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Being Defensive! Who, me?

Chuck and his granddaughter, Elsa, playfully being defensive.

Being defensive is no playing matter, but WOW do I ever play this game! While I use all of the Protective Patterns, Defending is one of the Protective Patterns I use most. It emerges when I am trying to be safe. It turns out that it doesn’t work very well. 

This morning, my wife, Sandy, and I had a typical volley of Protective Patterns: Defend-Attack-Defend. The conversation started calmly. She was trying to create healthy boundaries on who does what around our house and yard. For some reason, it launched me into a Protective Pattern. I started Defending myself by naming all the things I already do. My defensiveness triggered her Protective Pattern and gave her more ammunition to Attack.  As Protective Patterns do, her admonitions provided more fuel for me to feel bad about myself, which amps up my Protective Pattern and my felt need to Defend myself.

Like most Protective Patterns, the origins of both our behaviors go way back to early childhood patterns, our roles, and how much we care. Fortunately, we have been working on this for a while, so even though we still get caught in it, we can see it happening almost immediately. We have learned the skills to stop the volley and communicate with each other in a healthier way. 

As is common with Protective Patterns,  Defending myself has caused a lot of discord in my marriage. However, with my Resilient Mindsets of Curiosity, Choice, and Courage, I am Noticing Myself more often now and inquiring within with self-compassion. I know that HOW I am being is a Choice. Sometimes it’s a difficult choice simply because my reactive Protective Patterns are so ingrained. However, Courage — which we define as “listening to and following the heart” — gives me the wisdom to improve my communication with the person I love the most. So, I am learning to Notice Myself when my Protective Pattern emerges and make a different resilient choice— Choosing relationship over being right— and it’s making all the difference.

If you want to understand the Protective Pattern of Defending in a deeper way, check out the staff pick below: Sharon Ellison’s book, Don’t Be So Defensive! It has been a lifesaver for me to recognize, a) how common Defending is as a Protective Pattern, and b) how nuanced the Defending strategies are that I use so unconsciously.

If you want an opportunity to explore your own Protective Patterns in a safe environment with other curious people, join our free Resilience Circle starting in February.

With Resilience,
Chuck and the Dovetail Team