I have been thinking about the things I do to try to protect myself. Here are several of them that I thought through. I am sure I have more but this is what I came up with so far.
Constantly looking for data and patterns: I have gathered a lifetime of data, and in my mind, any behavior that closely resembles or relates to past experiences of hurt will trigger and tell me to be on guard and be prepared to be hurt.
Constantly analyzing myself: I analyze everything about myself, every negative or perceived negative comment about me has been stored and can be pulled up at any point in time. I use this to help me prepare for possible rejection or abandonment. If I know what is wrong with me, no one can surprise me, and then I will know why they are leaving or rejecting me.
Combing over words: I look up words and definitions and have since I was a child. Because I do not understand what people mean by body language and other cues, I have relied on their words and actions to be my source of understanding. The problem is that people still do not use words with their “proper” definition, and it is based on interpretation. A lot of the times, their actions do not align with their words, and this has caused me a lifetime of confusion. It also brought about the constant feeling of being wrong. I finally get it! There are always exceptions to the rules! Also, people give themselves license to do the exception when it’s convenient, but often judge others for breaking the same rules. I don’t understand it, but I get it.
Making rules: I have given myself strict rules to follow to protect myself. An example is when I became a Christian, I revamped my life completely. I stopped drinking, smoking, cussing, dancing (for a while, until I found churches with dance ministries), listening to secular music, and watching R-rated movies. I got rid of TV, I read nothing but the bible and Christian books. I stripped myself of me completely so that I could stop myself from feeling. Movies, music, literature, books about science, poetry, and biographies that I read often made me feel. They made me think, they made me question and in order to protect myself from operating out of my perceived past identity of “Wrong Angel,” I adopted what I thought was “Right Angel”. The truth? I thought I could “fit in” if I could just pull it off. But I could not pull it off, so then I felt like a failure and went into more self-preservation.
Having rituals: Another form of trying to protect myself was creating a home with no chaos. I kept my apartment spotless and everything was perfect. Once I had kids, that was impossible and it made me a nervous wreck. It was the only thing I could control and it was out of control and was a constant reminder of failing. If the house was not cleaned and organized, I had failed at being a good housewife. I nearly drove myself to a nervous breakdown in our last house trying to keep it perfect. Let me just say having three toddlers, one on the autism spectrum who was not talking or feeding himself and having meltdowns all day, taking him to therapy, serving in three ministries, writing bible curriculum, and being emotional support to my mom, my husband and people at church nearly caused me to lose my mind. Not to mention no one listening to me about Daniel being autistic. AND my biggest worry was keeping a clean house? Yes, it was the only thing I could control. A clean and orderly house gives me peace of mind. However, I have learned that it just cannot happen right now.
Saying it before anyone else can: My way of dealing was constantly pointing out what was wrong with me and how I failed before someone else could. This recently came to mind when a friend told me to stop with my “crazy” talk. I had called myself crazy quite a few times in an email and didn’t even realize it. That interaction made me realize how often I say negative things about myself that I don’t really even believe but I just say them so that no one else can. I am trying to protect myself from them saying it first. David has asked me throughout the years why I say certain things like that, but I have not had answers. I know that other people often say things negative about themselves to get positive reinforcement, like “Oh, I look so ugly” – they may just feel that way for the day and want someone to make them feel better. I do not say it for someone to make me feel better, I say it so they can’t say it to me! Because I can’t read them, I am unsure as to what they are going to say. So I automatically assume it will be negative. I then go over all the possible negatives and then say them out of protection. I don’t even feel that way about myself, I just don’t want to be surprised!!
I am gaining a lot of freedom here, and I sure hope others can relate to this as well.
My “Fix Me” story is not me directly at this time, it was the feeling of wanting to understand. I captured the desperation of giving up because the world was just too hard to understand. I did pray that often throughout my life but I believe I am receiving the answers to my prayers by making the choice to face this stuff. I believe I am being fixed by getting a whole new perspective on what “fixing” means. Being fixed is operating in your whole self. It also means dealing with all of the past hurts that have caused parts of you to hide away out of fear, build boundaries and rules out of fear, and form your own cage. It is a cage that locks away all of the greatness hidden inside of you that can help others and help them to walk in their wholeness too. We are not alone in our fears and we do not have to live in our own personal cages. We are free to face these hard fears and deal with the hurt in order to gain true pleasure.
If we are not willing to face the real hurt inside of us, how will we really know what joy is?