How to overcome defenses and lose the emotional baggage?
November 19, 2006 6:56 AM   Subscribe

How to overcome defenses and lose the emotional baggage?

I had a screwy childhood (not quite Running with Scissors, but not that far off either). Consequently, I'm a deeply sensitive person and I think I've got overdeveloped emotional defenses.

It's not so much that I act defensive and mean and angry to others; it's more that my expectations for other people, especially men (I'm a woman) are usually low. So when I'm dating someone I might tend to be suspicious about whether they are "interested in only one thing" or what their true motives are. Although I am not confrontational and don't have a temper, this does come out in little ways that affect my relationships. I might meet a really great guy, but I'll still expect him to let me down. Not healthy, obviously.

Thing is, these negative expectations are quite persistently entrenched! It is very hard to overcome automatic patterns of thought.

So...what has worked for you? Yes, I'm in therapy, but there must be things I can do on my own...books, exercises, etc. First of all, I want to avoid having defensive thoughts, but when that's not possible, what's the best way to explain oneself after you've screwed and patch things over without making things a bigger deal than they already are?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your best bet is to ask your therapist what more you can be doing. You want to complement the work that the two of you are doing together.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:32 AM on November 19, 2006

I recommend How to Be An Adult in Relationships all the time (despite the kinda-cheesy title), because I think it's an amazing examination of how to look at the things we are given (and not given) in our childhood as the basis for how to take care of ourselves emotionally and spiritually as adults, and in turn use that as the foundation for healthier relationships (romantic, but also platonic) based on mindfulness for ourselves and each other (including how to deal with conflict, which I -- for my own childhood-based reasons -- really needed a primer on!). I found it genuinely transformative the first time I read it, right as I was getting into a new relationship, but it's chock-full of thought-provoking material whether you're single, already established in a relationship, or breaking up.
posted by scody at 10:43 AM on November 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

The way I handle people and relationships or new friends or whatever is that they automatically get a 100% score. So only if they actually let me down in someway, I start treating them more carefully. But the default setting is that they're all good. Everybody gets the benefit of doubt, and in bad situations, I treat people like I expect to be treated. Regarding defensiveness, I've found the best approach is to not react at all. So if somebody says something that annoys you and makes you want to justify yourself, you're probably better off just not doing or saying anything. Hope this helps.
posted by dhruva at 5:26 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

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