You have to be close to someone to genuinely love them, so from the jump I make that difficult. It’s not intentional, but my deep feelings are guarded like a maximum-security prison. When meeting someone, I’m immediately hesitant to share anything other than the basics. You’ll learn of my name, hobbies, interests — and that’s about it. I don’t typically talk about personal issues, family, or stuff I hold close to my heart, not even after a while. I’ve mastered the art of changing topics, deflecting and using sarcasm to escape the grasps of any intimate or layered question thrown my way. It’s not a purposeful, focused defensive plan, it’s more of an uncontrollable curse.
The fact that my self-protectiveness occurs subconsciously means that a conscious effort is necessary to open up to somebody. It’s a matter of literally forcing myself to reveal commonly shared information that, for whatever reason, I don’t like to talk about. That’s a challenge because at times I’ll recognize that I’m being hesitant, but it’s difficult to stop. If you’re a guarded individual, certainly you understand.
Conversations with you are like paleontology digs. Someone will excavate for lengthy periods of time to come up with absolutely nothing, or very little on most occasions. It’s rare that they discover a valuable fossil, which can be frustrating for them. Then eventually they grow exhausted from digging to no avail, and quit. That’s when it’s most evident that you’re too protected. When someone’s willing to exit your life. When a person finds the worth of potentially awesome fossils inside of your soul less valuable than their time or energy, so they pack up and vacate the premises.
Now if you’re an even more complicated case like me, a person deserting you triggers a flurry of emotions. Frustration with them for parting ways. Disappointment in yourself for not being more open, or interesting enough to stick with. Empathy toward them because you know that you’re quite the handful. It’s a very disappointing, confidence-killing mixture of feelings and sensations that take a strong mind to recover from.
For guarded people, considering that someone can talk to us for weeks, months, or even years and only learn so much about us is a terrifying concept. The possibility of never learning to be open fills our hearts with worry. It’s a legitimate concern that nobody will ever dig deep enough to do anything more than scratch our surface. In an odd way, I think we want an individual to force the issue or persevere through the tough exterior. It feels good to know that someone can sense the metaphorical electric fences, barbwire and armed guards that surround your feelings and yet they still want to break through.
Anyone who feels the need to protect his or herself feels so for a reason. Ultimately the motivation for defense is not wanting to be judged. Whether it’s your past, your present conflicts, family business, or some other situation, the general fear is that our secrets will condemn us. That this is lose-lose. That even if we tell you, it’ll go terribly. That no matter what, the end result will be regret. Because someone will either get sick of our shutdown ways, or come to find that they hate the person we truly are, and the experiences we’ve had/are currently having.
So what’s the worst that would happen if we completely let our guards down? Not just a little, I’m talking about removing the entire security system. Treating the place our feelings stay less like a prison, and more like a retreat. People can go there, learn about you, be relaxed, and hopefully enjoy their stay. It’s not easy, but maybe today we can do away with the barbwire. Then tomorrow, or a week from now, we turn the electricity running through the links of that fence off. Keep the fence itself up until you’re a little more comfortable, then tear that down too. Eventually we’ll hand those armed guards their pink slips, along with a nice severance package so they never want to return, and then we’re open. When people ask questions, we’ll answer. Hell, we might even reveal things without someone inquiring.
That’s the dream of a guarded individual; to be as open as everyone else seems. To have people who are close to us. Today, I’m right there with the rest of you inaccessibly sealed vaults. At this moment, nobody, not a shrink or a persistent friend I’ve known for years is getting too far in here. But I’m thinking about tossing aside the barbwire today — and you should consider it too. After all, what’ve we really got to lose? If someone departs based on our past or present struggles, that’s not a loss. It weeds out any judgmental associates, leaving you with nothing but people who love the personality, mind and soul that you are.