Vulnerability and The Paradox of Defence
It’s very common for us to want to change our thought patterns or behaviours. We can be uncomfortable with these aspects of ourselves, and find that other people criticise us for these thoughts and behaviours too. Change seems like the solution – however, it might be that another approach might be more useful.
Typically the things that we would like to change are the things that we do to defend ourselves. These defensive behaviours might include withdrawing from arguments, becoming over-heated in conversations, becoming vague in our thinking or a wide range of other behaviours, some of which you would recognise as mild forms of ‘fight or flight’ responses.
However much we might want to rid ourselves of these behaviours it is worth looking at what positive things they might be doing for us. In many cases these defensive behaviours are designed to keep us safe from threats – and they sometimes work quite well, even if their impact on other people can be negative.
You don't need threat to feel threatened
A key to understanding these behaviours is to recognise that even if there actually is no threat, we may still feel threatened and that there is little – in the short term at least – that we can do to change this perception. When we feel threatened we are under extreme pressure and it can be very difficult to stop engaging defensive behaviours. Think about it; there is a situation that threatens you, and someone is suggesting that you remove your defences. If you do this, typically you’re only going to feel more exposed and more like defending yourself.
We need to bear this in mind when working with our defences. Paradoxically, I often encourage people to defend themselves more overtly whenever they feel they need to. Why? Because if people feel well defended they feel safer and more secure, and in time this safety and security may well lead to a natural sense of safety and security, and less defences.
– Tim Hill
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