Bring Down Your Defenses: How to Take Radical Self-Responsibility

This is one of my favorite topics! This theory can very well help you finally create the change you want to see in your life. The alternative would be to continue experiencing your status quo. Sorry to be so blunt but if you want things to change and yet you continue to repeat the same patterns, you are doomed to suffer the same consequences over and over and over and over again.

Here goes. We all know what it’s like to have responsibilities.  Picking up the kids, paying the bills, and doing the groceries are all things that need to get done. However, when you are on a therapeutic journey to self-growth, you have another very important responsibility to fulfill.  Put simply, you have to start calling yourself out on your “bad” behaviors that are a result of your psychological wounds. Maybe you yell today because your parents never listened to you. Maybe you avoid conflict because your family was always fighting. Time to be honest and own up!   

To this you might say, “Whatever, Sassy Psychologist, I am aware of my bad patters, thank you. I’m good.” Well, you might not be as aware as you think. We all have something called, defense mechanisms.  Essentially, defense mechanisms are choices we subconsciously -and sometimes consciously- make to defend ourselves. Our motives, values, and identities are all things we might attempt to defend when these mechanisms get triggered. What triggers them? Something you perceive as a threat. For example, if you perceive that your colleague is in competition with you for a promotion, your defenses may influence your mind and body to: stay at work late, finish a project early, or even avoid talking to said colleague. Essentially, your defense mechanisms kick in as a way for you to cope with something you perceive as a dangerous to your lifestyle and well-being. When someone dies or if someone cheats on you, you may use a very common defense mechanism called, denial. You might deny the occurrence of these unfortunate happenings as a way to protect your balanced routine and stable emotions.  Your body is not stupid. It knows that the acknowledgement of a death or of infidelity will totally flip your world upside down and cause intense emotions and big change. To protect yourself from this, your defense mechanisms launch.  

Now, defense mechanisms are absolutely normal and totally understandable. In cases where your body just isn’t ready to deal with difficult stuff, they can be really helpful in maintaining your sanity until you are ready to deal. HOWEVER when multiple years have passed and you are still obsessing about the guy you dated who decided to go back to his ex, you need to call yourself out on your unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns. In other words, you need to take RADICAL SELF-RESPONSIBILITY for your current reality.

How to take radical self-responsibility:

1)    If you have a tendency to blame others…stop!  Sometimes, we might underrepresent our flaws and over-represent the responsibilities others have in our misfortunes.  It is really our responsibility to think about how we might have created the reality we are observing. Now listen, it’s not your fault if someone cheated you. However, it’s time to think about how you let that into your experience.  

2)    Realize that YOU, yourself, have co-created the disappointments and let-downs in your life. When we are let-down, we may go into victimization (a “why me” or “life-is-so-unfair” mindset).  In understanding that you had a part to play, victimization is replaced by empowerment, moving forward. It is actually a great feeling to know that if you had power and influence in creating your disappointments, you have power and influence in creating difference and success.

3)    Give up any hope that someone will rescue you. No one is going to make things better for us. Sometimes, we just hope that something or someone will save us. It’s a sort of my-prince-will-come attitude or a let-me-just-go-see-my-mom-and-she’ll-make-everything-better thought pattern. Well I hate to break it to you…seeing your mom is great ‘n all but: YOU are the only one who can save you! Be that superhero for yourself. 

4)    Realize that while misfortunes haven’t been your fault, you must evolve past old unhelpful behavioral patterns. If you have read and understood all of these principles, it’s time to “call yourself out” on your less functional patterns and change your behavior. What are examples of less functional patterns, you may ask. Here are a few examples: 1) never seeing the positive, 2) always thinking that the future will bring misfortune, 3) never believing in your worth and in your strengths, 4) not expressing yourself with others, 5) not celebrating who you really are with other people.   

I’m telling you that if you can follow these steps, your mind will be blown. This is a great way to move from victimization to empowerment with no frills. It’s a simple way to finally start experiencing what you really want out of life. If this resonates with you, but it sounds complicated, talk to your therapist about it. Once your unhelpful behaviors are identified, you are on your way to real change!

Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.