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  • Writer's picturePiper Harris

Defensive Mind

We have all seen defensiveness rise in recent years, and individuals have shied away from engaging with others who may have different views.

It is rare to find someone who enjoys receiving criticism or feeling misunderstood. The sensation of not being thoroughly "seen" or understood can be disheartening. Reacting defensively in such situations is often counterproductive and can harm relationships and personal growth. It perpetuates your blind spots, ensures an echo chamber, and can often lead to loneliness.

Many are stuck in an identity-mind trap, meaning they tend to believe they have completed their journey of Self-Discovery. In doing so, they assume that their identity is settled and avoid self-reflection. A stop line is drawn between growing and evolving as a person. Their self-awareness is hidden and hindered, ultimately having deleterious effects on their personal and professional lives.

Defensiveness can manifest in various ways. Some common manifestations include:

- Denial

- Blaming others

- Making excuses

- Avoiding responsibility

- Counter-attacking

-Nonengagement (avoidance)

With the Defensive Mind at the helm of your life, the Identity Mind traps to ensure the same story created by your Ego plays out; this can be seen in four different ways.

1. Simple stories: 

Our desire for simple stories (“I have all the answers.”) blinds us from real ones. However, it’s built into our DNA to tell stories. This is often a defense mechanism; if we know who the heroes and villains are, we know what will happen next. Creating a shortcut can be helpful at times. However, our stories are always much more complex, and living within simple stories routinely leads to symptomology, i.e., anxiety or depression.

2. Rightness: 

The "feeling of rightness" is a concept found in the psychology of feelings that refers to the subjective experience of something being correct, appropriate, or aligned with one's internal sense of what is right or true. This feeling is often associated with confidence, certainty, and satisfaction. Researchers have studied this feeling in the context of decision-making, moral judgments, and intuitive reasoning. It is a fascinating area of study that sheds light on the interplay between emotions, cognition, and behavior. But how can you always be so sure? Your self-assuredness in all things is most certainly not truthful assuredness. "True self-assuredness comes from knowing the limits of your knowledge and being open to learning and growth." - Epictetus. 

3. Agreement: 

We all crave agreement, and most hate or avoid conflict. Therefore, most individuals value the opinions of those who agree with their own. We find subjects and people we agree with; conversely, we decide that people and subjects outside our agreements are invalid. Through agreement, you create an echo chamber.  From a psychological perspective, an echo chamber refers to an environment where individuals are only exposed to information and opinions that align with their own, reinforcing their existing beliefs and attitudes. This can create a distorted perception of reality and hinder critical thinking, as people are less likely to be exposed to diverse viewpoints and challenging perspectives. Echo chambers contribute to cognitive bias and group polarization, where individuals become more extreme due to the lack of exposure to alternative ideas.

4. Control: 

Having control contributes to one's happiness.  But happiness is fleeting, and the seeking of happiness, most seen in carnal pursuits, perpetuates the continuation of control measures. Control provides a tolerable outcome when events are unpredictable. The compulsion to control can have a cascading negative effect on relationships, leading to resentment, lack of trust, and a sense of being stifled. It can also create a power imbalance, causing one party to feel disempowered and the other to feel burdened by the responsibility of maintaining control. This dynamic can hinder open communication and genuine connection, ultimately damaging the relationship.

Breaking Free of Traps

The defensive mind is often trapped in one of the four abovementioned traps, which can lead to defensiveness. It's important to recognize how these actions can harm you and those around you.

To effectively deal with defensiveness in yourself and others, it's crucial to start by asking questions about your reactions and being mindful of them. Recognizing when defensiveness arises can help you address it constructively. Additionally, practicing empathy, active listening, and open-mindedness can be beneficial in handling defensiveness in both yourself and others.

Here are some items that may help you become a nondefensive and growing Self.

1. Self-reflection: Take time to reflect on your beliefs, values, and biases. Consider where they come from and how they may influence your thoughts and actions.

2. Seek diverse perspectives: Seek diverse viewpoints and experiences to broaden your understanding of different identities and perspectives. Engage in conversations with people from diverse backgrounds to learn from their experiences.

3. Practice empathy: Put yourself in others' shoes and try understanding their experiences and feelings. Empathy can help you better understand different identities and reduce defensiveness.

4. Challenge assumptions: Question your assumptions and stereotypes about different identities. Be open to learning and unlearning ideas that may contribute to identity mind traps and defensiveness.

5. Cultivate open-mindedness: Embrace a mindset open to new ideas and perspectives. Consider the possibility that your current beliefs and perceptions may not be valid.

6. Active listening: Listen attentively to others without interrupting or formulating responses in your mind. This can help you understand others' perspectives and reduce the tendency to become defensive.

7. Engage in constructive dialogue: When faced with differing viewpoints, seek to engage in constructive dialogue rather than react defensively. Approach conversations with a willingness to learn and understand rather than defend your own position.

8. Educate yourself: Take the initiative to educate yourself about different identities, cultures, and experiences. Read books, attend workshops, and engage in learning opportunities that expand your knowledge and understanding.

9. Recognize triggers: Be mindful of situations or topics that trigger defensiveness or identity mind traps. Recognizing these triggers can help you develop strategies to address and overcome them.

10. Seek support: If you find it challenging to break free from identity mind traps and defensiveness, consider seeking support from a counselor, mentor, or support group. Talking through your experiences and challenges with others can provide valuable insights and encouragement.

In conclusion, while it may be challenging to completely escape these mind traps, questioning our reactions and practicing mindfulness can help us begin to navigate them more effectively and lead a more balanced life. Remember, awareness is the first step to liberation from the confines of our own minds.

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