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How To Stop Getting Defensive When Triggered: 5 Tips

stop getting defensive

Today you feel light. After a long time, you wake up in the morning with a smile on your face, ready to rock the day! Your reach your workplace feeling extremely motivated. People notice that you look extra positive like you are spreading good karmic energy! Everything is rolling smooth and BAM! Someone decides to pull your trigger! Ask yourself, do you react defensively when someone pulls your trigger?

The story flips in a second and you shower the person with mean words, shaking with anger, wishing you could kill the other person for destroying your mental peace. But where does this thought come from?

Within you. 

Interestingly, every one of us is familiar with such incidents where we have reacted in ways we wished we hadn’t. You might wonder, “So? What’s wrong if I have?”

Nothing is really wrong until it makes you vulnerable to be controlled and manipulated by others, which you are highly risking yourself to. 

What is the easiest choice we have when we are triggered? We simply react. We become defensive – the fastest and most feasible way to respond.

Read How to Listen Without Getting Defensive

What’s Below The Surface?

Most of us are not aware of the maladaptive way we react to a situation or stimuli in our surroundings. For us, our reaction is absolutely justified.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if, while reading this article do you realize that you often react in ways that are revealing just the tip of the iceberg, the substantial part of which we don’t get to see.

Defensiveness is the action we perform to protect ourselves from being deflated. Defensiveness, to some extent, is an ego protective measure. But here’s a back story.

The actual truth is oddly ironic: being defensive sounds to have a self-protecting, self-promoting connotation which is half of the truth.

We do not get defensive to protect ourselves from others but we get defensive to protect ourselves from our own undesirable thoughts, wishes, and desires, to not encounter something within ourselves – Fear!

Defensiveness Is Always Based On Deep-Seated Fear. 

If an individual feels incompetent, incapable and insignificant, he or she is likely trying to avoid an uncomfortable thought or feeling rising from within himself. Defensiveness is crippling for an individual in several ways, the few most common ways it diminishes the effectiveness are by:

  • Projection
  • Distortion and
  • Compensation.

Take this, for instance, If I fear that I am not efficient enough and see others be more competent, I may project this insecurity or incompetence onto other people through my actions or through acting out.

So next time when someone points out to me how I genuinely have the scope to improve, I will react defensively by thinking or often saying out loud that this person is jealous of me. “You are simply jealous of me because I am doing great at my job.”

Which may or may not be true but what I actually did was, I subconsciously compared myself with my colleague and I realized that I’m not potent enough.

Ultimately, this entire thing distorted my sense of reality and I continued to believe that other people are jealous of me and want me off the competition. These will only spread bitterness within myself, my resentment towards others will increase and I will consistently keep being triggered at the drop of a hat. 

Let’s continue with the first example, suppose I am given work to do which requires my thorough expertise. Now once I have completed the work I keep complaining to other people about how poorly I have performed. What does everyone do then? Of course, everyone starts telling me, “What nonsense! You have performed excellently. This couldn’t have been better.”

Pat on my own back! I have successfully compensated for my fear of being insufficient. This little boost temporarily pacified my fear of being ‘not good enough’.

This can be very dangerous in any kind of interaction, especially intimate ones. It is sadly very draining for one partner to constantly feed the insecurity of another partner through compliments and reassurances.

By now it is clearly understandable that defensive behavior is internally instigated and NOT based on external stimuli. You have to stop believing that others are responsible for your defensive behavior or they are the ones that need to change.

Remember, one particular person might have malicious intent towards you, but not all. 

Now that you know that defensive behavior stems from inside us, you have an upper hand at doing something about your defensive behavior.

Read How To Fully Release Difficult Emotions That Hold You Back

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Shreyasi Debnath

An editor and writer keeping keen interest in painting, creative writing and reading. I did my Masters in Clinical and Counselling Psychology and have been a counselling psychologist at a primary school for the past 1 year. I love doing absolutely anything that mends a mind and soothes a soul. Most often than not, I ponder over to come up with poems. A wandering soul in search for meaning.View Author posts