Thursday, December 14, 2017

Protective Posturing

(This blog was originally posted on December 8, 2016)

Photo by Rick Hustead

A few years ago, as I was switching channels on the television, I happened to catch a couple minutes of a rodeo competition on RFDTV. As I recall, a rider was climbing onto a very large bull, waiting for the chute to open and begin his round. The television announcer started providing a bit of background about the man, including a very interesting detail. Apparently, the rider had recently recovered from a broken scapula (collar bone). However, his posture on the animal indicated that he was subconsciously “protecting” the previously injured area, which could undermine his success during the round, the announcer warned. A doctor had cleared the rider to compete, so the man was obviously healthy, fit and strong enough to ride a bucking bull again. However, the rider’s subconscious mind didn’t completely believe this prognosis, which could undermine his self-confidence and actual ability to ride well and stay safe.

Most of us can probably identify with this phenomenon. Whether we are coming back from a long illness or get hurt participating in a sport or performing a task at work, it’s natural to favor other areas of the body to protect the injured area. Sometimes this means that we assume very strange postures or physical contortions, which ultimately puts undue extra strain on the healthy/intact body part.

We also do this metaphorically to protect ourselves from emotional pain or discomfort, such as following the end of a relationship or loss through bereavement or geographic relocation. We build metaphoric walls around our feelings (hearts), and use sarcasm and even cruel comments to discourage anyone from trying to break through and establish a bond. Have you ever sworn to “never fall in love again” when your true love breaks your heart, or to never buy or adopt another pet after a beloved companion animal has died? These behaviors serve the same purpose: to protect that vulnerable or injured part of ourselves from future pain by blocking off or using defensive behaviors to guard that area from further injury.

In fact, the desire to avoid emotional pain is so ingrained that the subconscious mind has specific strategies to protect us from these risks. According to Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder John Kappas, Ph.D., an Emotional Sexual individual uses rationality and intellect to distance (separate) him- or herself from a potentially contentious (romantic) situation to protect these vulnerable emotions. The Emotional Sexual person always wants to maintain control, and the best way to do this is to literally “turn off” the feelings or, at very least, to segregate sexual desire from emotional entanglement.

While a Physical Sexual individual uses his or her body (sex) to protect the person from emotional vulnerability, sex and love are often indistinguishable in this person’s mind. If and when this person feels threatened emotionally—in other words, fears rejection by the partner—he or she tends to become very clingy and needy, trying to keep the lover close by and thus “under control.” Of course, these behaviors only push the other person further away and open fresh emotional wounds.

When it comes to recovering from a broken bone or a broken heart, many times the best course for complete recovery is to step back for a little (or long) while and let that real or metaphoric fracture to heal. Loosen the reins or hold you have on that volatile situation; let it run its course without so much intervention but enough confidence in your ability to either stay the course or safely separate from it to ride or love again another day.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
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