How comfortable do you think a medieval knight was in his full armor? Chain maille is heavy, as is a suit of arms to be honest. Dragging all that extra weight around, restricting his movement and his view of the world. Still it kept him safe from sword blows, lance attacks, and even from arrows. So it made sense that he kept that armor on when he was heading for the fight.
But imagine that he couldn’t take his armor off. How would he be able to eat, sleep, bathe or do anything to keep himself happy and healthy in peace time?
Seriously armor has it’s uses, but there comes a time to take it off.
Weighing Myself Down
Growing up within a toxic family meant I was in a constant state of emotional warfare. Unsurprisingly, I developed my own personal emotional armor to protect me from the constant folly of attack. This armor took many forms, and encompassed anything from the preemptive strike, to extreme people pleasing. The most prevalent feature was to simply stop connecting to my emotions.
What I don’t feel, I don’t have to deal with.
Much of my life I spend with my head firmly in the sand. The only way for a person, and especially a child, to survive a toxic family situation, is to block out what is really going on. Yet as longs as we refuse to deal with the experiences and emotions it brings, we are likely to repeat the toxic pattern.
Just as much as we need to address behavioral patterns we developed from the abuse, we have to address the emotional strategies we have put in place.
You Have More Control Than You Think
We often think that emotions are environmentally triggered. After all, when we encounter a bad situation, we feel negative emotions such as fear, anger or anxiety. And when we are in good situations we feel joy, love or gratitude. In fact it is a little bit more complex than that…
Your emotional responses derive more from you appraisal of your circumstances. It is your appraisal that triggers the physiological responses, changes in your posture, voice, facial expression, you name it. It is those changes that in turn influence your behavior. Since the emotions derive from your appraisal of your circumstances, you always have the choice to reevaluate the situation, and change your emotional and behavioral response (rephrased from: video lecture for Positive Psychology by Cousera).
Breaking Through the Armor
By that reckoning you have the ability to re-frame your emotional responses. In order to do so, you need to be in touch with your emotions. And like I said, I was still wearing my emotional armor. So how did you manage to shatter the emotional armor, I hear you wonder. Well, I have only partly succeeded so far. But that is all part of the journey of life. If I had it all figured out, what would there be left, eh?!
Starting a Meditation Routine
What really made a big impact is starting a meditation routine. Spending some time with yourself in quiet is a good way to connect with your thoughts and emotional state. This can be a spiritual as you like it to be, there is no right or wrong here. Just taking that time out to spend some time with yourself is beneficial, and will help you to find the clasps of your emotional armor, and help get them undone.
I personally love taking that 15 minutes of quiet time in the morning, before the rest of the house wakes up. It starts my day grounded and relaxed, but you may find you have other preferences. Below is a meditation I particularly like, but YouTube is full of them, and I like to mix it up a bit. Every one will bring a different spark to the exercise, and can help you find different ways to break down your emotional armor.
You may also find that you prefer different ways of meditation all together. Maybe you prefer to be running on the treadmill while listening to a meditation, or maybe cycling through the woods is your ultimate way to spend time with yourself. It is all up to you.
Learning That You Are Safe
This is about spending some time with yourself, and learning to be kind to yourself too. Learn that you are now in a situation where it is safe to experience your feelings and emotions. There is no longer any need to protect yourself with this armor, because you are no longer at war.