Defense mechanisms really don’t protect us at all. In most cases, they help us hang onto behaviors that keep us from finding healing. Those things that we do to keep ourselves from getting hurt are often the very things that help to put us into situations that are likely to hurt us. Having had a major bout with alcoholism in my early twenties, I know firsthand that what I did to keep from feeling the pain was the thing that made me most vulnerable to those who sought to inflict it.
When I was 22, I made some big mistakes. The biggest of which was to start drinking alcohol in an effort to retaliate. I consider myself to be an intelligent person, but I have to admit that this was not the smartest thing I ever did. I caved to an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality. And before I knew what was happening, I was blacked out in my bed and being jolted into consciousness by a friend who decided that this was the right time to initiate a relationship with me. I hadn’t asked for this and I wouldn’t have even thought to. But this rape colored the next ten years of my life with the very darkest shades on the palette.
I fell into a pattern of drinking and having insignificant “relationships” with a variety of men. I tried to make these fit into something legitimate, but they weren’t. They were very feeble attempts at making myself feel normal. But no matter how hard I tried, I never felt anything but scared and broken. I eventually found myself moving tentatively toward what appeared to be healthy behaviors, only to stop short once things looked like they might work out well. I was so afraid of what would happen when that other shoe dropped that I could not allow myself to make any progress. It took a very long time for me to just trust that maybe everything couldn’t possibly turn out badly for me. And I still harbor remnants of those fears today.
Little by little, I am learning to reach confidently for the things that will contribute to living a healthy (at least emotionally healthy) life. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but as I’ve begun to fill the space with things that are meant to serve a Higher purpose, I’ve found that the climb isn’t nearly as daunting. You have to let yourself try. You have to accept that even if it doesn’t work out exactly as you wanted it to, it will never work out if you don’t start taking those steps. It’s almost impossible to reach the top when you’re always holding onto the bottom. Let go. It will not drop out. The bottom will stay where it is. That’s what it does. So feel free to leave it there and keep moving upward toward that Higher Ground.
47 Days of Self-Care is a blogging project that is being published between three different blogs owned by Author & Publisher, Rebecca Benston. Over these 47 days, she hopes to share thoughts and resources for better self-care. You can view related posts at Higher Ground for Life, at the Leading the Follower blog, and on the Higher Ground Books & Media blog.