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Feeling Defensive

I’ve become aware of a subtle but persistent defensiveness inside me.

It’s not like the protesting defensiveness when I’m attacked for my opinion or my personal hygiene. It’s not that loud or obvious.

It’s less relational, more personal. Like a constant whisper inside that perhaps only I can hear.

Now that I’m aware of it — not that I always am, because it comes and goes silently, like a nocturnal predator — I can just barely describe it. It’s sort of like a suit of armor that fits so well I forgot I had it on.

Defending the Self

It’s hard to describe a sensation that’s so subtle. But I’ll try.

It’s as though “ME” must be defended at every opportunity.

“ME” needs to be not just acceptable to others (“Please think I’m a good person!”), but also right about all things, from liking watermelon to voting for a particular candidate.

If “ME” is wrong about what “ME” likes, wants or believes… well, that’s like a trick question. “ME” is never wrong about these things. Others are simply mistaken, or didn’t get all the information they needed to think like “ME.”

They didn’t get the “MEmo.”

I even have to defend “ME” in the privacy of my own thoughts! I rarely catch myself thinking, “Gee, I was clearly in the wrong today when I was arguing with my colleague.”

My thoughts run more along the lines of, ‘My colleague should really examine that distorted filter he insists on looking through.’

This defensiveness that is *my* distorting filter gets in the way of my being authentically me. How can I relax and be myself when I’m supposed to be on guard around the clock?

Isn’t that ironic? Defending “ME” gets in the way of my being me.

I’m going to call this state “defended” rather than “defensive.” The latter is a way I might react to another person. But “defended” is more like a state of being; not a reaction, but a default setting.

I wonder what it would be like *not* to be defended. It seems like everything would be easier. But it also seems like I wouldn’t have any personality left.

I’d be willing to take that risk, if I could figure out how to do it. But how do you take off a suit of armor that feels like your own skin?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."
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0 Responses to "Feeling Defensive"

  • A. Isabel Spradlin
    October 9, 2012 - 12:13 pm Reply

    Woah. That’s a big one. One of those white whales they speak of.

    • Tina Gilbertson
      October 25, 2012 - 7:17 pm Reply

      Totally! Thanks for classing up my blog with literary allusions, Isabel. 🙂

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