As every country’s army or police force’s intent is to prevent the incursion of trauma from outside of its borders, we each possess an internal defense force, whose intent is to prevent any external situation or event from causing or creating trauma. A nation’s defenses will take whatever action is necessary to prevent any outside force from invading and threatening the security and safety of its citizens. In the same way, our own defenses will act against any person, situation, or event it sees or senses as having the potential to cause trauma in the present moment or at any time in the future. The defense force therefore sees its role as one of protector, or adviser on how best to protect.
Defense parts “protect” in an infinite number of ways: by advising you, for example, to turn on the TV, or to always to be in control of any situation. They may whisper, “You always have to be perfect in everything you do,” or, “It’s time to eat.” They might tell you to read a book, or to hurt the other person before you get hurt. To some they advise, “You should have a drink now,” or tell you to always work, to exercise, spend money, talk lots, or to be forever quiet.
Defense parts may “protect” by advising us to forget about our own needs and concentrate on the needs and wants of everybody else, by having us hide our head in the sand so that we ‘successfully’ ignore the reality that our marriage is on the rocks, or that we are over-our-heads in debt so that we go on spending and amassing credit card debt anyway. Defense parts may persuade us to control our emotions, so that we hold back from ever expressing our feelings, knowing that when we were younger, crying or being angry would lead to disapproval or even reprimand. Or have us work long hours so that we avoid becoming intimate with anyone, remembering that the members of our family were never close to one another and becoming close always felt strange and uncomfortable. They may cause us to be sexually turned on or to sexually withdraw, persuade us to become the life of the party every time we are in a social situation. They are the catalysts to depression, being needy and seeking out attention, procrastinating, lying, becoming enraged, or being superficial.
All of these addictive behaviours, the defense will advise us to grasp onto as our lifeline. If every time we follow the defense’s advice and cope in the way they recommend or demand, we will eventually become dependent upon that behaviour. The bingeing, spending, saving, working, raging, moving from one relationship to the next, spending endless hours on the internet will become addictions.
Defenses therefore are the agents for our addictions.
This book is proposing that a key reason why we may feel ‘stuck,’ powerless to change our life in ways we want, why we may be held back by our fears and anxieties, or caught up in a pattern of behaviour that we know no longer works for us but we still keep on doing it anyway, or why we are lacking in energy and passion, bored with the direction our life is taking, or generally discontent, unhappy and unfulfilled, is because we are following advice internally that has little or no relevance to our current needs and ambitions. Thus, we continue to give the powers of decision-making over to the advisory committee without the awareness or recognition that we have given our power away.
The defense, as our advisory committee, is primarily concerned with protection from future hurt. Therefore they feel justified in limiting change and keeping life within familiar, predictable patterns.
If you consistently feel limited, unfulfilled and held back or unable to set out to do what you really want to do in life, then the defense are the ones holding exclusive voting privileges in your inner community.