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Defensiveness and Reactivity

When we see defensiveness, and any kind of reactivity, remember, we are looking at someone's pain. 
~David Daniels, MD 

I read this this morning and am stunned by the truth and the depth to which it pierces in my soul. It rings true for not only me personally, but also for my relationship with others. The defensive mechanisms that are so ingrained in us come out so easily if we are unaware and especially when we are in stressful or painful times. Pain on top of pain. Stress on top of a life of stress. This describes life for most of us. Childhood pain that we had no control over. Stress in our adult years that trigger all sorts of childhood memories and pain. For life moves at a fairly quick pace and we have all learned to cope with life a certain way, which is how our enneagram number was born. 

When I read this quote this morning I can read it with compassion. When I react to my husband or to my kids in a way that is disproportionate to the situation, I must first pause and ask why, why does this bother me so much? Why did I respond to this like that? So often my response has been that of shame, for that is where a 2 secretly lives when they make a mistake. Shame on you Jenn, you should have responded more kindly, instead your response was a selfish one. However, I have found that shame circumvents the process and keeps me from really engaging in the growth that God is inviting me toward. Curious questions can lead me to a place of growth where I can honestly answer what really was happening at the point of interaction that led to a defensive response. 

Compassion comes, too for my friends and colleagues, for the stranger at the store, (for a 2 is always looking for connection with others, they are always aware of others' responses). I can pause before I judge another's response, and respond differently. Defensive behavior on defensive behavior only leads to more pain. 

What would it look like to pause today? To listen to my breathing, release my palms, ask myself, what is going on right now? What am I feeling? What am I inclined to do because of what I am feeling? Awareness is the beginning steps to growth, where is God in this moment? Where am I? If the most important thing in navigation is not knowing where you are going, but knowing where you are, then pausing would seem like an important thing to do. Where am I right now? 

Without judging what I am feeling or noticing, 

Without assigning value to the stuff I am observing and trying to manipulate it into something better, which for my case would be to make it more selfless than it really is..

Not dismissing what I see and wanting to be something that I am not. 

We are so wanting ourselves to be different, less hurting, less needy, less angry. 

The invitation is to develop. To grow. To miss the truth of ourselves, we lose the chance to develop and grow. 

And truth in me awakens truth in others. 

So the next time I run into myself, my defensive walls, or another's defensive walls, I need to remember it's painful. Life has been hard. I need God in this moment to meet the pain in my own life and in other's lives. 


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