Having Feelings for Someone is making me feel Vulnerable

Questions and discussions about relationships: girlfriends, boyfriends, lovers, partners, friends, family or other intimate relationships in your lives.
JohnathanWorm
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Having Feelings for Someone is making me feel Vulnerable

Unread post by JohnathanWorm »

Hi, this is my first post on this website and I’m looking for advice.

So I have feelings for a guy in my class (I’m 16 and in year 10). And I’ve been attracted to him for about a year but its only been in the last few weeks that it’s really been getting to me. There is a lot of complicated context to this guy (some of my friends have somewhat antagonistic feelings towards him) and I don’t know him very well.

I’ve had a history of all my crushes ending very horribly. When i was 11 a guy i liked found out about my feelings and harassed me for 3 years. I also have a fair amount of trauma around men and sexuality in general, which affects me greatly. I struggle to see crushes as something that someone pursues to have a relationship with someone, but rather a weakness that impacts ones safety.

I don’t feel comfortable having feelings for him. I feel as though my positive attraction and feelings for him make me vulnerable and stupid. Having crushes in general have almost never been positive for me, and it just makes me uncomfortable and upset. Its a point of great anxiety for me.

I’ve talked about these things with my friends and a few professionals. It’s been really good to open up about these things that are distressing me. However, I have had little solace for this distress towards my feelings.
I’m really struggling with this paranoid feeling of vulnerability and i feel as though my judgement is impared.

I also have the understanding that there is a lot more nuance that i can't (or am struggling to) see. I’m Autistic and that makes some of my thinking somewhat black and white, especially when it comes to upsetting things. Because of this, i have a strong feeling of not being able to trust myself in this situation. More vulnerability, unfortunately.

I’m not expecting a quick fix, even if i really wish that was possible, but i hope that someone has any kind of advice to deal with this situation and my feelings.
Sam W
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Re: Having Feelings for Someone is making me feel Vulnerable

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi JohnathanWorm,

That does sound like a rough headspace to be in, and we'll do our best to help you out. I can certainly see why your past experiences would make you wary of having a crush, and I'm so sorry that someone in the past chose to harass you after you told them your feelings.

It's awesome that you've been able to open up and get support around this! In those conversations with professionals, have they given you any tools to help with that black and white thinking?

Right now, do you feel like part of your distress is coming from the belief that if you have a crush on someone, you have to act on it in some way? Or do you get that same feeling of vulnerability even if you never plan on acting on it?
JohnathanWorm
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Re: Having Feelings for Someone is making me feel Vulnerable

Unread post by JohnathanWorm »

Hey, thanks for replying, sorry its been a few days.

while i have discussed these feelings (the black and white thinking and stuff) with my school psychologist for example, we haven't had a chance to work on it. As it has only been a short amount of time since i've become aware of that mindset and discussed it with them. so no, no tools at the moment

and for your second question, no not really. the distress is with the feelings themselves i suppose.

when i have romantic and physical attraction i feel as though its clouding my judgement. (like the "love makes you dumb" expression). I already have the existing wariness of guys, and when i'm attracted to them it feels unsafe.

i've never really felt any desire to act on my feelings anymore than wanting to be friends with the boy i like right now. But i still feel alot of distress around these feelings. I'm not sure how to describe it other than i feel like my attraction itself is making me vulnerable.

like an animal falling for a trap because it smells nice.

I think another layer of my distress could be, that because i don't have much desire to act on my feelings (or at least i feel as though i can't due to my fears) that this attraction feels inconvenient and bothersome.

Thanks again!
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Re: Having Feelings for Someone is making me feel Vulnerable

Unread post by rubyted »

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?
JohnathanWorm
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Re: Having Feelings for Someone is making me feel Vulnerable

Unread post by JohnathanWorm »

Hey Ruby, woah

that's a lot of really cool information, tysm!
I've been somewhat interested in DBT before, and i'll definitely look into it some more.

I definitely resonate with having more empathy for myself. And the idea of what kind of relationship examples i've had.
My parents have a pretty toxic relationship (but are still together) and i've had moments of seeing my friends' parents interact and feel a kind of adversion to what i wasn't used to seeing. like seeing some parents hold hands while driving a car, and experiencing a kind of fear and confusion at what i had never really come to expect from adults in relationships.

I was also raised in a very religious baptist environment, with a lot of purity culture. which is something i've only recently been getting out of, myself.
I think i still have a lot of shame when it comes to my physical (and romantic) attraction to people, especially boys, that i haven't really processed yet. Tbh, i still haven't figured out how to process my physical attraction to boys in general. I often only feel comfortable exploring it in a fictional daydream context, where i can seperate myself from the attraction.

I'll definitely take up the idea of looking more into my examples of relationships, as i think that could be a good way to compare it to my current perspectives. as well as talking to people about positive relationships.

once again, thanks so much. I felt quite emotionally overwhelmed at school when i read your post for the first time, but i'm really grateful ^-^

- Johnathan
Sam W
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Re: Having Feelings for Someone is making me feel Vulnerable

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Johnathan,

I'm so glad talking here is helpful!

Growing up in a purity culture setting can be so, so rough, and I'm glad to hear you're working on unlearning those messages. Is that something you'd like more resources on how to do? And do you feel like some of the trouble you're having processing your attraction to guys comes from those messages you got growing up?
JohnathanWorm
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Re: Having Feelings for Someone is making me feel Vulnerable

Unread post by JohnathanWorm »

Hey Sam,

If you have any resources you think could be useful that'd be pretty neat. I think that my religious upbringing has affected the way i view my attraction to people.
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Re: Having Feelings for Someone is making me feel Vulnerable

Unread post by Mo »

If you haven't seen our Impurity Culture series of articles, that might be a good place to start! In particular, the introduction and this article about sexual sin might be helpful.
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