How to lower your defences
When we have a bad experience it is natural to build defences to ensure we are never hurt in the same way again: it is part of how we learn. When it comes to matters of the heart the very walls we erect to protect ourselves can become like prison walls which leave us alone on the inside not knowing how to get out, or how to let anyone in. In order to heal and love again it is essential that, when the time comes, you are able to lower your defences even though it may feel very uncomfortable to be vulnerable again. Here are some suggestions to help you.
In your own time
It is important to give yourself enough time to get over a painful break-up and only you will know when you are ready to start dating again. You don’t want to push yourself to do something before you are really ready but neither do you want to stay in your comfort zone for too long as you will lose confidence. All you need to make a beginning is the willingness to give it a go even if it feels challenging. The more you date, the more confident you will become and you will once again start trusting your natural instincts to protect you. Pretty soon the defences which were impenetrable walls will become picket fences which will allow people to come and go but still keep you safe.
Talk it through
When we meet someone we connect with, the first stage of developing intimacy is through communication. Once you have established a good rapport between you don’t be afraid to say if you are hesitant or afraid. You don’t have to tell them your whole history but do be honest about how you are feeling. Most people would rather be told that their match was finding it difficult to let their defences down but was willing to give it a go than just be given the brush off with no explanation. If they are serious about wanting to pursue a relationship with you they will respect your honesty and be patient.
Sharing honestly in this way is the beginning of an important process which will help you to build the kind of safe, loving and healthy relationship you desire. It’s not just about finding someone who will treat you right, it’s about taking some of the power back and learning to trust yourself.
Sometimes people are very defensive not because they are afraid of being hurt but because they feel like they have something which they should keep hidden, because if it was exposed their date would no longer be interested in them.
This may be the result of events in the past, personal habits or shame around some aspect of their life. This fear of being exposed is often accompanied by low self-worth, insecurity and a belief that they are unlovable as they are – often the result of trauma in childhood or in other important relationships – this feeling of being unacceptable is one of the most difficult to overcome and you may need professional counselling to help you do it.
There is action you can take yourself which can begin the process of reversing these negative feelings – from the outset be open and honest about who you are or where you came from. You don’t have to volunteer to tell someone everything about yourself and your history but be willing to talk about things if they come up in conversation – eliminate any no-go areas – making this promise to yourself will help you to relax and become more comfortable with who you are. If someone can’t accept you as you are they probably aren’t the one for you.
Become your own best friend
Before you can really let your defences down you need to be able to trust yourself to take good care of yourself. One of the reasons why the effects of an abusive childhood or bad relationship linger for so many years is because on some level people may believe that they should have done more to protect themselves or, worst still, that they deserved the ill treatment – they did not.
To help overcome these damaging effects you can start by practicing being your own best friend – speak to yourself in a more loving, gentle way; buy yourself treats and make yourself good food. By valuing and taking good care of yourself you will begin to develop an inner feeling of safety and security and be much less likely to allow others to treat you badly.
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