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Monday, January 23, 2017

On Defensiveness

Your friend sneers at you as you enter the doorway into the pub. You are late. This isn’t the first time, but you can tell that he/she is outwardly expressing his/her annoyance through the expression of unconscious body language. You feel that little sharpness in your stomach and the tension tighten in your chest. You couldn’t help it. You planned ahead and didn’t foresee yourself stuck between a semi on the interstate and a slow and lazy possum crossing the street. It wasn’t your fault you tell yourself. What are you going to tell your friend now? Are you going to say “I’m Sorry?” Are you going to explain the situation outright or shoo it off like an annoying fly?

This situation above is quite interesting. We may encounter skirmishes with friends, family members and co-workers, and feel like we must always put up our intellectual fists and tell our side of the story. We wouldn’t want to misrepresent ourselves would we? We wouldn’t want to surrender to the hostility of the moment. Or would we?

We like to take things personally. Well, maybe we don’t actually “like” to take things personally, but we have become so accustomed to it in every day life. Everyone feels like they have the “right” to defend themselves. To puff up their chest and tell their side of the story. To make sure that they are right, even when they think or know that they aren’t. We can all relate to this somehow. The Right to Defend starts at our fixed identity. The false sense of self. The ego. The Reptilian Like Brain that thrives on the flight or flight mechanism. It is a reflection of our insecurities and our level of consciousness. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with defending yourself within the right arena of intellectual discourse, but constantly trying to prove who you are or what you have done can get quite exhausting and ultimately destructive in the long term.

What happens we simply listen to that “Right to Defend” mechanism that erupts in our brains? What happens when we can step back and see it for what it is? What happens when we don’t defend ourselves and simply let go of the need to “Be Right” ? We can accept what comes our way and accept the unconscious behavior of the people around us. The person that calls us out on being late. The person that catches us at just the right moment and tries to get us to admit to a trivial or dreadful mistake. What happens when we can tell the person in conflict that he or she is right? What happens to their mood, body language and overall color of being?

“Of course you have the right to defend, but is it necessary?”

The thing is, it’s not all about being right. It’s not all about trying to pump up yourself to prove that you are better, more intelligent, more triumphant, more heroic, more clever. When you stop feeding those ego identifiers, you can see how silly these human behaviors are. They are leftovers from the primal brain. The need to survive. The need to prove that you are able to defend yourself in times of dire circumstances related to the survival of yourself and the human race. It is ingrained in you to compete and to make sure that you are able to make it to the next meal, the next day and the next conquest.

Exercise I:

Whenever you encounter a tense and off putting situation where you feel that you must immediately defend yourself or use a reason or excuse to back up your behavior, tell yourself this...

“ You’re right and I fully accept your reaction and take responsibility for my actions.”

You can also say this out loud to the person that you are encountering. It may take some practice in telling yourself this at first, but when you can confidently and non-aggressively tell other, it will come out as honest and authentic. You may not even have to repeat yourself to that same person because of the immense impact of that truth bomb. You’re ability to step back and accept what is happening around you is an immense step in expanding your awareness no matter how small. Just think of it as a mindful experiment that will help you practice the art of non-aggression and acceptance.

Sometimes we give too much information in trying to defend ourselves. We get attached to the illusory story that feeds our static and fixed identity and sense of self. When we can see the story for what it is and how mystifying and deceptive it can be, we can start to see that by giving away too many un-important details about our self perceived “selves” is something not constructive or well worth doing. We can face those mammalian triggers that happen in our brain when we feel threatened and stare them in the face with a content smile and willingness to listen.

What is the true purpose of trying to defend ourselves (verbally)?
Is it to protect ourselves and our identities?
Are you defending “yourself”?
Are you defending your opinions and bias?
Are you defending your values and principles?
Are you defending your ideologies?
Are you defending the views that were passed down to you from your parents, education and general ideas on what you think the world should look like?

See the person triggering you as the mirror for your own insecurities. As the teachers that are so hooked on popping up and disturbing your sense of peace. See them as a test for you to reconnect with the present moment. See them as loving individuals with their own set of unique and trivial struggles. What good does putting up barriers in ourselves do for us? For the world? For peace of mind? Is constantly being defensive a good strategy for your well being?

We can sit with that aggression and flood of energy when it arises within us. With curiosity, amusement and an inquisitive mindset. We can accept the turbulence of unconsciousness that swirls around us in our daily lives. We can be compassionate to the instigator, the blatant liar, the emotional heretic, the hypocritical political pundit, the man who had a bad day at work, the gas station attendant who berates you on having a declined card and any person that has the ability to disturb in unexpected ways.

When we can sit with that defensiveness for as long as we can without suddenly reacting, we allow ourselves to look deeper into what is bothering us. Maybe its not at the surface of what someone has said. Maybe it is not the person chastising you for your behavior. Maybe it is your struggle for control and power. Maybe it is the unresolved nature of things within you. When immediately defend yourself, you cut yourself off from learning what it all means in the first place. You let the person or people have power of you. Are you so willing to give that power away? To let an unconscious person awaken your own unconscious reactions?

It may not be easy at first, but it takes patience and practice to understand our disturbances and triggers. It takes a great deal of looking into and fully feeling our reactions when we are put into a hot spot. We can fully feel our emotions and let them pass with grace and allow ourselves the willingness to open up to the full experience.

Let us take a journey into the unknown and discover what we are made of without trying to explain to everyone why we are the way we are.


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