Letting Go Of Our Willfulness: Defiance

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Defiance as a Part of Healthy Development

Addicts tend to resent authority figures. They do not like to be told what to do by anyone. In fact, they are not alone. Everyone goes through a phase, particularly in adolescence, when they have to assert themselves against their parents or parental substitutes. It seems to be required to develop a healthy set of boundaries. But some people never get beyond this phase. They have a chip on their shoulder and send out the message not to mess with them. Even when they are clearly engaged in some self-destructive behavior, they will not listen to anyone trying to help them.

When Defiance Stays With Us

Now, even though we ourselves may have passed through this phase of rebellion, there may remain a trace or residue of defiance in our personality. If someone pushes our buttons or touches a raw nerve, we might explode and tell them to mind their own business, or else. Or we might just cut them out of our lives forever and never have anything to do with them ever again. Of course this only happens once in a while, otherwise we are sure we have everything under control.

So what are our sore spots?

They usually refer to some way in which we are vulnerable to criticism. And they have some history behind them. For example, one of our parents may have called us lazy or stupid. Anyone else who dares to imply that we are this way is asking for trouble.

We can see that defiance will alienate other people from us, especially people who really care for us. Defiance exposes the kink in our armor, it reveals an unprotected side of our ego. For this reason, examining our defiance can be very informative. It can show us our hypersensitivities.

So how can we shed our defiance and embrace our flaws? It is beyond our own capabilities, so we need to allow the Source within us to heal our wounds. We can ask it for help and then implement the inspirations it sends to us.

Richard G. Hartnett, MA, MS, LCADC is a former Jesuit priest who now lives with his wife, Kathy, by a lake in northwestern New Jersey. He has served as the chaplain at Hazelden New York, pastoral counselor at the Chemical Dependency Department of the International Center for the Disabled in NYC, and continuing care counselor at the outpatient Chemical Dependency Program of High Focus Centers in New Jersey. Currently he maintains a private practice in New Jersey. He is the author of The Presence at the Center, Renewing Your Fourth Step, The Three Inner Voices: Uncovering the Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery, and Sobriety and Inspiration: Entrusting Ourselves to the Source of Our Healing and Creativity.

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