Dear Protective Me,
This is a strange letter to write; I only discovered you exist a couple of hours ago, when Paula started talking about you, and about Vulnerable Me. (I found myself bursting into tears, which seems to be my body’s way of acknowledging truth.) Paula suggested I could pull out a chair and talk to you, but I feel more comfortable writing. So… here I am.
Paula encouraged me to start by saying thanks to you, but I didn’t need any prompting – I already knew that gratitude was the first thing I wanted to express to you. My saddest and hardest times have been when Vulnerable Me was my only go-to, and I’m so thankful you’ve taken over in the last year or so. You’re quick to see threats to Vulnerable Me and to defend us. You’ve stood up for me, empowered me, given me a voice and enabled me to say, “I matter!” I appreciate that. THANK YOU.
I wanted to say, though (with all due respect): Maybe you could turn the mama-bear-thing down a few notches? Just a few. I’m so thankful for your protection, and I know that it comes from a place of love. But I worry that you’re too often over-protective, and that this isn’t particularly helpful. There’s something ironic, I hope you’ll agree, about being so concerned with Vulnerable Me’s lack of power and voice that you’ve taken over from her completely and started speaking for her. I know we find it painful, but I think maybe it would be healthy to pay attention to her more regularly, to listen to what she has to say, to sit with her and comfort her rather than rushing to silence and protect her using one of your many and various strategies. (You know, it’s suddenly struck me that you may only use versions of the one strategy: RUN! Is that true?!)
Also, I worry that because you can be too protective, your reactions are sometimes a little over the top. I love that you get my attention quickly, but I wish sometimes you’d just quietly alert me to whatever’s been triggered, rather than setting alarms blaring and hijacking all of my thoughts. When Alan does or says something that exposes Vulnerable Me, for example, perhaps you could gently draw my attention to the fact that Vulnerable Me is feeling unsafe and needs some care rather than shrieking, “DIVORCE THIS MAN IMMEDIATELY!!!!!” Upon reflection I can see how quickly removing Vulnerable Me from danger is not usually the best reaction, but in the actual moment/s, when you’re yelling at me and keeping me from thinking of anything else, it always seems like it’s the only one. I think a healthier option in such situations may be for me (and you?) to spend some time with Vulnerable Me for a bit, just to hear her perspective and honour her story by letting it, too, shape the Me I'm becoming. Maybe we could even let Alan spend more time with Vulnerable Me as well. (I know this idea will terrify you; it terrifies me, too.)
I’ll continue to listen to you, of course, but I don’t want to only listen to you, and to pretend that Vulnerable Me doesn’t exist by quickly shoving her away whenever she appears. Do you know what I mean? I trust you, and now you need to trust me too – I can make decisions for myself these days, and to do that well I need to be able to weigh up everyone’s opinion, not just yours.
Thank you, again, for all of your hard work, and for your love for me. My life is better because of you, and I look forward to tackling future challenges together.