The Armored Heart Part III: Removing the Plates
You’ve been amplifying your resilience (See my blog post on Part II) and have noticed that you can take emotional hits without shattering — as much. Great! Be patient with yourself as you develop a more resilient heart. Like any growth process, it takes time and energy to accomplish.
Meanwhile, it might be time to start peeling back some layers of armor. Why should we do that? How should we do that?
Why. As we noted earlier (Part I), armor creates a barrier to incoming pain. But it also creates a barrier to incoming joy, love, friendship and caring. If we can peel back our armor, we allow ourselves to connect with the good stuff in life. As long as we have developed some resilience skills, we will be better equipped to deal with real life rather than shield ourselves against it.
How. After practicing and learning skills to become RESILIFIED, we can start removing the armor, plate by plate. This can happen by taking small risks with trusted people. Here are some possibilities:
1. Be a little vulnerable. Let some of your warts and flaws show. If you are having some struggles, share that with a “safe” person. Don’t armor up with sarcasm, dishonesty, or concealment. You might say, “Yeah, things aren’t going so good with my job. I’m not sure it’s going to work out. It really sucks.”
Then the listener has the chance to do one of two things:
• Availability: If the listener is emotionally available, he/she will empathize or join with you with something like, “Really? I had a job that I got fired from. . . it was a drag. So what is the worst part about work? Your boss?” When you find somebody who can connect with your heart-felt feelings, then perhaps you should get to know that person better. Probably be a friend.
• Avoidance: If the listener is emotionally unavailable, he/she will avoid the subject of emotions and probably make a joke or change the subject. “Ummm,” they might say, “So hey, what about that last Yankees game?” You don’t need to reject someone who may be emotionally unavailable, but just understand that they can’t really connect authentically. You might just keep things superficial, right? Recalibrate any negative thoughts that might pop up (Part II).
2. Reach Out. Do or say something kind every single day for 2 weeks and record any good responses. Sure, sometimes people will ignore or not trust you, but if you keep reaching out, somebody will eventually respond well. And don’t forget to reach out to those who are often forgotten — not just to people who are popular or the center of attention. The less popular people will appreciate your gestures the most. If people don’t respond well, recalibrate your thoughts and seek feedback from a trusted friend, family member or counselor.
3. Say Yes. If you get invited to be with people for anything healthy (and safe) then by all means, say “yes.” Don’t let negative self-talk keep you from being social or trying new things. Peel back a little armor during the hang-out session and see who is emotionally available.
4. Be really bad at something. Monitor your self-talk and don’t let fears and negative thoughts keep you from experiencing things you might enjoy. You can be really bad at something and still like it. Everyone is really bad compared to the experts. Really bad at art? Paint anyway. Really bad at sports? Play anyway. Really bad at talking to people? Socialize anyway. It’s a great way to peel back your armor, and if it is a little awkward, you can rely on your resilience skills to keep yourself in the game. Plus, it’s a great way to do #1.
5. Talk to someone. When you find yourself feeling hurt or angry, talk it over with somebody who is a good listener. This could be a teacher, co-worker, family member, clergy or counselor. Don’t hide your frustrations under armor.
Of course, some people really are destructive and there is nothing wrong with putting some distance between you and someone who is hurtful. Just remember that not EVERYONE is out to injure you. In fact, most people are pretty nice.