My wonderful friend Donna Lancaster heads up The Bridge – a 5 day residential workshop designed to release grief and loss. She also contributed to my book And Breathe. Donna to me is the best advertisement of her programme as she displays the courage to be devoid of any mask and simply be her authentic self. It’s so refreshing and certainly helped me to bring my guard down and feel it was ok to do that. Here she writes a piece on the ‘Warrior’
NO MORE THE WARRIOR
In order to survive the war zone of my childhood, like many other people, I quickly learned to develop a ‘Warrior’ defence to keep myself safe and indeed alive. To be vulnerable in my childhood, was to be destroyed. An unwelcome ‘weakness’ in the hostile terrain of the alien planet called ‘My Family’. Indeed at 7 years old I was told to ‘grow up’ and like a good girl desperate to belong, I did just that.
I swiftly developed a strong and seemingly impenetrable armour which served me very well (thank you very much). It enabled me to not only survive my childhood but to go on and thrive too in my adult life. I have indeed overcome many life challenges and adverse situations with my Warrior Woman persona. In fact I would not be the leader I am today without it. However as I have grown emotionally and spiritually I have come to see the limitations of this Warrior defence. What once began as a safety net ultimately turned into a prison.
Throughout my youth until well into my 30s I faced life head on. If there was a barrier or challenge, I would find a way through it (never round it…not the warrior way!) I was a fighter, a doer, a fearless action woman. And in truth it was utterly utterly exhausting. And then one day I simply couldn’t do it anymore and I didn’t want to either. Slowly over time I had come to realise the limitations of this Warrior defence. Because if we are only ever giving ourselves permission to be strong, to fight, to never give in, what messages does that give to the ‘wounded child’ part of us?! To me, it was like saying to that 7 year old me ‘shut up, don’t be a baby, grow up’. Like an internalised parent from my past, inadvertently perpetuating my own childhood messages. Bullying myself to comply. Ouch.
This Warrior approach allows no room for the softer beautiful emotions including sadness and fear nor our innocence to be seen. It prevents our vulnerabilities being expressed and our pain being shared so that ultimately we can heal. Therefore we stay stuck. A ‘tough’ girl or guy mistaking aggression for assertion, barriers for boundaries and viewing vulnerabilities as weakness. Safe for sure yet Lonely to the core….
To truly heal I believe we must allow all that we are to be embraced and this involves shedding our Warrior defence. That’s not to say that these well-honed warrior skills can not be used as and when required but it does mean that they do not define us. We are so much more than STRONG FIGHTERS! Both women and men alike. Life as a ‘warrior in recovery’ I find is richer, more authentic, softer and far less exhausting.
For my own story, only when I was ready and able to allow my Warrior Woman to step aside did my 7 year old girl tentatively step forward. Vulnerable, tearful, shy even. There she was patiently waiting to be remembered.
‘Hello you’ I said as I placed my hand gently into hers. ‘No more the Warrior I promise’. And we all breathed a collective sigh of relief…..
Donna Lancaster – Co Founder of The Bridge