My recent morning and evening reading has been focused on “Undefended Love,” by Jett Psaris & Marlena S. Lyons. Its thesis is that we all have created emotional defense mechanisms that are counter-productive for the most part: “In the same way that a suit of armor, while protecting, also restricts and constricts its occupant, defended personalities limit our ability to relate to others directly and intimately. Like a 90 lb. coat of metal, they also require a great deal of energy to support and maintain.”

The authors state that as children and young adults we lacked the confidence and emotional maturity to “sit“ with uncomfortable or painful emotions, confident that they would pass and tomorrow would be better. So we devised ways to deny or distract ourselves from our emotions, ways of thinking or behaving that frequently did not truly serve our best interests.

Growth lies in learning to be open with yourself, still your learned automatic reactions, and examine your beliefs hidden beneath your reaction. Examine your unresolved doubts about yourself, what uncertainties and feelings you are trying to keep from surfacing or having to face or deal with. “Undefended Love” calls this our cracked identity that we need to accept and heal, not conceal. We must face our deepest fears and resolve them or they will forever sabotage our lives and our relationships.

Psaris and Lyons recommend this simple “Stop, Look, Listen” technique.

Stop habitual reactions.: “If you normally withdraw, stay present. If you normally close your heart, encourage yourself to stay open. If you habitually withhold, disclose. If you tend to attack, take a deep breath and be still.”

Look at Yourself: Look at yourself, not your partner or others. Inquire into your own reaction and why you are so sensitive.
1. What self image is threatened in this interaction?
2. What self image is revealed that evokes shame or embarrassment? That you are uncomfortable with?
3. What inner support do you feel you need to tolerate the feelings invoked by #1 or #2 above? What attribute or strength or ability do you feel is missing? Needed?

Listen Deeply: Try to dive below the barrage of thoughts, feelings, and sensations and listen to your essential self. As you begin to feel calmer and more centered, come back into communication with your partner or appropriately re-engage the situation in a way that is less defended and less attached to your protections. Accept whatever progress has been made even if only small, incremental steps. Celebrate and begin anew.

Closing quote:
“You are not responsible for the programming you picked up as a defenseless child. However, as an adult, you are 100% responsible for fixing it.” – Ken Keyes, Jr.