It was a conversation I had years ago with a life coach here in Phoenix which opened my eyes to how my ego was protecting me from the painful experiences of my son’s addiction while simultaneously blocking my healing. I have reflected often on the enlightenment obtained from this conversation and thought it might provide some perspective in your struggle.
In the middle of a painful adversity, our ego often builds a wall to help protect us from that which hurts us. Unfortunately, it is this same wall which prevents those who can help us most from getting in.
In our most difficult times, the greatest healing activity is practicing vulnerability, which is the opposite of our fight or flight mechanism. Vulnerability is the ability to completely trust someone with who we are, where we are. It requires us to knock down the wall our ego has built to protect us and be trusting enough to let helpful resources in.
In the conversation referenced at the beginning of this article, I was shown the behavioral bricks being used to build my protective wall. They were defined by these four words: Right, Good, Control, Win!
Everything I was doing in the face of my addiction driven crisis was to find ways to protect me from more pain and my survival skills were centered around being right, being good, being in control, and winning. This best describes how I have historically maneuvered, or powered through, other difficult situations in my life. While these activities enabled me to be externally strong, internally I remained broken and isolated or alone. They also prevented anyone reaching me, as my terms of engagement would require others to be wrong, be bad, cede control, or lose. Under these conditions, there isn’t much room for love, wisdom, collaboration, or education.
What I had created was an impenetrable barrier which isolated me from the very people most capable of providing me guidance in my struggle. It facilitated an environment where I had to be in complete control of the process and the outcome, unable or unwilling to admit I needed help. It didn’t leave much room for humility, vulnerability, trust or love. Only when my protective, unhealthy behaviors were exposed was I able to engage in the process of knocking down the walls built by ego, begin to admit I needed the support of others, and start asking for help and assistance from those I could trust with my struggle.
For a guy who is used to powering his way through most everything, who likes to believe he has control, and hates to admit he may need help, this took a significant, committed effort. Even though I have been extremely diligent in my quest to be humble and vulnerable while coming to grips with my delusions about control, it has only been in the past few months I finally realized what this all means and how it really works. Despite all these breakthroughs and successful experiences, I am still a work in progress on this front.
My call to action for anyone operating in the realm of protecting themselves from what they are struggling with and hiding behind a barrier built by the emotions of survival, is to find a personal community to connect into and trust them with who you are, where you are. Far too many people are looking for healing, guidance, and information on virtual community sites, especially on Facebook, because it is safe, easy, and convenient. You can find a great deal of information there, but you cannot and will not find the healing and the love in real community there. Being vulnerable is risky, it is uncomfortable, but it is essential for finding and accessing the resources needed most to help guide you through your most difficult times.
I have been the master of self-protection and sometimes still fall back on those unhealthy behaviors. Because I have experienced the incredible love, safety and protection in trusting my community, I also know the only place that really works to provide growth and healing is to trust yourself with someone else and be vulnerable with them.
If you are struggling with your own protective behaviors, discovering who and how to trust and be vulnerable, while battling an adversity which you cannot overcome alone, give me a call. Let’s walk this out together. Let me help you begin to knock down the walls and help you find the resources you need most!
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Join me on the podcast “100Pedals Talk: Inside the Blog” as I delve deeper into this post and share personal stories or reflections behind the article. (Note: The podcast relating to any particular blog is released on Thursday of the same week this blog is posted.) Subscribe to this podcast on I-Tunes here.
This week’s blog podcast episode: http://theaddictionconversation.libsyn.com/the-ego-and-barriers-to-healing
I would love to hear from you.
What issues are confronting you today? Where are you currently experiencing fear and shame relating to the struggles in your life? I have some pretty cool tools to guide you and would love to help. Please let me know if you need more: dave@100Pedals.com.