How do masks and defence strategies develop?
As little people who are 100% dependent on attachment for survival, we adapt to our environment and literally ‘become’ whoever we learn we need to be in order to be loved and accepted by our caregivers. This is an adaptive function of our species. But it can pose a problem later in life, when those outdated strategies remain active when they aren’t necessary anymore. For example, maybe we grew up in a situation where we had to be tough, and shut our emotions down. Maybe we learned to associate vulnerability and getting our needs met with punishment or hurt. Unaware, we will continue to show up this way as adults. Our masks are so ingrained that even though we may yearn for authentic connection, we will continue to bump into our pain from the past every time we try to let someone in (which immediately prompts our defence strategy, whatever that looks like…….**hot tip: our defence strategies may not always look like defence strategies).
If we don’t become aware of what’s under the mask we present to the world (which ALWAYS equals the level of pain underneath), we will continue the cycle, and endlessly search for the love we didn’t receive back then in others (mainly in primary relationships), while ironically not being capable of letting it in when it actually arrives.
All of this said, the point of this post was to highlight the importance and power of compassion for those who are acting out of their still-active defence strategies, as opposed to immediately judging them, as we often do. Look around you, especially at the ones whose masks seem most apparent to you. What if they’re innocent, doing the best they can with what they know? And what if we are ALL (yourself included!!!) doing the best we can with what we know, based on where we come from? (Side note: this isn’t a ticket to bypass doing the work in favour of remaining a victim of our past, or excuse inexcusable behaviour under the guise of “compassion”….this was meant as a reminder of our collective human innocence).