I like to sleep with cover over my head, so that I am fully enclosed. When I was little, I pretended to build fortress with blankets. I would take care to close all little gaps so that it was a complete enclosure. It felt satisfying somehow.
Now I realize that I was seeking to establish stronger boundaries. I wanted to feel safe.
I don’t know why we humans have these tender places. Getting invaded there hurts a lot so we protect it. But when we are little we don’t have means to protect them. We are at the mercy of the world around us.
And adults know that little children don’t have protection. It’s easy to coerce them through hard feelings. I’ve tried to watch myself with my children. But sometimes manipulative impulses got the best of me. Kids don’t have adult ways of fighting back. The temptation is strong to make them do what you want them to do.
Except that too much of such experiences can have dire consequences. Little kids may not remember but the pain of the hard feelings get imprinted in their psyche. In a way, the little child’s growth is stunted at that point. The rest of the person grows up, but inside there’s a little child. They are afraid to experience that feeling that was too much, too invasive. In some ways the fear itself becomes bigger and more terrifying than the experiences they are afraid of. So when you encounter anything that reminds you of that fear, you get triggered.
You can live a life of avoiding triggers, or you can face them and feel the terrifying feelings. The latter is difficult, but there is an end to it. It takes quite some time, but you can feel the feelings you were trying to avoid until you are done with it. Just like a child who is finished throwing a tantrum. And after that, you can move on and be free of that fear of those feelings. Life will always present hard feelings. But they will no longer be this terrifying, avoid-at-all-cost experience. They’ll stop disturbing your inner equilibrium quite as much. They become more manageable.
I still like to sleep under my covers. But I am getting better at protecting my boundaries. I am less afraid now. The years I spent confronting my hard feelings were worth it.
(The picture is from when I was harassed online a couple of years ago. My therapist told me about this exercise to strengthen the sense of boundaries and safety.)