Choose Your Defences

We shall fight on the seas and oceans,

…We shall fight on the beaches,

we shall fight on the landing grounds,

we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,

we shall fight in the hills;

we shall never surrender…

Winston Churchill (speech to the House of Commons 4 June 1940)


Sometimes defence is necessary and vital. As children we learn to defend ourselves in a number of ways against adversities quite automatically. We do not generally consciously choose the type of defence we use and often do not even realise we have moved to a defensive position. Defences help us to survive to adulthood. They become fixed and characteristic in our personality. Different people have different defensive styles. Some people may become jokers; some easily moved to anger, expressed actively and/or passively; some easily moved to tears; some may run away, some may fight; some may trust easily and some with difficulty; some may try to control and others shun control; some set firm boundaries and others loose ones; some may depend excessively and others avoid depending on others if possible; some act charmingly and others threateningly; and so on.


Children do not generally have the ability to analyse their defences and adapt and adopt different defensive positions. However, as adults this is what we are required to do. The same defence used as an adult in all problem situations will not lead to optimum outcomes. So, those that don’t trust will often limit opportunities or create distance unnecessarily. Those who are always brave and very honest in public will be inclined to expose themseves to wounding crticism when sometimes a more considered diplomatic stance would be wiser. Jokers may find they are not taken seriously. Easily angered or aggressive people may find themselves ostracised by others socially. Avoiding dependency on others routinely may lead instead to dependency expressed in addictive behaviour.


The point to be taken is that as adults we need to build a raft of defences appropriate and strategic to each situation. This requires examining and understanding how your characteristic defence operates automatically, often resulting in the same old bad outcome. It may feel risky to experiment with new ways of protecting yourself. For example, if you realise you operate with passive anger and move away or avoid situations, it may be productive to practice a more active assertiveness, problem solving, and conflict resolution process. If you routinely assume a particular category of person is not to be trusted and you act accordingly, it may be more productive in terms of outcome to develop alternative defensive styles e.g. checking the evidence. If you fear attachment and feel isolated, it may be worth experimenting with attachment in the first instance to various group situations that have a safe and respectful style. Compulsive crusaders who feel they are making too many hurtful sacrifices  may consider building self worth and self esteem in other ways with more overall balance. You do not need to fear losing your core defence, it is hard wired. Building a panoply of choices of  response allows protection together with the possibilty of more optimal outcomes.


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