Moment Of Clarity

5 Signs that You Are Defensive

Defenses are healthy, but should evolve over time. What defensive behaviors do you have?
Credit: Thinkstock

We understand.  Sometimes, problems with romantic relationships,  friendships, career or family life get you down. And we want to help. That’s why JET is working with therapist, Jinnie Cristerna, who will take your questions and offer some sage, sanity-restoring advice and insight every week.

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHt.

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHt.

Have you ever been defensive? Even if you don’t think you have, chances are you have been. Everyone has a set of defenses – and we should. Being defensive occurs when you experience stress and simply means that you are psychologically on guard and ready to protect yourself from mental or emotional harm. While there are many reasons why your defenses were created, their ultimate job is to protect you.

Your defenses are typically created out of necessity at various points in our life-usually childhood. Defenses kick in to tell you when it is safe and unsafe to be who you truly are – and that can be a good thing. However, when you get older and your experiences become diverse, your defenses can become outdated and cause trouble in your personal and professional life.

In order for you to function adequately as you grow, your defenses must “evolve” to reflect your current circumstances. If you don’t evolve your defenses, then you risk understanding and responding to current situations the way you did when the defenses were created and that can be 20 years ago or more – YIKES! That is a huge mistake.

Let’s use this oversimplified example: A 7-year-old sees her brother being spanked for telling mom that he accidentally broke the vase. The 7-year-old is afraid of the same thing happening to her, so she avoids telling the truth. Now, this does not mean that she begins to lie, although it could result in such behavior. As she gets older, when faced with being honest she tries and learns how to effectively change the subject, point out other issues that do not involve her, or becomes nervous when confronted. These are all types of “defenses” that can hurt instead of protect her as an adult because she is responding to similar situations as if she were still 7 years old.

So how can you tell if you are being defensive? Here are five signs that may help. Ask yourself, “Do I …”:

1) Keep threatening ideas, feelings, memories, wishes, or fears out of my awareness by doing things like displacing, disconnecting from, intellectualizing, and repressing them.

2) Distort who I am, my body, or other people so I can regulate and/or maintain my self-esteem in minor ways. This is seen when people devalue or idealize others, for example.

3) Keep unpleasant or unacceptable stress, impulses, ideas or responsibility out of my awareness by denial, projection, or rationalizing.

4) Grossly distort who I am, my body, or other people by substituting real relationships with a fantasy in order to avoid conflict or by making others feel the way I really feel.

5) Act out, withdraw or become passive-aggressive when I feel stressed.

If you answered yes to at least one of these statements, then you can be defensive. Again, being defensive is quite normal and functions in an effort to keep you safe; however, if it begins to impact your relationships and career, then you want to seek help to get you to a better space.

Evolving your defenses is actually easy. With my clients, it usually takes three to four sessions with my clients doing hypnotherapy and maintaining their progress on their own using their customized guided meditations. If you are unfamiliar with guided meditations and would like to learn how to relax, you can download a free meditation here.


When your defenses are healthy, the following behaviors are what will present themselves more than the ones listed above: anticipation, affiliation, altruism, humor, self-assertion, self-observation, sublimation, and suppression.

With love and light …


Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, and personality development, Jinnie has a nearly 90% success rate with her clients.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter here or join her on Facebook and Twitter!