DEFENSES to PROGRESS in Recovery and Living
If, instead of being honest, we respond without naming a feeling, we are hiding. The ways we hide our feelings are many, and we call them defences. Each defence prevents us from being known.
These behaviours are typically practiced by alcoholics, addicts, co-dependents, adult children of alcoholics, compulsive gamblers, sex addicts & etc.
The following are some examples;
- Rationalizing – We’ve got a good reason for everything. “I’m angry because they did this or that.” “I drink because of pressure on the job.” The truth is no reason is a good reason to drink or to deny that we have feelings.
- Justifying – “If that happened to you you’d feel the same-way.” We -believe we have a right to the negative feelings.
- Projecting – Instead of being honest about our own feelings, we accuse others of the same feelings. “I’m not angry, you’re the one who’s angry. Get the heat off me and on someone else.”
- Blaming, accusing – “It’s not my fault! If you’d only get off my back, then things wouldn’t be this way.” We’re not honest about ourselves; we lay our problems on someone else.
- Judging others – We’re smug or superior, we look down at others who are struggling to be honest. We tell ourselves that we’re not that way – but we don’t share this superior attitude with anyone.
- Intellectualizing – Instead of being honest about how we feel – we have an intellectual explanation for feelings. We’re in our head – not in our gut.
- Over-analyzing or explaining – We give detailed explanations about our problems or feelings. Instead of being direct about whom we are we try to explain it all to others.
- Generalizing – Beating around the bush, being non-specific. Instead of saying “I’m scared” – we dance all around the subject.
- Debating or arguing – If someone confronts us about how we appear we get into an argument about the details – all in an effort to avoid the confrontation.
- Questioning others – Some of us avoid sharing feelings by always asking other people questions. Keep the subject off me and on someone else – which is one way of avoiding facing us.
- Switching the subject or Evading the issue – This is a common defence. Whenever things get uncomfortable we change the topic to a safer subject. One way we do this is to get off the present and start talking about the past or future.
- Outright Denial – This is the defence where we simply deny that we have a feeling. We’re closed off.
- Minimizing – We share some feelings, but we tend to gloss over them. “Sure, I feel lousy but it’s not bad – I’ll pull myself out of it.
- Defiance – When confronted, we just tell people to leave us alone. We don’t give ourselves the chance to try to be a part of the group.
- Attacking, shouting or intimidating – To avoid facing ourselves, we jump on others; we get verbally aggressive – trying to tear down others to make ourselves feel a little better; to cover up those lousy feelings we have about ourselves.
- Withdrawing or Becoming Silent – One way to avoid confrontation or to keep others from seeing who we are, is to simply remain silent. The thinking here is, if I don’t say anything, no one can hurt me or find out who I am.
- Talking too much – The rule here is – if I keep talking about anything, others won’t get a chance to confront me.
- Glaring or staring – This is a defence without using words. We give others dirty looks that say – “Bug off – don’t get too close to me.”
- Joking or quipping – This is the comedy defence. Never get too serious – keep the real feelings away by joking around or quipping. -
- Agreeing too Easily – We say yes too quickly – we agree with the confrontations from others, but we agree only to keep others from seeing the real us.
- Complying – This is related to agreeing. When we comply we go along with what seems to be the program, so we’ll avoid conflict. We say – “Sure, I’m an alcoholic” – but underneath we really don’t believe it and rather than share our real feelings we go along with the crowd.
These are examples of the defences that most of us use to avoid seeing ourselves or to avoid sharing painful feelings.
We’ve used some of these defences so often for so long that they just come out naturally – they are part of us. We want to begin to identify them and to start to share at more of a feeling level, with the defences down.
By trying to be honest and open with each other, by taking the risk to share and level with each other, we can see our defences for what they are and begin to discover others and ourselves as feeling persons.