Excerpt About Defending

Ways of Resisting What is Present in Our Experience

When we perceive a real danger or threat, or when we imagine one, we tend to harden ourselves for self-protection. But by hardening ourselves, we are not only thickening our consciousness, we are also making it stiff and solid, and it becomes impossible to experience that delicacy, that gentleness and intimacy, of being ourselves. That hardening reaction—building a wall of protection and separation—which becomes an impediment against finding where we are, is the ego’s basic mode of defense. Ego is based mainly on defenses—defending itself against dangers—inner and outer, imaginary and real. Ego does not really exist without its defenses. But when we are trying to defend ourselves internally, we are in some sense trying to run away. We are trying to hide. We are trying to isolate, to separate ourselves, to put a distance between us and the danger. And that happens in many ways. One strategy is to create a passive structure of defense. We can do this by erecting inner walls against our experience of fear, against our perception of danger, against feeling the possibility of threat or attack or pain. Those walls can be inside of us separating different parts of us—such as our heart and our genitals, our consciousness and our unconscious—or they can be between us and what we perceive as the outside. But the walls are just one manifestation of the ego’s defensive tendency. Ego-defensiveness also manifests in other ways, such as hiding, running away, isolating oneself, contracting, or restraining oneself from showing up fully. These are all ways of resisting what is present in our experience. The intent is to avoid being open because being open means leaving oneself undefended and unprotected. Being open means being ourselves, and we believe that being ourselves is dangerous because then we are vulnerable to all kinds of threats.

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