The issue of defensiveness in relationships

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The issue of defensiveness in relationships

By Athena Staik, Ph. As it turns out, we are wired for love and empathic connection. What does it mean when you or your partner react defensively? In Hold Me Tight, research expert on intimacy, Dr. Susan Johnson, states it makes sense scientifically that couples fight over silly things.

Beneath the content of what partners say to one another in fights, each wants to be assured of their value in relation to the other. Partners are asking three core questions that connect to both our deepest yearnings and our deepest fears as human beings: Are you accessible when I try to reach out to you?

Will you be responsive to my needs? Are you engaged in this relationship? In other words, beneath the content of words spoken in fights, partners are looking for answers to questions of: Are you there for me? Are you emotionally present?

Do you see, value and love me? What does reactivity mean? It means some event or action has shaken our sense of self-worth or value in relation to our partner. When this happens, your thinking ability is automatically turned off, thus, your intelligence quotient drops several levels.

Situations such as these can harm your couple relationship, placing you in roles of combatants on opposing sides. The person you fear the most, in these moments, is often your life partner. After all, who has the ability to hurt you the most? And, when both you and your partner get triggered and defensive at the same time, no one is around to steer your ship to safe waters.

Now, both of you talk to each other without your thinking brains engaged.

The issue of defensiveness in relationships

Your subconscious mind, having no ability to do its own thinking, does not realize that its rescue efforts are serious interference! Yet defensiveness greatly interferes with rapport and connection. Even a well meaning defensive response can quickly escalate into an intense battle in which the only shared experience is a competitive compulsion to prove one another wrong, or prove self right … about how unreasonable, hurtful or impossible the other is!

In other words, in protective mode you are each inclined to say and do things that — guess what — merely create more distance. Your subconscious mind is hardwired to give primacy to your drive to survive — and pushes aside your higher purpose drives to love and be loved.

When your subconscious mind senses danger, distance is a solution that spells safety. Yet distance poses a threat of a different kind, as it blocks you from meeting your higher strivings for love and connection.

Reactivity indicates a blame pattern of thinking. What can make your brain perceive a loved one as a threat to your survival?

In one word, fear. More specifically, a belief system of blame that underlies a lot of the reactivity in intimate relationships. Thinking patterns of blame can cause needless inner suffering because: They spawn fear-based illusions that lead us to believe our emotional needs for safety and connection rest firmly in the hands of other people or certain events.

This in turn leads us to put most of our efforts into thoughts, plans, actions geared on how we can change control the thoughts, feelings, actions of others. Naturally, as it is impossible to control others even childrenthese thought patterns produce feelings of powerlessness accompanied by a host of other emotions related to unfulfilled expectations, among others, helplessness, inadequacy, depression, rage, retribution, perhaps even hatred and bitterness.

It makes sense that blame would produce such intense feelings of powerlessness inside. When we blame others or events, we literally give our power to make choices away, and along with it our responsibility to take decisive action as agents of our lives. In order to develop our capacity for emotional mastery, we must necessarily let go of and replace any mindset, of which blame is foundational, that blocks us from connection and causes reactivity.

Defensive behaviors can be a sign that you and your partner need more effective skills of engaging and attuning to one another.Defensiveness is a wicked game. But it’s winnable. If betrayal is about the question of trust and contempt is about the question of respect, then defensiveness is about the question of responsibility.

That’s the antidote: accepting responsibility for your role in the issue. Think about the word ‘responsibility’ for a second. Response.

Ability.

Are 'I' Statements Better than 'You' Statements? | Psychology Today

A defence mechanism is an unconscious psychological mechanism that reduces anxiety arising from unacceptable or potentially harmful stimuli..

Defence mechanisms may result in healthy or unhealthy consequences depending on the circumstances and frequency with which the mechanism is used. In psychoanalytic theory, defence mechanisms . Radical Collaboration: Five Essential Skills to Overcome Defensiveness and Build Successful Relationships - Kindle edition by James W.

Tamm, Ronald J. Luyet. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Radical Collaboration: Five Essential Skills to Overcome Defensiveness .

Concerned about Borderline Personality Disorder? Take our 2-minute quiz to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

Effective Couples Communication: 5 Pitfalls of Defensiveness - Strengthen Your Relationship

Waking relationships often carry into your dreams, especially if there are unresolved feelings or issues. Relationship dreams offer advice and guidance. As you might imagine, chronic defensiveness communication can be a real problem for your marriage/relationship—it’s a recipe for an ongoing breakdown in communication, repeated frustrations and cycles of negativity.

So it should be a top priority for couples to address this issue.

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