Befriend Your Crocodiles

    BY: BENJAMIN REISTERER, MA, LPC

Before diving into this post, please watch this fun video. It’ll make this post make a lot more sense, I promise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xp22IYL2uU

Did you watch it? Great, so let’s dive in. So the crocodile in the video represents a defense mechanism for the main character (manifesting as anxiety). I love how simply the short explains a pretty difficult concept in just a few minutes while keeping it fun and relatable. Life becomes much more manageable when you “befriend your crocodiles.”

Defenses are valuable and amazing things. At some point in our lives, we truly needed them. Perhaps at a young age when we were growing up we learned that to be safe, to be loved, to get the attention required we needed to become a certain way and show up a certain way in the world. However, now it doesn’t work. It’s too much, it’s ever present, and is probably intertwined in everything. We don’t need it as much anymore to be safe. We certainly don’t need it anymore to be loved, to get healthy attention, etc. It has now become a burden more often than a help.

Often, when I initially meet someone in therapy I often hear the desire to be rid of a defense mechanism, to not feel this way, to not act this way, etc. “I just want this gone!” is a phrase I often hear. Unfortunately, resisting or banishing our crocodiles never works. It just keeps trying harder to come back. Our brains and our bodies don’t know a different way yet so it triggers a stronger reaction. This is why will power is usually only good for a limited amount of time, we are acting against years of “programming” often without understanding why the “program” was there in the first place.

What most people really mean is that they don’t want this defense or feeling to have such a large role in their life. We can’t banish it, but we can befriend it. If we take the time to thank our defenses for keeping us safe in the past, for watching over us, if we can begin to foster self-awareness of our emotions, our bodies, and our minds and nurture ourselves in healthy, safe, and authentic relationship our defenses can be safe to take a step back, stop working overtime, and take a more healthy sized role in our lives. We may need it again in the future, so care for it, and help it understand that it is appreciated, but isn’t needed right now. This takes work to realize what they are, how they show up, and how to be in relationship with them. If you feel that something in your life is outsized, keeps showing up at inopportune times, or is causing you to feel stuck, please reach out, we would be honored to journey with you into a more life giving and authentic relationship with yourself, others, and the world we share.

Lindsey Bandy