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DISPLACED DEFENSE (BETRAYAL)

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.


HOW/WHY IT OCCURS

Imagine being about two or three years old.  You’ve just entered the stage of development sometimes referred to as “the terrible twos.”  This is a challenging time for toddlers and parents alike.  You're only just beginning to understand that the world is made of up of separate "things."  Until now, you were merged with your caregivers.  Now, you're beginning to understand that you're a small, separate person.  You have desires, but you can't always satisfy them on your own.  You still need the adults in charge of your care to tend to you, but you're also discovering you have some power of your own to manipulate the world around you.  Your parents, who until now felt like all-powerful extensions of yourself, don't always do what you want them to do.  You're standing at a very confusing crossroads.  You want to be free and independent, and you don't.  You enjoy the power you can wield, even as you're realizing how very vulnerable and powerless you actually are. 

During this time, it's developmentally appropriate for you to be self-centered.  You're beginning the process of building a functioning ego.  You need the adults around you to mirror your unique gifts and goodness, even when it's messy.  You need them to teach you about boundaries and the appropriate use of your personal power.  The world isn't yours to control, but there's nothing bad or wrong with your desires.

 

At times, you run to your parents in the extreme vulnerability of a needy child.  At other times, you'll run away from them, pushing the edge of your independence.  Both running toward and running away from them take you into your dilemma.  You're split.  Frequently, you're caught somewhere between the two, desperately clinging to them, even as you're violently pushing them away.     

Being honored within this struggle for who you uniquely are will help you build a resilient ego.  You'll need this strong sense of self to carry you through life.  With a strong ego, grounded in personal truth, you'll be able to engage your personal power and enter into relationships with others in a way that honors each of you as unique individuals.  It's what makes it possible for you to meet conflict in healthy ways, and also to find compromises that honor everyone involved.  These are big tasks.  You need the people around you to understand the complexity of the task you're engaged in.  You need them to see you for who you truly are and support you in this process when you inevitably stumble.  You need for them, also, to help you when you come to the inevitable understanding that you're not infinitely capable.  Surrendering to a higher power and finding peace in your own vulnerability is a big spiritual and developmental task. 

Understandably, this process can be a little messy.  We're all a little narcissistic and demanding at this stage, appropriately so.  You need your parents to understand what you're struggling to accomplish.  You need them to keep faith in you and lovingly hold healthy boundaries for you.  When there's conflict, you need them to help you explore and make sense of all the conflicting feelings, without judgement.  You need them to help you find healthy compromises.   When you disintegrate (as you inevitably will at times), you need them to gather you up, let you know they still love you, that they understand the strong emotions you're battling, and that they'll keep you from hurting yourself and others until you learn how to control your power.  You need them to have your back and see the good in you, especially when you're at your worst.

 

At times, the emotions flowing through you are overwhelming, and you simply don’t know what to do with them.  These emotions can be primal in nature, with an element of desire and burgeoning sexuality.  Sometimes they explode out.  You may lash out, stomp your feet, scream at the top of your lungs, or demand to have your way.  Sometimes you’re filled with such anger, you hurt yourself or others.  Sometimes you're filled with desire, and you play with directly taking what you want or using your seductive capacity to draw it to you.  You don’t have the ability yet to direct the flow of all that life force.  You haven’t learned how to control yourself, and you need someone to help you figure it out.  You need someone to contain you and help you learn how to take these strong currents and ground them down or direct them in appropriate ways.  You need them to stay centered in their vulnerable hearts, and help you find the beauty of yours.


So, what if the adults around you never learned self-control themselves?  What if they view vulnerability as weakness?  What if they've worked really hard to hide their own vulnerability?  What if, instead of holding you and explaining what’s happening, they tell you you’re wrong?  What if they tell you you’re bad?  Maybe they even punish you.  Do they strike you, or in some way shame you for your "bad" behavior?

What if they never developed healthy, functioning egos grounded in truth?  What if their egos are based on transient things, such as how much money they make, what job they have or what they look like?  It's hard for someone without a sense of self anchored in deeper currents to guide you as you're struggling.  What if your age-appropriate narcissism triggers their own wounding?  

 

Maybe they even admire your personal power and sense of self and want it for themselves.  Maybe they're attracted to your pure life force, but don't know how to interact appropriately with your sexual energy.  Maybe they try to claim ownership of your unique talents and skills as a way to bolster their own fragile egos or in some other way manipulate you to fulfill their needs.  What if they see you as proof of their own worth?  Maybe they put you on a pedestal when you're doing what makes them look or feel good, and shame you for your bad behavior when you're still just trying to figure out who you are.  What if they try to get their own needs met covertly, perhaps placing you in a triangle dynamic with your other parent?  Did you have to become Daddy's little girl, or Mommy's little boy?  This situation is rife with feelings of jealousy, competition and betrayal, all emotions that you're simply too you and not strong enough to navigate.

What if they close their hearts to you, or try to control you out of fear?  Maybe they see conflict as a proving ground and feel the need to win at all costs.  Imagine how that must have felt.  You’re so small and they’re so big.  Being out of control is terrifying.  You need help, but when you look to the only people who might be able to help you, they turn on you instead.  The vulnerability of your own soft heart doesn't feel safe.


Does that make it harder to trust others?  How about yourself?  Do you feel betrayed?  Maybe you decide that you better get big fast, so you can be the one in control.  Maybe you decide that life is about power and manipulation, and that being vulnerable isn't safe.  Do you feel so ashamed of your “badness” that you must make it go away?  Where can it go?

* * * 

For many of us, this is our earliest experience of betrayal.  You needed someone to understand the difficult reckoning process you were in and to love you despite your difficult or conflicted behavior.  You needed your caregivers to remain heart-centered and to teach you how to handle and contain your big feelings. Those feelings are a natural part of life, and a source of great richness, growth and personal power.  You needed someone to say, “I love you, and I know this is scary.  I've got you.  I’m going to stop you from hurting yourself or anyone else every time this happens, until you can learn how to do that for yourself.  You can trust me.  You'll figure this out, and I'm right here with you.”


Being told you're bad or wrong when you're struggling to understand who you are in the world hurts.  Receiving mixed messages about who you are is confusing.  Being used or manipulated breaks trust.  These are deep pains for a child who's just beginning to understand relating.  With little capacity to hold all this conflict, confusion and hurt, most of us need a way to make it go away.  We do this through the displaced defense.


WHAT IT DOES

It’s uncomfortable facing the places within us that hold negative, primal emotions like greed, anger, hate or a desire for power, but they’re part of being human.  Our task is to be a compassionate witness for those emotions, so they can be transformed in the crucible of the heart.  It’s not an easy task, even for an adult who understands the process.  Primal emotions, including sexual ones, can be frightening, especially for a young child.  They’re intense and they feel dangerous.  It’s easy to think these emotions are bad, especially when you’re a child who's just acted one of them out physically.  Maybe you’ve bitten or hit someone.  It might even be someone you love.  This behavior is merely the consequence of not knowing how to direct that energy.  It’s not a reflection on you.  It's just a skill you haven’t learned yet.


But if the people you love are telling you you’re wrong or bad, you’re probably going to believe them.  You’re probably going to internalize that in some way.  But because that thought is so difficult to live with, you’ll need to bury it somewhere in your subconscious.  It needs to be deep, too, as this one’s really scary.  You’re going to have to displace your energy somehow to accommodate that. 

ENERGETICALLY: 

The essence of all defenses is to split off what feels scary or uncomfortable.  Here, the discomfort is in the expression of the power of the true self or of the vulnerability of emotions arising from the sacral chakra.  To alleviate the discomfort, an energetic split is created between the lower body and upper body, effectively separating the sacral chakra from the upper, mental chakras.  Most commonly, energy is then displaced into the upper body, creating an overcharge there.  The sacral chakra is damaged or distorted, as well as isolated, by this maneuver.  In essence, the sexual/creative power of the sacral chakra is now separated from the heart and mind.  It also makes it more difficult for the system to ground and resource itself from the Earth.  The overcharge through the shoulders, arms and head offers a lot of energy to get things done.  But because the system is ungrounded and has no way to “let down,” it eventually collapses in fatigue or illness.

 

The front of the heart chakra is where we can honor and connect with others.  It’s where we can accept, love and forgive.  Because there’s a sense of having been deeply betrayed, however, energy is further displaced from the front of the heart chakra to the back.  Trust is no longer available, and the heart becomes something of a battlefield.  The back of the heart functions in a more willful capacity.  With the displacement of energy from the front to the back, “doing” becomes more highly valued over “being.”  The softer feelings of the vulnerable front of the heart become less available.  It becomes increasingly difficult to authentically connect to others.  Personal will takes precedence over relational harmony or integrity.

Energy may be further displaced from the back of the heart up over the shoulders, neck and head.  This aggressive maneuver can even extend energy beyond the head, so that it comes out at others in an overt attempt to control what they think, say or do.  Less commonly, energy is displaced into the lower body, where it’s used in a more seductive or manipulative manner.  The relative overcharge is centered in the lower body, although the split between the upper and lower bodies keeps the sacral chakra separate from the heart and head.

PHYSICALLY:

Depending on the level of damage to the heart, this defense can cause varying degrees of heart-related issues (including heart disease, heart attack) and lung problems.  If you’re using this defense, you’ll probably suffer from chronic tension in your shoulders, the base of the skull and the eyes.  Likely, you’ll have headaches.  Because you’ve displaced so much of your energy upward, it'll be hard to stay grounded.  You may spend a lot of time in your head.  Perhaps your upper body is more developed than your lower body, especially if you're a man.  If you've displaced energy downward, you may have overdeveloped thighs, especially if you're a woman.  Usually, you have a lot of energy and can get a lot done until your system collapses in fatigue or illness.


EMOTIONALLY:

Because the feeling of being out of control was so frightening, you’ll compensate with a strong need to control everything.  The underlying fear that there's something fundamentally bad or wrong with you means you'll work extra hard to prove that you're good and right.  But because your energy has become split, it's difficult to stay in your heart, to trust others, or to do what's actually right or good, especially if there's a danger others will judge you as bad or wrong.  This fear might be so strong, you'll lie or in other ways manipulate people, if need be.  The disconnect between the heart and your sacral chakra allows you to use sex manipulatively or in power play, instead of as a natural expression of the love in your soft heart.  Unfortunately, this configuration sets you up for betrayal in relationship, which is the very thing you fear the most, even though you probably expect it.

 

Because your field is split, it’s especially difficult to integrate your creativity and sexuality with the rest of you, and to transform those challenging, primal emotions.  They haven’t gone away.  As a result, you may feel stuck in that terrible two stage.  Even as an adult, it may be difficult to control your temper.  You may find yourself exploding at people you care about, trying to manipulate them into behaving better when you believe they’re behaving badly.  This is the only way you were taught to deal with bad behavior.


When you’re arguing with someone, do you need to convince the other person you’re right?  This may be because you’ve associated being right with being good.  But without facing those difficult emotions and your subconscious feelings of “badness,” this is a game you simply can’t win.  In fact, the fighting only causes more of your energy to be displaced.  It actually strengthens the defense and the feelings of not being able to trust yourself or others.

The imbalance in the heart chakra makes it difficult to be in complete integrity with others and ourselves.  It makes it hard to respond in loving ways towards others and to feel safe in your vulnerability.  Can you easily forgive yourself when you make a mistake?  What about when you’re wrong?  Or when you've done something bad?  How easy is it for you to say, "I was wrong about that, and I'm sorry I behaved that way.  I'll do my best to do better going forward"?  Would you feel ashamed to admit such a "weakness?"


MENTALLY: 

In this defense, you appear and probably feel strong and controlled.  Perhaps you even think you don’t need anyone else.  Maybe you spend a lot of your time helping other people with their problems.  You probably take on more than you can handle and then push through.  You can do that with a displaced field (at least until you collapse).  You can make the deadline.  You can juggle a thousand things.  You can go, go, go.  You’re probably well organized and accomplish more than others.  All that busyness keeps you from having to feel your own vulnerability or uncomfortable emotions.


Underneath all that bravado, however, there’s fear.  It may not be conscious, but it’s there.  It tells you that others can’t be trusted, that you must go it alone, or that no one really has your back if you mess up.  If you drop the balls, no one’s going to catch them.


Do you find yourself thinking any of these thoughts:

 

  • The world is a place in which the strong survive.

  • I must fight for what I want.

  • It’s OK to lie, manipulate or control others, especially if they're wrong or behaving badly.

  • I don’t need anyone.

  • You can’t trust anyone.

  • Life is a battleground. Winning is important.

  • I must be right.

  • I will not be a victim.


HEALING THE DEFENSE

Like all defenses, healing the displaced defense requires that we fundamentally change the way we view the world and ourselves in it.  It means challenging the viewpoints we’ve held since childhood.  You probably don’t remember choosing them.  Maybe you even think your views are simply "based on reality."  But your freedom lies in challenging those views.  To do this, you can’t simply fight through them, either.  That would only entrench you further in the defense.

 

To heal this defense, you must learn how to surrender into the soft part of your own heart.  You must learn how to acknowledge that you need help.  If some part of you is screaming at the word “surrender,” you know this is your task!  This defense is all about winning and fighting.  It’s not the defense of victimhood. That’s why the concept of “surrender” feels particularly difficult to embrace.  You may have all kinds of negative associations for that word.  It probably feels like losing.

 

The truth is there’s nothing quite so freeing and empowering as surrender.  Consider it a turning point on the journey of your soul.  When you're willing to surrender to a higher power, you're saying, “I don’t want to fight any more.  I choose peace.”   Once the resistance is released, you’ll be free to see the world differently.  Rather than seeing the world as a battlefield, it becomes a place of communion.  In this place, others lovingly reflect your lessons back to you, and you do the same for them. 

 

Even in the most charged or “bad” situations, there is only love.  Others can always be trusted, as they are always simply mirroring back what you need to learn.  Nothing more.  You are always being given precisely the experience that’s most helpful to you at the time.  How would it feel to know you're that supported by life?  To know that the very structure of the universe is supporting your every move?  You don't need to figure it out, make it happen, take control or push through.  There's nothing to prove.  It's enough to center into your own soft heart and BE. 

 

How would it feel to release all that judgement and pushing energy?  How peaceful would it feel to simply allow and trust that all is well?  It's not necessary to judge yourself or others.  In truth, there are no enemies or competitors here.  All of us make mistakes and behave badly sometimes.  Embracing surrender and centering in your own soft heart allows for forgiveness and compassion to flow through, rather than judgement or blame.  Others don't need to be wrong, when you no longer need to be right.  This shift allows you to find the deep integrity that lives in your core.  Integrity, forgiveness and compassion, centered in your heart, gives you the strength to "do the right thing."  This has nothing to do with "justice."  Rather is makes room for new ways of relating based on compassion to be made manifest in the world.


If you’re feeling ready, try on one of these beliefs instead:

 

  • I am safe.

  • I am good.

  • The divine plan is perfect. I can surrender to it, knowing I am wholly loved and wholly protected.

  • Because of this, I can trust everyone I meet.

  • There’s nothing I need to fix or do.

  • I’m free to be centered in my heart.

  • I can choose to be loving instead of being right.

  • I can choose to forgive myself when I make a mistake.

  • It’s OK to slow down and rest.

 

With this wound, I suggest embracing the question, “What can I surrender here?”  This is a master question, capable of unlocking the deepest recesses of your heart.  What can I surrender?  If things seem hard, or I’m feeling the need to fight, what can I surrender?  Is there a belief I can let go of?  Is there something else I need to let go of?  Can I surrender my anger?  Can I surrender my need to be right?  Can I surrender my need to find a solution?  Do I need to walk away from something or someone?  Can I just trust and allow myself to be carried through this situation with ease?


Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel like the answer is yes, but you don’t know how to do it.  There’s a host of angels, guides, star beings, ascended masters and other helpers just waiting for you to say, “I don’t know how to do this. I need your help.”  They want to “get your back,” but they also totally respect your free will. That’s the beauty of being in your heart…you’re connected to everything.  

 

And the world is full of more down-to-earth helpers, too.  Work with a healer, counselor or therapist that you trust.  Find someone who makes you feel safe, seen and loved for who you are at your core.  You've probably figured out some very elaborate ego compensations to distract people from seeing who you are at your core, so work at surrendering those, to the best of your ability.  You don't need to be anything other than who you are now, in this moment, imperfect and evolving.  Ask for help in discovering your true self.


The more you surrender, the more easily you can sit within your own heart.  This place is slow.  It’s engaged in the present moment.  A heart-centered life is full and rich in ways you can’t even imagine.  Tenderness is an incredibly powerful feeling.  Forgiveness and compassion are our true strengths.  Don’t let yourself be fooled by illusions of strength.  The heart is where your true power lies.  Don’t let anyone keep you from living there.


From the heart, we can truly connect.  We can repair the splits we've created with self-love and forgiveness. This makes it possible for us to begin trusting in relationship.  Eventually, this road leads to a powerful connection of your creativity, your sexuality and your heart.  In the meantime, be patient with yourself and go slowly (that might be the hardest part!).  Give yourself time to do nothing but rest.  Use that time to listen to your heart.  What is it telling you?  It doesn't want you to drive yourself.  Its pace is much slower and loving.  Listen to where it's calling you.  Perhaps it wants you to sit and listen to the rain for a while.  Maybe it wants you to just breathe and be still.  Just listen.


If you find yourself engaged in a battle of wills with someone, know that you can ground these strong energies down. This is the skill you didn’t learn as a child.  Those emotions aren’t bad or wrong, though it might be hard not to judge them, especially if they’re particularly negative, like hatred or a desire to destroy.  Remember, they’re just emotions.  We all have them, and some of them are primal in nature.  It's simply part of the human condition.  What you do with them is what matters.  You don't have to act upon them.  It’s a choice.  Come back to the softness of your forgiving and compassionate heart.  Does it look differently from here?  Is there something you can surrender here? 


If you’re ready to let go of the fighting and begin transforming those difficult emotions, I suggest allowing yourself to feel them first, preferably in a safe container with the support of someone who can safely hold the charge of these emotions with you, without judgement.  Find someone who can stand beside your inner, raging child and say, “It’s OK. I love you. You’re not bad or wrong.  These are powerful, primal emotions, but I’m here with you.  I won’t let you hurt yourself or anyone else.”


If you feel strong emotions arising and you can't get support, ask for your guides to help you and then imagine those strong, primal feelings being channeled out of your body into the Earth.  This may require some force of will on your part.  This is a proper use of your will.  Other healthy ways to channel these feelings include exercise or striking a pillow with the intention of releasing the anger or other primal emotion from your body.  Every time you make the choice for a healthier expression of those primal emotions, you empower yourself and take another step closer to your soft heart.   


For more support, try my “Surrendering to Trust” meditation.

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