A full suit of armor is an evocative image for me. Was it economically, and socially, feasible, I could see myself wearing body armor full-time, not because I take incoming fire but because the physical protection induces feelings of psychological protection. (If only there was a trauma plate for one’s childhood…) Like physical armor, psychological armor can limit your speed, flexibility, and perception.

To push the analogy to mechanized armor, my primary armor is a reactive one: humor. To a certain extent there must have been some funny in me at birth. But I learned that keeping them laughing was the surest protection. Being a relatively quick thinker and moderately perceptive, it was the easiest way for me to exert some control over the situation and steer clear of the chaos. Of course, it did not always work, which is probably why I like physical armor. Plus, humor provided some insulation from the more normal vicissitudes of childhood.

I have come to realize that I have more layers of armor beyond the shield of laughter. I know I experience emotions at least as deeply as others and I feel like I am showing them. But the overwhelming evidence is that others often have no idea what I am feeling. Part of it is being explicitly raised to show no emotion at all. (I am not kidding: I was repeatedly scolded and punished for showing emotion.) Part of it is that growing up in an environment without emotion recalibrated my emotional sensors. I still work to be comfortable with large displays of emotion; comic understatement seems like shouting to me.

To a certain extent I am comfortable with being armored with others. What is more distressing is the worry that I have sealed off emotions from myself. At times I feel like I can not trust my own assessment of my emotions. Am I really copacetic? Or is it just a facade, wishful thinking on my part? Yet relying on others to tell me what I am feeling is unhealthy. Perhaps I will never be comfortable enough to take off all my armor, even with myself.


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