Hey there! Hope it's okay for me to jump in here.
It sounds like you're in a painful spot, and that totally makes sense after having some traumatic experiences with crushes and men in the past. I hope you can access some compassion and gentleness for yourself in this situation, and trust that you are not deserving of this anxiety. Some part of you is trying to keep the other more vulnerable parts of you safe, and that's an amazing thing. But over time, these protective and fearful parts can be healed (not abandoned, punished, or rejected) so that you're able to approach relationships with an open heart and some more resiliency. Coming here to talk about it is an amazing step, so great job! You're not alone!
You're right that there's not a quick fix. Healing shame can take a long time, but it is so rewarding and worth the effort. It may be necessary to consider where your shame stemmed from. You don't have to answer these here, but just consider for yourself, maybe journal about them if you like doing that: what examples of relationships and intimacy did you have growing up? How did your parents talk to you about romance and sexuality, if at all? What does the culture around you teach you about romance and intimacy - the media where you live, your friend groups, your classmates and teachers? Did you grow up in any religious cultures, which often have shame-based takes on expressing romance and desire, even just a desire to be loved or known? Even if you weren't personally participant in churches or organized religion, were your parents or other authority figures?
Taking a look at these greater structures can help you have more empathy for yourself because so often the beliefs and shame we have about our worthiness are learned, not inherent to us. If we learned them, we can unlearn them over time. But thinking deeply about these things can also bring up more grief, anger, or other hard feelings. That's to be anticipated but doesn't have to be avoided.
I don't think the romantic attraction is necessarily clouding your judgment, but maybe the trauma response you're having to the romantic feelings is what's clouding things up. I've experienced that too, and it's really frustrating, but lets me know that I've experienced something I need to work through. I try to greet that feeling like a friend who needs help, not over-identifying with it, not rejecting it or punishing it. Seeing a therapist more regularly has been really helpful for that, and if that's an option to you, I would recommend it. I also know some DBT skills (dialectical behavioral therapy) that I'd like to share which can be tools to approach black-and-white thinking.
If you notice words like "always", "never", "good", "bad", "horrible", "perfect", etc. those may be an indicator that you're slipping into black and white thinking. This is a good opportunity to just pause, and notice that a part of you wants to feel in control. No judgment, just noticing. Over time it may get easier to pivot away from those thoughts as you notice them arise.
Dialectics is about language and looking for the grain of truth in seemingly opposing beliefs. It's about moving back from extremes into acceptance that contradicting things can exist at the same time. I'll give an example of how I use this skill!
If I have the thought, "Oh no, I did something wrong again. I always mess things up. Now this person's going to be angry with me. This is not good." I can use that to spiral into panic, shame, or anxiety. The other side of the coin might be "I can't believe this person is critiquing me. I'm doing my best and it's not good enough for them. They don't really love me." Sometimes those thoughts exist at the same time in my own head and experience! Talk about confusion and stress! DBT helps me come more into neutrality, into spaciousness and acceptance.
My skilled self can notice those thoughts and say "wow, I'm feeling really worked up about this thing. Do I need to step outside, cry, get some water, ask for some space?" after I feel less reactive, I might try to find the truth in both the sides: "Everyone gets things wrong sometimes. I appreciate this person wanting to help me grow, but might be feeling hurt by their approach to communication. Acknowledging my mistakes and wanting to work on my skills can help me and my relationships, and does not mean I'm worthless." It's basically about learning how to talk to myself with a lot of kindness - reparenting where I was not parented well when I was upset as a kid.
I also try to internalize and repeat DBT statements to help bring me down and keep me grounded when I'm feeling good. Here are some "reality statements for interpersonal effectiveness" directly taken from the "dialectical behavioral skills handbook" which is available as a pdf online (and totally changed my life):
- It is ok to want or need something from someone else.
- I may want to please people I care about, but I don't have to please them all the time.
- If I say no to someone and they get angry, that does not mean I should have said yes.
- I can still feel good about myself, even if someone else is annoyed with me.
Not sure if these will feel applicable to you, but those are just some examples of DBT skill statements that can be used to help release shame and return to self-love and self-awareness.
Here's a link to another website about DBT skills: https://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/dbt_skills_list.html
I like "The Skillful Podcast" too, which is about DBT.
Okay, that was a LOT of information! If this feels too overwhelming to read, here's my bottom line: It sounds like you're recognizing that you've internalized shame from traumatic experiences, and want to know how to manage your emotions so you don't spiral so often. DBT can be a great way to learn how to speak to yourself with more compassion, neutrality, and gentleness, and there are lots of resources out there on how to learn those skills. Healing is possible!
How is that landing with you? Does anything resonate, or does anything I brought up feel triggering that you want to discuss?