The Ingredients of an Overly-Defensive Attitude

words & photo by Brian Thompson.

Have you ever wondered why some people tend to rely so heavily upon using threatening behaviours?

A person uses threats when they feel forced to defend themselves, to protect their sense of personal safety—and unfortunately, some people feel as if their security is constantly being questioned. Insecurity and a lack of self-confidence is alway the cause.

Even if it’s a seemingly innocent off-handed insult, perhaps even made in jest, their true intention is to knock the other person down a notch or two, to achieve some type of superiority. But why?

The next time you find yourself responding to a situation in an overly-aggresive manner—even if it’s just a snappy or cheeky reply—ask yourself, what exactly do you believe is being threatened here? What exactly are you trying to protect?

Whenever we respond in a threatening or defensive manner, it’s always due to fear—but fear of what?

Nowadays, it’s rare that our physical safety is ever threatened, so whenever we react in an unbecoming way it's typically because we fear something was said that is perceived as an emotional attack, or rather, we feared our sense of self-worth was somehow being challenged.

Insults, mockery, teasing, impatience, rude off-handed retorts, bad manners, impolite body-language—these are all sparks that could easily ignite a threatening reply from someone.

We might even feel threatened by someone’s mere presence, simply because they intimidate us with an energy that is opposite to our own. When we don’t know how to respond to a persona's behaviour that seems foreign to us, we might unknowingly make defensive comments or aggressive gestures subconsciously, in ignorance-fuelled defence.

If we reflect on those situations where we’ve realized that we replied aggressively, out of a reflexive and insecure habit, we’ll see that the only thing that was ever actually threatened, was our point of view.

Our overly-defensive attitudes are triggered when we’ve become too attached to our opinions.

And the reason why you feel so defensive of your point of view? Because you’re not confident that it can stand all on its own.

When you’re unsure in your beliefs and when you lack confidence in yourself, you tend to cling to all of your views more fiercely. Even if you know your opinion has holes in it, you become so unwilling to admit you’re wrong that you’re willing to start a fight, just to save face.

When we believe that our opinions define us, then we also feel a strong need to defend every single one of them, no matter how silly they may seem—for honour! for pride! for dignity! for respect!

Hogwash! Those are nothing but empty, meaningless words that only reveal a person's stubborn, self-righteous arrogance—such states of mind have no concern for the truth, they only want to win that which is un-winnable.

What we fail to realize is that admitting you’re wrong doesn’t make you weak—it makes you strong.

In doing so, you rise above an argument. It elevates you to a new level of mindfulness and compassion. It asserts your emotional intelligence and extends a friendly hand.

The ability to self-reflect and to realize when you’re wrong is a powerful testament to a person's self-awareness. Saying “I’m sorry” not only shows respect to the other person’s opinion, but it also expresses vulnerability, an endearing attitude which can win over someone’s favour, rather than engaging in a verbal joust that leaves both sides better off dead.

There’s nothing like a sincere apology to drain the strain from a tense conversation. Try it, you’ll soon see.

The entire notion of retaining honour by engaging in a war of words is an entirely implausible belief—doing so will only serve to inflate each person's mindless ego even further, nothing more. Making threats, however idle they may be, only pits one ego against the other, thereby further entrenching each person’s sense-of-self into am illusion that's sustained only by opinions and concepts—in reality, it’s nothing but an empty exchange of meaningless hot air.

The more attached you are to your opinions, the more you will lose your True Self in the virtual quicksand of the ego.

We mustn’t be so quick to defend ourselves. Don’t get lost in ego.

Everyone has countless opinions and preferences—we should be wise enough to realize that mine will never be identical to yours. I know we’ll never see eye-to-eye on every little thing, so then, why even try? I know my thoughts are only thoughts, they come and they go, they evolve, they change and they die—so why then must I try to defend every them? What a waste of energy! If my thoughts have any truth or validity to them whatsoever, then they’re already well-equipped to stand on their own without my need to support them any further.

This I know to be true—Your barbed words cannot harm me. Your accusatory beliefs cannot offend me. Your pointed opinions cannot draw blood. Your threatening spite cannot separate me from any wisdom I’ve gained. I know who I truly am—do you?

The calmest and most serene person in the room will also be the most confident, because they have nothing to defend. They are detached from their opinions. They are confident to let their words stand on their own, undefended, with no need for threatening or passive-aggressive behaviour.

You always have a right to defend yourself of course, but in everyday casual conversations, is it ever necessary? To whose end does such a purpose serve—you, or your tender ego?

Strive to be self-aware—rise above your need to protect yourself so vigilantly. Another person’s words are no reason for war. Thank them for their opinion, and carry on with your day.