Defensive Responses

I thought about posting today about the protests. I thought about posting today about some element of systematic racism that I’m still digging into to understand in all areas of my life including work.

But I started thinking about the patterns I observed this week – whether in social media, over email, on calls, during conferences, with friends, with colleagues, etc. I’m lucky to have been exposed to quite a bit on neuroscience and psychology. That said, I’m no expert. Yet, I’m still sharing because the overall pattern I’m noticing is being unable to get past the initial back and forth of a conflict.

Our brains are amazing. Turns out when faced with unpleasant thoughts, events, and/or actions, often we unconsciously react to protect ourselves. Although these reactions are normal for all humans, they are not an excuse. We can learn how to recognize, not get stuck, and learn to leverage better response strategies.

Here’s a challenge:  The next time we (I’m going to be doing this too) hear/see something (regarding what is happening in the world right now) that you don’t agree with…let’s name how we unconsciously responded!

1.) Did you create a reason that you didn’t have time to think/engage?
2.) Did you deny it was possible?
3.) Did you project by taking unwanted emotions/traits you don’t like about yourself and attribute them to someone else?
4.) Did you direct your emotions/frustrations towards another person/object that has less consequences?
5.) Did you blame/criticize?
6.) Did you justify something you didn’t agree with based on your own additional facts?
7.) Did you want to react with negative emotions and instead went to an overly positive response?
8.) Did you separate your life into independent zones and focus on something else?
9.) Did you choose to remove all emotion from your response and instead focus on quantitative facts?
10.) None of the Above.

I know it is tempting to just pick 10 – (there are other defense responses so it could be possible but it could also be trying to pretend perfection). So I’ll start: I know this material and this past week alone, I can think of different incidents where I responded with 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9. Honestly, the only one I’m 100% sure I didn’t do this week was 7. We are all mentally exhausted, which means our unconscious is ripe to take over.

You don’t need to share what caused the reaction. Take this challenge and consider which response happened and how long did it take for you to notice. I will not judge your answers. I will only judge white people that don’t take the challenge. Just kidding, but I hope you do. In order to improve, one of the first steps – we can be doing (that we have complete control over) is becoming aware of how we respond.

Please learn with me.

What were some defense responses that happened for you?

(Quick summary sources for more information:
https://www.healthline.com/…/mental-heal…/defense-mechanisms &
https://www.gottman.com/…/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-cr…/)

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