Big D

In order to open ourselves to the rich possibilities relationships can bring into our lives, there needs to be an acceptance that those same relationships can also bring hurt, sadness, and ache.

"Your best defense is a good offense." This might be true on the field or court but this strategy stays confined within those narrow parameters. For our lives, the best defense is a strong, impenetrable barrier between us and anyone who comes near. We saw that Cass used a pair of sunglasses to prevent others from coming too close and knowing him. He was safe from the pain that often comes from being in relationships but his precautions simultaneously denied him access to the comfort and intimacy that relationship provides. (All of this, of course, is happening unconsciously. Most of us don't wake up declaring we are going to push people away.)

In order to open ourselves to the rich possibilities relationships can bring into our lives, there needs to be an acceptance that those same relationships can also bring hurt, sadness, and ache. But we have been emotionally destroyed and devastated in relationship so feeling pain is not an option. We were made and desire to be known so being in isolation is also not an option.  So we creatively attempt to circumvent the natural consequences of authentic connection so we can still experience closeness while avoiding pain. We want a guarantee that we can experience intimacy and come out unscathed; it is a non-negotiable. Enter: self-protective defenses. 

We want a guarantee that we can experience intimacy and come out unscathed.

Enter: self-protective defenses.

The thing is, self-protection doesn't yield what we seek. We find that we don't have everything we want: perfect relationships and constant elation and euphoria, for all our effort, eludes us. Conflict, misunderstandings, and disappointment creep in. How dare they! To keep them at bay, we return time and time again to our perceived 100% guaranteed protective way. We WILL have pain-free interactions with people. To secure this, people must be pushed further and further away. This emotional distance reinforces people are dangerous. As a result, you feel the painful consequences of loneliness and despair. Our desire for healthy, real relationship is thwarted time and time again. We don't know HOW to change because we are unaware of what TO change. 

Defenses, in and of themselves, are neither good nor bad; protecting ourselves is wise and healthy. The question is whether they are being used in a way to benefit and help you or if they are stunting growth and development. Becoming more aware of these protective ways of relating to people allows you the ability to determine what TO change and you can then see HOW to grow through self-exploration. These stories must be honored and given a place to safely be shared. Remember, the best defense is a good offense. 

Tiffany Dang

Tiffany Dang, LPC, Austin, TX