TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Do our defense mechanisms derail our ability to offer compassion when we feel blamed/accountable for a problem?

I have observed how easy it is for us to offer compassion to our friends and loved ones. However, we also seem unable to do the same in situations we feel responsible or as though we are being blamed for the problem. I would like to learn how to bypass our defense mechanisms in favor of mutual understanding, respect, and compassion.

Share:
  • Mar 8 2014: Compassion and crime are symptoms of boredom. It is boring at the top of the food chain. When we are guilty we focus on survival, not compassion nor crime or any other outlets for our boredom. Some people never feel guilty. Some never compassionate. Some never criminal. But we all get bored. Both victim and perpetrator can mutually understand this. We need to respect it.
  • Mar 1 2014: Yes.
  • thumb
    Mar 1 2014: can you be clearer on the question? You're saying we find it hard to feel compassionate toward ourselves? Because of our defense mechanisms? What is the connection? Our defense mechanisms ought to make it easy for us to feel compassion toward ourselves, oughtn't they?
    • Mar 1 2014: I am thinking of times in relationships when one person is asking for understanding and compassion and the other feels blamed or responsible for the problem, thus instead of being like a friend offering compassion to the person, this other is compelled to defend him or herself via minimization, rationalization, etc. My question is how does one learn to bypass these defense mechanisms in favor of empathy/compassion?
      • thumb
        Mar 2 2014: i apologize, ted, I'm still not following. Can you depict a specific scenario to me, so someone speaks to me and says "I had a lousy day today," and for some reason I think they're blaming me for their lousy day, even though they haven't specifically said that they are?
  • Feb 28 2014: Defending one's self or feelings of guilt are pretty deep feelings. You almost need to have matured to the level of mentor, teacher, or professor to have the self-confidence to ignore the inclination to defend a position and let those learning bloviate in all directions until they form an opinion or understanding of the problem and solutions.

    I think compassion in instances where there is an on-going real or perceived personal attack is a magnanomous expectation. I think it is easier to accept the criticism or anger of a friend or loved one if you think it is deserved, but for someone you do not know, few people can muster the empathy in quantities or quickly enough to exceed the natural inclination to repel the attack.
    • Mar 28 2014: Brilliantly stated!

      "You almost need to have matured to the level of mentor, teacher, or professor to have the self-confidence to ignore the inclination to defend a position and let those learning bloviate in all directions until they form an opinion or understanding of the problem and solutions." R. Galway

      This is truly a learned technique. Your statement makes me think of the phrase "BE THE BIGGER MAN"

      This is difficult to do without a heightened knowledge of the context of compassion. In trying to defends ourselves we may prevent personal growth. Even when we posses a legitimate defense IF we are aware defending our self will cause hindrance to the other party we may chose to display compassion so as to promote peace and understanding for all.

      Even the most intelligent people do things they are unaware of.

      When you know you don't know everything you are humble.
      • Mar 28 2014: I think the more you learn, the more you realize you do not know. This awareness creates a tranquil humility in regards to interactions with others on the same journey. Sort of Zen-like...

        You become aware that you do not know everything, nor will you ever know everything, even about one particular subject matter. Although you may be confident in your own beliefs, the reason you are considered an expert (mentor, teacher, professor) is that there is a relative difference between you and enough other people to where such a claim might be reasonable. The relative difference could be caused by amount of work done towards study, time spent in the field, or perhaps some natural gift.

        Mortality and a sense of your intellect in the total body of knowledge is probably one of the sources of inspiration for the great teachers, mentors and professors of our time. To me, if I believed that I could make the learning process more efficient or effective, and better prepare tomorrow's researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs, then I might be able to feel as if I was amplifying my own impact on the total body of knowledge that I cared so deeply about. In role of intellectual coach and mentor, you help grow the minds that will push the field further tomorrow.

        It must be a lot like parenting, except in an intellectual sense. I think most parents would probably do whatever is necessary up to and including giving their life up for a child. Similarly, people that have matured to the level of mentor, professor,or teacher are wiling to give some of their professional life by sharing knowledge and methods and accepting the risk that someone you help might eventually be in a competition with you and win, or even use what you have shared against you in some manner.

        I think the defense mechanisms described by the author are replaced with time by a desire for the knowledge not to be lost, and the wisdom of elders, either personally or professionally is usually shared freely.
  • thumb
    Feb 28 2014: Defense mechanism aren't all that bad, well at least according to Freud. To him, its fine to use defense mechanisms, so long as don't depend on them to much. Heck, even one defense mechanism, namely 'Reaction Formation', helps into being more compassionate. 'Indentification' when correctly used can also have the same effect. I believe it is all down to how we manage our defenses, making sure that our values come before the self.