Imagine: you’re playing a round of golf, and someone yells “Fore!” as a golf ball flies in your direction. Do you duck? Cover your head in self-defense?
Regardless of the specifics, you would probably assume some sort of protective stance in response to this possibly dangerous situation. And because the threat was a physical one, you would have been concerned with protecting your body – your head, face, etc.
But, did you ever consider the ways in which you protect yourself… emotionally?
You may not be aware of it, but most people put on their “emotional armor” as a means of protection when they are around certain types of people or situations. For example, let’s say you work for a boss who is inflexible – you know, a “my way or the highway” kind of person. How do you behave around him or her? You probably either try to steer clear of this person as much as possible, or you repress your true feelings, quietly fuming and keeping your rebellious thoughts bottled up inside.
A client I worked with, Taylor, once worked for a domineering, inflexible supervisor like this; and in her situation, she chose both paths of emotional protection – spending her days avoiding the person and feeling quietly resentful when she was forced to interact with him.
But what Taylor didn’t realize – and what you may not be aware of – is that whenever you feel “triggered” to protect yourself, you’re actually replaying a similar dynamic from an earlier time in your life.
Years ago, there was probably an influential person in your life who exhibited a negative attribute that made you bristle. As a child, you would not have had the maturity to deal with these challenges and stand up for yourself, so you sought refuge from this person and his or her demands. As a result, you would have developed some sort of coping mechanism: maybe you learned to avoid uncomfortable situations and people… or you adopted a physical posture – like hunching over – to metaphorically shield yourself… or you may have developed some other strategy that seemed to “work.”
Now, whenever you encounter a situation or person that is similar, you react using the responses that developed earlier in life. And even though this mode of protection has become somewhat comfortable for you, the accompanying feelings of anger, anxiety, and repression are far from healthy.
To end this unconscious pattern, you’ll need to reconnect with that earlier trauma and heal it from within. Once you release those wounds, your former triggers and any resulting self-sabotaging behaviors will quickly subside.
At this point, you might be concerned that if you stop “protecting” yourself, you will become an open target for toxic people and circumstances; however, you can rest assured that is not the case. What you can count on is being able to live life in a much healthier way. You’ll be able to sort through the data quickly and easily, and with this clarity, you’ll immediately know whom you can trust and which situations are positive and healthy. You will no longer need to create an invisible barrier between yourself and others, either. Instead, you’ll know whom to let into your life – and whom to keep at a distance. Similar to what I discussed in Barriers to Intimacy, you’ll attract relationships that are authentic, and you will approach new challenges and situations in life with anticipation and confidence – rather than with fear of the unknown and timidity.
To release those personal triggers that cause you to feel the need to emotionally protect yourself, use my upcoming guided By dismantling that wall of emotional protection, you’ll start building build a healthy bridge to the people and situations that you truly want in your life!