Battle Royale: Wisdom vs. Comfort

13 min read

A Military Coup

I make the choice daily to be the Queen of “my castle” aka my feelings, my heart and my mind.  It requires great effort because there are lots of defensive soldiers who guard my castle.  I created these guards as children and I trained them – well.

I trained them so well, in fact, that they automatically show up at the mere thought that I may be about to experience emotion.  My guards are omnipresent and ninja-like.  They unconsciously acted on my behalf for so long that I didn’t even know they were there and mistakenly believed that they were me. Apparently, I orchestrated and masterfully executed a military coup many years ago then forgot about it.

Over the past four years, I devised a system to separate my soldiers from myself in order to regain control of my castle.  There have been and continue to be challenges, of course, because they are loyal soldiers.  They have been guarding me fiercely since I was a tiny princess and they do not want to desert their charge.  They are concerned for my emotional welfare and see me as a vulnerable little girl so they don’t immediately recognize me as the powerful queen I am today.

When my soldiers show up, the onus is on me to re-introduce myself to them. I am grateful for the opportunities that present themselves which allow me to see my soldiers because it’s like getting reacquainted with old friends.  Granted, they are friends who don’t recognize me because I’ve grown so much but nonetheless, they are still good friends – ride or die kind of friends.

When my soldiers make an appearance, I observe them for a bit then I look them in the eye and very confidently explain that the castle is fortified and safe and that I’ve got the situation in-hand.  I then gently ask them to explain to me what it is they need in order to fall back.  There is often a power struggle because their modus operandi is to blame others for my feelings or for my situation.  I have learned that as long as I allow my soldiers to place blame, they live to fight another day.

These days, I am unwavering in my commitment to personal accountability and although my soldiers insist upon challenging me with clever ruses to place blame elsewhere, I refuse to allow them to give power over my castle to anyone but me.  My royal arrow of personal accountability is far more powerful than my soldiers’ shield of blame so they get the picture and begin to see me as the Queen I am today.  They quiet down and in the silence, I ask them again what it is they need or are seeking.

Sometimes my little soldiers have no idea what it is they want and we laugh together about the notion that “others continue to disappoint or fail them.”  How could anyone else satisfy them when the soldiers themselves don’t even know what it is they want?  At other times they are very clear and articulate about their desires.  They tell me things like:  love, security, kindness, peace, affection, validation, appreciation, chocolate cake, to be seen, to be heard, etc.  What can I say?  They’re/we’re needy and greedy.

Honorable Discharge

Once my soldiers are able to identify and articulate their needs to me, I set about delivering the goods to them and nurturing them until they are satiated.  I then thank them profusely for all their years of service; give them a huge hug and send them into retirement or, at the very least, on an extended holiday.

I release them from service by telling them that I feel safe knowing that they have always had and will always have my back.  I also let them know that I will call upon them when needed and that, moving forward, they are no longer obliged to show up at the first sign of emotion.  The release-from-service process always ends with the lightness of humility and with tears of forgiveness, compassion, appreciation and love; it cannot be any other way.

Imagine one day you notice that there has been a child running around everywhere with you FOR YEARS carrying all kinds of heavy artillery just to keep you from sustaining emotional injuries?  That child soldier is the one who has dealt with uncomfortable and awkward confrontations; has been there through childbirth and raising of children; has started and ended relationships; has gone to job interviews and important business meetings; has navigated pretty much every major event in your life and generally has been the one to face all of the situations in one’s life that cause stress, fear or anxiety!

Now, imagine the exhausted child who has been carrying the burden of keeping his/her charge safe from unseen and unknown enemies FOR YEARS is finally seen by said charge who says: “Hey there, kid.  I see you and I am extremely grateful to you because you have done a hell of a job for a kid!  I would not be the adult I am today without you.  You can take a break now – I got this. And by the way, is there anything I can do for you?”  This scenario can only end in tears, joy and levity on both parts.

It’s good to be Queen (or King)

I have made the conscious choice to live an empowered life which entails, among other things, being responsible for my own feelings:  my joy, my peace and even my disappointment and sadness.  I believe that we all have the ability to live this way should we choose to do so and the first step requires little more than looking in the mirror and accepting what we see – the good, the bad and the ugly.

In accepting responsibility for my own feelings and by getting to know my defensive soldiers, I have gained the freedom to enter into all kinds of situations and interact with all sorts of people and remain impervious to offense; it is an emotional bulletproof vest.  I am actually safer without my defensive soldiers!

This does not mean that I don’t ever experience sadness, frustration or disappointment; it means that I don’t suffer those things at the hands of another.  I believe that no one has the ability to inflict pain upon me with their words or actions (barring physical assault) unless I have already made the first cut which means it’s still ultimately up to me to close the wound.

The freedom I have gained extends to everyone I meet – they are all free to just be themselves and express themselves openly in my company without having to worry about hurting my feelings.  Living an empowered life also means that I don’t expect anyone in my life to fill the needs of my insatiable soldiers – that is my job.

Let it be known that it is a fuck-ton of work to live this way.  However, I have found it to be much easier and far more productive than the alternative which is being mired in the bottomless hellhole of victimization; or in other words, asking others to mind my feelings or blaming them for making me feel a particular way.

Let Them Eat Cake

Getting to know and heal my own soldiers is a HUGE job so that means that I have little to no energy and/or interest in satisfying the needy soldiers of others.  Even if I wanted to (which I don’t, for reasons I will go into shortly) it would be nearly impossible for me to remember which words, concepts or emoji’s (yes, you read that correctly – I can’t make this shit up) are offensive to other people’s defensive child soldiers.

I know that my defensive soldiers are always at the ready should the situation warrant however I pay a huge emotional price when they come back into service; they leave me feeling powerless, frustrated and exhausted when they are active.  They still show up from time to time but I try really hard not to call upon them because they draw blood and then I am stuck having to clean up the carnage.

I know the toll my soldiers take on me so I refuse to feed them or coddle them because it’s simply not worth it.  If I do not allow my soldiers to victimize me by blaming others for my emotional state or situation then why on earth would I encourage those that I know and love to be victimized and held hostage by their soldiers?

The truth is: I don’t encourage it.  I can see the invisible soldiers of others because I have gotten to know my own militia.  I work hard to honor the kings and queens around me and support their efforts to regain control of their castles.  Unfortunately, sometimes my lack of support of defensive soldiers is misconstrued as not caring or a lack of empathy when nothing could be further from the truth.

My journey is one of growth, self-healing and empowerment.  My journey is not better or worse than anyone else’s it just is what it is.  If today I am cooking a stew made with personal accountability, self-love and empowerment and generously seasoned with empathy and compassion then that is all I have to offer at the moment.  I cannot serve someone a bowl of pity or blame if those ingredients are not in my pot.

If someone’s defensive soldier shows up on my proverbial doorstep, in due time, that soldier will most likely be revealed to that person.  Their soldier will be invited in to partake in a bowl of the sacred stew I eat every day and to join me on my journey of healing and empowerment.

Soldiers cannot maintain their stronghold in the presence of healing and empowerment because they feed on helplessness and thrive on pain; they often become combative and starve in my house (maybe they’re hangry…). Kings and queens on the other hand – devour the stew, put their soldiers in check and ascend gracefully to their rightful thrones.

A Free Kingdom

I believe in living and letting everyone else live.  I would never want to impede anyone from his/her own path.  My defensive soldiers’ armor of victimization, blame and powerlessness eventually got too heavy for me to carry and I am grateful that I have been able to choose a path that has allowed me to shed some of that weight.

Over the past few years I have come to understand the nature of subjectivity.  For example:  A situation that one person finds unbearable, another may find only slightly disturbing; while a third person may find the same situation satisfactory and a fourth may actually derive pleasure from it. [1] Four different people equal four different perspectives and therefore four different experiences.

It is with this understanding that I see and respect the choice of some would-be kings and queens to continue to choose the comfort of their soldiers’ heavy artillery.  I chose it for many years so I totally get it and I have compassion for it.  Unfortunately, most soldiers are not aware that it is a choice.

Five Tells of Defensive Soldiers

Although defensive soldiers are stealth, I can now identify them fairly quickly because all soldiers have tells.  Their tactics and triggers vary vastly however the following are five common signs that a soldier, mine or someone else’s, has stormed the castle.

1.       No Choice

One of the ways we can tell that one of our soldiers has stormed the castle is when we lose the perspective of choice.  When we use the phrase: “I didn’t/don’t have a choice” then there is a soldier present.

Defensive child soldiers are rarely aware of the choices available to them.  They are duty-bound to their posts and old ways of thinking so they cannot see the limitless possibilities all around them.

Freedom is the awareness of choice and the hallmark of the empowered. Kings and queens are free because they are always aware that they have choice even if some of the choices available to them are not desirable.  Kings and queens will even consciously choose to allow their soldiers to gain access to the castle momentarily in order to observe them and get a better understanding of them.

2.      Blame Game

The job of our defensive soldiers is to serve and protect.  If there is no threat then they no longer have jobs so one of the tactics they use to keep us victimized is to blame others for their feelings, thoughts, actions or situations.

Soldiers reveal themselves when they say:  “He/She/They/You said or did ____ and it caused me to feel ____ so I said/did ___.”  This is an attempt by the soldier to give reign of our castle over to someone else.  As long as we heed our soldiers, then they live to fight another day.

Kings and queens may use the aforementioned statement but finish it with: “And I am grateful because that experience shined a light on a part of me that I had not seen in a while that still needed to be healed.”

3.      Control over others

Our soldiers’ jobs are relatively straight-forward:  To protect us from emotional pain by any means necessary.  Our soldiers will go so far as to try to control the words and actions of other people in order to protect us from our own emotions.

Defensive soldiers can often be heard saying:  “He/She/They/You should not say or do _____ because it makes me feel _____.”  What a delightfully passive-aggressive way to try to get someone else to do the dirty work of cleaning up our emotional castles!

If we buy into this soldier’s way of thinking then he/she will get to live for many more moons because as the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said:  “Hell is other people.”  In other words, there will ALWAYS be someone who hurts our feelings as long as we allow others to have power over our castles.

Kings and queens are rarely offended and make no attempts to censor; they offer compassion instead of control.  On the rare occasion that they are offended, kings and queens use the offensive statement or uncomfortable situation as an opportunity to get to know their own soldiers and/or those of others.

4.      Unkind thoughts, words or actions

Our defensive soldiers flourish in and around victimization and create these scenarios with their words, thoughts and even actions.  We can catch our defensive soldiers fairly easily when they are attempting to victimize someone else i.e. gossiping; being judgmental, mean or manipulative.

It is much harder to catch our defensive soldiers when they are victimizing us with their unkind thoughts and words even though they are much harder on us than they are on others. Negative self-talk, anyone?  Anytime we hear ourselves thinking or speaking about ourselves or another with anything less than kindness then we can be sure that one of our soldiers is lurking about.

Kings and queens treat themselves and everyone around them like royalty because they know that we are all perfect and that we are all doing the best we can with what we have.

5.      Stuck in a Loop

It is not uncommon for us to hear ourselves say out loud: “How did I get back here?  Why is this happening to me again?” in reference to relationship dynamics, job, finances, mood or just life in general.  If we listen closely, we can hear our thoughts playing on repeat as well.

Anytime that we identify that we are in a loop or a pattern, rest-assured this is the work of our child soldiers.  They are limited in their capacity to grow and evolve – they only know what they know. They have been using the same tools since childhood so it stands to reason that if they are running the show then the end result will always be the same.

The only way out of the loop is to heal the soldiers so that the wise kings and queens can start making different choices.

Honor the Crown or March with Soldiers?

Now that we can identify soldiers, we can consciously choose to honor the crown or to march with soldiers.  There is no right or wrong answer because it is simply a choice.  As long as we are consciously aware of the choice we are making, then we are being true to ourselves.  If we do not choose to honor the royalty within ourselves and others then, by default, we have chosen to serve with soldiers and vice versa; there is no neutral ground in the battle for our castles.

If we make a conscious decision to momentarily march with soldiers then we have not lost our throne entirely.  It is when we unconsciously begin marching that our throne is threatened.  It is important that we stay vigilant about our thoughts and about the company we keep otherwise, without even realizing it, we will have fallen in lock-step with our soldiers.

Mixed company between royalty and soldiers is challenging because the disparate viewpoints leave very little common ground – we cannot simultaneously be empowered and victimized.  The first battle is always within.  Subsequent battles may take place externally; especially with those we love but sometimes with perfect strangers and often with everyone in between.  Soldiers are indiscriminate and not known for choosing their battles.

If we identify as our defensive soldiers then we will continue to feed both our own soldiers and those of the people around us.  There’s a reason they are called “armies.” There is usually no shortage of soldiers who seek our company, either to fight with them or against them; not the least of which are our very own soldiers who are reticent to leave us.  As the old adage goes – misery loves company.

The throne tends to be a little quieter in the long run for kings and queens.  Once we heal our soldiers and they go away, they take their incessant chatter with them so we are left with silence and space which are both peaceful and liberating.

The solitude of the throne is also a by-product of the retreat of defensive soldiers who have a natural disdain for kings and queens so they tend to pull away.  This is great news for the process of releasing our internal soldiers but can be a little disconcerting when it is our friends and families who are withdrawing from us.  Defensive soldiers often experience kings and queens as judgmental, callous, cold and/or perhaps unsupportive because kings and queens will not join in with the soldier games of blaming, victimization, gossiping, etc.

Kings and queens find participating in soldier games exhausting and unproductive and as such may also eventually choose to pull away from those who persistently identify as their soldiers.  It is extremely difficult to honor the royalty in another if they are unwilling to honor their own royalty.  It also stands to reason that we cannot expect soldiers to honor our royalty if they do not honor the royalty within themselves.

The kings and queens among us also know that regular participation in soldier games is a call to arms for our own defensive soldiers who are never far away.  If we tempt our soldiers often enough they will eventually start another coup, topple us from our thrones and obliterate our castles.

Choose a Weapon:  Wisdom or Comfort

None of us have the power to heal the wounded defensive soldiers of another.  We can only heal our own soldiers – if and only if – we actually want to heal them.  The best that we can do is support one another on the journey.  The optimal way to provide support to another is by living one’s truth; in other words – by walking the walk.

In the last section, we made a conscious choice to serve with soldiers or to honor the crown.  If our choice is to serve with soldiers then we can feed them by turning to other soldiers, ours or those of others, in times of crisis.  Other soldiers will provide us with the appropriate military tactics for survival: blaming, victimization, manipulation, negativity, fear, etc.

However, if we want to honor the crown then we need to nurture the kings and queens within and seek out other kings and queens who can provide strategic counsel for maintaining our throne. Royals, like soldiers, use the same strategies for both internal and external battles although the royal arsenal is completely different because it contains:  acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, gratitude, kindness and love.

You may be asking, as I have asked myself many times, “Is there a way to honor the king/queen within myself yet support others who identify as their defensive soldiers?”  Absolutely there is and it happens naturally by walking the walk of self-healing.  Compassion is a vital component of self-healing and when we heal, we gain compassion for our defensive soldiers and for those of others.

Compassion is one of the most powerful tools in the royal arsenal. Compassion is not to be confused with pity.  Pity is a tool used by soldiers to encourage victimization in themselves and others; whereas compassion is royal badge of honor given to ourselves and others when we acknowledge the struggle and the pain AND the ability to heal and overcome.  Compassion allows kings and queens to be in the midst of soldiers and remain unharmed.  Compassion can also cease the fire of defensive soldiers and create space for healing to take place.

We can only heal that which we are aware of so the process of healing requires that we gain the wisdom of self-awareness.  This wisdom can only be gained when we objectively observe our defensive child soldiers, without judgement, from the perspective of our throne.  Here’s the ironic twist:  Marching with soldiers is really comfortable in the short-term because it is typically a well-worn, unconscious pattern but can have devastating effects in the long-term.  Whereas, the process of gaining wisdom is usually really uncomfortable initially but the long-term benefits are tremendous!

The temporary discomfort that accompanies the wisdom of self-awareness pays off exponentially in clarity and autonomy.  Autonomy provides a level of peace and freedom that is unattainable when we rely upon others to fulfill our needs and wants. Self-awareness is the first step to healing and to reclaiming our crowns so sitting on our throne and living an empowered life means consistently choosing the wisdom of self-awareness over the comfort of soldier games.

If we want comfort, we can call upon every soldier we know to throw us an amazingly tragic pity party replete with blame-filled balloons, finger-pointing fireworks; scathing streamers, guilt-laden gift bags; and a triple-layer criticism cake frosted with feedback on the ways that others have wronged us.

If we want to be wise, powerful kings and queens of our castles then we can begin by taking a look in the mirror and getting to know every single one of our defensive soldiers by name.  We must accept them, forgive them and have compassion for them.  Then we must look them in the eye and give each of them whatever it is they want because no one else can satisfy or heal them. Then we can graciously send them into retirement with a golden parachute of gratitude, love and kindness and reclaim our rightful place on the throne.

[1] This is why the common interpretation of the Golden Rule is a fallacy but that is an entire chapter in my forthcoming book

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