It is my default emotion. I go here first in most scenarios. In my first couple years of sobriety, a long time ago, I went to a psychic reader at a friend’s house. I was miserable having just ended another epic failure of a relationship and mad about why I could not sustain love in my life. When I walked into the room and we began, I was skeptical, and she clearly picked up on my energy.
She smiled and said, “Ok, now this makes sense” as she pulled out a porcupine quill. “I was told to bring this today and wasn’t sure why, but this is clearly meant for you.”
I just looked at her like she was out of her mind as she proceeded to explain to me how my defensive nature was blocking my access to any joy, peace, love and freedom. All the things I longed for were being blocked-by me and my anger. My need to protect myself at all costs is the reason I am finding myself once again single and frustrated.
My reaction, of course, I got mad and defense. My quills rose and I began to fire all my reasons (excuses) at her as to why I need to protect myself. As a child of an abusive mother, I was trained through trauma to always strike first, always leave before you get left, hurt them before they hurt you etc. My abandonment issues were fully engaged at all times as a false security system protecting my heart and while yes, this may have served me at times from staying in the wrong relationship and the wrong places-it was never a compassionate exit. The minute my security system began its extraction of my heart from any given situation- I would grow cold and hurtful as my walls flew up around me.
It wasn’t until after this session, as I carried that quill with me, that I began to realize my defensive nature was not serving my higher good. I started to learn healthy ways to process my anger and fear. Because let’s face it, anger is just fear and hurt’s muscle-bound bodyguard.
Anger is not worthless; it can serve a powerful purpose in our lives. It can catapult us into change. It’s a motivator. But it must be synthesized properly in order to assist and not harm.
I still tend to be defense and I question everything. Sometimes I am a royal pain in the ass. Today, I am aware. I allow myself the space to vent, then process in a healthy way in order to synthesize that anger into purpose. I hold the mirror up to myself when I get defensive and try to parse out what about the situation is triggering my internal security system. Is it accurate and for my own good or am I afraid of something? Usually, it is fear. Walking through fear takes courage and courage requires vulnerability. Vulnerability is basically the exact opposite of defensiveness. In these moments, I have to flatten my quills and perk up my ears instead. I need to be open minded.
There are times when we must rise up and fight, indeed my internal security system has saved me many times over from dangerous situations and people-especially now that I have learned to hone it properly. There are times when we must lay down our arms and be vulnerable. One of the keys is finding the right and safe people to be vulnerable with. Find the people who will soften your edges as they sharpen them. You will know them when you meet them. They will challenge you in all the right ways.
More than fifteen years later, the quill sits next to my computer as a constant reminder of my personal growth.