Emotional Protection: The Problem with Having Too Much

trauma Sep 11, 2021

“We waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed, and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

When we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.

It’s like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real. Our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.”

Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have
Each of us has an innate desire to be loved, seen, validated, and open. 
But after experiences that cause us to feel shame, pain, humiliation, depression, or fear, we close up.
And we learn to cover ourselves up with thick layers of emotional protection.

We hide from the world and shelter ourselves in what we believe is keeping us safe from experiencing more pain.

But is it truly protecting us?

For many years, I walked around with what felt like a thick, heavy blanket covering me.

I was distanced from the world and separate from people and things that surrounded me.

My body did not feel like my own.

One day, I looked down at my arms and couldn’t even fathom that they were attached to me.

Almost as if they were someone else's arms.

I was completely disconnected.

And my dissociation grew stronger and stronger every day. 

Dissociation is a mental process that occurs when someone disconnects from their thoughts, feelings, memories, physical sensations, and sense of identity.

It’s our mind’s way of protecting us from painful memories and events of the past, present, or presumed future.

Disconnecting from our bodily experience means that we no longer have to experience the hurt.

But when we disconnect from our ability to feel the bad, we also disconnect from feeling the good. 

While the pain, sadness, fear, and anxiety become less intense, gratitude, joy, and connection also become less reachable.

Instead of experiencing highs and lows, we experience… nothing. We become a shell of ourselves, unable to feel anything at all. 

Like Mark Nepo says, covering ourselves up might help us feel protected and sheltered from potential harm.

But it also gets in the way of our ability to experience joy and the richness of living.

Healing means choosing to remove these layers of emotional protection and experiencing life exactly as it is.

It means taking the risk of experiencing pain so we can also experience the things that make life worth living.  

It means connecting back into our living experience.

Getting back into our bodies, feeling our heartbeat, grounding ourselves into our chair, feeling the sun on our face. 

It means trusting ourselves to feel every emotion that comes up.

And believing that we are strong enough to handle it.

Healing means that we can experience life the way our bodies are designed to experience it.

We do this not by shutting ourselves off to the world, but by opening ourselves up to experience life exactly as it is.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, feel things all the way through, and be present to whatever emotions arise, we can heal. 

I know how scary it can be to remove your gloves.

But you are safe. 

It’s okay to remove these layers of emotional protection--when you feel comfortable.

One day at a time, you can break down the rigid barriers you’ve hidden behind.

And the more we get into the habit of removing these protective layers, the more we can open ourselves to healing and moving forward. 

Is your emotional protection blocking your ability to have a healthy, loving intimate relationship? 

Is your emotional protection keeping you from having true intimacy?

Are you afraid that all of the walls you have will keep you from finding love?

Do you have a hard time believing that anyone would ever love you after everything you've experienced?

This is most likely your trauma talking. And there are ways to work around it. 

If you want to learn more about how your intimate relationships are impacted by trauma, you can take my Trauma-Informed Relationship Assessment!

In this assessment, you will understand how trauma has impacted your self worth as well as your ability to trust others, set healthy boundaries, practice healthy communication, and take care of yourself. 

Want to create healthy, safe, & loving intimate relationships after trauma?

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