If you are a superhero fan, you know that there are some pretty impressive heroes with some incredible shields that protect them from the dangers or threats presented by their enemies. One can assume that those heroes have become really great at using their shields mainly because of the pain or wounds they have experienced from not having it. Well, you don’t have to be superhuman to become a pro at carrying a shield. Ordinary people carry around shields in their everyday life. I like to refer to these shields as emotional shields.
I often joke about my ability to put up shields or walls. I say things like, “Not only is there an electric fence guarding my heart, but I have an entire militia and a fire breathing dragon ready to defend any unwanted intruder.” That seems to be the case for most people who have been hurt or let down by people. That seems like a natural human survival response to being hurt but while our emotional shields protect us and help us defend ourselves and prevents us from being unsuspecting prey against ill willed predators, our shields can also prevent us from welcoming positive experiences and people into our lives. If we allow our pain to constantly cause us to be in “defensive” mode then we will never allow the opportunity for positive experiences to counteract all of the bad experiences that we have had.
I once worked with a very intelligent and independent young lady. She had a very rough past and had been let down by the adults in her life who were supposed to protect, nurture, and shield her from the premature exposure of life’s harsh realities. As a result of the lack of protection when she was younger, she developed her own emotional shields. It was downright impossible to convince her to put her trust in anyone, even professionals who were trying to help her. She pushed people away when they became too close to her and ended friendships and relationships with people to avoid the threat of being hurt. While her emotional shield did the job of preventing her from getting hurt, it also closed her off to the experience of being loved and to the experience of someone genuinely being there for her. I often expressed to her that if she continues to close herself off from “getting too close” to avoid getting hurt then all she will ever have is a negative view of relationships because she won’t allow opportunity for a positive relationship to replace the negative ones.
Shields are not necessarily a negative thing. As we've mentioned, many warriors use shields as a form of protection. Although the warriors need their shields for battle, I’m pretty sure that they do not walk around with their shields all of the time. A healthy way of gaining control of what and who you allow in your life is establishing healthy boundaries. Establishing healthy boundaries will help you protect yourself and also allow safe people in your space. It is important to remember that you are not always at battle and everyone is not your enemy. When you have been hurt, you can gain control over your life not by constantly being guarded but by learning the appropriate boundaries and having the confidence to implement those boundaries.