Maybe it’s the Millennial in me, but I’m an avid Miley Cyrus fan. Her Tom Petty cover, "Wildflowers" came on a playlist I was listening to this morning and it reminded me so much of the healing that goes on in therapy. If you haven't heard it yet, I highly recommend listening to it on a day when you need a heartfelt song to belt out to.
This time of year can be weird for those of us who are working on changing generational dynamics. Maybe we were the peace keeper in our family or the therapist who helped calm our parents down as kids. Maybe we've seen these patterns show up in our adult lives and we're in therapy or working hard otherwise to not carry the weight of those behaviors and generational patterns in order to heal.
During this time of year, we might find ourselves spending more time both alone and with others. With that, we might notice that we feel pulled to mask and pretend everything is fine with certain people or in certain situations, to accept an invitation or get pulled into a conversation with someone somewhere where we feel small and unimportant, or keep engaging with people or situations in our life that make us feel less than our best self. We might notice the ways in which we still need to wear our masks and armor in order to show up and feel comfortable or safe.
On the flip side, as we heal, we might also notice ways in which our masks and armor can no longer be put back on. One way this shows up: we might notice that a relationship in our life is slowly fading/becoming more distant, not because we are doing something wrong but maybe we’ve outgrown the old ways in which we would mask/armor up around that person. Or maybe we’ve become more “sensitive” and no longer afraid of letting our emotions just be, causing others to be more uncomfortable around us. Again, you’re not doing anything wrong. You’re just feeling. You simply can no longer put the armor back on. Maybe you've done enough work that it hurts more to carry the armor and masks than it does to take them off and shoulder the weight of the difficult emotions.
If you’re at the beginning stage of healing and taking off your masks and armor: know that it gets easier. Relationships might shift a lot and you might feel shitty and grieve a lot in the process. But it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. My advice for getting through this process is to take time to grieve and stay curious about taking the armor for as long as you need before you take it off entirely if needed. Give yourself permission to take it on and off when needed, especially in an environment that doesn't feel safe to take it off.
When you're ready, notice what it feels like to take it off when you're around people who make you feel good. Our bodies help protect us by paying attention to the situations that could put us in harm's way but we often forget to remind our bodies what it feels like when we are in a place of safety. Remember that healing isn't linear and it's okay if we need to mask around certain people/environments for the rest of our lives even. I think the most important piece of masking and unmasking is developing awareness around when we are doing it and not doing it. It's about self-awareness, self-understanding and self-compassion for the ways in which our bodies have protected us all these years.
Lastly, if you need this reminder: life is supposed to feel uncomfortable at times. If it’s been comfortable up until you chose to go on this journey of self-awareness and growth, know that this pain might just be about you choosing yourself over repeating generational cycles. Healing feels uncomfortable when you choose to take off your masks.