When we allow our thinking patterns to “protect” us, we often feel there is no escape, no matter how hard we try. These thinking traps are exactly that, thinking and behaviour that are ingrained and seemingly impossible to shift. They subdue the Self and the true fears that we need to face. They “protect” us dysfunctionally to keep us from moving forward and offer us the easy way out. They offer us the easy way out and it seems often to be the best option at the time. Only through a process of releasing the control they have, can we promote the Self and have any hope of facing the true issues.
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Let’s look at the different types that could exist, no way exhaustive and there could be others:
The “pleasing others” Protector Voice
When we often fear being judged harshly or feel uncertain of ourselves or self-worth, we tend to be unable to express ourselves and we move towards the beliefs and desires of other people. Others dictate what we do and we go out of our way to please people, do what they want and thinking what they think. The idea behind this is “If I do what they want, I will be loved, will be ok”. What tends to happen is that over a period of time, we get taken advantage of. The consequence is that we feel abused, angry, hurt and resentful. We use statements like “I did everything for them and look what I get”. What we are really looking for is affection, respect and love and we get disappointment. Our own needs are being ignored which often makes us feel needy and controlling. The voice that promotes this is protecting us from fear of being unloved, alone and abandoned. It tells us that “If I do not please them: They won’t like me? My life is not worth anything, I will be rejected, abandoned, hated or abused”
The “I am better off alone” Protector Voice
Sometimes our Protectors lead us to think that contact with other people is too traumatic. Anxiety springs up when we believe they will find us boring, stupid or that they might reject us. The consequence is that we avoid contact with other people and often cancel social engagements, sometimes at short notice. It is not that we do not want to meet people but we have been convinced that it will go badly, so we have no choice. When we do meet others, we do not look at them properly due to our own internal beliefs, find it difficult to know what to say and actually appear distant and unfriendly. Consequently, people leave us alone or keep us at arms length. The result is that we do not have the opportunity to break the cycle by developing the skills and confidence needed. This can lead to hypersensitivity about how people will react to us and leave us exaggerating the chances of hurt and rejection.
The “Avoidance” Escape Protector Voice
Avoiding things we find difficult gives us a temporary sense of relief. By putting some uncomfortable task into the future, we often convince ourselves that we have indeed found a solution and a plan to deal with it. The Procrastinator voice will promote this heavily. However, by doing this, we often overlook the fact that we are making things difficult for ourselves in the long run, increasing our sense of ineffectiveness and lack of control. This avoidance voice, is usually connected with the fear of something. We avoid contact with others for fear of rejection. We avoid making decisions for fear of them being wrong. We avoid everyday tasks, leaving them for others or for the last moment. Most people fall into the avoidance trap because they have convinced themselves they will not be able to cope with unforeseen or imagined circumstances. They use “what if ?” scenarios to judge the degree of rejection, pain or ridicule that awaits them, leaving them incapacitated. Under these conditions, avoidance for them is the easiest option. The avoidance voice is the main driver of addiction.
The “Low elf-esteem” Manager Protector Voice
Many people suffer from low self esteem. They place little value on themselves or their contribution to anything, meaning for them they have little to offer anyone. The basis for Codependency lies here. This often manifests itself in various ways… putting themselves down, driving themselves to be successful while putting up a wall, or being “the coper or pleaser” who gets things done. The sense of worthlessness is often well hidden from the outside world and when a crisis of confidence comes, it often shocks the people around us who saw us as efficient, confident and “go-getting”. People with low self esteem have very little sense of “self” and find it hard to ask for anything for themselves for fear of being blamed or punished. This sense of worthlessness usually derives from our childhood when we were continually criticised or judged as “bad” or “wanting”. We then absorb a feeling that what we express and ultimately who we are is “wrong” or “bad”. This feeling is often accompanied by an army of musts and shoulds. We think we must and should because what we are aiming for is unclear, we just know it probably won’t be good enough. We feel we cannot get what we want because we have convinced ourselves that (a) we don’t know what we want (b) we fear punishment for mentioning it (c) even if we know what we want, we convince ourselves we don’t deserve it. This leads to the trap of not expressing ourselves and then punishing ourselves for being weak.
Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.