“You don’t know me!”
“You haven’t live my life!”
“Don’t judge me until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes!”
We’ve all heard people make these statements. Perhaps we’ve said them on occasion. Defensive occasion.
Why are we so defensive about our faults, real or perceived? Have you ever examined the nature of this particular brand of defensiveness? What’s implied is that a person is displaying a fault that you recognize because it is common to us all, but the defending party doesn’t want it to be common. They want it to be theirs and theirs alone. Their pain must be unlike your pain. Why? Because it’s their identity. And if you take away their identity, who is left?
How we identify is who we are. It’s the baseline, the leaping off point for other feelings, but always what we’re anchored in—who we get pulled back to being when the other feelings subside. If we identify as being “in” pain, then what we’re really saying is that we are pain. Protecting our pain, then, is protecting our identity. Claiming to want to stop the pain while raging against anyone offering help is one way we inoculate ourselves against change.
Rage is a fight-or-flight anger response that can kick in when one feels threatened. What’s so threatening about helping someone extinguish their pain? It’s putting out the light of the self. Rage is a response of the immature person. Problem solving in one’s life in a healthy way promotes maturity. If we look for what triggers rage, what we will find is the place where problem-solving has broken down. When it comes to self-identity protection, the place where it breaks down is nowhere less than all of you. This is why some people can appear calm and collected in numerous circumstances, but fly off the handle when they feel a threat to their sense of self.
When such a one is sharing their problems and their pain with you, even if they’re asking for advice, they are not doing so because they want you to problem-solve for them. The only advice they want to hear is self-affirming. Anything deeper cuts, and they defend themselves with sharper knives. Such a one draws you in to enable their pain identity only to push you away if you offer anything truly medicinal. They equate the hurt of healing with the approach of death.
On that score they are not wrong.