How to Know When You are Defensive

The Vibrant Moment – Remember: Give Up Defensive Energy.
Tools from the Center for New Psychology
Publisher: Doris Jeanette, Holistic Psychology Mentor, Coach


A reader asks, “Show an example of authentic defensiveness (validly
taking care of yourself) and whatever ‘being defensive’ is … people
always make it sound nasty and shameful. It’s dismissive, as it’s
often used in the vernacular. ‘Oh, you’re just being defensive. I
don’t have to pay attention to what you’re saying.’ In other words, a
power play, to create helplessness.”

I was walking through Rittenhouse Park on the way to buy groceries
when I caught myself in the act of being defensive for the first
time. I was replaying a conversation over and over again in my head
between me and my traditional talk therapist. She said, “You are … I
honestly cannot remember what she said at this point about me. My
response was, “This is NOT TRUE about me. No, way. I am not …”
whatever it was she said.

In my head I was defending myself. Making up reasons to prove that
what she said was not true. Creating excuses about the reason I do
this and that and the other. This mental energy of denying and
rejecting what my therapist said is an excellent example of defensive

My new psychological awareness was in the early 1980s and I did not
know about body language and energy flow. I did know about defense
mechanisms. Thank Freud for discovering that humans create defense
mechanisms to defend themselves against a perceived attack. I felt
threatened by the observation and feedback that I was getting from my

You defend yourself when you feel criticized or attacked. The person
giving you the feedback may or may not be attacking you. Usually,
they are not. They are telling you their truth and you do not like
it. You do not like it because it makes you uncomfortable and
anxious. You do not like it because it threatens your ego, your image
of yourself.

An example of assertive behavior, which would be authentic
defensiveness, would be to receive what my therapist said and explore
her feedback to see how much of it was true. I am sure all of it was
true. She was not being critical of me, she was trying to help me
become more conscious and aware.

You may think your family and friends are making you wrong or bad.
However, most of the time they are being honest with you and they are
not attacking you. Once in a while a family member may be judging you
and making you wrong and bad. In this case you need to say to
yourself, “So what? Maybe she is or is not making me wrong or bad. So

When you say “So what?” to yourself, this helps you immediately give
up your defensive response. The goal is to be assertive and not
defensive. An assertive response is one that supports you
emotionally. If you are assertive you are honest with yourself about
what you feel. You do not reject how you feel.

You experience your helplessness if that is what you feel. Feeling
helplessness is a step closer to becoming stronger and more secure.
No one is making you helpless, you feel helpless. Feeling helpless
goes back to early childhood learning when you really were helpless.

When you feel helpless, now as an adult, you need to connect in a
loving way with the part of you who feels helpless. Your helplessness
is not going to go away until you do something to help it go away.
Your job is to protect the part of you that feels helpless and keep
her safe and secure.

Defending yourself against helplessness does not empower you. Feeling
your helplessness and making sure the helpless part of you gets the
practical assistance she needs from your authentic adult self empowers
you. If you provide what is needed to your emotional self, you will be
stronger and more secure the next time you get feedback.

You will be able to receive feedback and consider it without
rejecting it or turning it against yourself. Once you get rid of your
inner, learned, mental judgments against yourself, another person’s
judgment does not destroy you. Outside judgments do not feel good,
but if you do not agree with the judgment, it does not hurt your

The reason an outside attack does not hurt your heart is because you
are protecting and loving your little girl, and her feelings. She
does not feel helpless if you are taking care of her and protecting
her from internal and external attacks.

Never be afraid of feeling helpless or any other feeling. It is by
listening to your feelings that you know how to protect your
emotional self so that you become stronger and more secure. The
helpless part of you cannot take care of herself on her own. She
really is helpless, until you show up and do what is needed.

Is this clear? If not, ask another question.


TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: Being assertive is a powerful, effective, and
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PRACTICE BEING ASSERTIVE: Get the practical help you need to be more
assertive in real life. Have fun playing with color and sound. Get
grounded. Enjoy being in the forest with a small group of people
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Read more and sign up: