Defensiveness - Horsemen 2/4

The Four Horsemen | Defensiveness

Couples Counseling | Columbia, Mo

And we're back!

Last post, we talked about criticism (yikes, am I right?). Defensiveness is the second of the four horsemen. Technically, they're not in sequential order, although it's not uncommon that they happen in a particular way (something we frequently discuss during couples counseling). 

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How does defensiveness feel?

Think of a time when you felt attacked. Maybe it was by your partner, maybe it was by a stranger, family, your boss or coworker, or a friend - it doesn't really matter who did it. The point is this. Take yourself back to that time and recall what it felt like in that moment.

Did your stomach knot up? Were you angry? Confused and pissed? Did your fists clench up a little bit? Or maybe your claws came out and the hair on the back of your neck stood up? Did you want to lash back out at the person? Maybe remind them of a time or two that they did the very thing they're accusing you of?

If you found yourself nodding along with any of the above, congratulations!!

You've officially experienced defensiveness.

The above is describing the way that it can feel. We've probably all been there at some point in our life.

How does defensiveness show up?

The way that it can show up (read: you can recognize it by seeing this) is through the "blame game" (i.e. "You did that!" "Well that's because you did this?" "But that's only because YOU did these other 1000 things!!"), taking no responsibility/externalizing blame, tit for tat, kitchen sinking, "always" or "never" statements, or even being a righteous victim ("I would never do that thing you did!").

Ugh. It's exhausting even typing.

You're not alone. We all get defensive. And we all have a 'default' horseman. For some people, it's this. For others, it's criticism. For others still, it's stonewalling or contempt. We'll get to those soon enough!

When you find yourself becoming defensive, think about the antidotes to the four horsemen. In particular, the antidote to defensiveness is taking responsibility for your part in the interaction. Boom. That's it. Although, much like everything else we've been talking about, easier said than done.


Tara Vossenkemper | Couples Therapist & Marriage Counselor

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Tara Vossenkemper is the founder, owner, and therapist with  The Counseling Hub, and a counselor (LPC) in the state of Missouri. She specializes in couples therapy and marriage counseling using the highly effective Gottman Method Couples Therapy (and is currently obtaining her certification, which requires three levels of training and ongoing consultation - it's a necessarily rigorous process that she loves).

Tara has a diverse set of clinical experiences, working with both adolescents and adults on issues ranging from eating disorders and anxiety to spirituality and existential crises. However, she is most passionate about couples therapy and marriage counseling. Tara enjoys working with couples looking to decrease or enhance conflict, relearn healthy and effective communication, or are healing from an affair. She's also been formally trained as in the Prepare-Enrich Premarital Couples Counseling approach and the PREP Approach for couples counseling.

Tara is also earning her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri - Saint Louis. She's "ABD" (all but dissertation) and furiously researching and writing to finish things up. She's presented at national, regional, and state conferences, as well as locally, on the topics of discrimination, sexual minority distress, spirituality, healthy lifestyle and mental health, and private practice.

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