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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Defending?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Defending

Confronting the Defensive Nature of Ego

A major step towards resolution of the state of inadequacy is the integration of the third objective dimension of Essence. The entry to this dimension occurs by confronting and understanding the defensive nature of ego. One need not exert any effort to focus one’s attention on this aspect of ego. The defensive function is usually at its peak when one is dealing with ego inadequacy. The strongest and most tenacious defenses and resistances come up to ward off the awareness of inadequacy. One’s whole consciousness contracts. One might feel heavy, thick and defended. One feels defensive and resistant to going within. The consciousness becomes dull and insensitive. The tensions in the body become intense; they can become so severe that one gets headaches. The impression at such times is that the individual is defending himself as if he is fighting for dear life. In fact, it turns out that this is one of the fears generated by ego inadequacy. Some individuals become afraid that if they feel so vulnerable and helpless they might die. Others become afraid that they will get so small that they will disappear.

Defending Against Separation and Individuation

There is another, more fundamental, reason why individuals usually revert to negative object relations, and especially negative merging, in order to defend against experiences of separation and individuation. To understand this reason we need to know specifically the nature of the primitive affect that characterizes negative merging. It has in it all the negative affects: anger, rage, hatred, pain, fear, anxiety and so on. But there is a specific affect that is always present, which characterizes negative merging and is independent from the other painful emotional states. This is the basic painful affect in the symbiotic phase, the feeling of frustration when the child's needs are not met adequately and immediately.

Defending Yourself is to Defend Against the Superego

Defending yourself is to defend against the superego, whether it is external or internal. The purpose of the superego is to preserve the ego’s point of view. The superego ultimately stops you from seeing reality. Defending yourself is one method you use to help you look at things objectively and without fear. When you start learning how to defend yourself against the superego you can’t help but think in terms of having a self to defend. Ultimately, what is actually defended is the openness, the understanding and the awareness. In time, we learn that understanding and awareness are the best defenses. When the awareness is complete, there is nothing to defend. Defending yourself is a kind of detour: you have to have a self before you can see you haven’t got a self. You have to have a self before you can let go of it. When you have a scattered self, it’s hard to let go of it. When you have a self that is depressed, scared, or fragmented in some way so that it can’t handle reality, you’re going to be very busy trying to protect it. You can’t possibly allow the openness which would mean a loss of boundaries; it would be too scary. When you learn to defend yourself against attacks, you become stronger and you can allow the openness.

Exposing the Hole Specific to the Merging Essence

When these ways of acting out are seen as expressions of the deficiency and not of fullness, as the person would like to believe, he will have the chance to be free from indulging in this wasteful and defensive acting out. He will experience the deficiency itself, the emptiness, the hole. This is the content of one of the main dark spots. The individual will start feeling impoverished, dependent, needy, cold, and empty. This emptiness will actually be experienced as a cavity, an absence of fullness, if the person succeeds in not defending against it. The person will experience a hole, a cavity in the energy system of the organism, usually centered in the lower part of the chest. This particular hole, specific to the merging essence, is connected with a subtle center located in this area at the place where the diaphragm meets the sternum.

Not Defending Against the Sense of Helplessness

This existential helplessness does not make sense unless you believe yourself to be a separate doer, or believe you are supposed to be able to do. As we feel this sense of helplessness and accept it, we are no longer trying to uphold the delusion that we can do. If we stay with the experience, we can penetrate this delusion. It may seem difficult to stay with because the state may initially be filled with pain and the fear that no one is going to take care of you and you are helpless. We have to remember not to completely believe these fears because believing them might cause us to react by defending against the sense of helplessness. Although it is painful, at some point we see that feeling the helplessness has a sincerity and truthfulness because we are no longer lying to ourselves. We are being authentic. This realization by itself can bring about an egoless state without our doing anything. The helplessness, then, opens the door to the action of Being itself. Most of us don’t let ourselves deeply feel this helplessness because we think it is a bad thing—that it means that there is something wrong with us personally. So we judge it, are ashamed of it, and don’t let ourselves feel it. But when you recognize that the helplessness is not about you personally, but is just the human condition, and that if you completely accept it, it becomes a positive state since it ushers you into Being, then you will welcome it whenever it arises.

Facets of Unity, pg. 282

Vehemence in Defending the Personality

Usually when a person is beginning to work on herself, she has no idea of the difference between choices that are motivated by personality and choices motivated by Essence. She may think that doing this kind of thing instead of that kind of thing will help her be herself, but there is no clear guiding principle. The person not only lacks a guiding principle, but because of ego identifications, she believes what her personality is urging her to do and is very vehement about defending these things. “This is me. This is who I am. This is what is best to do.” Every time you question her plans for the future or her ideas about who she thinks she is, she feels threatened. To even begin to question these structures means the possibility of destroying all her beliefs. In the Diamond Approach we say that the drive of the personality for independence and identity is really a distorted reflection of wanting a certain aspect of Essence—what we call the personal aspect. This is often referred to in certain Sufi stories as the Princess Precious Pearl or the Pearl Beyond Price. There are many stories about the princess—the Personal Essence—being liberated from a prison which is, of course, the prison of the personality, what is false in us. In other stories, it is the search for a precious gem that represents the search for Personal Essence.

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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