Every one of us wears a suit of armour of some sorts. It’s a form of psychological Kevlar that serves to protect us from perceived threat. Our suit of armour will be as unique to us as our fingerprints and will perfectly ‘suit’ our life story. For me, my armouring lodged in my body, in particular, my shoulders and it was no surprise to me when I was diagnosed with a frozen shoulder some years back. The truth was that I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders due to chronic stress and my intense tightening of the shoulder muscles was an unconscious response to try and prop up my life that seemed to be falling apart. In hindsight, it was a necessary falling apart, the ending of one life and the beginning of another.
The Austrian psychoanalyst, William Reich coined the term ‘Character Armour’ when he noted in his work with his patients that people developed a type of armour to protected themselves from the slings and arrows of the outside world. Interestingly, he also noted that it served to protect them from their own emotions and impulses too. When I read that, it resonated deeply with me. Masculinity begins with a mask and when we cut ourselves off from the homing beacons that our emotions are, then we are destined to become shipwrecked on the harsh rocks of denial.
How often do we hear people say “That was totally of out of character for him” when someone does something that doesn’t match our perceived image of them. Of course, we are just spilling the beans on the fact that we know the person, just like ourselves, is playing a role and when they step out of character, that truth becomes painfully obvious and mirrors back to us our own lack of authenticity. In truth, most of us are acting on this great stage where authenticity is sacrificed for a modicum of visibility. So many of us choose visibility, sadly not ‘seeing’ the metaphor that it is ourselves we most need to see.
It is not until we find the inner courage that we will dare to shed this suit of armour. Our psychological Kevlar has its payoffs but conversely is also a constriction. The greater the constriction then the greater the threat. To be authentic in this world is a risky business but a plant will never grow beyond the confines of its pot until it is removed from its restricting environment. Likewise, we need to move on from anything or anyone that is preventing us from being our real selves. We need to seek out people and environments that are conducive to conscious awareness and harmony.
My greatest inner battle has been my absolute dread of change which is in direct conflict with my craving for novelty. We, humans, crave novelty, it is how we expand and grow in this world but when the fear of life becomes stronger than the fear of death, we die a little every day. Our challenge is to find the bravery to finally remove our Kevlar and show up in the world as who we really are. Wisely, our Kevlar protects us from the bullets of an unconscious society but also alerts us to the unconsciousness that exists within ourselves. It is not until we shed our Kevlar that we will have an authentic dialogue with ourselves, quite possibly for the first time in our lives.
What is your psychological Kevlar? Does your suit of arms serve you well? Thanks for reading Friday’s Food 4 Thought,