I have a hard time not becoming defensive when I am attacked. And by attacked, I mean someone asking me what I’m having for lunch. Anytime I am asked a question about pretty much ANYTHING, or if someone says something that I may possibly be able to take negatively, I feel attacked.
Jay has been telling me for a looong time that I am very defensive. Of course, each time he said this, I would become…you guessed it! DEFENSIVE and start arguing about how he was wrong. When I was finally able to explain to him about how I mimic behaviors because I don’t know the proper way to act, he asked me why I would feel the need to defend actions that I was only doing because I saw someone else do them. He wanted to know why I would bother defending something if I didn’t think it was necessarily right.
My answer was one that I seem to be giving a lot lately: Have you met me? I have borderline personality disorder!
Now, I’m not trying to use BPD as an excuse for bad behavior, but it sure does help explain why I do and think the things I do. Jay will point out something I’ve done or said, and I think, “Yeah, I’ve read about that! That’s part of BPD.” Again, not an excuse. Just a reason.
Today during my individual session with my therapist, something came up about me being defensive. I think it was specifically in regards to my marriage and becoming defensive when it’s questioned. My therapist pointed out that I most likely become defensive because I have been criticized and critiqued for one thing or another the majority of my life. She said I am so used to hearing nasty, critical questions from my mother, that I just assume everyone is that way. I hear someone question me, and immediately my back goes up. My heart starts beating fast, my hands are shaking, and I can feel the heat rush to my face. Adrenaline pours into my system, and I HAVE to defend…Defend or DIE in the attack.
From an early age everything I did or said was questioned. Not always just questioned. A lot of times I was ridiculed or made to feel bad for it. From my mother’s point of view, if someone doesn’t think or act the way she thinks they should, then they are WRONG. I got used to being questioned and criticized about everything. Now, as an adult, someone can’t ask me a simple question or make a statement without me feeling attacked.
Now that I know WHY I am constantly being so defensive, I think I will have a better chance of stopping that behavior. Of course, I don’t need to know the why behind things to change how I act, but it’s helpful for me to know. If I know why, I am usually able to be more forgiving towards myself when I slip back into those old habits. Like jumping down someone’s throat for suggesting I use a different kind of pen.