Monday, November 1, 2010

Lay Down Your Defenses

Anger is a protective mechanism of the ego-self that serves no other purpose but to defend by projecting guilt outward. Anger, as a 'normalized' reflex, is easily projected outward without hesitation. We often feel justified in presenting our anger. Yet, ironically, we are often more likely to express anger to a “loved one” than a stranger.

In many “love” relationships, expressing anger is more common than expressions of “love.” In fact, for many relationships, anger is patterned and rather predictable. Often, the "dance of love" is nothing more than brief reprieves from attack.

To deny the underlying power differential between individual egos is naive. The ego demands control and its only purpose is to perpetuate itself through persistent self-assertion into an uncontrollable world. The developing ego-self learns that it must engage the world by 'pressing' itself against its experience of a world, in competition with other egos also engaged in finite 'pressing' games. Parents endeavor to provide the tools necessary for their child's success, when success is defined as ever-greater self-assertion and more effective and strenuous 'press.' This is often referred to as “self-esteem” and includes 'justifiable anger' in the service of self-protection. Hence, not only are we seeking to self-actualize, but at the same time seeking to self-protect. Quite a confusing mix of hide and seek, but this is the game we ALL play, nonetheless.


The task for relationships is not to identify the details of this power differential, but to seek out the patterns. Conflict patterns are circular and your reaction to me is based on my reaction to you, which is from your reaction to me resulting from my reaction to you, on and on, ad infinitum. It is crucial that egos miss the patterned circularity of their conflicts, in the need to be absolved of guilt by projecting it upon the other.

In your never-ending ego battles you struggle to indict their transgressions and defend your own, while they, in turn, do the same. Because you have normalized, and become comfortably accustomed to, your defenses, you fail to see the perpetual circularity of ALL conflict.

This is poignantly evident in the larger, ‘more serious’ world, in which this circularity leads to perpetual suffering. The Israelis indict the Palestinians, who easily absolve their guilty by projecting back the same indictments upon the Israelis. In either case, each sees themselves as victim, while the other victimizer. This goes round and round in a never-ending circularity. This is not only true in the episodic chaos of the present, but the history exhibits centuries of pure unbroken circularity. These perpetual hatreds need be exposed so that mutual guilt can transition to a mutual innocence. If we are all guilty, then logic holds, we must all be innocent, since innocence is always perceived in opposition to guilt.

Yet, the pattern in both world affairs and our 'intimate' relationships demands that for them to be innocent, you must be guilty. The ego-self can only sense 'unified oneness' and never know it fully, since such a unification is perceived as death to the separate self, since it is guilt, in contrast to innocence, that defines all egos.


The real problem is not so much in the attack, but in the need for constant defense. Attacks, although patterned and often chronic, are essentially episodic or intermittently explosive. Yet, it's these episodes that prompt your need to live in constant state of defense and once defenses are emplaced, they tend to wall of the ego-self continuously in preparation for battle and every battle only further reinforces the fortifications. The psychological ego-self essentially becomes entombed in its own preparations against attack. This can only drain the élan vital that is the joy of living with and through others.

Certainly, we have “loving” moments, good days and even weeks, but the patterns are rigid and defenses lay in wait. The ego-self must be protected from psychological attack. This is no different than if your body demanded survival tactics in the wild, thereby, preparing for the body’s protection from wild animals. Your senses would be acutely honed for gross incidents of physical attack. However, psychological attack requires more persistent vigilance, since the attacks can be less gross and much more subtle. Nevertheless, as the body is always instinctively prepared, so is the ego-self.

The subtleties of psychological attack require that you know my weaknesses and I learn yours. Covertly, we gather ‘intelligence’ over many years of sporadic incidental conflict and little 'mini-betrayals.' Early in the initial stages of our ‘love,’ we exposed ourselves in the full trust of this “love” and the belief that it could never be breached. We could tell each other everything, so sure of protection through love.

Yet as "reality" weighed upon us, mistakes were made and disagreements formed. From those mistakes the initial fantasies were replaced by battle lines. You didn’t even realize that gradually, over time, you were developing strategies of ego-self-protection. The old adage “the past only exists when you think about it” is the chief rule of engagement, because it is imperative that you “think about it' often. How can you not think about what I’ve done to you, yet conveniently, you will forget your role in our circularity of attack. You may forgive, but you will not forget and thus, the defenses stand fast and grow.

Therefore, you have limited an intimacy, or Deep Understanding, that was supposed to be unlimited and entirely transformative. Now you will limit what I can know about you, as you gradually build your fortifications. At first, this emotional embargo is barely noticeable even to your ‘self.’ But eventually the mutually imposed fortifications become apparent on both sides, often too late. Rigid fortifications can be virtually impossible, and take enormous amounts of time, to dismantle and, in our busy postmodern world, who’s got the time?


Nevertheless, you MUST surrender your defenses and embrace your vulnerability.

This is opposite the conventional solutions that seek to reduce offensive conflict episodes, but fail to fully understand the emotional suffocation in the ego's need to maintain in a constant defense, a ready alert, repetitive vigilance. This is most likely because conflict is externally observable and measurable, while your inner defenses are known only to you. Yet, after each episode of conflict, you secretly applaud your readiness and reinforce yourself for future engagements. Although you still claim to "love" the other, the fact is that love has no reason to defend. This rule is why we limit who, and how many, we love, because from the center of egocentricity, "love" is truly a battleground.

Only strangers attack and defend, since obviously, love is NOT war and, in your defenses, NO love exists. You cannot attack whom you love. Therefore, through your defensive fortress, which walls you off from fully experiencing others, you make them all strangers.

It is the constant preparation for conflict that stifles the mutual joy of intimacy and NOT the conflicts themselves. What are you defending against? What do you actually fear? In preparation for attack, intimacy is stifled and cut off. Even when conflict is visibly absent, defensive preparations lay in wait.

If intimacy is stifled, the entire ego-self concept must wither, since it transforms and grows only through intimacy, or deep engagement with others and the world. Yet, the ego believes its defensive fortifications insure its self-actualization. Is it any wonder why we are all so estranged from one another? In your defenses how can you know your 'self' except that which seeks continuous defense? Is that how you wish to know yourself?

Here is the key to letting down your defenses. The same defenses you embrace to protect yourself, you project onto the other. You cannot see my defenses, but since your armor is in place, the assumption is that I too, am so prepared.

Therefore, the ‘me’ you protect yourself from is YOU.

See me as defenseless; otherwise, you will never surrender your own fortifications. If we are both defenseless what then, can we be guilty of, since a defense presupposes guilt. Make no mistake, what you see in me, you acknowledge in yourself. What is shared can only be strengthened. Share your defenselessness and inadvertently, you will share love.

Only through infinite vulnerability, do we become completely invulnerable.

Artwork by Ron English - "Grade School Guernica"