Letting Love In: My Trouble With Armor
I used to have a superpower. I used to be vulnerable. I used to wear my heart on my sleeve and express my innermost thoughts and feelings so easily. The room would relax. People would feel comfortable to be real with me, and I was a great role model for emotional intimacy. I seemed to inspire healing and closeness. At least, sometimes. It did not always work out. But most of the time it did. And in my own little corner of the universe, I was being true to myself and making the world better for it.
Then life happened, it chipped away at, or downright bulldozed and destroyed, my innocence. My propensity to trust others and believe what they said, caught up with me. The sad thing is, the people who hurt me- the ones who were truly toxic, manipulative and in rare cases abusive, were just a small few out of so many people. But in the aftermath of my vulnerability being used against me, you would think the whole world screwed me.
It is human is to lose innocence and put armor on. The ego (protective self,) it’s whole job is to keep us safe. We all have to grow up and learn how to do that. It is healthy to be discerning. That was one of life’s biggest lessons for me: who to trust? But I went to the other extreme. I stopped trusting anyone. I built the world’s best armor to compensate for not having any protection in my naive youth. I wore armor, hid in a fortress and built a mote around it! Anything to end the ‘getting the shit kicked out of me years.’
I did not see my life had become pure self protection. I certainly did not see it had taken over my life! Perhaps, I was not really living at all. In working with other survivors I started to put it together for myself. ‘Playing it safe’ really felt like the true way to heal. How could it not be after being knocked down one too many times? I was planning a workshop at a Domestic Violence Center with a clinician there and wanted the topic to be ‘trusting our intuition.’ She cautioned me not to use that theme. She used the example of how a survivor may hear a strong internal voice ‘it is not safe to go outside,’ even long after the threats are gone. That voice will seem like intuition to them, so the workshop could be upsetting. In that moment, quite humbly, I saw myself.
I thought my protective self
was my intuition for a long time.
The irony is, my protective self did save me. It was my rescuer. I had a lot of catching up to do in learning who NOT to trust, NOT to open up my heart to. My protective self pulled me back from the brink in adulthood, much like it is rescued me in childhood. It saved me. It was trying to help me and it did. But it was not my true self, or the intuition so generated from my heart and soul. My protective self was working overtime to keep my heart and soul buried- ‘for my own safety.’ ‘Not until you are ready’ ‘not until you are healed’ and all the other rationalizations getting more clever with each passing day.
I am not lost on the irony. My protective self became my prison keeper; my rescuer started and ended my recovery. I had to negotiate my release. Then came the internal war. It was no longer about anyone else. My rescuer was killing me in a slow and painful death. It was taking away my freedom, the true me - just a dopey puppy who wants to love everyone- piece by piece. It was turning my life into a mechanical, logical, lifeless, bunker zone. ‘Stay safe, build yourself up, get ahead.’ The one who saved me was now pulling me into darkness.
I started to become scared of everything; eating the right foods, saying the right things, heal and do inner work on a protect-yourself-from-pain conveyer belt, stand guard on a 24/7 people-with-narcissistic-personality-disorder lookout, all the while making that innocent survivor mistake the clinician explained to me, thinking the deep conviction in my (traumatized) cells was my intuition.
After I realized my protective self took over my life, I had to come to terms with the loss of all that time in hiding. Coming back has been a process. My rescuer did not want to release me! Healing only worked when I had compassion for my whole experience. Honestly, it has been messy. I had to understand the different players in me, survival instincts intertwined with beams of holy light, intertwined with lies, detours, and some old fairy dust. I had to love the struggle itself. I say to myself 'of course you don’t want to come back after what happened to you. What happened was horrible. But it is not happening now. I promise. Let’s take it step by step. And, I am listening to ALL of how you feel.'
I had to love, not resist or make wrong,
the part of me that refused love.
But I also had to see it for what it was,
armor that was costing me everything.
In my favorite place, in private communion with another safe soul - be it friend, family, helper or one of my beloved clients, my heart was back. That is maybe the one place I never left. It was up to it’s old self like no time had passed, in all of it’s gory; human, vulnerable and unscripted. My heart gets bigger everyday. Each heartfelt conversation and connection melts the armor away.
The biggest shifts have been through internal work. It has been how I talk to myself, stay aware of the internal players and observe who is trying to drive. The all-out-war became a power struggle, became a tense but improving truce, as I honor the internal soldier. I say to them, 'Thank you for saving me, and trying to save me still. You don't have to save me anymore. We are ok now. You can help me stay safe, you can help me discern who to trust. But you are not responsible for me anymore. You can let go'. Much to my amazement they are finally starting to believe me! My entire inner being shifts in response. I feel a wave of peace. I can rest into my body and feel RELIEF! As the internal soldier lets go the armor drops. Then I feel my heart. Every single time this happens is a tremendous victory for me. I know eventually it won't be as much work, it will be normal to FEEL safety, love and true freedom, not just understand it.
It’s coming together now. I feel like my old self, only the new and improved, veteran version. I would not go back to before it all fell apart. I like being smarter! And hec did I ever earn wisdom from experience. Now I have a healthy internal guard on standby who is actually becoming my friend. We are working it out. One thing is for sure, I am kicking the crappy old armor to the curb. It can sink to the bottom of the mote on my way out of the fortress. No more keeping the good stuff out. I feel the sun and rain in equal measure. I feel my heart, soul and JOY even, as well as the pain, uncertainty, fear, rage, grief, humanity, unknown, and my heart beating fast. I am feeling all of it. It’s not just a concept while staying numb and separate. So back to my superpower, this means being vulnerable. I got this. I am letting people see me! I am letting people in, letting them love me. It makes me hyper! It makes me nervous too, but it's the good kind of nervous. Here I am in all my imperfections, wounds, scars, mistakes and insecurities; here I am in all this mess (ME, LOL.)
I let love in.
Marie Kondo gets it. She would love the real me. Hehe. ;-)
Ps. I would love to hear your comments below! I love solidarity, connecting and learning about what resonates! Could you relate to this blog? I would love to hear what your own process has been like, letting love in. <3