You know the drill. You’ve been hurt or betrayed or lost someone you love and the most sane response you can come up with (short of ending up on the news or sleeping it off… forever) is to grow a thicker skin. It feels so safe and right. It’s the emotional equivalent of wearing pads and a helmet during a hockey game. It makes complete sense. Why continue to expose your emotional jugular when the risk is so high and the result so painful? Don’t invest emotionally, remain in control, insert yet another layer between you and intimacy, reject before risking rejection. Trust no one, count on nothing and you will rarely be disappointed. Right?
I know its tempting but lets talk honestly about the price you pay for that wall and the unanticipated effects that will last a lifetime.
1. LOVE. When you opt for the safety and security of emotional ambivalence you sacrifice the ability to give or feel love. Love requires intimacy and intimacy requires vulnerability. Period. There is no short-cut. You may find imposters and substitutes like passion and fun, admiration and sex, but these are very temporary and surface and never feel like love longer than the activity lasts. They cant reach that deep place in our souls that wants to be seen and heard and accepted unconditionally. Without vulnerability, “love” becomes an exchange of meeting needs or a co-dependent, dysfunctional dance. And haven’t we all been there too often and too long?
2. JOY. If your skin is thick enough to block out pain, you can be sure that true happiness and joy will be buried with the rest. In fact, it may be difficult to remember the last time you experienced positive emotion over the small and simple pleasures of life. When you are not filled with joy of being, you seek anything that will provide a strong release of chemicals like dopamine or oxytocin. Again, these are fleeting rushes of positive feeling that leak from our systems like water through your fingers. Because your wall prevents joy from the simple pleasures of beauty, connection, life and love, it seeks more acute sensation. You will find you require more frequent and intense versions of pleasure to keep that water flowing, ever unable to grasp something solid and sustainable. These substitutes look like addiction; to substances, food, sex, love, work, perfection, chaos, drama, money, acquisition, risk, and even pain just to remind yourself that you can feel something. Anything.
3. WISDOM. Yes, that is right. When you lose touch with pain and sadness and love and joy, you give up access to instinct, intuition and judgement. And you make bad decisions over and over again. Look closely at your track record. Once pain and disappointment led you to distance yourself from feeling, you lost the inside track to your gut. Studies show that the ability to make good decisions, whether its choosing the love of your life or breakfast cereal, relies on years of accumulated emotional connections that warn of danger or recognize opportunity (see links below). People who have given up vulnerability for emotional safety frequently report feeling stuck or frozen when making simple decisions and overwhelmed by life-altering choices. And when they do choose, they choose poorly, creating more pain and further reinforcing the need to build and buffer against feeling. You can still accumulate knowledge and information, but decisions become mathematical rather than instinctual, intellectual rather than wise.
4. BLESSEDNESS. I don’t know how else to describe this life condition. Its not luck or opportunity, but the ability to attract goodness into your world and relationships. There is an inherent worthiness that comes from going through hard things…through, not around. Feeling lost and broken, humbled and small and coming out on the other side fuller, braver and wiser and more comfortable in your thin skin. You have felt pain and you know you will feel it again and its good because you know you can withstand it. You give up the need to control (the refuge of those who don’t know yet that they can handle pain) and your life and relationships take on a natural, authentic flow. You feel healthy and worthy and you attract the same to you. Success is easier to come by and because you are in touch with your gut, you make better decisions and learn faster from honest mistakes. Blessed.
TBI and decision-making
TBI and Decision-Making
Emotional Trauma and Decision-Making