Defensiveness. Significant enough of bomb in our lives that John Gottman, relationship guru, labels this communication/relational style as “one of the four horsemen of the (relational) apocalypse.” It leaves both those engaging in this mechanism and those on the receiving end feeling de-valued and at more than an arms distance from those we care about. It’s definitely a “good bad habit” to break.
Defensiveness is most often born of a sense of self dislike, self-distrust, and/or self uncertainty. If we can’t see the positives in ourselves, then how the hell can others? Yet, the sense (true or not) that we are being rejected or negatively judges by others is painful and scary. So, we put on the armor and fight. We fight by denying we make mistakes. We are unbending that we are justified in our “attack mode” because others might (or have) attack us. We build high walls around our flaws and “imperfections”. Sometimes, a barrier is a good thing…a necessary thing. Like it or not, there are people who will hurt us in life. But isn’t a better remedy to being hurt to let those who can in-in? Instead, defensiveness keeps everyone out. And it’s lonely. And it’s self-fulfilling.
And it doesn’t have to be.
Part 2: “Recipe for defensiveness” coming in next post!