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Defensiveness

A COMMON CAUSE OF DRAMA TO AVOID. 

Today I want to address something that not only affect us Lesbian but everyone and is often prone to create drama in our lives.

Have you been told you are defensive?

Have you had that criticism leveled at you before? If you have, you’ll know it’s a no-win situation!

First we should understand the meaning of “being defensive”.  I think  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/defensive  explains it best in choice number four.

de·fen·sive 

adj.

4. Psychology Constantly protecting oneself from criticism, exposure of one’s shortcomings, or other real or perceived threats to the ego.


Perhaps, you have never been told but you do feel that you are too defensive, too sensitive when given constructive criticism then you may be missing out on valuable feedback.

If someone is too defensive they are basically always on the look out for emotional attack. The trouble is when we are constantly on the lookout for something we tend to keep finding it! If you continually think that someone is ‘getting at you’ then it becomes very hard to actually learn and develop.

Some reasons for over-defensiveness

There are many reason you can feel too sensitive to criticism, you may have been brought up believing that anything said bad about you reflects on your upbringing. More commonly however, people who are over-defensive have been criticized a lot in the past, and defensiveness has developed as a self-protection mechanism. Most commonly seen in victims of abusive relationships.

This can also come from having a huge amount of pride.  You hate to be wrong, or, more importantly, being proved wrong.  You hate having someone point out your faults (after all, you know them already!) and dislike anyone being aggressive with you.

In this case of course, you need to learn how to discern between an attack on you, and a complaint or instructive comment. You can do this by knowing the difference between Defending yourself and Being Defensive.

Defending oneself

Refers to a situation where one is being attacked either verbally or physically. If you are literally being attacked in some way, it would be reasonable to protect or defend yourself. If some one is attacking your ideas, you can defend your ideas. If you are being accused of doing something that is not true or a decision is being attacked, you can defend them. In each of these situations you would meet the attack on the same level as the attack was made. For example, if someone physically attacks you, you could defend yourself in a physical way. If some one attacks your ideas using their own ideas and evidence to disagree with you, you can defend your ideas with supporting evidence. If your are being accused of something that you did not do, you can bring evidence to show that you were not to blame. These are all examples of where an appropriate defense would be justified. In all of these instances an observer, or even the attacker, would in all probability acknowledge that an attack is taking place. In verbal situations the ideas or beliefs are being attacked. In a physical situation it is your body that is being attacked. In neither of these situations do you feel that your sense of self is being threatened. Just the opposite is true when you feel defensive.

Defensiveness

Refers to a situation where you are feeling personally attacked. It is your sense of self that is being attacked. When you are feeling attacked by another person, the alleged attacker may deny the attack; and an observer may or may not see the attack. In other words, often we may feel attacked when there is no attack intended.

The sense of being attacked may originate within oneself.  When we defend ourselves against a felt or perceived attack rather than a “real” attack we become defensive. We are protecting our sense of self.

Defensiveness springs from the emotional not logical brain.

Being overly defensive is an emotional response not a logical one. In fact quite often we know that perhaps we are over-reacting but the emotional part of us seems to take over.

Having more access to your thinking brain rather than just being swamped by the emotional part will give you more choices of response to people and events.

Sometimes even a simple question can be experienced as an attack. Becoming defensive under these circumstances, however, rarely is warranted and seldom results in a better connection

with the other person.  When we become defensive we are more concerned with self-protection than effecting a connection with the other person.  At the moment of perceived attack, the attacker becomes our enemy. Imagine what it might be like if you were able to hold onto the idea that this person, who is now upset with you, is truly your friend and is merely upset about something. How might you respond then?

When we feel under attack by another person, the words or tone may trigger some internal experience.  For example, if we feel guilty we are more likely to feel attacked by a simple inquiry such as “where were you last night?” If we feel guilty about our whereabouts we might become defensive; if we actually did whatever we are being accused of, we might become defensive.

If we were repeatedly questioned by our parents while growing up, feeling as though we are being policed by them, we might experience any question about our behavior as an attack.

Sometimes the perceived attacker, not knowing you are feeling under attack because they are not meaning it as a personal offense, becomes irritated with your retaliation and then begin a personal attack.To avoid this you need to assure yourself that you are not being defensive,  it might be necessary for you to simply acknowledge your feelings and accept that the person with whom you are engaged in conversation is not in fact trying to hurt you.

Defensiveness predicts relationship breakdown

Defensiveness in an intimate relationship leads to distancing between the parties and is never necessary. In many cases it is easy to  predict very accurately just by listening to a couple for a few minutes of conversation  if they are destined to destroy their relationships or would they survive long-term.

You can tell amongst other factors, that if one of the couple seems to be

highly defensive then this in itself means the relationship is much more likely to break down.  Being too defensive wrecks all kinds of relationships including working ones. Sure you need to defend yourself if someone is on the attack but there’s nothing worse than people feeling they have to tread on eggshells the whole time so as not to upset you. It’s hard to want to be around someone who is highly defensive as they come across as rude and aggressive themselves, not to mention emotionally immature.

You need to learn to relax and listen instead of focusing on fending off attacks that aren’t there. When you are no longer defensive your life will be so much freer and easier and you’ll be able to focus on what’s really important.

What can you do to stop being defensive?

Rather than becoming defensive when you experience an attack, the following are some suggestions that might be helpful:

  • Listen attentively to the person without interruption or judgment & without planning a reply.
  • Do Not Take Things Personally.
  • Take everything that is said to you and process it twice before responding. These means WAIT till the person is done then process it again, by then your initial defensive  response would diffuse and it will allow you to process exactly what that person was saying and whether or not they meant it as a personal attack on you.  You can use the “count-to-ten” method before responding (always a good thing since you can never take back your words).
  • Never retaliate with criticism of the other person – now is not the time or place when someone else has taken the initiative to voice their complaints.
  • Keep a calm, open mind and don’t over-react. Anxiety is a driving force behind dysfunctional behaviour.
  • Acknowledge that you are feeling defensive.
  • Concentrate on the important issues – and let go of the rest.
  • Ask the alleged attacker whether he or she is just interested in being accusatory or addressing a problem.
  • Inquire as to whether the attacker is upset with you or with something concerning you.
  • Think of the Positive Qualities of the Other Person.
  • Ask yourself whether this situation reminds you of other situations where you felt similarly. If so, remind yourself that it isn’t that same situation and possibly person.
  • Are you responding to the content of the statement/question or the tone? To know the answer to this you need to listen to the whole dialogue.
  • Are you feeling unfairly accused or blamed?  If so, acknowledge your feelings, before attacking by engaging your brain before opening your mouth.
  • Attempt to engage the alleged attacker in a dialogue rather than a fight. This is best done by allowing them to finish what they are trying to convey.
  • This is going to be the hardest thing to do:  Admit when you’re wrong.  Hey, everyone makes mistakes.  If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be human.  Instead of making a big deal out of it, simply say, “My mistake” or “I’m sorry, I was wrong”.  It’s much easier on the pride to give a long explanation of why you were wrong, but simply stating that you were is usually enough.  People respect this because they know that they themselves have made mistakes and will make more.  Owning up to your mistakes will help you when you’re not wrong.  If they know you’re willing to admit it when you’re wrong, they’ll be more likely to listen to you when you’re sure you’re not.  

The stronger your sense of self or self-esteem,

the less likely you are to become defensive.

I hope that all the information I gathered as well as the one supplied from my own experience serves of some help to others in the dealing with defensive people or your own overly defensive personality.

*Ms. B. Haven*

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