“It seems like I carry a shield around me to protect me so I don’t get hurt” she said. We were working on her struggle to open up and be close to people. As we paid attention to her moment to moment experience in her body it became clear that the same shield blocking her from being touched by the outside world was also blocking her from experiencing her inner world. Protected against the possibility of hurt she was also disconnected from the possibility of feeling authentically close.
Are you going through life with the goal of staying protected rather than connected?
Another person said to me “I was left alone too much as a small child, and there were times that were very scary for a little one. I have a vision of a wall I had to build up to not feel things.”
These protective patterns from long ago are burned into our nervous system and often operate automatically, out of our awareness. Somewhere inside there is a memory of something that felt like danger long ago, and the body is reacting as though the danger is here and now. But things are different now, We are adults and our brain is so much more able to manage what we feel.
We need to stay present in the body and feel our anxious arousal and find out that it is a signal of vulnerability, an invitation to growth. It is not actually a threat to our safety.
Vulnerability is the truth that we have limits to our control over outcomes that matter to us. There is uncertainty and loss, and this is the nature of being alive and human. In any given moment we may face such limits – time, the economy, the weather, other people, physical limits of our bodies, our own emotions… so many forces play a role in the outcomes that matter to us and we do not have ultimate control over how things play out.
These limits stir up uncomfortable feelings inside – muscle tension and agitation. They seem to signal impending threat to our safety. But they do not. They are just feelings. Unlike children who must rely on older wiser others to navigate their uncomfortable feelings of vulnerability, we adults have the capacity to hold ourselves in that difficult truth. With practice we can strengthen our ability to be present and tolerate and regulate our feelings.
They are only feelings after all.
Hurt is not harm and we can risk being here now. We can risk feeling and being our real selves and sharing ourselves with significant others.
It is a loving act of faith to live as though you do not have to be shielded from hurt, guarded from the possibility of others’ rejection, protected from “danger”. This life is not an endurance test. You are here to connect with the power and freedom you were born to experience. You are here to connect with others who want to know you in your most authentic self. You are here to connect with this brilliant interconnected network of life.
Begin by connecting with you, in the moment in the body. Bring your full attention to the physical sensations in this exact moment and stay there with warm interest and nonjudgement. There is nothing more important than what it feels like to be you. Start there. Connect.
You are so worth it.
Photo Credit: DBeing