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4 Ways to Overcome Defensiveness in Recovery


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Whether you are in recovery or not, defensiveness is something we all often struggle with. Defensiveness holds us back from actually acknowledging the areas of our life that are weaknesses. The energy needed to pursue recovery becomes less available when it is diluted by defensiveness. That is why a recent article suggests that letting go of defensiveness could be the tool you need to learn to overcome your challenges.

Recovery is a journey that requires hard work. A person is less likely to commit to that journey when they are defensive. People that are defensive blame others for their mistakes, or come up with excuses for their behavior. Although often these excuses may have some validity, overall the excuses stem from defensiveness.

A person overcoming an addiction must create new habits to substitute for old ones. It can be hard to accomplish this since often new behaviors are less rewarding than old ones. Without that surge of dopamine to motivate us, it takes a lot of repetition to learn new behaviors.

Carving new pathways in the brain is challenging. You must learn and repeat new behaviors every day for an extended period of time before they become a habit. Acknowledging this and learning to take responsibility for your mistakes will help you understand your defensiveness.

Avoid the defensiveness that dilutes your energy and instead, focus on your new path in sobriety.  Psychological defenses are normal universal features of the human mind that operate to prevent you from feeling painful feelings, facts and ideas. It can be hard to accept the negative aspects of your personality yet only through acknowledging them will you be able to overcome them.

4 Ways to Overcome Defensiveness

  1. Be Honest with yourself
    Learning to be honest with yourself is the hardest part of overcoming your defensiveness. In addiction, addicts learn how to hide their feelings and use drugs to ignore all their wrong doing. However, in recovery, you have to learn to accept the negative things about yourself in order to grow. You also have to learn to receive constructive criticism that is meant to help you overcome your addiction. Be grateful for the feedback you are receiving and instead, understand that feedback is an opportunity to improve. Defensiveness is actually a sign of a relapse so learning how to overcome your defensiveness can ensure success in your overall recovery.
  1. Respond Rather than React
    There is a huge difference between responding and reacting. When you respond, you are using communication tools to express yourself and gain understanding. When you react, you are simply trying to win over the person or fight back. It is okay to become hurt from negative feedback and it is okay to disagree with criticism however learning how to respond will provide you with a more successful way of responding yourself. Reacting only creates conflict and escalates emotions.
  1. Listen Carefully
    When you receive feedback, instead of getting defensive, really tune in and listen to what the person is saying. Often negative feedback results in an increase of adrenaline and creates a fight or flight response. Learning to stop those physiological responses will help you change as you journey in recovery. Mindfulness techniques have been shown to be incredibly beneficial in recovery because it focuses on helping you listen in closely to what a person is truly trying to say to you. Remember that listening is not the same as agreeing or accepting. Rather, it is a way to understand the information that is being given to you and better equips you to respond in a productive manner and not a defensive manner.
  2. Learn to like yourself
    Believe it or not, defensiveness often stems from insecurity. The more secure you are in yourself, the better you are about receiving criticism. Next time you receive feedback, respond with a strong sense of self-worth. A good tip is to think of something you really like about yourself when you receive criticism so you are able to receive differing opinions about yourself. If you learn to like yourself, you will accept having to make changes to improve upon yourself. Insecure people respond to negative feedback with defensiveness. Secure people handle negative feedback better and want to improve.

Overall, defensiveness can be a challenge for any person to overcome, especially a person entering the first stages of recovery. However, with effort, learning to overcome defensiveness can be an amazing transforming tool. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.

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