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Shedding Your Defense Modes

Everybody has the capacity to shift into defense mode. It’s a normal reaction to go into self-preservation behaviors. Sometimes, they occur when others are personally attacking us. Other times, they are more of a trauma response as we seek to protect ourselves. Other times, defense modes are a way to let ourselves off the hook when we are in the wrong.

Can you completely shed a defense mode? Not really, as they are built into our biology. What we can do is become aware of them and attempt to redefine how they present themselves in our lives.

The discussion of defense modes is part of my book, The In-Between: Life in the Micro. It’s the story of my journey. In it, I talk about all the things I got wrong and how I recalculated my world to take notice of the micro and let go of the obsession with the macro.

The micro represents all the pieces of normal life. The macro refers only to the milestones or goals we’re expecting to achieve.

What Are Defense Modes?

Defense modes describe thoughts, feelings, and behaviors revolving around a need to protect. They are often the result of overwhelming emotions or situations. They can occur internally or externally. Science says it’s an actual biological response with physiological changes.

Thus, you can’t will yourself to avoid defense modes. It’s part of human nature. However, you can begin to recognize the patterns and correct them.

Defense Modes Cloud Judgment and Connection

When I’ve been in defense mode before, I had a singular mindset. I needed to fix whatever the problem was at the cost of everything else. I didn’t “see” the people around me or what my behavior was causing.

Defense modes keep us in the macro. This tunnel vision has collateral damage. My defense modes were to set goals and achieve them, with my destiny within my control. That’s what I believed was happening.

Why wouldn’t I want to resolve the issue that kicked up my defense mode? It would seem the natural response. However, a hyper-focus on the macro puts relationships at risk. Those caught up in this whirlwind were left feeling unappreciated.

I was trying desperately to overcome a challenge and remedy the problem. I cared so much about the future; I lost the present. My strengths have always involved setting and achieving goals. I thought this was an honorable trait. It is to some extent, but when it takes over our identity and life, defense modes become the rule rather than the exception.

Moving Away from Defense Modes

The best thing you can do to curtail defense modes is to reflect on previous moments. You have to build awareness around your responses. Reflection matters in how you proceed. In the moment, you should pause and consider why defense modes have arrived. You also have to embrace the micro as an approach to life.

Defense modes will never completely disappear. Understanding them and creating new behaviors will help. For more thoughts on the topic, check out my book.

Shifting Your Identity to a Serving State

Identity is fluid if you’re open to evolving and changing. Everything we experience impacts our identity. Mine was once very rigid and self-serving, even when I had the best intentions. However, I realized this wasn’t a healthy path to continue on, and I wanted to shift to a serving state.

How I was able to do this is the heart of my book, The In-Between: Life in the Micro. It focuses on the two unique environments—the micro and macro. The micro is the in-between consisting of all the little moments in life. The macro is the big picture, encompassing goals and milestones.

I spent most of my life only paying attention to the macro. It had devastating consequences until I was able to shift my identity.

Self-Serving vs. Serving States

Being self-serving is necessary for survival, physically or emotionally. We all have barriers that act as protectors. These are more present for those with a history of trauma. I was once in this category. I thought a “me against the world” philosophy was the best one to have. It allowed me to achieve some incredible goals, but my self-serving was often at the expense of others that I cared about.

A serving state steps up in the in-between. It’s empathy and action toward others. I had been working on this shift for some time. Witnessing a bad car accident was a key moment in realizing I’d accomplished this change.

In the moments of the crash, I did not think about how this would impact my day or plans. Instead, I removed my ego from the situation. I was someone who helped others and put their needs first. It was a feeling of purposefulness and connection.

Why Care About the Serving State?

Living a disconnected, macro-focused life may have its advantages. They could be monetary or food for your ego. It’s also a very lonely existence. Loneliness isn’t about isolation or lack of human interaction. Rather, it’s the feeling that no one else could possibly understand you. It becomes easy to serve only yourself.

A serving state is the opposite. You are open to others and give them your attention. This enables authentic connections. An identity that cares about the serving state provides opportunities to have meaningful micro-moments that make us better humans.

The Serving State and Actionable Awareness

Another concept in my book is actionable awareness. It’s the act of observing my thoughts, feelings, and actions in a situation and asking if they are serving me. From there, I want to act on this for myself and others. The action can change all this and be transformative.

In this feedback loop, I also remind myself that there is no failure, only feedback. I’m also listening to my gut and acting on it rather than sitting on the sidelines.

Moving to a serving state requires reflection and an embrace of the micro. You can learn more about how to do this by reading my book.