Our emotional armour is the pattern of tension we hold in our bodies. Over our lives, we create these physiological defenses when faced with overwhelming emotions, such as pain or fear. There is no rule for what counts as too much emotion; we subconsiously judge this by balancing the risks we face in each situation. For example, in school, we may have needed to defend against feeling even a mild amount of fear, because if we showed signs of fear we would be bullied.
These physiological defenses work because emotion is an embodied experience. In areas that are chronically tense (or chronically too relaxed), we cannot feel an emotional response that would otherwise be appropriate to the situation we face.
As our lives progress, much of this armouring is no longer good for us. When we have agency over our situation, it is better to feel our emotions. There are two very significant reasons for that:
When our emotions are blocked, our decision-making is substantially impaired because we are missing a vital source of information: how we feel about the situation.
When an emotional response exceeds our capacity to feel, the response 'turns into' a symptom (which could be, for example, an illness or a behavioural reaction).
Beyond these scientific reasons, though, I believe that emotional de-armouring is essential to feeling more fully human, alive, and connected.
De-armouring can happen through any process that results in the re-patterning of physiology away from chronic tension or relaxation. That can include meditation, massage, yoga, somatic experiencing, parts work (IFS) and many other things. In my coaching, I support de-armouring with a combination of breathwork, somatic practices and embodied dialogue.
In my opinion, the most important element to the process is that it is an invitation and nothing is forced. It should be done from a stance of loving presence, both in the person de-armouring and in any practitioner involved. De-armouring may well be slow and without an immediate sign of progress, but that's usually the best way to make changes that have huge lasting impact. As my Aletheia coaching teacher Steve March says, "Slow down to speed up".
A simple way to start de-armouring is to sit for 5 minutes every day with your hands on your body, wherever feels nicest, and direct loving attention inwardly towards whatever part of you needs it. You don't even need to know which part needs it: you can just mentally speak a gentle invitation to yourself to receive some care and attention.
If you're wondering whether your areas of chronic tension have an emotional component, and you'd be interested in exploring coaching support with me, book a free exploratory call.
Science from "The Practice of Embodying Emotions" by Dr Raja Selvam.