• Dr Jodie Bradnam

The armour we wear.

Ashley and I are recording the first episode of season two of the Addicted podcast this week. In preparing for Thursday, I have been reflecting on the role of our defences in keeping our struggles secretly held and deeply hidden. This quote holds a truth that has helped me immensely along the way. "Cracks in our armour let the light in and the love out."

Amidst the chaos that defines our darkest struggles, we develop armour to protect ourselves. Unable to share our truth and the reality of what is really going on, armour commonly presents as defensive and destructive behaviours; reactive anger, blaming, emotional flooding, irritability, deception, lying and avoidance. Defensive behaviours prevent real interpersonal contact, authentic connections and opportunities for change. Destructive patterns of behaviour can be very stable over time, even if maladaptive, and as time passes, they drive a wedge between us and those we love.

It is immensely difficult to see the pain of another’s struggle when we are responding to oppositional behaviours that cause hurt and chaos of their own. It is hard to see past the trail of carnage to notice the struggle beneath these defences. We begin to respond to the defensive behaviours, seeing the selfishness, arrogance, or hostility of the other, rather than the pain that the behaviours are masking.

For the person in chaos, these destructive behaviours are often associated with feelings of shame all of their own, creating additional opportunities to retreat and isolate. The shame of the person’s untold truth, is often compounded by the shame of the chaos and destruction that is left in the wake of these destructive behaviours. To survive, new layers of armour are assembled, which only serve to entrench their position as separate and alone.

Shame thrives in secrecy. There is no doubt. The more rigid our armour, the more entrenched we become in the dark. This heavy armour ensures that we stay disconnected. It keeps us from allowing others to really see us, and to see what is going on. It is only when we are willing to be vulnerable, to reach out to a trusted person, and share even a slither of our truth, do cracks in our armour begin to let the light in.

I love this awareness from Brene Brown, that "people are hard to hate up close". And there is truth in that. When someone is sharing themselves, their experience and their story openly and honestly, and we are willing to listen with empathy and without judgement, we soften and they soften. We see the person and we see their struggle, rather that the behaviours that keep us in judgement.

When we find a trusted person, who is willing to listen without judgement, not only do cracks in our defences emerge, we allow the love and the truth of our struggle to find the light. There’s a softening that happens in moments of vulnerability that allows others to see us; to see our pain, our fragility, our fear, and our hopelessness. I’ve been reminded this week that these conversations require great courage, a willingness to be vulnerable, and to loosen our armour. They don’t always result in immediate change, but these conversations disrupt entrenched patterns of disconnection.

As cracks in our defences emerge, we allow others to see the fear, the terror and hopelessness that defines most of our days, even if we are working hard to keep those feelings well defended. It is in the cracks that there is an opportunity for the love that resides within to see the light. With the light, there is a window for change.