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Your Invisible Shield

We are all vulnerable

Shields are awesome and you should always have them on standby with you because you never know when you might need one to protect yourself. A bit like an umbrella, you can pop it up when life rains down on you and then put it away when the sun comes out again.

Anyone who watched the ninth episode (series 6) in Game of Thrones will have become graphically aware of the power of shields. We’ve seen shields used in countless movies and although I’m not militarily-minded in any way, using a simple military defensive strategy as a metaphor can give ideas for helpful choices when we feel we are under emotional attack.

Shields give you precious moments of respite and allow you mentally and emotionally (and in a real military situation, physically) to regroup and re-strategize.

As described in my previous blog post: Breaking down the walls, we have all developed our own personal style for dealing with conflicts. It requires a level of self-awareness to recognise our styles.

Everyone has their own ‘agenda’ and some pursue their agendas more forcefully than others.

By ‘agenda’ this simply means we are all motivated by something, and we’re not always aware of what this is! Some examples of agendas are more obvious: the telephone sales cold caller, the child whining for more sweets, the elderly relative who asks for favours and rambles on for ages to keep you there when they are lonely and crave company.

But what about ‘hidden’ agendas?

We all have them. Hidden agendas often reflect our deepest fears. Fears of abandonment or rejection; financial insecurity; not feeling loved or important; dying alone, being labelled a failure; whatever these are for you, you will probably do your best not to think about them consciously (although you will detect their presence when you catch yourself worrying!). Instead, we do a cover-up and act and speak in ways which paint over our subconscious fears.

Many interactions with others tend to be motivated by these deep underlying issues. Our major life choices are influenced and driven by our own emotional and physical needs which are part of our survival. However, it is important to understand that each of us has our own our unique blend of needs.

Is it a wonder then, that when someone who is feeling under pressure with their hidden agenda buttons being pressed, suddenly erupts into what appears to you as an unprovoked verbal attacked?

This is precisely when you need to whip out your invisible shield! Using a shield gives you some time to think.

Yes, the arrows may still be raining down, but for a while, you are protected.

You can feel the emotion and fear inside you. You are under verbal attack and this has now pressed your vulnerable buttons.

Our immediate reaction is usually to retaliate and attack back; it’s often our instinctive default mode of self-defence, especially if you feel unjustly accused. But it can all too often escalate into a slanging match which can ultimately destroy relationships.

Now consider the value of a psychological shield

If you want to truly appreciate the greatest power of the shield you must first remember the arrows are not real. They cannot kill you. However, your body is reacting biochemically as if the threat is physical because your body’s fight/flight biochemical response reaction has been provoked.

(Please be clear I am only advising this for verbal attack – if you feel you are in physical danger then there is no question to the fight or flight question. The first choice, if you can, is always flight – get away from the ‘attacker’. Always choose the option that gives you thinking time.)

The arrows raining down on you are expressions of emotion from someone who feels vulnerable and deals with this feeling by ‘verbally’ attacking and lashing out.

When you put up your shield it allows precious moments for you to reflect – and slows down your body’s autonomic response. It apparently takes approximately 10 seconds for the intense surge of chemicals to diffuse and feel less urgent. (Hence the old wise adage: count slowly to ten before responding to anything that upsets you.)

This is valuable time for you. In these moments you can get in touch with what is being triggered inside you. It’s not about the other person and what they are saying. This is about YOU. What can you learn about yourself from the fears being triggered in You?

All the time we react strongly to the attack of another there is within us some degree of underlying dependency. Your question to yourself should be: why is this getting to me? Don’t make the other person the focus of your questions. Why others react in certain ways is their ‘stuff’.

This is profoundly different from the normal way most people tend to look at things that upset them, when the temptation is to immediately retaliate. Later they often regret their harsh reaction. But if we learn to first look inside at our own responses then we can learn some great life lessons.

Instead of responding reactively and defensively to others, which can over time eat away at your sense of self-worth, you will start to feel better about yourself and feel happier in general because you are able to be less entangled in other people’s negative emotions.

Feeling valued comes from within, not without. Understanding this is when you discover you can choose to be free of the turbulence and emotional storms that others try to entangle you in.

But it’s only in the ‘doing’ that we really learn

So here is something practical you can do which hopefully will help you learn something about yourself.

If you have unresolved issues that are festering within you then you will find this a useful technique.

Spend some time alone and have a bit of fun creating for yourself an arsenal of shields for different occasions.

You can do this by either drawing them or searching the internet for different images to give you ideas, or simply conjure them up in your imagination.

Here are a few to start you off, but please design your own because only you know how to tailor to your inner world.

Hard core shield

Make this one of solid (but lightweight) metal. It could have a crest and be beautifully engraved with something significant and empowering.

This is for use when you have a tough task to perform.

Useful when you know are likely to feel vulnerable, yet have to keep your composure. A good example might be if you are a manager and you have to deliver bad news to someone who you know may kick off and take it out on you. Nothing will penetrate this shield, but don’t let it become a wall. Remember to put it down when you move on to another environment.

Pink Marshmallow shield

Yes, soft and squidgy, yet highly effective.  Just let whatever comes at you be absorbed and dissolved by the shield.

This is useful for dealing with someone who tends to always be like this (eg critical, nasty etc) with lots of people.

Or it could be a stranger you’ve not met before, so their reaction is all about themselves and their ‘stuff’ and certainly nothing you should be taken personally!

Making the shield pink and soft reminds you to take it with a bit of humour.

Don’t let this tempt you to make allowances for those who are truly taking advantage of you.

Mirror shield

Use this wisely. It’s not designed to bounce back insults or negativity. Ideally, it should be used quietly, sensitively and with love; then it will serve you as a valuable tool.

An example might be when someone you love accuses you of doing something which upset them.

Your response (after taking a few moments to bring yourself in line with the beneficial purpose of the mirror shield) might be on two levels.
Firstly, and most importantly, if the criticism has really got to you, remember to recall this feeling later when alone so you can look at it more deeply to discover more about yourself and what could be underlying your sensitivity. There are many facets to the inner You to discover.

Secondly, don’t make excuses, just state a simple fact that it was not intentional and you are sorry they are upset. Then say no more and perhaps avoid the temptation to say more by leaving the room.

The next time you feel under attack try to remember to follow this procedure:

Resist the urge to succumb to the body’s chemical demand to instantly retaliate.

Instead, use the next ten to twenty seconds to mentally select the best shield to use for this occasion.

Choose the best for the situation at hand. There is no rush – the arrows are not real!

Each time you use a shield think about any refinements you can make to really personalise it to your needs for future use.

Always remain aware that any shield must be flexible and not become a permanent fixture.

We all have our ‘stuff’ to deal with, both in our inner world and our outer world. The wider choice and selection of shields you have, the better equipped you will be to deal with life’s slings and arrows of misfortune.

There is one shield I like to use which is my Golden, Mother of Pearl Bubble Shield. But I will save it for another time because it deserves a post of its own …

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