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Please note: This guide is designed for existing clients who wish to understand more about specific patterns discussed in session. Please be sure to read "Understanding Defenses” first.


Imagine you're a child of about three years of age.  You're no longer an infant who's totally dependent upon your parents for your survival.  In fact, you've mastered many things.  You can walk and talk and feed yourself now.  You understand that you're a unique person.

You understand, too, that your parents exist separately from you.  You even have different opinions about things. Sometimes those opinions clash.  Maybe you've learned that magical word "no."  You've discovered that you can use that word to make what you want (or don't want) known.  It's a critical tool for defining your experience.  You can use it to set boundaries, letting in what feels right and keeping out what doesn't.

It's an exciting time of self-discovery, and you need lots of time and space to explore who you are within a safe environment.  You know that some things feel good and in alignment with who you are.  Other things do not.  But you usually can't tell until you've tried both.  You're also becoming more attuned to the cues of your body.  It lets you know what it needs to stay healthy, but you're still learning how to listen to it and honor its messages.


You need your parents to understand healthy limits and inform you of them when you're exploring an edge.  You also need them to allow you to make mistakes and to express all your emotions, especially the difficult ones like frustration and anger.  You need them to be your "safe container," to strictly enforce the important boundaries that keep you healthy and safe, while giving you complete freedom to express yourself and be creative within those boundaries. 


So what if the adults responsible for your care never developed healthy boundaries themselves?  What if they don't really know how to hold a safe container for you?  Perhaps they think they need to rigidly control you.  Or perhaps they view you as an extension of themselves.  What if they think it's their job to define you?  What do you do when they try? 


Maybe there are times when they don't respect your "healthy no."  This makes you angry.  Maybe it makes you feel bad, or even guilty, especially if the adults aren't just ignoring your "no" but trying to make you feel wrong or bad for it.  You're more independent now, but you still need them.  You need their love and their approval.  Do you succumb to their pressure?  Do you allow them to define you?  Do you sacrifice yourself in order to keep their love? 

* * * 


This is when the compressed defense begins to develop, around the time when you were just beginning the process of defining yourself.  You needed someone who could hold good boundaries for you, to keep you from hurting yourself, while giving you lots of room to explore.  You needed someone who could model good boundaries and demonstrate how to make healthy choices that are alignment with your unique essence. 


At this stage of development, we all need the freedom to say “no” to many things before we’ll learn what our “healthy no” is.  We need a lot of space to explore, as well as some gentle instruction on how to listen to our "inner compass" so we can discern which of our choices are good for us and which aren’t.  Until we learn how to follow the wisdom of the inner compass, we’ll say “no” to a lot of things we probably shouldn’t say no to.  We’ll also not say “no” to a lot of things we should.  We won’t know how to stop eating when we’re full.  We’ll eat things that make us feel sick, or we’ll stay up too late or wear clothes that fail to protect us from the weather.  We’ll make choices that bring us experiences we don’t want.  We’ll make choices that keep us from experiencing the things we do.

With support, space and guidance, however, we can learn how to make choices that are aligned with our authentic desires, and that are healthy and well-bounded.  We’ll learn how to say “no” to the things that are harmful, create suffering or simply aren’t in alignment.  This will strengthen our sense of self and our capacity to be in healthy relationship with others. 

We’ll need a certain amount of freedom to make choices and feel the consequences of those choices as we’re learning this.  We need our caregivers to offer us enough space to make choices and mistakes, while also holding firm boundaries around things that are truly harmful or dangerous.  With practice, we’ll figure out where there’s room for flexibility and where there isn’t.  We’ll learn how to build healthy structure and limits.  Learning how to wield our “no” appropriately is a step toward self-discipline. 

So, what if the adults in your life didn't understand healthy boundaries?  Many adults struggle to understand what their own healthy boundaries are.  They cannot model what they haven’t learned.  Parents without a strong sense of self and parents who are selfishly willful may both treat the child as an extension of themselves, in different ways. They may rigidly impose their own structures or interpretations onto the child, or fail to hold any structure at all.  They may hold unbending schedules that simply don’t match the natural rhythms of the child.  Perhaps they demand the child eat certain foods or eat at certain times, or use the bathroom at specific intervals.  These schedules may serve the parents and even help create order, but can serve as an unhealthy model to a child trying to learn about meaningful self-care.  

Some parents find it difficult to respect a child’s anger, aggression and the natural negativity that emerges at this time.  They may find it difficult to say “no” themselves.  They don’t know how to react to their child screaming, “NO!” to a simple request.  They may then ignore the child’s expression, try to override it, or force the child to do something that’s not in alignment with their inner compass.   


Sometimes, parents simply put a premium on “being good” and use shame or guilt to control behavior.  Look at how your sister ate all her dinner…don’t you want to be like her?  Here, the child is being asked to look outside for an answer right at the moment when they’re trying to learn how to look within.  Others will discipline or restrict a child, as a consequence for what they perceive as their bad behavior.  Believing it’s their responsibility to shape and mold their child, they may rigidly control behavior and limit choice rather than offer space and explain consequences.  They may even believe good parenting means tending to every small detail or saving the child from making mistakes.

These kinds of consequences are not the natural consequences of making a choice that can be learned from.  Rather, they are invasions of the child’s sovereignty.  They are designed to control or break the will of the child, rather than help the child find his own healthy expression of will. 

When these things occur, the child is placed in a difficult bind.  Although they’re more independent now, they still need love and approval, as well as practical support.  Here, they’re faced with an impossible choice.  Do they honor themselves, or do they sacrifice themselves to keep the love of their caregiver?


You loved your parent and wanted to be loved in return.  But it seemed like that love came at a price.  To keep their love, you had to sacrifice yourself, allowing your creative essence to be compressed.  Being in relationship with them meant not exploring the relationship with yourself.  


At three, we're too young to understand the boundary crossing taking place.  Our will is overridden, or we’re forced to endure an unfair defeat.  To survive the assault, we must find a way to turn our will, as well as our anger at the thwarting of our will, inward.  With compression, we learn how to sacrifice ourselves as a way to keep ourselves safe.  We compress our own energy to maintain emotional contact or receive approval, but it comes at a price.  We distort our power of choice and send it into hiding.  Eventually, inner messages stop arising.  We withdraw, retreating into the body and building walls to protect against the feeling of being invaded.  This is the compressed defense. 


Compression causes layers and layers of dense energy to build up in the energetic field.  Aggressive or negative energy is turned inward and is immobilized.  This self-attacking maneuver creates a pervasive overcharge in the field.  It builds and builds with no way to release.  Like a fortress, these dense layers provide some sense of protection from outward invasion.  But because they hold all the negativity in, they also act like a prison, limiting the movement of energy everywhere.  The entire field becomes heavy, dense and stagnant.

Despite these energetic walls, true boundaries remain weak or porous.  With no room for personal will or expression of healthy aggression, energy is instead engaged in maintaining merged relational spaces.  The third chakra (a personal will center) eventually becomes overused in defensive caretaking.  The back of the chakra, where healthy discipline and self-care would develop, is usually diminished in the process.

With compression, underneath what appears to be a calm exterior lies an incredible amount of tension.  Like a volcano holding back an eruption, the system remains under a constant state of pressure that cannot be released, but merely endured.  Because the overcharge is so strong, the system can hold quite a bit.  It can endure and suffer quietly for a very long time.  In time, the entire system aligns to actively resist release of any kind.


Holding an overcharge in the energy body creates thickened muscle or layers of fat in the physical body.  These layers limit freedom of movement.  Metabolism slows.  The shoulders may become rounded and immobile, and the midsection compressed or shortened, as if the body is braced to carry an incredible weight.  Compression may be found in certain areas (neck and waist are common) or throughout the body generally.  It oftentimes creates strong tension in the neck, jaw and throat, and puts pressure on the heart.  Personal will and authentic voice are strangled in the process.


Compression throughout the body places tension on the spine and other joints.  It chokes the digestive system and can cause widespread inflammation or even autoimmune disorders.  Obesity related diseases are also common.  Long term issues may include jaw issues (TMJ), arthritis, intestinal issues, lower back pain, foot and knee problems, plantar fasciitis, inflammation, bone spurs (especially in the lower body), depression and infections.


Do you find it easy to understand how everyone around you is feeling?  Do you know what everyone wants, except for yourself?   Do you believe you can have love or autonomy, but not both?  These are the trademark issues of the compression defense.  They're accompanied by a great internal pressure (even if you appear quite easy-going or submissive on the outside). 

Holding your energy in a compressed pattern makes you feel perpetually burdened or under pressure.  But because the energy is held that way in protection, there’s no real way to release it without facing all the negativity locked inside.  Consistently compressing yourself and self-sacrificing also causes resentment.  But resentment only adds more energy to an already pressurized system, so the awareness of it must also be compressed.

Underneath all the negativity and holding is a secret desire to be free.  But because feeling that desire for freedom and sovereignty would require feeling the pain of the original invasion, that desire is rarely conscious or acknowledged.  Instead, life is seen as something that simply must be endured.  Relationships are responsibilities that cannot be escaped from.  The false choice between autonomy and relationship seems real, along with the feeling that there really isn’t any choice at all.  You simply must do what you must do (go to work, pay your bills, etc.).

Pleasure must instead be found in the discomfort and restriction.  Even when it comes at such a high price, there’s pleasure in the inner state of quiet resistance.  With compression, we win by losing.  We self-sabotage.  In the process, we cannot help but feel shame or even self-hatred.

Compression can have a swamp-like quality that contributes to depression.  Fighting against it oftentimes sends you deeper into it.  Even when there’s a conscious desire for change or self-care, it can feel like pushing against a mountain of inertia.  Thick, energetic, prison walls keep us trapped in the feelings of stuckness.  Movement and choice are limited, even though we’re the ones doing the limiting.  In this way, some semblance of choice is held onto.   We become our own captors, even unto death. 


Do you resonate with any of these beliefs:

  • It's just easier to go along.

  • I cannot express who I truly am. Or I can only express who I am if I’m not in a relationship.

  • I can't be myself when he/she is around.

  • I don't know what I want.

  • Anger is bad. I should try to overcome it.

  • Saying “no” is hard. It's easier to just say yes.

  • I can either be myself and be free, or be in relationship, but not both.

  • I didn't really want to, but he/she really did, so I just went along.

  • Self-sacrifice is noble. I do things I don't really want to do because I care.

  • Life is something that must be endured.

  • Life is hard.  

  • Sometimes you just have to do what you don’t want to do.

These ways of thinking continually compress your energy and invite invasion and boundary crossing, especially in relationship. They also cause great internal struggle as many of your natural impulses are automatically pushed down.  Your own needs and desires, if you're aware of them, are placed last in a long list of responsibilities. Time for self is usually sacrificed for real or perceived responsibilities or for the “greater good.”

On the positive side, holding your energy in a compressed fashion takes will power, so this defense helps develop strength.  You can endure.  You can carry on after others can’t.  This defense produces great caregivers and providers, who self-sabotage and sacrifice much in relationship.  \


TIME and SPACE are the key to healing this defense. Getting in touch with your inner compass will take some time, space and consistent effort.  It's nearly impossible to set healthy boundaries if you don't know what you really need.  And you can only understand your unique needs if you know who you are at your core.  What works for others won't necessarily work for you.  Each of us is a unique expression.


To start this process, you'll need to let your feelings and your words flow...even (maybe especially) the negative ones.  This may feel difficult, and likely you'll experience some guilt.  Stay present and feel the guilt to release it.  Remember that guilt was how you were controlled.  It's an old program.  Ask yourself whether you're actually doing something you should feel guilty about.  Are you harming someone?   Give yourself time and space to find what you're truly feeling and to find the words that will express what you want to express. 


Use the affirmation “I am free.  It's safe for me to be who I am.  It’s safe for me to feel whatever I feel.  Feelings aren't bad or wrong.  They just are, and I can be with them and let them inform me about myself."

Tools for healing this defense:

1.   GET A COMMITTED SELF-CARE PRACTICE.  This can't be something you do once in a while or when there's no housework or all the stars align and you have a free moment.  It has to be first on your list.  It can be as long or as short as you want, as long as it's consistent and offers you a way to connect with yourself.  Perhaps it's just taking a few moments in the morning to stretch and check in with your body.  Or going for a walk or journaling.  Whatever it is, make it a priority.  Give yourself some time because you deserve it!  You can’t care for others if you’re not taking care of yourself.

2.   EXERCISE.  Compressed energy moves when the body moves.  Any kind of exercise that gets your heart and body moving will start moving the compressed energy.  Likely, you'll experience resistance to this...that's the trademark of this wound.  In an attempt to block out invasion, all kinds of energetic walls were built and any attempt by someone to make you do something (even if that someone is you) is likely going to meet with some resistance. That's why there's such a strong component of self-sabotage with this wound.  You know it's good for you, and yet it's so hard to do it!  It helps if you take a moment to acknowledge the resistance when you feel it.  Sit with it for a minute and make a choice.  What do you truly want?  Sink below the defense to your core.  Do you want to be healthy?  Do you want to feel better?  These are great reasons to push through the resistance.  At other times, the work is just sitting in the resistance.  Try to be present with it.  

3.   FIND A CREATIVE OUTLET.  Creativity offers you an incredibly powerful mirror.  The process of creating is the process of bringing some part of your core out into the world of form.  It allows you to move your energy out and then to take that energy back in while reflecting upon your creation.  In the process, you come to know yourself better...the dark and the light.  It doesn't matter what form your creativity takes.  This is also entirely unique.  Find what speaks to you and follow it.  It's even better if this activity takes you out of the house, away from your responsibilities at least a couple times per week.  Whatever creative expression you choose, try to approach it with an attitude of connecting with yourself, NOT with creating something specific.  Allow it to be a movement from inside-out.  What comes out may surprise you.  There's likely some negativity and darkness that needs to be witnessed.  Resist any attempt to judge what comes out, and keep your creation entirely to yourself until you fully understand what it's revealing to you.  Share it when the creative process (including the mirroring back phase) is complete, and then only if you want to.  Be mindful of your reasons for wanting to share if you choose to do so.

4.   JOURNAL.   Journaling also offers a mirror and need not take any specific form.  An entry could be a list of words, a poem, a drawing, phrases, descriptions of feelings that are coming up without context, or a long rambling monologue about nothing.  It doesn't matter what it is.  The point is to be present with yourself every day and to bring something out.  You are slowly reopening channels to your core.  Resist the temptation to show your journal to anyone during this time, even if something really interesting is revealed.  Give yourself ample time to find yourself reflected there before attempting to share anything you've found out about yourself.  In time, a clearer picture of who you are, what you truly want, what makes you happy, and the kind of people you want to spend time with will begin to take shape.

Some topics to explore if you're not sure where to start: 

  • Describe a time when you felt fulfilled.  What about that moment felt so satisfying?

  • If you were given the gift of a year of free time with no limits on spending, what would you do with it?

  • List ten things that make you smile.

  • How can you be more kind to yourself?

  • What are the things in your home that are the most “you”?

  • Complete this sentence:  I wish to experience this for the first time…

5.   GET COMFORTABLE SAYING NO.  It's crucial to get a little selfish with your time, especially with the people you love or feel obligated to.  You probably have a long list of responsibilities that you'll need to reassess.  Try to pare the list down to only a handful of things that you truly enjoy doing.  Use the phrase, "Can I get back to you on that?" whenever you're asked if you'd like to do something.  This is a great tool that offers you some time and space to check in and see what you really want to commit your energy to.

6.   WORK ON DEVELOPING HEALTHY BOUNDARIES.  Healthy boundaries result when you listen to your inner voice and stand up for your needs.  Whenever you're questioning whether you want to do something or if it’s a healthy boundary, ask yourself these questions:


  • Is it aligned with who I am?

  • Is it aligned with what I want to create in my life?

  • Is it aligned with my health?

  •  Am I hurting anyone in doing this?  Am I hurting myself?

If you'd like to explore this further, see my journaling exercise, "Finding Your Healthy Boundaries."

7.   ENERGY STUFF.  If you'd like to do some energy work as part of your self-care practice, you can imagine opening your crown chakra at the top of your head and reaching up.  It's easy to over-ground in this defense and to get stuck in the muck of the material world.  Reaching up to the spiritual realm creates a nice balance, and it's something everyone can do.  Just imagine reaching up and see what happens.

If you find yourself attaching or merging with someone (i.e., worrying about them, feeling controlled, disempowered, obsessing), place your hand upon your solar plexus.  Take a deep breath and speak or think the following intention:  "I now choose to disconnect any unhealthy cords connecting me to this person.  This is not mine to hold.  I reclaim all my power of choice and self-direction.  I use that power now to balance the energy within this chakra and throughout my body."

If you feel you still have third chakra cords from your parents which are being used to manipulate or control, connect with a qualified energy practitioner who can guide you through the process of removing them so that healthier cords can develop.  (See also my publication “Healthy Energetic Boundaries” for specific tools you can use in a daily practice to strengthen your energetic boundaries.)


The compressed defense stands upon the false belief that you’re not free.   The belief that you're not free is held in place by an inner resistance to being free.  It's easier sometimes to be trapped.  There's a degree of comfort and predictability in responsibility and in feeling like you don't have a choice.  It's why this defense feels so immovable sometimes.  Your will is being used to imprison you.  But it can also be used to set you free.  You're here to live the life that you want to live, not to please others.  You are a divine, sovereign creator.  

For more Information, please check out the downloadable class "Healthy Boundaries and the Wound of Invasion."

For further support, see “Divine Energy for Healing and Transformation” or “Connecting to Core Star and Soul Purpose” meditations.  

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