“All defensiveness and emotional tumult is a fear response because of your need for acceptance and ruthless control of the territory of your safe fantasy world.”
– Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life
A very dear friend, once she’d gotten to know me, described my resistance to change as having meticulously lined up a defense of toy soldiers, surrounding me to combat threats from all angles — perceived threats, that is. Usually, these threats came in the form of quite sensible advice given to me by my friends.
This advice is always well intended, but I instinctively seem to have one (or a dozen) of these little defensive buggers ready to block and to bat away any such helpful suggestions. I use them as an excuse as to ‘why’ I can’t possibly follow the advice. Of course, some of the advice never really applies to my situation, but often these insights from my friends are spot on, golden nuggets. Yet I am still resistant to heed them, or even consider what they have to say.
Toy soldiers to the rescue! I always have the right answers as to why taking the offered advice would be impossible. Inconceivable.
“Perhaps you could see your doctor to help you with your depression,” one friend might suggest.
“Oh yes,” I reply (without making the comment that they must really think I am an idiot for not thinking about this myself, which of course I had), “BUT…” —and
this little three-letter soldier is the footman of my army— “but I’ve talked to my general practitioner and he won’t do anything for me.”
I go on to explain that the only thing he did was to give me the number for my MediCal insurance mental heath referral line (which is printed on the back of my insurance card, duh!) and that I’ve called said number and got a runaround. The insurance rep I spoke with had no clue how to help me (perceived ineptitude), and that the three referral numbers he gave me were to psychiatrists that were not currently accepting patients… or whatever (more defensive excuses). I also go on to state that in the past—and here’s where I draw upon the cavalry of my defenses—that I have had poor experiences with psychiatrists. I tell them I’ve been told, “If you want to sleep, you’ll sleep,” and I go on to explain that “every medication they gave me kicked my ass and didn’t do anything for me other than make everything worse.”
Then I finish off with the salvo from the cannons… “Besides, my insurance company probably won’t cover the meds that will actually work for me, if such meds exist.” My little guys are efficient and defensive and… well, they really like blanket statements and generalizations and to jump to conclusions that have no basis in reality.
Now understand, these toy soldiers don’t just deflect helpful advice from friends, I’ve actually used them to fortify my entrenchment and to keep myself from change that I know is beneficial to my well-being. I think in a way we all may do this to one extent or another when things look scary. Change is not easy. It CAN BE scary. Very scary.
And silly as it sounds, I’ve become addicted to being in a rut. It is more comfortable to stay hunkered in my tight trenches fraught with angst than to even peek out and consider that I am not, in fact, at war with anyone or anything. And when I take a few steps away from myself and look back, I find it incredibly humiliating to see that defensive child with his toys and stubborn, immature ways. That little kid isn’t who I want to be. He isn’t me. And those soldiers are doing nothing for me except maintaining a status quo that I have absolutely no desire to perpetuate.
The first thing I’ve done is to recognize those little powerhouse wimps (the soldiers) and acknowledge them for what they are. And when I recognize them, I can better bat them aside and actually listen to the helpful advice of my friends (or do what I know to be best for me, instead of hiding in my fortress of well-accustomed misery). They’ve served a purpose, but they are no longer useful as is. Why keep those ineffectual tools in my arsenal when I’m using them all wrong?
I am smarter than that!
Now please understand, this isn’t something I’ve just discovered. I have known about them for years, decades even. I guess that lately, they’ve been in the forefront of my mind. These excuses are not serving me. The defenses are simply keeping me entrenched. I need to kick the soldiers to the curb. And I guess that is part of why I am writing this overly long post. By writing this out, it really helps me understand what makes me tick, and also helps me make a concrete effort to set these little guys aside, to see what they do (and don’t do) for me, and more importantly to recognize what they keep me from accomplishing.
STAND DOWN, SOLDIERS!