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  • Writer's pictureRyan Wilson

Our inner protector

We all have an inner protector, a wolf or monster that we try to keep at bay, it is programmed into all of us. It is that same beast that leads to quotes like “I want to rip his head off” or “I love you to death”. Let me explain.

Babies cry when they want their needs met, and it doesn’t matter if they are physical needs, like when they are hungry and want to be fed, or if they are emotional needs, like they are feeling scared or just want a cuddle.

We come out knowing we matter and that our needs matter. We aren’t afraid of asking for them or even acting out to get them met, like a toddler having a temper tantrum at the grocery store.

Somewhere along the way though, we often unlearn that we matter and that we deserve to have our needs met. When that happens, our inner rabid dog gets angry, even enraged the more our needs aren’t met , and it starts to build and gets more and more intense.

We learn to deal with this growing intense energy that wants to come out by being harsh and critical with ourselves (after all if we are a turd for eating that extra piece of cake or not visiting our ill parent in the nursing home, we don’t deserve to have our needs met!). For some we don’t do the self sabotage thing as much as we start distracting ourselves with work, getting sucked into other people’s drama, over-investing in particular relationships. Some of us use sex, alcohol, Netflix or Youtube etc to make us forget our reality, that our needs don’t matter….that we don’t matter.  Some of us prefer to numb out and we just detach and don’t really invest in being present and connected to our bodies at all. Some of us manifest this rage through chronic pain, migraines, stomach upset, lethargy or feeling foggy a lot of the time.

We often genuinely believe the only way to keep us and the people around us safe, is by avoiding conflict, not acknowledging our own feelings and making others avoid triggering us. The possibility of dealing with and acknowledging that inner protector often doesn’t even hit the radar.

Meanwhile, that protector, when they are not allowed to protect, and worse yet, are not even acknowledged, and are treated like they are invisible, just grows into a seething ball of energy. Seems appropriate don’t you think- if we were treated as if we were invisible while talking in a room filled with people, we would appropriately be infuriated!

So this seething anger is often a healthy and appropriate rage at chronically not having our needs met, at not mattering to ourselves and others for years. This energy can live inside of us for decades, even a lifetime. Not surprisingly, when this happens we constantly feel agitated, irritable, jumpy, anxious or detached and numb. It is hard to contain all that energy for long periods, so it also usually comes out every now and then, either we turn it on ourselves, or on other people, using them like an emotional trash can, blaming them for our struggles. These serve as great distractions, because then we get to be harsh with ourselves about HOW it came out, instead of the underlying WHY it was there in the first place.

Watch this great brief animated video on Blame by Brene Brown, it shows how blame for example, is a way of avoiding difficult emotions.

So what if instead of tip toeing around our inner protector, we got to know them? We thanked them for wanting us to be safe, for wanting us to have our needs met, for believing we mattered even when we didn’t think we did. What if we had the courage to explore how hurt and angry we were and at who, and why? What if instead of telling ourselves we shouldn’t be upset, mad or sad,  or instead of comparing our hurts to others and dismissing them, we instead validated that feelings don’t have to make sense. What if we just validated that feelings are just information, and follow what our bodies wanted to do in our mental theater- everyone is safe there, in our imaginations, or by writing in our journals.

We can explore our inner protector’s hurt and rage in our imaginations and it can actually help us feel better! There is a difference between FEELINGS WORLD and ACTION WORLD.

They overlap, but what we choose to put into action depends on how much of the feelings we have processed. When we process more of the feelings, and by process I mean acknowledge them, allow ourselves to physically feel the energy connected to the different feelings, we are better able to control what comes out in ACTION WORLD and it ends up being more constructive. 

It may also be helpful to consider who and what blocking our feelings is protecting us from? And is it worth the cost?  Often we are protecting ourselves from being uncomfortable and risking upsetting our tribe and we are also protecting our tribe because we care about them or because we are afraid that our feelings world will come out in our action world!

So I am inviting you to get to know your inner protector, say hi, listen to what they have to say like a good old friend. Validate their experiences and be curious about where this may take you…you may just discover that you have mattered all along!

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