The Depth Beneath Our Protectors

In my last blog, I wrote to you about our darling protectors. I taught you about how our emotions and the “protectors” in our internal system are there to protect us. Our protectors quickly stand on high alert for us when they see or feel a perceived threat. Yet left untamed or misunderstood protectors can actually do the opposite causing more harm than good. Our protectors are fierce defenders that want to be seen so that we can be safe. The problem is they often come out with their boxing gloves on. When you’re leading a life with a spacious, loving heart the boxing gloves are a little far from your integrity. The work then becomes slipping off the boxing gloves while listening to the message your protectors are trying to convey.

As a behavior analyst, emotions were not something I studied through my clinical training. I studied behaviors you can observe. I’m nearly confident that at some point in my early 20’s, I posted something on social media to the tune of, “Emotions aren’t real!” I was super fun in my 20s and by fun, I mean I was really outspoken without enough life experience to back it up. But as time and life went on the impact of emotions on my own quality of life, as well as clinical practice were undeniable. Brene Brown stands correct that we are emotional beings, that sometimes think, and always behave. Our emotions are at the root of our humanity. As I began to understand the role of our emotions and internal family systems my eyes were opened. I could clearly see how tending to our emotions is the only way to live in alignment with our integrity. Our emotions are the soul of our life experiences and most of the behavior we observe is connected to them.

Emotions Beneath Our Protectors

In looking at emotions this way, as an integral part of our lived experience, we can begin to understand how to tend to ourselves in a loving and compassionate way. This can be important with our positive emotions, we want to know what brings us joy! But for today, I’m going to write about the emotions beneath our protectors. As I’ve walked through some incredibly difficult times in my life, it was fear that kept me away from myself and it was love that set me free. When my protectors showed up with gloves on, which was often for a period of my life, I led my life with a racing heart unable to see my way out. The fear felt front and center, my protectors at the wheel, with me riding as a passenger in my life.  This was not a life I wanted. I would get through a situation defending myself only to feel worse. The emotional hangover of letting fear drive you is filled with shame and guilt.

As the years passed and I was able to work through my emotions one tricky experience at a time I began to form a new understanding of my fear. In the past few weeks, as I’ve navigated a bump in my fear road, this new understanding fully formed. I’m not a perfect person, or divinely brilliant. But I am a human who has been through an awful lot and have chosen to use education as well as self-reflection to navigate my own life. So, here we go, here is my profound thought:

“Fear is not a fear of the world, it is a fear that in the end, we will not be able to support the emotions that pulse through our being.

This thought came to me as I was putting my boxing gloves down and listening to my protectors. Time and time again their message was, “I don’t want to feel like this.” When I was walking through a situation that caused negative emotions of course I didn’t want the situation. But I know that when life presents hardships it’s not a reflection of my worth and I know how to work through almost any difficult situation well.

Protectors Protect, Wise Presence Comforts

What my protectors were afraid of was that I would shift into an emotion that made me feel low. As my protectors, they don’t want that for me which is why they go into high gear when the world is tricky and hard. But as I sank into this new understanding of what my protectors were really afraid of I was able to begin to have tea with them. As my heart raced, my face burning, with fear or sadness building I placed a gentle hand to my heart, “Hello darling, I see you, you can tell me, I am here.” The more I came with curiosity, the more I was able to understand what my subconscious mind was creating. I was able to bring my deeply rooted fears into consciousness and with this awareness release them. Through this healing work, I was able to see that what my protectors were running from was fear.

As I’ve been able to go beneath the surface of my protectors; I’ve been able to extend my loving hand to my emotions that are hard. A little while ago I had a very challenging day that involved facing some serious bullies. Throughout the day I stayed within my integrity, but in the shower, I wept because my body needed to release the sadness. Then, breath by breath I murmured, “Jessie, darling, it’s okay you are brave baby, all is well.” In the past I would not have been able to hold my sadness, I would have stayed in anger over the day I had. Yet going beneath the surface to extract what I really feel and offer it care is the most impactful thing I’ve ever done.

How about you darling? Do you have protectors in your life trying to keep you safe but by doing so are keeping you separate from that kind heart of yours? If I were a betting woman I’d bet we all do. Could you instead of fighting against the world, pour a cup of tea and listen to your fears? I bet you can and when you do I’m certain you will hear, “Who will keep me safe?” I also know you are also brave enough to reply, “Me darling, I am here and will carry us home to our heart.” Live bravely darling, feel your feelings, and do not be afraid, be present, caring, and kind.

Jessie Cooper

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