Shedding Armor for Survivors of Childhood Abuse
Incest recovery involves losing your armor one piece at a time.
Needless to say if you have been following this journey you will appreciate the fact that I was wearing a ton of armor. If you have not been following this journey then In the Beginning will recap everything quite nicely for you. Anyway, I packed armor on to protect myself and to keep from being hurt again. My survival skill of putting on armor gradually became a burden. As I progressed through recovery, it actually was slowing my progress down. I couldn't open up and be close to people, when I kept everyone on the far side of all that armor. I began to realize – with growing trepidation – that I was going to have to take off the armor to let people in, because I needed human interaction. I needed friendships and I needed love. It still sometimes sounds weak and weird to admit that… which also shows how far I went into my alienation from main stream society.
Well, taking off armor can only happen in stages. A little bit comes off here and there. Now with me- I had a falling sensation. Like I had stepped off of a cliff and was falling. Every single time I have taken off a layer of armor, it is so scary and uncomfortable. I get breathless, like hyperventilating almost. I get shaky, my hands tremble, my knees get weak, I get light-headed, a fluttery stomach, and I go through all these physical manifestations of fear and anxiety. Luckily for me, I have been able to shed armor in mostly loving situations. If you are not in a safe and loving environment, you may want to be more selective about stripping off your armor.
We all have things inside of us – habits, thought patterns, behaviors – that we cling to or hold inside of us. It is really a valuable skill to develop the ability to look at yourself, without condemnation, and be able to admit to yourself when you need to let go of a certain behavior or thought pattern. And the reverse. To acknowledge when you need to adopt a new habit, thought pattern, or behavior. Knowing when you need to change and having the courage to make those changes is very Empowering and Enlightening. Things you keep bottled up inside can become a huge weight that you are carrying around. My analogy is this- if your arms are full carrying around and holding onto mistrust of everyone, then you won't have room in your heart to trust or to open up. As survivors of childhood abuse, you need to set that burden down and walk away from it so that now you have room in your heart for better, healthier feelings and thoughts.
Shedding armor is a similar process. I have taken off armor and felt so uncomfortable (because I did not have new skill sets in place for feeling strong) that I put it back on. So, definitely you need to be in a safe environment… and definitely you need to have skill sets in place to lean on if you feel at risk of being hurt, BEFORE YOU take off the armor. Example- when I first decided to take off some of my armor I was wearing to keep people out, I realized I didn't have good boundaries. So I temporarily put the armor back on and developed better boundaries. Like when someone asks you to do something, I felt I always should say yes. Or when someone wanted something from me I felt I had to give it to them. Not good boundaries. So, my point is, as you shed armor that protected you… figure out what it was protecting you from. Make sure you have new skill sets in place so that you are not vulnerable.
Allow yourself time during your incest recovery to adapt to the world in your new exposed skin. It will take time. But truthfully, I am so glad I have been able to shed tons of armor over the years. Summer of 2009, I took off another layer of armor and I went through all the same reactions. It took about 2 weeks to regain solid footing. I felt very vulnerable but I am not a victim anymore. I am in a safe environment, and if something were to happen to me I can protect myself. I am glad that I took the armor off because I now have deeper relationships, I have a lighter weight on my shoulders, I have more room in my heart for good things, and I have better skill sets. Just all around, I grew and became a much stronger person for letting go of my armor.
Armor Shedding Tips
You need a safe environment to shed armor in.
You need skill sets that you have previously thought through that will cover situations that you needed the armor for in the first place.
Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, you will rise up again whole and renewed!