from the Submissive Guide Newsletter 8-13-16
We've all probably uttered this phrase a time or two when having a heated conversation with a loved one, "you're becoming defensive." From the time we are born, we learn defensive mechanisms that are meant to protect us from pain and trauma. A child's first defense is to cry, and they tend to cry a lot at first until they can learn a new defense behavior that works more effectively. Sometimes, as we grow up, we hang on to old defense mechanisms that served us fine at the time, but now seem to garner negative feedback. This may be when we've outgrown that defense and it's time to replace it with a more positive one.
I'm far from perfect in this. In fact, I did the research for this particular solo-coaching because I needed to find a way to rewrite a pretty damaging defense mechanism that was causing a lot of issues in my relationship with KnyghtMare. As of writing this post, I've at least identified what I'm doing that no longer works and am working through the following steps to rewrite or replace the behavior so that my relationship with KnyghtMare can be more solid and beneficial.
So, let's begin. A defense mechanism is a way of protecting yourself from painful or difficult emotions and traumas. My abusive childhood has resulted in a lot of defenses that I'm still trying to deploy today and finding they just don't work anymore or are making my relationships more difficult. And that's hard to identify. Responses that may have served you well in the past begin to be less effective in providing the shield you once relied on. For example, you may have lashed out, tuned out, acted out or took on a victim's role. For me, I come up with excuses after the fact to try to prevent me from getting in trouble and for explaining away my behavior that was being called out. This is quite frustrating for KnyghtMare and I've only just recently realized this is residual from my childhood. Before I did this research, I was unsure how to change a defensive behavior that was no longer useful to me.
Let's take another example, this time in a story. Susan was harshly rejected a few times by boyfriends in high school. As a result, she appeared aloof and distant from other men and appeared to have no interest in them. As an adult, she brought her defense with her. She couldn't understand why men were avoiding her and she was still single. Only when she became honest about her feelings about men and how they have treated her in the past could she begin to break down her old defense.
First Steps for Rewriting an Old Defense Behavior
1. Get a clear understanding what they are. Try this activity: think of 3 challenges you've had that taxed you emotionally. What behaviors did you adopt to cope with each of them? On a scale of 0-10, with 10 meaning the defense still works well and 0 being the defense has a negative response, rate the defense behavior as of today.
2. Self-honesty is required in this activity and it's not always an easy thing to do. You are trying to connect with emotions and traumas that have happened in your past that you have built walls around to protect you. Identifying these behaviors and why you do them is key to being able to replace or eliminate them.
3. Act on replacing them. Find a positive behavior you can do in place of the negative one. In the story of Susan, she decided to ask a guy out once a month, to push herself out of her comfort zone. She thought of 3 people to ask with the view of receiving at least one yes. This way she prepared for possible rejections. Then she would visualize herself having positive experiences on dates with these men. As she did so, it started to break down her wall that she had put up to protect her from being rejected by men. Now she looks forward to going on dates and regularly asks men that she's interested in.
In the story, Susan replaced her old defense mechanism by employing visualizations, she saw herself being successful and the men treating her well. You can also use mantras or affirmations. Take a look at how to write your own mantra or affirmation on this site.
Ultimately, it's going to require you to be very honest with yourself to identify and then work on the defenses you've outgrown. I've got a lot of work ahead myself, but thankfully, I've learned a bit about why I have them and now I can develop ways to overwrite them with healthy responses that will work better, or get rid of them altogether.
"Defenses keep us stuck in one unhappy place. It takes truth and courage to abandon them, but once we do, we discover a world of freedom and wonderful possibilities." - Dorothy Rowe, psychologist
Do you have defense behaviors that you'd like to change? When you feel a familiar pattern of emotions and behavior, practice changing your response. Insert a substitute response that is more positive. You don't have to change by leaps and bounds. Consider baby steps, take small actions a little at a time until you are able to experience the emotions or situations that once triggered your old defense but don't feel the need to enact it any longer.