Monday, January 9, 2012


Life has a way of layering.  Let me explain.  I used to live in Michigan where winters can be extremely cold.  When temperatures were going to drop well below freezing, it was not uncommon for weather reporters to caution us, “Be careful not to get frostbite.”  They suggested layering our clothing to keep in body heat and keep out the frigid temperatures.

We are born with a survival instinct that cautions us against mental and emotional frostbite.  We instinctively begin to layer protection against what we may perceive as a cold, cruel world, from an early age.  Psychologists call these layers, defense mechanisms.  Ways of thinking, behaving, and relating that help us survive as children but often become counter-productive, or even destructive as we grow older.
Let’s think about some of these ‘layers.’  I’ll name two or three that have been in my personal defense arsenal, and you add a few of your own.  Ready to work with me?  Okay…

I learned from a very early age that no one can be trusted.  So I became…get ready for it…”hyper-vigilant.”  I was ever on the alert, stressed out by the possibility that someone, anyone, might hurt me, or at least want to take advantage of me.  Hyper-vigilance can come across as suspicious, overly reactive, or even jealous.  It stresses us and defeats its own purpose because when you don’t trust anyone or anything, you may miss it when an actual threat comes on the scene and mistrust your perception. After all, you’ve been wrong before.

The foundation for this defense mechanism is underdeveloped trust.  Trust is the first stepping stone to human psychosocial development.  How do we free ourselves from this unhealthy ‘layer’?

 We do it by learning how to trust appropriately within the context of safe, healthy, relationships.  How do we find a safe place to work on this development?  The safest place I know is in a healthy church, small group, or mature Christian friend who has demonstrated loyalty and honesty in the past.  

You can test every relationship, every advice or counsel offered, and every principle taught by measuring it against the Word of God, God’s personal letters to you—letters provided to help you grow and become more like Him.

Another defense mechanism which helped me survive early years but became counter-productive later on was denial.  The human mind often refuses to accept that which seems to threatening or destructive for survival…so the person in denial may look right at something and not see it.  Block out the threat…  Sometimes we alter our perception of the threat to make it less intimidating.  We ignore or distort any reality we think we can’t survive.

I remember once, in junior high school, being asked by a teacher to write an essay on what animal I’d like to be if I could choose.  Some classmates chose a bear, some a lion, one wanted to be an eagle.  I chose the ostrich.  I didn’t have a clue about what my choice was telling me…and others.  The ostrich hides her head in the sand and pretends the danger doesn’t exist.  A perfect example of denial.  Denial may keep us alive when we are children caught in an inescapable web of danger…it may keep us sane, but the time comes when we have the power to take action, to remove ourselves from the danger, and get on with the business of living.  If we maintain our defense mechanism of denial, we won’t be able to free ourselves because we have accepted the false belief that “it isn’t so bad,” or “there is nothing I can do,” or “this will stop if I just keep hoping, or praying.”  It won’t stop unless you take action.  You have to stop it.  Denial is not your friend.  I had to take my head out of the sand before I could free myself from the abuse I grew up with. It is the truth that sets us free…Jesus told us that.  Denial distorts or denies the truth and keeps the soul in bondage.  It is a layer that keeps us in the darkness when life is meant to be lived in the light.

I’ve found over the years that books by godly authors can help me identify and deal with the multiple layers of unhealthy coping mechanisms that I adopted during the trauma I experienced growing up.  The measure of a books worth is it’s alignment with the Word of God, the absolute truth.

 Some books have been donated to this ministry that may help you identify and deal with your personal ‘layers.’  They are available (with a donation of whatever you can afford) from Hope Aglow Ministries, Inc..  Write or call us and request a book if you want help removing the layers that may be weighing you down with unhelpful or destructive patterns of living and relating.  We’ll accept a donation of whatever you are able to afford.  Scholarships are available for those who need them.  We hope to hear from you.

Hope Aglow Ministries
P.O. Box 10157
Lynchburg, VA 24506


Love in Christ,

Linda Settles

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