Over the years, you may have noticed that many changes have occurred in the way that you see things, do things, and the way that you feel. This could be attributed to maturity, or the natural changes that occur with time. However, if we look carefully enough, we may see that some of the changes that have come about are of a more protective nature – defenses that have been created in order to keep from being hurt again.
Have you noticed that you’ve become less trusting? Or maybe a bit more standoffish? And what about your sense of security, been feeling more insecure lately? It is interesting because there was a notion when we were children that we would organically become stronger in those areas as adults. But fact of the matter is, due to the pain and disappointments we’ve endured, it is possible that we have become even lower functioning in certain areas. So what do you do when you find that’s the case?
After becoming emotionally distant, distrusting, guarded, jaded (and all of the other defensive responses that occur as a result of our heartbreaks, setbacks, and letdowns) it is important to take a few rejuvenating steps to get back on track and work towards positive mental health.
Be willing to admit the areas you’re struggling in.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve done a great job at convincing yourself that, sure you have a few things to work on but you’re not doing that bad, right? It is one of the grandest tricks that we play on ourselves – ignoring what we need to be working on by making claims that we could be worse. This is true, we could always be worse, but that does not give us permission to downplay the areas that need improvement. We have to be willing to admit where we are falling short, notice the areas that give us the most trouble, and acknowledge that we could stand more development to be happier, healthier, mature individuals.
Ask for feedback, accept it graciously.
It is not always obvious to us where we are the most vulnerable. In fact, if our defense mechanisms are doing their jobs effectively, then we may actually believe that we are doing just fine and it’s everyone else with the problem. So don’t be afraid to ask those that care about you, where they perceive you are the most vulnerable. Say, “What are my hotspots, what subjects do you tiptoe around when talking to me, what have you noticed sets me off?” Trust me, they will jump at the opportunity to tell you what they’ve been thinking but needed your permission to say. It is up to you to be prepared to receive the information in a healthy way.
Ask for help, build supports.
Now that you’ve had some heart-to-hearts with yourself and others, you at least know a few things about yourself that have been holding you back. Maybe you’ve heard that you’ve started being difficult to talk to or make a connection with. Maybe you’re now aware that you’ve become paranoid about others’ intentions towards you. Perhaps you took an honest look at your need to be perceived as perfect and have decided that is a lie way too hard to live up to. Whatever it is that you’ve discovered, the next step is to ask for help with the matter. Go to God in prayer and ask for these character defects to be removed, and ask to be shown how you should go about making changes in those areas. Yes, we’re intellectuals with amazing resources and cool technology but let us not underestimate the power of prayer when we’re trying to make real change. Also, look for professional and self-help resources in the areas that you are working on so that you have an arsenal of material to feed your mind while you are on the journey overcoming those ways about yourself that you’ve decided just aren’t working anymore. Build good supports with friends and family. Just let them know what you’re targeting and give them permission to draw your attention to old patterns so that you have an accountability team with you along the way.
Step outside your comfort zone to get unstuck.
If there was a way that we could change with very little effort, I’d be taking that way. There isn’t one. In fact, it is grueling work rewiring our brains that are used to following the same circuits for years and years. So the only way that we are going to create new patterns, more constructive roads towards success, is to take the uncomfortable way. You can’t work on your problem of being closed off until you’re willing to risk opening up to someone. You won’t be able to resolve that social awkwardness without putting yourself into more social situations. You aren’t going to be able to overcome the tendency to distrust others until you give someone else a chance. Steps like these are outside of our comfort zone, but until we are willing to get back in there and create new experiences, we are stuck in our pseudo-safe little boxes that have stunted our growth. To get unstuck requires courage and risk.
Re-establish yourself in love.
What is your default setting? In various circumstances do you default to fear? Anger? Frustration? Complaining? Take some time for self-examination and determine what your default mode is. Then think about how it would feel if your most common inner experiences involved: love, peace, contentment, acceptance, appreciation, and other life-giving states like these. You can create that atmosphere in your life. By putting everything back into its proper perspective, where God is the center of it all; and having an accurate perspective of who God is (Love), you can re-establish yourself in something that transcends your shortcomings and the problems of this world.
Re-establish yourself in love, and operate from that space. No longer allowing ourselves to crystallize in our defenses, we remain open to the experiences that are brought into our lives and accept that all will work together for the good of those that love the Lord. We do not wallow in our past or allow the behaviors of others to influence our state of mind, but instead consistently affirm that we are borne of love, protected by, and here to share love.
We trade our fears for the greatest thing of all, Love. We keep our feet firmly rooted like trees planted by the water, continuously re-establishing ourselves in love until we are like those described in the Psalms – bearing fruit in our season, prospering in all we do.