When someone close to us is acting in a way that is difficult for us, our response is often defensive—we react to their behavior. We feel like we need to do something about it—for example, we might believe we need to draw a line to make it clear that other person has done wrong in some way, or make a correction to their behavior.
This comes in part from our need to protect ourselves or from our desire to make sure that whatever we don’t like doesn’t keep happening. While putting boundaries in place and communicating with other people in this way is an important skill—particularly when dealing with certain people—there’s also another way of approaching disagreements that can be very helpful.
This other way is to ask the person to join into the experience that you want to have with them. This requires us to be aware of what we would like to have happen in the moment when it is not happening as well as to be emotionally clear enough to act on this knowledge.
There is often an assumption that, when someone does something that we don’t like, they did it intentionally, they were not able to see something, or they just disregarded our needs. But most often, other people are simply not aware of what it is that we want or need. And many people have not become skilled at saying what it is that they do want and need.
When you are in a situation where someone in your life is not acting the way you would like, try inviting this person into the type of experience that you want rather than challenging, defending, or putting a boundary in place, and just see how it goes.
If, for example, I want to work on communication with someone and they’re not giving me the type of communication I want, I could respond by saying something such as, “Well, you’re not communicating with me, and that is a problem for me.” It is clear in my response that I do not like the behavior and also that I am feeling defensive. Because of my response, the other person might become a bit defensive themselves, and we will likely bounce our hurt and defenses off of each other.
Or, I can come into the situation and say something like, “What would really feel good to me is more communication, and this is what it would look like to have that.” With this example, I have gotten rid of the layers of defensiveness and simply invited the person into the way of being in our relationship that I would like most.
While not everyone will be able to rise to the occasion, when it does work, you will see just how powerful this method can be. It might actually become an essential new aspect of your repertoire—a new way of relating to others, a tool that helps you get back on track and create more of what you want in your life.
For more tips and tricks on how to create your life in an empowered way, check out my youtube videos here.
What does it mean to be empowered? A wonderful teacher of mine, Alisa Starkweather, taught me that to be empowered means to know that you have a choice. I think that this is a fabulous starting point. Having a choice means that we are able to choose how we act and react in any situation. Outside circumstances will no longer dictate our responses! Feeling this sense of choice is the root of empowerment.
Being empowered means overcoming victimhood, which has become an epidemic. Victimhood is the opposite of having a choice. It is the experience of believing that someone or something else is doing something to us and that we have no control over the situation.
Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to feel that we have a choice. However, as we grow and develop, we learn how to find the choices that are there. This is what it is to be empowered: to know that we have the ability to choose what we want in any given situation.
Victim mindset represents the pervasive believe that we do not have power in our lives. Once in the victim mindset, we look outside and say “You are doing this to me, therefore I have no control.” This belief ensures that we remain a victim.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t situations in which people are actually victimized and, because of circumstance, have only bad options to choose from. Those situations are not the issue at hand. Rather, this level of victimhood is a foundational way of orienting to the events of your life. When we interact with the world as a victim, we look to the world to treat us differently rather than realizing that it is within our capacity make changes and determine how we want to move forward in our life.
Like many things in life, it is important that we allow a lot of compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance for this part of ourselves. We can’t move past our victim mentality without giving it the attention it needs. You can’t beat the victim up and tell them to get over it. That’s not that’s not the way that it works. Our first steps are to learn to see, appreciate, and love this part of ourselves. Every single aspect of ourselves has a teaching. Every aspect informs us about ourselves, about life, and about others.
By accepting our inner victim and relating to it as a teacher, we take our first steps toward leaving this way of life behind. We start by asking the important questions: “How does being in the victim mentality inform me about myself? How does it help me become the person I want to be?” We will always have this part of ourselves but we do not need to be acting from it all the time.
To take even more steps in the direction of empowerment, recognize that you have choices. If you find yourself in a situation that you don’t like, see what you want out of the situation instead. Tuning into an alternative vision of the situation is the first part of being able to choose something different. There isn’t one way that you need to do this. It is a process of learning. But here is a starting point:
Step 1 – Ask yourself “What else could happen here?”
Step 2 – Choose to move in the direction of the action or experience that is desired.
We grow out of the victim mentality by first recognizing that we have the power to choose to move in an affirming direction and then making that choice. The beauty of this is that whether or not we succeed in creating an entirely different circumstance, we have already begun to reclaim our power.
Are you interested in exploring the ways that victimhood is affecting your life? Dive deep in my free workshop titled “The Power of You: How to Overcome Despair and Thrive”, or click here to read about my Breakthrough Intensive.
It’s a part of our human experience to have defenses—though quite frequently, these defenses create problems for us. They change what we are able to get out of our relationships or what we are able to receive and develop in our lives, leaving us to wonder how we can work with them to be most productive in the way that is best for us.
Being defensive is a totally normal human response. However, often, if someone says you’re being defensive, the immediate reaction is to feel like you have done something wrong and should not be acting that way. In truth, that response is often the other person’s defense. If they call you out, then they have the upper hand.
The first step is just accepting the fact that it’s OK to be defensive. When you are, it is an opportunity to learn. Our defenses show us how we have been hurt or what needs of ours have not been met in the past, usually in our childhood and then even more throughout our lives afterward.
How and when we get defensive shows us how and why our defenses developed. They show us what it is that we need in order to better care for ourselves: underneath every defense is a lot of information about how we can actually grow and develop.
If you find yourself getting defensive in a situation, you can ask yourself, “What is it that I am afraid of?” (The “Biggest Fear” quiz on my website can help you get clarity about your greatest fears. See the end of this article for the link) In truth, we have an assortment of fears that lead to our being defensive, but as the quiz will show you, there are certain fears that are more intense than others. When we recognize what they are, we can do something about them.
For example, when we recognize that we have a need for safety or a fear of losing contact, being controlled or betrayed, we have gathered important information. We know that this has happened repeatedly in our life and is something that needs our attention.
If we have a need for safety, for example, the way to decrease our defense against this is to learn how to create safety for ourselves. That’s the healing step forward.
After we have cared for ourselves in this way, we ultimately transcend the problem and can truly be free. That’s is how you heal from learning about and taking care of your defenses.
But to start the process, we must give ourselves what we need, regularly and consistently. If we engage in this deep level of self-care, we’ll be able to really heal from what has happened in the past. There are a number of different ways that we can attend to these wounds. We can learn to provide what we need for ourselves and we can learn how to receive it through the support of the people around us.
Once we are clear that we are being defensive, why we are being defensive, and then provide for that need, we’ll see ourselves getting softer, more open, and more flexible. Our strength will return to each situation that would have previously been challenging so that we’re able to respond in a way that is less defensive and more connective.
And, in the end, when we do this, it gives us more of what we want.
If you’re curious to discover what is hidden behind your defenses, take my quiz!
Pleasure gets limited airtime in the personal development world. We talk about happiness, fulfillment, and other positive states, but pleasure somehow feels a bit more challenging to engage with.
It often goes in one of two directions: Pleasure gets entirely left out as we focus on goals and purpose, or it’s implied that after you reach your goals or develop your purpose, pleasure will be the result—once you are successful, then you will fully enjoy your life and feel regular pleasure. In either case, it becomes a silent but active participant in evaluating our goals and activities in life. If we are not feeling pleasure, we can wonder if we are going in the wrong direction or didn’t actually make the good choices we thought we had. This may or may not be true.
I want to talk a little bit about both of these approaches to pleasure because they’re both really informative.
When pleasure is seen as an end result or gets left out entirely, life becomes quite dry. For example, you might achieve your goals, but even when you get them you find yourself less than thrilled about your life. You might see a large degree of success in many different ways, but you are not actually enjoying the benefits of the work that you’ve done. Along with misguided thinking that creates this perspective comes a lack of skill in how to experience pleasure. We actually have to learn how to embody pleasure in many different ways before we can add meaning to the hard work we do to reach our goals. When we do, we start not only to reach our goals but to enjoy them.
When we live believing that we should always feel good (regardless of how conscious this belief is) and we evaluate our life predominantly through this lens, we deaden our experience and ultimately decrease our pleasure. Very important things happen in our lives that don’t exactly come with a lot of pleasure, such as difficult realizations, moments of transformation, and moments of embracing the more difficult aspects of ourselves. These moments don’t necessarily feel good as we move through them, but the discomfort is not a sign that we are doing something wrong. In fact, if we allow ourselves to feel discomfort, the end result is that we embrace a whole new level of pleasure.
Pleasure is something to pay close attention to. If you do not, then chances are you’re not working with it as effectively as you could be.
If you start to pay attention to where pleasure is in your life, it shows where you might want to spend more time or where you might want to direct your energy. If you’re noticing that there is an absence of pleasure, even if you are meeting your goals and expectations, you’re doing your life in a less successful way than if you were meeting all your goals and having pleasure. In this case, you might want to look at how you can bring more pleasure into your daily life.
Exploring pleasure and how it informs your experience is really a very important component of our overall growth process. It is something that I very much enjoy working on with people in my intensives and any of my programs, because as we start to work with it, so much of our life changes.
How does exploring pleasure distract from or move us toward self awareness? Find this video and more videos that support your personal development here: The Wisdom and Distraction of Pleasure
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