The Therapy is Dandy Guidebook to having a Narcissist for a Parent. Chapter 23.
An ongoing survival guide.
Throw out all your psychic armor.
This entry is partially inspired by this, currently at the Portland Art Museum.
It’s pretty easy to see why so many of us can become enthralled with stories, pictures, and exhibits of medieval armor. They are powerful reminders of cruel and dangerous times. They exist in our fairy tales, our films, and in our imagination.
I use the terms armor, shield, and protection so often in therapy I don’t believe I am talking about therapy unless I am talking about armor, shields and protection.
Because it makes sense. We put on this heavy psychic armor because we don’t feel safe.
And there is a lot to not feel safe about, even if we don’t get into our family of origin stories.
Every other week in America there seems to be another shooting incident, whether at a school, or a workplace, or somewhere someone with a gun has had enough. It has become part of our collective experience, and one that we seem to have no ability to change or address. So, issues of governance, responsibility, and sanity aside, what that leaves us to deal with is fear. Do I need a gun? Is one going to be enough? Do I really want to consider the odds of getting shot the next time I go to the mall and buy some discounted running socks? Should I just stay home and worry and fret and feel more and more helpless. Then angry. Then go shoot someone because I feel as though I have had enough.
Wilhem Reich (not the first time I mention this fellow) is known for coining the phrase psychic armor when it comes to therapy, trauma, and how we deal with life’s vicissitudes.Some of life’s experiences require a great deal more armor than others. Your awareness to when and why you put yours on is very important. But what if you could do away with the armor all together? What if rather than strapping on the equivalent of 50 pounds of metal or ceramic, you could face the dangers of everyday life without all that burden? What if you could stand confident, strong, and nimble without all that Reichian psychic armor dragging you down?
Consider Bruce Lee. He is standing at rest. In what practitioners of Jeet Kune Do call the By-Jong ready stance. He is calm, he is disciplined—hell, he is even shirtless—but he is far from unprotected.
How is that possible? What is he doing that is so different? What is his mindset? Well, I think it is something very applicable to mental health. I believe he has already said as much himself, multiple times, but here is just one quote. Consider it from mental health rather than directed at punches and kicks:
“The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; You ought not be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.”
Also, consider this one very well:
“All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.”
Bruce doesn’t have to wear armor because he knows he will block whatever kick or punch comes his way. He trusts in himself that wherever the next attack happens, he will not be in danger; he will simply not be where the punch in thrown.
Again, consider from a mental health perspective. Without that armor weighing you down, you can avoid conflict, you can distance yourself from cruel remarks or dishonest people. And when someone attacks you psychologically, you can block the blows with your flexible and creative nature. You will not be weighed down with an outdated mode of making yourself feel safe. You will be able to defend yourself. And kick ass. From knowing yourself—by understanding the nature of your wounds—and identifying present introjects, and retroflections, by being calm, reflective and in the moment with your current experience.
Sounds fantastic, yes?
Next time: Confrontation is good for you.