...and I'm glad to finally know that this fear is what has been ruining my life.
I just found out today. I got the diagnosis from a counselor I've been seeing for a few months. It took him a while to figure it out because I had it so well hidden--from others and from myself.
I started with counseling because I was having trouble in my marriage. The sessions weren't doing much good for a while because I kept insisting that "it takes two to tango" and that my wife was not taking responsibility for her part of our problems. I continued to think that if she would just fess up and share the blame, we could get somewhere. I never admitted that it was ME.
Oh, I did some self-work: I knew that I was having difficult feelings and I worked on those, but I never understood them. I also worked at my communication skills, trying to speak better and listen more compassionately. I really thought that communication was the source of my relationship troubles and that my big, unspeakable fear was of abandonment. I was close, but not quite right. My communication problems are a symptom, but the underlying problem is that I am afraid that I will be rejected because of not being good enough.
So when my wife expresses negative things or avoids me, I am overcome by my worst, deepest fear: she is rejecting me because I'm not good enough. Then--overcome with painful feelings--I begin to shut down. I stammer, my head feels dizzy, my stomach feels queasy, my limbs feel weak and unsteady and I'm unable to function. I become the man without a voice, unable to speak because I'm choked with tears.
Now I have a diagnosis and with it a new sense of being able to work on my problem, along with the major insight that it is something that is MINE. Now I know how to be responsible toward it.
I feel like celebrating!
My wife--the only woman I have ever truly loved, the woman I dream about, the only girl for me--still wants a divorce.
I've had a great triumph today and a major defeat along with it.
Life is funny that way.