Emotional armor is characteristic of people who have suffered intensely. It’s the protection they’ve chosen to avoid getting further hurt and broken. It’s a response to their need for a safety mechanism.
Living with emotional armor isn’t fun, because behind it is the fear of getting hurt. This is one of the most paralyzing fears that a person can have, and it’s the force that drives us to put up walls, harden our heart, and live anesthetized. Sometimes, the force of circumstances makes it seem like there’s no other option for those who are most sensitive and vulnerable. Life can become exhausting and wear people down to the point where they prefer to protect themselves and stop feeling as much as possible, rather than experiencing the stinging of their wounds.
Suffering wears us down
Life isn’t an easy path that guarantees us happiness. Uncertainty, instability, and suffering are necessary conditions of living, and we will face them better if we’re able to anticipate them and prepare ourselves for them. No one is immune to suffering, so it’s essential that we learn how to handle it; otherwise, the darkness can devour us.
Living means facing risks, accepting that things won’t always go the way we’d like; embracing moments of happiness, but also accepting the fact that suffering will knock at our door and test us from time to time.
Managing the blows and letting our wounds heal isn’t an easy job
We don’t always have the best help, resources, or strategies, and even when we do, sometimes we don’t know how to use them. Some people face disappointments and unforeseen circumstances better than others, who may allow themselves to be emotionally overwhelmed by them, and decide to protect themselves to put an end to their suffering. The method that we use to deal with such situations will influence their daily lives, for better or worse.
Walling yourself off inside yourself can be a false form of protection
Each of us has our own defense mechanism, our personal shield to defend ourselves against pain and to avoid suffering. It’s normal. Somehow, we have to keep the most fragile part of ourselves safe, and we have to make ourselves strong in the face of possible threats and inconveniences.
Not allowing ourselves to feel at all, so as not to suffer, is a mistaken strategy that we may turn to repeatedly because at some point it ensured our survival. We must be careful, because when we use it, we pay a high price: we end up empty inside. This is the fine print on the contract that we don’t always read, and which we don’t always take into account before we begin to build barriers.
Often, those who hide behind their armor make such excessive use of this defensive attitude that they end up distancing themselves from other people. Their fear of injury is so great that, even though they don’t want to, they end up pushing away all those who try to get close to them with no other intention than to get to know them and, in some cases, love them. This happens because those who protect themselves so energetically already have some weakness in their armor, the result of some past experience.
The best remedy: empathy and kindness
What remedy is there for getting past the armor of those who have suffered so much? Above all, it’s important to say that armor is removed little by little.It’s a process that needs doses of love, understanding, patience, acceptance, and of course, effort.
There are no magical solutions. You need a profound connection with others and with yourself. When we try to relate to someone who is wearing emotional armor, we need to understand that in most cases, when they reject us, it’s not the person who speaks, but their fear: that immense monster that possesses them and makes them believe that anesthetizing themselves is the best way to face life while avoiding suffering.
An important part of the relationship is having the empathy to understand their fears. These individuals need affection. People become ready to change when they feel accepted, because someone has reached their soul and loved them.
The Jesuit trick to healing past hurts
As Kind as You Don’t Want to Be