Are You Too Defensive?


Has anyone ever said that “You’re too defensive!” I’m here to tell you that it wasn’t a compliment. Worse still, it probably is causing you problems.

What might it mean to be this “too defensive” thing?

1. Your goal is to allow no one in. Safety is valued above everything else, even more than love. Perhaps not as you imagine it, but as you live it. Your behavior trumps your desire for close relationships. You may not even realize it is so.

2. Almost no one is permitted to know you very well. To achieve this you’ve developed a certain way of being: too distant, unfriendly, stern; or superficially cheerful and bright.

3. Or perhaps you are always backing away, inclined to refuse invitations, forever changing the subject when things begin to feel “too personal.” You take a “wait and see attitude” until the bus leaves the station and you are all alone. “No” is your default position toward intimacy.

4. Your first instinct is to look for signs of danger. You assume the worst and distrust others until they prove their worth, which few do; in part, because you don’t give them much of a chance.

5. When someone questions you or expresses a different opinion than your own, your tendency is to attack that person’s position. The idea of listening, learning, compromising, and creating a dialogue gives way to a full frontal assault.

6. You might be prone to interrogate people, look down on them, judge severely, and in so doing, make yourself into an island. You are marooned on your own tiny piece of land, safe but isolated.

7. Perhaps you hit the other before you get hit and get hurt. Guess what? You’ve become the very thing you hate, the person who is dangerous to be around, the one who rejects first and asks questions later. Congratulations! You have succeeded in saving yourself from injury by others, while inflicting the injury of isolation on yourself. Your fortress is a cave. It permits no light to enter, no laughter, no life.

8. In your tendency to defensively retreat or pre-emptively attack, you are likely to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of rejection by others. If you back away from their overtures of friendship they may think of you as stuck-up or uninterested in them. On the other hand, if you are snide or snippy in your attempt to push them away, they might conclude that you are surly and difficult — not the kind of person whose society is desirable.

9. Whether you know it or not, you’ve made the relationship tests too hard, the passage to your hiding place too narrow, the mountain too high to climb, the fortress impregnable.

10. You are unsurpassed at making excuses and rationalizing your behavior. No one else is good enough, they don’t meet your standards, their interests are too different, they’d never understand you. No. The truth is, you don’t understand yourself. Step back and take a look in the mirror:


11. Worst of all, you have made a fundamental mistake in understanding the world. Your defenses block your vision. It is as if you were born in the winter and do not recognize that the weather has changed.

12. The bottom line? New learning is required. You must risk the lowering of your guard, a re-entry into the game of life. However bad it was yesterday, however much others have rejected us, we must all recognize that today is a new day and we must be open to all its possibilities, not only the ones that might pierce the heart.

The top image is called Offense_Defense by Flex-Flex. The Porcupine comes from the first volume of Historiae Animalium by Conrad Gessner, Zurich, 1551. It was uploaded by en:User:Belgrade18 for En_Wikipedia and, in turn, uploaded for Wikimedia Commons by Roland zh.