The Fine Line Between Defense and Honesty

frosty clearing

If you don’t like cold and you’re doing The Work on your thoughts about cold, defense would look like, “Yeah, but it’s still cold!”

The Work Is about Questioning What you Believe

When you’re doing your work, you’re going to be exploring the very opposite of what you currently believe. And the mind sometimes resists this.

It looks like this. I’m exploring a turnaround and finding some examples. Suddenly, my mind goes, “Yeah, but that’s not really true.”

“Yeah, but..” Is a Sign of Defense

And so are all the cousins of “Yeah, but…” Sayings like, “C’mon…” or “Hey…” and a million other creative ways of subtly saying “Yeah, but…”

It doesn’t even have to be spoken. Just the feeling of “Yeah, but…” inside is that internal resistance which gives rise to the saying. You don’t actually have to speak it. If that feeling of resistance is there, you’ve got some defense going on. You’ll recognize it by the tense, stressful feeling that goes along with it.

This Defensiveness Shows me I Am no Longer Doing The Work

Once I think, ‘Yeah, but…” I am no longer exploring with an open mind. I’m now acting the way any defensive person acts: by discarding the evidence that does not support my case. And favoring other evidence that supports my case. I’ve become a defense lawyer, which is very different from doing The Work.

The invitation of The Work is to be an objective scientist looking at everything impartially. Exploring all sides of everything. Questioning everything. Playing devil’s advocate with myself. Challenging myself to really look at all points of view.

But when I start tearing up the evidence that I come up with during this kind of exploration, I step out of The Work. I’m now reinforcing my old, painful beliefs. I’m no longer being impartial.

But Can You Take This too Far?

Yes, The Work is not about going into denial either. It’s not about forcing turnarounds down my throat that are not true for me.

This is the fine line I’m talking about.

Maybe I come up with a turnaround example. And my mind, while still being objective, sees that the example really doesn’t hold much weight for me. I might choose to drop that example.

But in this case, the discarding of the example is coming from an impartial place. It is trustworthy. It is honest. This is what keeps me from pretending when doing The Work. This is what keeps me from using spiritual ideas in my turnaround examples that are not really honest for me.

So How Can You Tell the Difference?

It’s very easy to tell the difference between defense and honesty. Defense feels stressful. Like you’re pushing the example away. There’s a repulsion there. A running away from it.

Whereas, honest rejection of a turnaround example feels clean. I’ve looked at it objectively and the example really doesn’t hold weight for me. I’m letting it go, with no feeling of running away from it. It’s just a jigsaw puzzle piece that doesn’t fit there. There’s not much I need to say.

Another way to tell the difference is to notice what you want to do next after you discard the example. If you’re in defense mode, you’re probably ready to move on. Like, “Let’s close this case and get back to business as usual.”

But if you’re just being honest that the example doesn’t work for you, without defense, then the mind will probably be interested in looking for other examples that might work better. In other words, the mind is still open and exploring.

Have a great week,

“Defense and justification keep you from answering the questions. The mind is so stuck in its patterns of proving that it’s right that it spins you away from the questions. Just notice that, and gently return to inquiry.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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  • alana says:

    Cold is cold…wet is wet, it’s what I feel about feeling cold that gives me ‘the feel good /feel bad. Not to accept I feel cold when I am cold is what our dearly departed esteemed Gestalt Fitz Pearls called’Mind Fucking’.Don’t hear much about that now a days .

    • todd says:

      Yes, what I feel about feeling cold is another way of saying what I think about feeling cold. By identifying what I’m thinking or feeling about something, I can question that thought and transcend my original way of experiencing it.

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