We don’t need fancy concepts of evil, like multi-layered depths of hellish infernos underground with corresponding degrees of punishment.
We have it above ground.
It’s called defensiveness.
I’m not calling people who display this behavior evil; I’m calling it a force of nature that contains evil within it.
The tricky part is that defensiveness is not 100% evil. But it’s only not-evil when it’s purely for survival.
Defensiveness happens in us whenever we feel threatened. It’s inborn. It is necessary. The problem is that we feel defensive often. Really often. When things happen that do not, in fact, threaten our survival. They may threaten our well-being, even if just in that moment. But we react like we are protecting our very life.
Defensiveness is the number one killer of intimacy, of trusting bonds between people, of good energy/vibes/feelings in relationships.
It does this damage by blocking connection, blocking understanding, blocking warmth. It’s a protective shield, an armor, and often comes in the form of offense – attack.
When we are truly being threatened, this is a good response to have on our toolbelt.
It’s tricky because the human mind mucks everything up. When we were living in the trees and the caves and fighting off saber tooth tigers – when we were way more like all the other animals – defensiveness was purely for survival. It was innocent, if you will.
We’ve lost our primal innocence quite a bit since then. For example, starting around 10,000 years ago, when a neighbor trespassed on our newly-fenced in newly-invented plot of private land. Was our survival threatened? That’s debatable. We certainly felt that way. Was it acceptable to kill him over it?
Unfortunately, our reptilian brain has, at this point, been programmed so intensely for survival in artificial constructs of the mind that make up our daily reality, that there is no turning back.
We must deal with this directly if we are to have conscious relationships.
The good news is that the tools to help with this are simple. The “bad” news is that they are difficult. Guess why?
See, I told you it was tricky.
How to tell if someone is being defensive:
• They do anything other than seem present and listening to you, responding in a calm or appropriately energetic way, that matches your energy. They are hijacking the interaction. They are disappearing/shutting down. They are breaking any of the Communication Jewels (see me for a copy).
How to tell if you are being defensive (much harder):
• You feel negative in the interaction. A very good indicator or predictor.
• Stop an interaction when you detect Defensiveness in the other person, or yourself.
• Acknowledge it.
• Express/ask what you need to in order to clean the slate.
• Start over, with a concerted effort to stay fact-based, focused on what you need and on crystal clear communication.
That’s easy, right?
No, it is not. Or we’d all be doing it because it creates a much better feeling in relationships, which gives a much better feeling to every day of our lives.
To be fair, one of the two reasons we don’t use these tools is that we have not been taught to use them. Nothing of the sort has been modeled to us by our parents, teachers, community leaders, and so on. Our brains have no context for speaking like this, thinking like this, behaving like this. No cell memory, no synaptic history. This makes it very new, and awkward, and hard to remember.
And…once taught these tools, what makes it very difficult to use them is…resistance. In the moment when they are most needed. In other words, defensiveness.
I have come to see the entire human race on a spectrum of Special Needs. We all have a fear-based ego mind – reactivity – and we fall somewhere on the spectrum in any given moment, and in patterns. To wake up, to become conscious, to actually improve our experience of being alive, we just need to stop action in moments of interactions that are going awry, and manage our defensiveness.
That is the task for decreasing evil in ourselves, our lives, our relationships, our world – in other words, creating higher functioning individuals, more fulfilling connections and more at-peace existence.