In his book Complex PTSD Pete Walker talks about the chronic tenseness most abuse survivors hold in their bodies. I’ve heard it called chronic tension, muscle rigidity, and bracing. I like what Peter Walker called it: muscle armoring. He said it’s the bodies way to be ready to fight, flee, or freeze. Muscle armoring is part of hypervigilance which is a hyper alert mental state. Of course, like most survival responses, this is supposed to be short term but for those of us who have had to be in survival mode for long term, we become adapted to this survival technique and are always waiting for the next bad thing to happen. We are constantly waiting to flee, preparing to fight, or stuck in a frozen state. This chronic tenseness and hyper alert state can lead to issues. Most of these issues involved chronic muscle aches and pains because the muscles are overused and an inability to relax. A large population of people with a history of trauma of chronic back and joint pain as well as fibromyalgia. Muscle armoring is a way for children to coping when they are in a perpetually unsafe environment and are unsure of where the next threat is going to come from .It’s also a way for children and adults to protect their emotions. If they’re buried under armor, no one can hurt them. It also protects us from others emotions, sometimes I think either positive or negative because they can both be painful.
Of course, I am no longer a child and my environment now is safe from the abuses I suffered as a child but I think sometimes my body is so ingrained to be tense, that it takes the slightest trigger to get me to go back into defense mode.I don’t have fibroyaligia and I’m lucky to not have debilitating pains that I know others suffer from but my muscles will frequently ache and feel tired. I feel tight in my chest and sometimes it’s hard to breathe. My stress is especially held in my shoulder and upper arms like I’m bracing to physically defend myself. I do exercise daily to try to keep my muscles loose but strong. Being strong is really important to me. I also want to hold my emotions in. I don’t want others to see what I’m feeling. I also find other peoples emotions to be too much to handle at times. I’m so overwhelmed with my own, I can barely take on anyone else.
I had been thinking for a long time about getting a tattoo. I wanted something that was mine. A part of my body that no one had touched or chosen for me. I wanted something that meant something to me and my recovery. I chose a compass and find the design and then waited for 2 years. Yesterday I stopped by the tattoo place, went in and had it done (I wasn’t expecting it to happen, I just went in to make an appt). I love it. Its mine and I feel pretty bad ass having it. It feels like a piece of armor, something that’s just for me. Marking my body as my own. It was quite an adrenaline rush and I am so glad that I got it done. I know it’s something small and it hasn’t cured my tenseness but it’s made me more aware of my body and how it really is mine. I’m not recommending a tattoo but if there’s anything out there that could make you feel like you have more ownership over your body, try it. Whether it’s yoga, running, piercings, dance, tattoo etc, don’t wait. Your body is yours.
This also looks interesting: http://urbanfitt.com/the-bodybraid-somatic-healing-and-body-armoring/
Here it is!
One thought on “Survival Armor”
I think the armour for me is also holding on to emotions afraid to let go especial around people and afraid to express