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1 Incredible Reason Why People Defend Automatically

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I always find it compelling when I meet people who say they cannot think of anyone they dislike.

           In those situations, I assume the person is lying. That either makes me a cynic or a realist, depending on your point of view. What gives me such confidence in the matter comes from knowing myself. Even more importantly, I understand the human mind.

           I’m not a narcissist who believes the whole world thinks exactly like me.

           What I’m saying comes from neuroscientists who, through research, have demonstrated that human beings are hardwired to attack or defend. We all know about fight, flight, or freeze. Our brains react immediately to a threat without needing to think over the situation.

           Our species evolved with that capability for a reason.

           However, it becomes easy to comprehend that our defensive mode does not stop with physical danger. A significant reason why constructive criticism can feel harsh to us is that it runs into the same neural network. The verbal suggestions feel like an attack.

Multiracial couple having conflict on street
Photo by Keira Burton:

           Exclusion from a group for evolutionary purposes would have impacted our survival, so critiques also trigger that same brain pathway.

           With that said, it stands to reason that the times in life when we have felt attacked, the individuals we hold responsible for those transgressions will not get Christmas cards from us. To take it a step further, we dislike those folks.

           I know admitting that fact openly can feel like a negative thing.

           In many religious traditions, forgiving people is a critical virtue. The wise humans of the past clearly warned us against the danger of resentment. It can lead to a fire that will eventually consume all in its path, including yourself.

           Although, our brains are hardwired to recall past evils. Staying away from those circumstances increases the likelihood we survive.

           So how do we make sense of our predicament? My reasoning leads back to the first policy of practicing honesty. I know we are supposed to forgive and forget, but if we indeed do that, then we set ourselves up to become victims again. 

           I believe in the forgiving part; I struggle with the forgetting.

           What works for me means I admit my disdain for specific individuals. That way, I’m self-aware of my emotional state and not lying to myself. In that context, if I have to deal with someone I don’t like, I can remain professional due to my understanding of the truth.

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Photo by Magda Ehlers:

           I believe most horrors get perpetrated by people who either are unaware or do not care about their behavior.

           Regardless of the reasoning, a lack of appreciation for the damage they cause shows a disconnect I believe self-awareness could improve. Essentially, confessing to ourselves allows us to gain more capacity in our ability to show up in the world the way we desire.

           Denying reality increases the likelihood of doing considerable damage.

           It is okay to admit our true feelings. At that moment, we can then process what or if we need to do something regarding them. Besides, our wiring leads to particular behaviors, which will bubble to the surface even if we try to repress those sensibilities.

           Freedom comes from acknowledging those emotions and making better decisions on that awareness.

           Better to live in that reality than a false world. Nobody likes counterfeits; ultimately, we all want the authentic and real thing.         

Vertis Williams is a Positive Habits Life Coach and a Mindfulness Trainer. He is a regular presenter at employee and team-development events. Contact him to request more info on his Workshops or on his Coaching Services! Click HERE to Request a Complimentary Habit Coaching Session!

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