My name is Allison, and I shoot lasers from my eyes.
Ok, I can’t literally shoot lasers from my eyes, but it certainly feels that way when I am in a reactive mode. Sometimes it’s like a wall comes up between the world and me. The atmosphere becomes more sterile. My emotions and thoughts are packaged away as much as possible. Reacting consumes quite a bit of internal energy. Welcome to The Protector.
I listened to a visualization exercise a while ago that has stuck with me. The topic was about relationships and vulnerability, or as the recording called it, “intimacy.” Just hearing the i-word at the beginning of the recording caused a flutter of panic, but I kept listening.
I visualized the setting of a recent significant conversation. I recalled the feelings of wanting to lean in and yet holding back and not knowing what to do or say and realizing that I was holding my breath so then I tried to breathe normally as I sat very still because I didn’t want to disrupt the moment as my friend talked about something deeply personal. And as the visualization guide instructed me to picture a wall between the two of us, I happily envisioned a black marble slab that spanned vertically as high as I could see. I imagined the cold, smooth texture against my hands. I felt safe touching the wall. Best wall ever.
Then the guide requested that I remove the wall. So soon? I was just getting to know my feelings from the safety of this side of the wall, and now I was slowly removing chunks of the wall. I would peek over the top at my friend and then hide behind the remaining wall. Piece by piece, the wall came down. This was it: intimacy. Seeing and being seen. I realized I was holding my breath during the visualization.
What is it about a wall that is so appealing? I think there’s an air of possibility that comes from the wall. With a wall, we can be both connected and not. Without a wall, it is one or the other. It’s like a Schrodinger’s cat scenario where not removing the wall leaves the possibility of emotions open to imagination. Removing the wall means intimacy. Scary! Which is why I shoot lasers from my eyes. The lasers of you-should-know-better. Lasers of don’t-tell-me-that-I-failed-you. Lasers of this-is-important-and-I’m-disappointed. The disappointment burns inside and finds its way out of my eyes to the rest of the world. Self: protected. World: potentially injured.
It doesn’t have to be that way, and I’m working on it. I remember how wonderful it felt to be embraced in a really long hug by a fellow coach last year. It had to be at least 10 seconds of hugging. Wonderful. I hold back from proposing such hugs with the people who have made it into my acceptable-for-hugging circle because I haven’t found the words, but I do try to put extra care into the hugs I receive from them and hope the other person recognizes that which is unsaid: you matter to me.
Some relationships may be formed easily and some take more time, but I do not form relationships lightly. It means I see you for what you are and what you can become, and I delight in it all enough to let you see me too. That’s why I’m learning to power down the lasers and tear down walls.