What happens when your protective defense mechanisms have been shattered? The walls of the fort have been breached and you’re right in the raw pain. How do you protect yourself from the intensity?
Some people go on the attack when they feel threatened. Not me. Denial and trying to stay under the radar has been my strategy. Staying numb fits in with this and food has been a tool with a double benefit. I get to divert my attention from the pain of the moment and the added weight has been protective against sexual aggression. It’s not so protective of my health. The shame I feel and fat shaming from society works against me fully showing up for life and relationships. It adds to the suffering and forms a barrier to a meaningful life.
How do trauma and defense mechanisms work? Job 1 – protect and defend. Job 2 – protect and defend. Authenticity, intimacy and happiness are not on the radar for that part of us which is rooted in the limbic system or primitive brain. In our evolution, safety trumps everything else because it equals survival.
Our pre-frontal cortex goes offline when we feel threatened. We don’t have access to our more sophisticated, higher level of brain function until the situation resolves enough that we feel safe. Anyone with PTSD or who experiences compulsive anxious thoughts knows that first hand. It doesn’t make sense yet it happens anyway.
You know how some massage therapists dig in until the knot releases? That works for some people. Not me. I tense up when someone is going after something aggressively. I need to feel safe in order to let down my guard. Trying to get a muscle to relax by grinding on it doesn’t make sense to me. Relax, breathe and it naturally softens.
Through the Living Inquiries and Natural Rest I’ve become intimately familiar these mechanisms. I see how waves of needing to protect myself arise when I’m triggered by something. I also have direct experience of these dissolving. I can be present with the words, images and sensations that make up the experience of trauma. My strategy of denial and escape is less necessary now. I watch it arise with compassion and patience.
My camo gear is still close at hand for those times I need it. And that’s fine too. It’s doing its job. “Thank you for arising. I love you. You are welcome to stay.”
See also this previous blog from Scott Kiloby.
Lynn Fraser is a Certified Senior Facilitator Trainer and is available to help you see through persistent self-identification with words, thoughts, feelings, memories and sensations. http://nondualinquiry.com