Permeability of our Defenses
Let's not become
the armor we put on
when we are afraid.
Defenses or armor are an important part of who we are. Our intuition and our brain chemistry tell us when we are in a dangerous situation and need to protect ourselves either through our "fright or flight" response or by emotionally shutting down. This is an evolutionary and biological imperative for physical survival.
However, many of us have been in situations that were not necessarily threatening physically (though in some cases were that as well) but were devastating emotionally. We learned, often at a very early age, to protect ourselves with a variety of armor- being tough, spacing out, distracting ourselves, addictions or compulsions, lashing out, pushing others away, to name simply a few. This often means we end up lonely and disconnected from others. Our fear ends up isolating us from the healthy connections that would be life-affirming and healing..
I like to think of the ideal defenses and armor as being light enough to put on quickly when needed and easy enough to take off when no longer needed. Or made of a material so permeable that it can keep out what is harmful and let in what is helpful. What images come to mind for you, both of your defenses as they exist now and what a lighter, less permanent armor might look and feel like? How might your life be different if your armor wasn't permanent or too heavy to remove easily? How would life feel if you weren't identified with your armor?
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Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley