Remember, these love styles are a result of a chaotic home where the pain is very great. I have another famous saying in therapy that I’ve probably said 1,000 times. The greater the pain, the greater the defenses.
Anger: We don’t think of anger as a defense, and anger may be an appropriate response in a given situation. For the controller anger is indeed their defense against feeling any vulnerable feeling. As kids both victims and controllers experienced negative feelings of shame, humiliation, terror, inadequacy and unworthiness. These are difficult feelings for a mature adult but they are overwhelming for a small child. The controller structures his or her life so they never have to feel such feelings again. Anger is a powerful aggressive emotion that covers and prevents any vulnerable feeling from surfacing.
Displacement: A person generalizes or redirects a feeling about a person or response to a person who is less threatening. It goes something like… “I hate my boss, come home mad, agitated and scream at my wife.” The emotions the boss arouses are displaced and taken out on weaker family member. Ultimately this is usually a repeat of what the controller themselves experienced as a child, but they have forgotten what it was like to be a child, so they don’t feel the damage they are doing to their own family.
Projection: Controllers project their own bad character traits onto others. To be wrong or flawed brings intolerable childhood feeling toward the surface. Fault must be found in those around them to keep these feelings of shame out of awareness.
Regression: You revert to an old, usually immature behavior to ventilate your feeling.
Controllers really are not all that grown up inside. Sometimes a grown man or woman can end up behaving like a toddler as a result.
Controllers will need all their defenses unless the make the difficult decision to face their pain and grieve. If one must constantly keep painful feeling out of awareness than those painful feelings cannot be comforted or healed. Controllers and victims desperately need to get what they never got as kids. They need someone to see their pain, validate the torment they endured as kids and comfort them. They need to recognize they need for a safe place to grieve.
Victims also had to tolerate the intolerable growing up. While the controller fought the system and became angry, the victim took the quieter approach and tried to be as invisible as possible. While we might think the victim uses a lot of denial and minimization in reality, chaos and abuse normal to the victim. All they have even known a difficult, unbearable environment. Abnormal is normal which is why they don’t readily leave.
Dissociation: This is a defense that is perfected over time. It’s the art of learning to be “not there”. It’s a way of going off in your head to a nicer place. Some kids get so good at it that they don’t have a lot of memory for what happened because they just were not all there.
Let’s close this series with some important biblical principles. The Bible calls us to live in and face reality not defend ourselves against it. The Bible says the truth is freeing. The Bibles ask us to admit and accept our broken state and need for a Savior. The Bible asks us to be honest and speak the truth in love.
Christ’s love was defenseless. He was willing to face pain for our good. He emptied himself becoming a bond servant. Friends, learn to lay down your defenses. Learn to love well so Christ can be glorified in your life and others can see His reflection in the way you live and love.
Copyright © 2009 Milan and Kay Yerkovich