Defensiveness: Protecting The Heart
By: Nancy
October 20, 2014

snarlDefensiveness is an excellent indicator to help find woundedness in the human heart.  After all, we defend places that hurt, like a lion protecting a paw with a thorn in it.  Dealing with the defensiveness of those we love can be just as dangerous as taking on that hurting lion, so a gentle approach and some tenderness are just what the doctor ordered.  Let’s talk about what that looks like in our relationships.

None of us arrive in the present day in a vacuum…meaning we all have a past that has been freckled, or even mortared, with experiences that have hurt us.  Those are the thorns in our hearts.  We all have them, because we have all grown up in an imperfect world.  Many times we are so used to our wounds, having dealt with them for so long, that we hardly notice them anymore.  We just go through life limping and snarling at anyone that gets too close to them.  It becomes so normal that we don’t even realize that those wounds can be healed, and we can go about our lives with much less pain.

paw with thornWhen we are little kids, growing up in this imperfect world, we thankfully begin to build defense mechanisms that allow us to survive the deeply hurtful messages we receive.  Folks that don’t build up enough defenses have a hard time coping with life and can even develop mental illnesses.  So it’s good that we develop these defenses as kids; but the problem comes when we carry them into adulthood, hold onto the same self-“truths”, and use the same defenses from childhood later on.

Fast-forward to adulthood, and without insight and healing, those defenses that we developed are still in effect.  They cause us to push back at others at any perceived movement in their direction.  The good news is that they can be used as a road-map to what is really hurting us down deep in our hearts.  Perhaps you had a very critical parent who offered little praise.  In this case, you likely developed a tape loop in your head that sounds something like “You’re stupid, you’ll never get it
right” or something similar.  Defenses are developed to protect you from the scalding pain of this self-“truth” in your everyday life, so you can tolerate the wound; but underneath, things like these are still the thorns in your paw.  When the people we love say something that agrees with these false beliefs about oneself, it hurts, and we defend, sometimes quite viciously.

lionLearning to pay attention to when reactivity escalates (in yourself and others) and realizing that the reactive person is really saying “ouch, stay away from my thorn” is the key to knowing when to be gentle and approach with care.  It also is important to remember that whatever the “lion” is snarling about is not personal, it’s just a defense.  This allows you to stay calmer and be more gentle with the feelings of the other.

For more information about this topic, or to work on extracting and healing the thorns in your paws, give us a call at 317-218-3038 or email me at [email protected] .  I would be happy to help.

Healing Hearts provides counseling services to the surrounding communities of Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville, and Geist. Call or text today to set up your appointment. 317-218-3038

© 2014 Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW

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