QA172 QUESTION: In our last group meeting, I had a compulsion to defend two of the members, and I realized that I often have a compulsion to defend other people. I mean without thinking, without reasoning what the outcome will be, I defend. And the thought came I never could defend myself – is that why I am so compulsive about defending others?
ANSWER: Yes! That is quite correct. Well, of course there are other elements connected with it – all of which you need to fully understand. I will help you by elaborating a little bit on what you said.
In the first place, anything that is displaced from its original source becomes compulsive, tight and anxiety producing. And one then will also overreact. When everything is really where it belongs, it does not have that tight and strong feeling. So that explains the force that is involved here. What, however, causes you to deny your own self-defense?
I would say that it is only partially true that you do this. On one level, you are defensive. But you are defensive – or were, more than you are now – in the sense of the unconscious fears that you could not deal with. You defend against them and that makes you appear defensive about certain areas with others.
But in other ways, you did not know how to defend yourself precisely because you did not know who you are and who you were. You’re only beginning to find out now, after all these years of work. You have made astounding progress, for you have started late in life. But still, you only begin to know who you are.
If one does not know who one is, one has no leg to stand on. Every accusation weakens the self, and fills one with doubt and rage at the same time. Then the rage is all the more unacceptable and it makes the self-doubt justified, because one feels one should not be enraged, especially according to your idealized self-image.
So how can you defend yourself if you have no firm ground to stand on – if the ground you stand on is not reality but the illusion of what you should be, what you want to be, what you pretend to be, and what you cannot, of course, be.
A meaningful self-defense in the healthy sense can only exist when the self stands on the firm ground of knowing oneself exceedingly well, of being able to deal with the feelings, of not making unrealistic demands of the self – some of which are not even desirable, some of which are completely unrealizable in their pseudo-perfection and perfectionism, and some of which could be accomplished but only if one knows who one is – which, of course, you did not.
Therefore, you were weak and you wavered. Then there is another element in this tremendous force with which you defend others. This is – or perhaps always was – one of the few legitimate outlets you had for rage and anger that your self-image made no room for you to admit. In that way, you could give it a sort of acceptable legitimacy that you are so idealistic to fight for others.
That would comply with your self-image, and yet relieve you to a certain small degree – of course, precariously and vicariously – of the anger you did not know what to do with and could not cope with. And that is a very important element of that compulsion.