know someone. They are afraid that the ghosts of the past will reappear, they tend to generalize. If they have hurt me before, it is likely that it will happen again. Reluctance to open up, to take the step of getting to know that person, even many times, unconsciously, they look for all the faults that they have to distance themselves and avoid them. It is a phenomenon that is more common than it seems. Just like the issue of pathological jealousy.

-What does it consist on?

—If we have had previous relationships where we have been unfaithful and have been cheated on, then even if you start to get to know a person who gives absolutely no indication of any of that, that story from the past is activated and limits me when it comes to relating to my partner, at the present time.

—What are the signs our body can send us that we are burned out at work? Better known as burnout syndrome.

—We must pay close attention to our body and to what it is telling us. We do not know what causes those possible headaches, stomach aches, muscle pains, or other physical symptoms that seem strange to us. They may be at the root of this problem. Psychological discomfort, if we do not pay attention to it, can be expressed through our body with somatizations.

—Pain for which we have no explanation.

—Yes, pains that seem inexplicable, but obviously have a meaning. We also have to take into account our sleeping habits, if they have changed. We are constantly worried about work issues, if we are going to be able to fulfill all the functions that have been assigned to us. Also if we have a hard time going: I drag myself to work and I have a lot of difficulty paying attention and concentrating once I am there. That also has to be taken into account. We feel that we lack energy, motivation to be productive. All of that has to be considered. We leave work and find it difficult to disconnect, that can also be a sign that something is not right.

—We talk about that part that falls on us, but it may not be easy to get out of there.

—We live in a sick system that teaches us from a young age that we have to produce. It’s like we’re in a video game, going through phase by phase. I have to go from high school to university, from there to precarious jobs to gain experience, and then to get a better job that is just as precarious. We live in very toxic working conditions that are harmful to our physical and mental health. The system makes us believe that we are robots whose function is to produce and produce more. We internalize and make our own the excessive perfectionism that society imposes on us, this excessive demand. I myself am now the one who begins to give one hundred percent of myself.

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—In the book you talk about generalized anxiety disorder. What is the first step to breaking out of the loop?

—It is important to identify when worry is being useful and when it is not, because we have to see what depends on me and what does not. That is the main question we have to ask ourselves, because the adaptive concernthe functional one, is the one in which I think about something for just the right amount of time and then get busy. It is a previous step in planning a problem-solving process, in order to then carry out the action and then get busy solving it. It is important to keep this in mind because if we start to ruminate almost every day, the only thing I will achieve is that I will remain in that state of rumination that is not useful.

—What if that concern is not useful?

—One of the things we can do is cognitive diffusiona technique that is widely used in acceptance and commitment therapy and is basically based on adopting a series of strategies to distance ourselves from these thoughts. It is normal for them to appear, but we have to try to distance ourselves from negative or unpleasant thoughts. They appear, but I don’t get caught up in them. I try to see them as just a thought and focus on what is important in my life and my values.

—You invite us to bang our fists on the table to prioritize ourselves.

—Maybe we are on that hamster wheel, focused on absolute production and the needs of others, playing the role of savior, and not focusing on ourselves. We do not take into account our needs. With this book, what I intend is for people to become aware that their needs are important and that we have to prioritize ourselves over a toxic job, dysfunctional relationships and the expectations placed on us. We have to take ourselves into account, take care of ourselves and know what our body needs.

Cynthia Martinez Lorenzo

From Noia, A Coruña (1997). Graduated in Journalism from the University of Santiago de Compostela, I specialized in new narratives at the MPXA. After working in the local edition of La Voz de Galicia in Santiago, I embark on this new adventure to write about our most precious asset: health.

From Noia, A Coruña (1997). Graduated in Journalism from the University of Santiago de Compostela, I specialized in new narratives at the MPXA. After working in the local edition of La Voz de Galicia in Santiago, I embark on this new adventure to write about our most precious asset: health.

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