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Do You Really Have to Stop Defending Yourself?

My lessons lately have been fascinating to me, not because they are hard but because they are reflective of some of the very popular spiritual teachings that float around on social media and get spouted by many spiritual teachers. One common one is “stop defending yourself”. Ever heard that one before? You may have even seen me writing or talking about it at some point. But what does that really mean? How do you actually do that? Let me share what I’ve come across the last little while.

There has been some significant change in my life over the past few weeks that I haven’t really talked about at all. One of those changes has been in the material sense. I have manifested a number of material items that I wanted and needed to make my life easier and better. The creation of those material items came from my ability to stop defending myself.

I have traditionally been a very defensive person. It became a sort of survival skill that I needed to live my life. It’s not the most helpful skill in the world. Its gotten me into many a blow-out style argument with people. It’s caused me to walk away from my own choices in the past too. I would become defensive when they would question my choices, probably argue with them, and then do what they wanted anyway. They would get what they wanted but not before coming face to face with me, the world’s most defensive walking natural disaster. If you could survive my anger, then you could have what you wanted. You just had to pay your price of admission to do it.

My defensiveness also caused me to avoid conversations because I didn’t want the argument. I didn’t want to deal with the disagreement and I didn’t have the ability to manage myself in such a way that I could handle people’s opinions without getting really mad at them. So, to combat that I would simply avoid the whole thing. That’s not a good look either, in case you were curious.

For the last while, I’ve been focused on not defending myself. I don’t need to defend my choices. Other people are allowed to disagree with me and that’s okay. I don’t have to give in just because they are offering me pain. I can retain my autonomy and not be a train wreck, but that means I have to be able to handle the inevitable conversations that come from people voicing their opinions and questioning my choices.

I’ve been given the challenge of not defending myself a couple of different times now as I’ve manifested some material items. One of those conversations I had with my brother resulted in a shift in our relationship as I was able to point out that we weren’t screaming at each other where we would have been in the past.

My strategy is not so much to tell people that I’ve changed, but instead to point out the difference in how a conversation is going in the present versus what would have happened in the past. It risks sounding like I’m bragging sometimes, but the point is to get people to pay attention to their present experience long enough to notice that there is a difference. Calling attention to it allows them to see it for themselves and they can choose to acknowledge it or not. It doesn’t ask them to change or do anything differently. It’s simply asking them to pay conscious attention what’s happening, where they may have simply not cared or not noticed otherwise.

My brother was prepared for battle when he engaged in that conversation with me. I don’t blame him for that because he, in the past, would have needed his battle armor to deal with me. The last time we tried to have a conversation similar to this it resulted in us not talking to each other for over a year. That’s what my defensiveness used to create. I didn’t do that this time. I managed to handle myself. I didn’t change my choice but I still offered alternatives and opportunities for flexibility. He eventually acquiesced and we moved onto talking about other things. No fighting required.

Did he question my choice? Yes. I used to take that as an insult. “You don’t trust my choices. You don’t trust me. You don’t think I’m smart enough or good enough to make my own choices. You want me to do everything your way.” Those are all very defensive ideas that blame the other person for expressing their opinion. Instead I just simply said that this was what I wanted, this was what I thought was the best option and I stayed out of arguing about it. I didn’t defend myself when he was passive aggressive or attempted to engage the argument with me. I simply ignored those comments and restated my position. When I could I offered flexibility and was willing to do many things to make others more comfortable outside of changing my decision.

I managed myself within the experience and did not ask my brother to change himself within the experience. I pointed out that we weren’t arguing but I didn’t ask him to change or honor that in any way. I simply put it there for him to choose to pick up or not. He picked it up on his own and he shifted on his own. The conversation improved and we made some apologies to each other in the process.

When spiritual teachers talk about not defending themselves, they literally mean don’t defend yourself. Ignore the insults. Ignore the pain being thrown around. You don’t have to be a doormat. You can stand your ground and not defend yourself at the same time. They aren’t mutually exclusive. I maintained my position but did not defend myself when insulted. I ignored it entirely. I stayed out of the argument.

Just because people are throwing their pain around, doesn’t mean you have to pick it up. One of the ways we pick it up is by defending ourselves. The defense requires you to pick up the pain and toss it back. So if you simply ignore it and stay out of the argument, it will stop. It becomes a lopsided argument. If you’re not offering any pain then there is nothing to fight with.

“But I can’t allow them to treat me like that.” You’re defending yourself. Actually you’re defending the problem. If the problem is how they treat you, then the way you fix that is by not giving them a reason to throw more pain around. You only have control over you so if you fix your own stuff then suddenly you’re not giving people a reason to throw pain at you anymore.

Your response to other people matters. When you defend the problem by deciding that you have to defend yourself because you can’t let them treat you like that, you continue the fight. You keep the cycle of pain going. If you want to stop the pain then stop defending your own pain. If you have enough awareness of yourself and the experience, then you can point out the differences in the experience like I do and watch what happens. Things shift not because you make them shift, but because you create an environment where they can shift. That’s called getting out of your own way, one of those other very famous spiritual sayings people like to toss around.

People will change their behavior when they feel safe to do so. The hostile environment that you create by defending yourself is not a safe platform for people to use to change themselves within the relationship. If you want people to change then you have to stop being hostile long enough for that happen. You have to stop defending yourself first.

Yes, you’re making the leap first in a potentially hostile environment. You’re not asking other people to do it first, you’re the one taking on that responsibility. Why? Because you’re the one with conscious awareness and that gives you power that other people don’t have. You’re using your gifts of self-awareness and consciousness to be able to shift yourself without needing the situation to shift first. That’s self-mastery combined with a willingness to do the work to heal.

In all the change that I’ve made in the last 2 or 3 months, I haven’t asked a single soul to shift anything. I’ve shifted first and then waited for everybody else to catch up if or when they were ready to do so. I’m making the leap in the potentially hostile environment. I’m not asking anybody to do that for me. I’m not asking anybody to make it safe for me to do it either. I’ve learned to trust myself to be able to handle the experience. That means that I’m willing to open myself up to the potential for trouble in order to try to heal some of these relationships. So far, it’s working.

If it bites me in the butt one day, that’s okay too. It’s part of the experience. My ability to recognize that it’s other people’s pain allows me to stay open without needing to build a wall to protect myself. People are going to offer me pain. I ask for it as a coach and then it’s just part of the experience of life the rest of the time. Learning to handle that has been a game-changer. These last few weeks have been life-changing.

The final aspect of this is what you do with the conversation within yourself after the fact. I attempted to shift things with my father by shifting how I reacted to attempts to change my choice and his usual strategies for dealing with me. Like everybody else, he puts on battle armor too before engaging in conversations with me. I don’t want him to have to do that anymore. So I’m taking responsibility for my own behavior.

I didn’t get as far with my father as I did with my brother and that’s okay. But my father offered me more pain than my brother did. The result of that was a little bit of an over-active imagination later that evening. My mind started making up all these worst-case scenarios. I didn’t intentionally try to pick up the pain, but I did. My unconscious mind decided that it would be fun to play in the pain for a while. My job is to do what I do, which is get a grip on my thinking and then understand where the pain came from. My father was throwing pain around, I unintentionally and unconsciously picked it up, and it resulted in some worst-case scenarios running through my brain. Cool. My job is to catch that stuff when it happens. I can’t let that seed of pain my father tried to plant stay there. I have to dig that up and throw it out, which I can do easily enough.

So you see, what happens later is just as important as what happens during the experience itself. You can’t let your mind run away with it. You can’t let your unconscious mind decide it wants to take control either. Whatever gets offered to you, you have to be able to manage. You have to stay aware of yourself and then you can deal with all the things that show up along the way. The process of self-awareness doesn’t end just because you’re in a room by yourself.

To answer the question in the title of this blog, yes you do have to stop defending yourself if you want people to stop throwing their pain at you. Let’s be honest, you not defending yourself may not change their behavior. Make that okay. Make your awareness of your own behavior your primary concern. Make what happens with other people secondary. If you don’t and you’re doing things just to change other people, chances are you’re going to be disappointed. You’re going to feel let down.

Part of the experience is learning to leave people where they are. That literally means taking control of yourself within every experience without expecting anything from anybody else. You do it for yourself because you want to know at the end of every day that you were the best version of yourself that you could be in every moment of that day. Making it conditional on other people means you’re not healing for yourself. You’re healing for them so that they change. What about you?

It’s okay to have an external goal. I started my healing journey with external goals. There is nothing wrong with that. But don’t make the external goal have anything to do with another person changing or being anything other than what they are. Somewhere in the process that will allow you to start doing it for yourself. The balance will shift eventually and you’ll do it because you want to not because you think you can change other people.

Those little distinctions are massively important to how you feel about yourself and what you’re doing. You have to take it off of other people. You become aware of yourself within the experience so that you can learn to manage yourself within the same experience and not need the experience to change to be able to do it.

You can get there. It takes commitment. You have to work at it. But if you’re committed to finding the truth of your life experience, this is one way to get there. It’s how I’ve done it. You can do it too.

Love to all.



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