I learned to close down my emotions as a coping mechanism when I was just a child. My chaotic interactions with my mother took a relentless toll on my psyche. One day I decided it was time to shut everything off. It was the only way to survive.
I no longer cared when she screamed and railed at me. It made her crazy that I didn’t react, and I secretly relished her frustration. Closing off my heart meant taking back my power. The helplessness I’d felt for so long vanished. The only price I paid in return was the loss of my emotional vulnerability.
No big deal, right? I’m kidding, of course. It’s the biggest deal, and it’s an issue I struggle with every single day of my adult life. I finally understand what happened back then and why I now have difficulty letting go of my defense mechanism. It makes me feel safe when my emotions are threatened, just like it did when I was a child.
The difference is that I don’t need it now in the same way. I think that I do, but I use it long before any situation becomes dire enough to affect me as badly as the abuse of my mother did. I am so afraid of being hurt by a man in the same irrevocable way that I shut down before there’s any chance.
It doesn’t help that I pick all the wrong people – men who are fairly certain to hurt me. I don’t know why I’m doing this but I can’t seem to stop. It’s like something primal and stubbornly regressed within me whispers that if I can win over an emotionally unavailable lover, that means I’m finally free. It means I’ve conquered the voice in my head that whispers that I will never have the love I want because I couldn’t even get my mother to love me correctly.
I do understand logically that none of it was my fault. I know that my mother is deeply emotionally broken and that I am not responsible for her issues or her refusal to deal with them. Still, something inside screams – why didn’t you love your kids enough to try harder for us? Why won’t you listen when everyone around you tells you that something needs to change? There’s a reason we all had to leave her, and it wasn’t because all of us are wrong and she’s right.
I’m working through this the best I can. The root of my emotional vulnerability problem is finally apparent, but I still can’t figure out how to remedy it. I want to be able to love another person as fully and healthily as I possibly can. I want all the good things I can squeeze out of life. There’s only one chance to live the best way that I can, and sometimes I honestly feel like I’m failing miserably.
I’d love to say that I’ve figured out how to be emotionally open and vulnerable, but that’s not true. It’s an ongoing issue and sometimes it makes me want to scream, but I also have a strong desire to work it all out and be better. In the end, that’s all that we can do as human beings – work to find out what makes us the way that we are. Then we can take steps to grow, evolve, improve and change.