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Selected Feelings * under construction

These are mostly examples from my life. S. Hein


Feeling Attacked and Defensive

Feeling Defensive


Defensiveness and Parenting

When you see someone feeling defensive

Getting Past Feeling Defensive

Emotional Intelligence and Recognizing Defensiveness

Defensive People are Insecure


Feeling Judgmental

Ivan and His Sister

Feeling Guilty

Feeling Manipulated

Feeling Overwhelmed

Feeling Powerless

Feeling controlled - see below - xhelpx

Feeling Suiidal

Feeling Taken for Granted

Feeling Uncomfortable

Feeling Bitter


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Feeling Attacked and Defensive

A woman told me said she received two emails from her parents. She said she felt attacked by them. She also felt defensive. Feeling defensive is, of course, a natural survival response. But this woman, who I will call Katrina, realized that these defensive feelings were causing her stress, taking mental energy and keeping the battle going between her and her parents. For several years she has been trying to get her parents to show her more respect and to admit that they made some mistakes in how they raised her. Her parents, though have also been feeling attacked and defensive. They respond by telling her that she is the one who has problems, that it is not normal for daughters not to want to talk to their parents every week, that she has mental problems and that she should go see a psychologist.

I asked Katrina what would help her feel better -- that she can control. She decided it would help her feel better if she did not feel so defensive when they attacked her. She said on this day she felt attacked 7 and defensive 7. We agreed that it would be good if she could feel less defensive, even when she realized that she was feeling attacked.

We also agreed that when she reached the point in her personal growth where she felt more secure about herself, she would probably feel less attacked by similar letters. I told her how I can sometimes realize that I feel attacked, but yet not feel defensive. The example came to mind of a strong man who is being physically attacked by a young child, but who does not attack back because he feels confident and secure about his own strength.

I also remembered a scene from the movie Gandhi. It is the one where a line of Indian people were being beaten to the ground, one by one, by the British officers hitting them with clubs. Yet the Indians did not fight back. The Indian people knew they were right in wanting their freedom and independence. They believed it with all their hearts and minds. Because of this strong belief, they did not feel the need to defend themselves or attack the British. Their faith in themselves, in their cause and in the truth gave them this inner strength



It was around 1995 that I first started noticing when people were feeling defensive. Like most enthusiastic students I was eager to try out my new knowledge. My first memorable experience in this area was during a discussion with a university student about her alcoholic boyfriend. As we talked it was obvious that she was becoming more and more defensive. I pointed this out to her in a half-joking way. She nearly shouted back at me, "DEFENSIVE??!!" She was studying psychology, by the way. (See page on psychology students)

This was one of my first insights into how threatened some people can get if you try to tell them how they feel. Since then I have noticed how hard it is to have a close relationship with someone who does not acknowledge their own actual feelings. The inability to acknowledge one's feelings may even be a fatal sign for an intimate relationship.

In non-intimate relationships, however, things are different. In a work relationship, for example, it is helpful to recognize when someone is feeling defensive, but it is probably not helpful to point this out to them unless it is a very open relationship.


Defensiveness and Parenting


The other day a friend said something I found to be very insightful. She said:

I wonder if I get defensive so easily now because my parents were always attacking me


When you notice someone is feeling defensive

Through experience I have learned to be a little more careful about when, how and if I give people feedback when I sense they are feeling defensive. I don't know if this is more of a skill or an art. It may also be related to how secure I feel about myself. For example, the more secure I feel, the less I feel a need to let others know that I know how they are feeling better than they do, or that at least I think I do!

On one occasion when I could tell a fairly good friend was getting defensive I said, "Maybe I am just taking things the wrong way, but I sense you are getting a little defensive." She replied to me that I must be taking things the wrong way then, because she certainly wasn't defensive, and that there was "no reason for her to feel defensive." She then proceeded to list all the reasons why she had no reason to be defensive.

In an earlier stage in life I would have spent considerable time and energy trying to prove to her that she was, in fact, feeling defensive. This time though, I just listened and said, "Okay." Still, this incident changed our relationship. We are more distant now. I am afraid to tell her how I really feel about things and what I really think, and she is probably also afraid of what I might say or think. We have talked about it a little, but from my side, I haven't felt as close to her since that day. Often, I try to keep quiet when I disagree with someone, but in this particular case it was something I felt very strongly about. I suppose it is good to know who can acknowledge their own defensiveness, but I feel discouraged when I think of how few people I have met who can do this. I am not sure I can do it myself actually! But at least I know that it is a good quality to possess or to develop.


Getting Past Feeling Defensive

Once I had just finished a writing a story and was feeling quite proud of it. I showed it to a friend. I asked her what she thought. She said, "But do you want people to think that it is a true story or a fictional story?"

What I wanted, of course, was for her to say, "Wow. This is a very good story." (Yes, it is true, I will admit it...I never got enough compliments when I was young!) But when she didn't say this, and instead questioned me, I felt a little defensive. I gave her some mildly defensive answer and then we changed topics.

But I thought about her question some more and wondered why she had asked this question. So I said, "Say, why did you ask me earlier about whether I wanted people to think it was a true story?"

She then explained that she was afraid people might suspect it was fictional. They then might start to doubt other things on my website, and always wonder what was true and what was fiction. They might start to think I was just being dramatic and making up things which I say come directly from the people I talk to or from my own personal experiences.

I realized she had a very good point. So I added a note to clarify that it was a fictional story, but based on actual experiences.


Bitterness might be thought of as misunderstood pain. Because a person doesn't really understand why they were hurt, and they have not learned something positive from it, they feel bitter. I say "something positive" because often people take away a negative lesson like "I will never love again" or "I will never trust another man" etc.

Thanks to Tatiana for inspiring me to write this.

Resentment xx need link


Emotional Intelligence and Recognizing Defensiveness

I was chatting with two people at the same time one day. One started her sentence with, "I'll have you know..."

I asked the other one, who is not yet 15, "How do you think a person is feeling when they say, "I'll have you know..."

She responded, "Well, the only time I say that is when I am feeling defensive."

I agreed with her, and I was impressed that she could see this at her age. She is one of my most sensitive, most intelligent, most caring, most disobedient, most rebellious, and most suicidal online friends. I believe she has very high innate emotional intelligence. Yet, if one were to use the Goleman model of emotional intelligence, which is more about morals, character, personality and behavior than about any innate abilities for perceiving and understanding emotions, or the Mayer Salovey Caruso model which holds that self-destructive behavior indicate a deficit of EI, she would surely be viewed as severely lacking in emotional intelligence


Here is another example..

I was chatting with a 14 year old and asked her if she ever noticed when people get defensive. This is what she said:

I feel like people get defensive all the time but call it other things or use excuses so they don't have to admit they're being defensive

She is a member of our depressed teen chat support group by the way and has self-harmed. But I believe she is clearly emotionally intelligent.

Feeling Uncomfortable

When we feel uncomfortable, it is a sign something is wrong. The sooner we acknowledge this feeling, and either take action or communicate the feeling, or both, the sooner we can feel comfortable again. Telling people when we don't feel comfortable, by the way, is one quick way to find out who respects our feelings. If they do respect our feelings, and thereby respect us as individuals, then we won't need to tell them a second time. Nor will we even need to give them an explanation.

Excerpt from my 1996 book

When you feel uncomfortable, you often actually feel it in your body, usually your stomach. Thus the term "gut instincts." Your body is trying to tell you to watch out, be careful, or to take some action to get out of a situation. When you feel uncomfortable, use your upper brain to analyze the situation. Determine what is making you feel uncomfortable. Chances are there are several specific negative feelings. Identifying them helps you determine what action is necessary.

Sometimes you need to take unilateral action. Sometimes your action must involve others. Since many people will manipulate you (if you let them) into situations where you feel uncomfortable, you must express your feelings. Let them know with a simple, honest, clear, and direct statement. For example, just say, "I don't feel comfortable about this." This helps you set your boundaries and helps you see who respects them and who does not. Either way, it is better to know the reality of the situation.

Here are some stories about feeling uncomfortable

Kissing and Comfort


Kissing and Comfort

Once I asked a woman how her first date with someone went. She said "I never want to see him again." I asked why not, and she said, "Well, I felt very uncomfortable when kissed me after only one hour of talking. He didn't see that I was uncomfortable, though, and he kissed me again later in the evening. I felt even more uncomfortable, even a little disgusted by it. I couldn't tell him that, though. I just left, and if he calls me again I won't go out with him."

The ironic thing about this was that this was a psychology student in her final year of studies. I wondered how she could have gone through an entire psychology program without learning how to verbally express her feelings and without developing the self-confidence to do so.



Learning to say "I feel uncomfortable"


Learning to say "I feel uncomfortable"

Once I was chatting with a teen. Like usual, I was asking questions like "Does your mother slap you?" I find most adolescents have no problem answering such questions, since normally they are very open. This person, though, told me that felt uncomfortable with my questions. I said, "Ok" and then apologized. She said that it was okay and that she always tells people when she feels uncomfortable with something.

I don't know where or how she learned to do this but I was definitely impressed. I wished that someone had taught me how to do that when I was 14. I might have been able to prevent getting sexually assaulted by my university professor when I was 18, among many other painful experiences after that.


The language of defensiveness

Well, how was I supposed to know!

Well, of course, what did you expect?



Let me tell you something...


Feeling Manipuated

Here are a few notes on manipulation. They are based on the work of Ernest Swihart and Patrick Cotter. (note)

from a book I picked up. They might help you realize when you are feeling manipulated.

1.Manipulations avoid change, work pain, loss of control of a situation...

2. Manipulations are reciprocal: A manipulator's ploy is enabled by a complementary avoidance behavior.. In order to be successful the manipulator must discover and use what the person he is interacting with wishes to avoid.

3. If a manipulation fails, a manipulator will usually resort to a cruder and more coercive ploy.

4. People who use manipulation often see the world in black and white terms...Strong judgmental, stereotyped labels pepper their speech...

5. The earlier in life the manipulative behavior was learned, the less aware the manipulator will be of his behavior.

6. More complex learning environments produce more complex manipulative behavior. Bright and learned manipulators are more difficult to discover and treat because of their subtlety and social sophistication.


Write down the manipulative behaviors.

Try to figure out what the hidden agendas are. For example what the manipulator really wants or is trying to avoid.

Tell the person "I feel manipulated." They will probably attack you in some fashion, but just stand by your feelings. "Z", one of the volunteers at EQI, said that when she was a teenager and realized she was being manipulated by her grandmother she simply told her over and over each time she felt manipulated. Eventually the grandmother learned that what she was doing wasn't working anymore and she stopped the manipulative behavior.

By the way, I have a theory that emotionally intelligent people from dysfunctional families learn to be expert manipulators. Because they were never able to get their needs met simply by asking for things when then needed them, they had to learn to manipulate people to get their needs met. Because they were emotionally intelligent they learned how to use guilt, threats, bribery, coercion etc. to manipulate the emotions of others just so they could get their basic survival needs met.

This is one of the "dark sides" of emotional intelligence. It is simply the natural result of a combination of high inate EI and an emotionally abusive or dysfunctional environment.

Note - The authors wrote a book on children in which they blamed children for being manipulators. I disagree with their believe about where manipulative behavior comes from, but I did agree with much of what they said about the manipulative behavior itself. They seem to think some children are born manipulators and they have to be broken from this with very strong arm tactics. For example, they give this example.


Feeling Taken For Granted

Yesterday a work exchange volunteer was supposed to come at around 12. Hurried back from NH.. waited... around 3 I checked my mail. She had written in the morning saying she decided to go see a park instead and would come the next day.

Didn't apologize. Didn't ask if that would still be ok.

xx later I want to try to list my unmet needs which caused me pain. and talk about forgiveness, punishment - feel a little motivated to punish her by saying u cant come today. or not being here when she comes. i guess i feel hurtful. not valued - so need to feel valued is one need.