As survivors of childhood sexual abuse, or any type of abuse, we have learned to be guarded. While that is completely understandable and a normal mindset to have, it’s important to be open to the possibility that someday we can maybe let our guard down.
Wait! What? Are you kidding me?? Actually let my guard down and be vulnerable? How is that ever a good idea?!
I’m opening myself to being hurt again, I’m opening myself up to pain and invalidation. I’m getting flashbacks of my abuse and how I felt when I was right smack dab in the middle of it! The daily stress, anxiety, worry, emotional and physical toll, the lie I was living and maybe still am.
Why is it ever a good idea to let our guard down?
OK, well let’s explore that and see. Trust me, all of that stuff I just mentioned, I have said that to myself more times than I can count. I still work through the inner turmoil of letting my guard down in nearly every facet of my life.
Weekly sessions, friends, relationships, you name it and I struggle with being open to something other than having the guards at my castle gate reinforced and on full alert. After all, my heart and very well being is on the line here.
The old saying, “once bitten, twice shy” or “hurt me once, shame on you…hurt me twice, shame on me” both are quite fitting with how we tend to approach our healing journey and any type of relationships.
So…relationships, what a scary situation that can be. Have you been hurt in the past, not just from abuse (which is bad enough) but also from perhaps divorce/break up, being double crossed by a friend or family member, or any other situation where you gave and gave and ended up feeling like you have nothing in the end?
If so then you can definitely relate to this.
If we are honest with ourselves, I’d venture a guess that the vast majority of us have experienced some type of hurt in those ways.
No wonder we are guarded. We’ve been hurt by someone we trusted, so how is it ever worth the risk of letting our guard down, and trying to be a part of someone’s life? How can we let them be part of our life in any way other than a superficial level?
The simple answer is…if we don’t at least try, we are cheating ourselves out of the potential happiness and contentment in life that comes with healthy relationships.
While that is the simple answer, it’s not so simple to embrace, right?! I can feel a bit of anxiety right now as I write this, so if you are as well, I’m right with you! Be kind to yourself.
While it’s perfectly natural and understandable to keep our guard up, we should, as I said before, be open to the possibility that some day it might be OK to let it down a bit. To send a few guards back from their posts and consider letting down that draw bridge that protects our hearts.
When we start out in a new relationship, either romantic, friendship, or trying to start over with a family member, we are absolutely validated in being guarded. It’s a necessary mindset so we don’t move too quickly into a potentially bad situation.
By being guarded, it gives us time to look for red flags, and essentially find out where this person’s true intentions are to the best of our ability. Now, we don’t want to invent red flags and see things that maybe aren’t really there, but we should be cognizant of how we feel around them and how they act around us.
Some red flags that I look out for can be things like:
- Do they laugh at us in a judgmental or condescending way?
- Do they make fun of people we associate with?
- Are they not interested in our point of view or do they not respect it?
- Do they not take our thoughts and feelings into consideration?
- Is it always about them and what they want?
- Do they always want you to give, while they just take?
You can insert many others in this list, with the main goal being to assess how you feel when you are around them. Do you feel good, appreciated, cared for, and enjoy your time together?
Or, does being with this person bring back memories of your abuser, and just make you feel uneasy and invalidated? Is your BS meter going off like crazy?
If we are uneasy at first, that’s perfectly fine, natural, and valid. It’s OK to be cautious and a bit nervous.
However if after many weeks or months, we are still uneasy and guarded but the person is showing no signs of being toxic to us, emotionally or physically, then we might consider opening ourselves up a bit more and reciprocating back to them what they show to us.
If they are a true friend, partner, or family member that cares about us, they will be patient and understanding as we work through our feelings.
What it comes down to is, take your time and be honest with yourself and them. Don’t discount something that could be amazing, just because we fear the past repeating itself.
If we are taking the time and putting in the effort to heal, we will begin to attract more healthy people in our lives. Also, we become more alert and have a keen sense of those we should avoid right out of the gate.
We develop something of a survival radar, if you will.
You deserve to share all aspects of your life with those who make you feel encouraged, validated, and good about who you are. When we surround ourselves with positive people, we not only help them but they help us.
The more healthy relationships we develop, the more efficiently and often times exponentially, we can heal.
Always be honest with yourself, be true to yourself. Keep your guard up until it’s time to slowly, let it down. Only you can know when that time is, but if you follow your heart and your mind and be open to possibility of something good, you’ll get there.
image courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/users/tpsdave-12019/