The Defensive Pattern

The Defensive Pattern Self-Therapy JourneyThe Defensive Pattern is one of the patterns in the Conflict Dimension of the Pattern System. You can work on transforming it using Self-Therapy Journey. Click here for more information on this.

When a person challenges you, if you have a Defensive Pattern, you tend to defend yourself against their accusation instead of listening to what is important to them. Of course, if the person accuses you of something that isn’t true, it does make sense to straighten them out. However, if you come from a Defensive Pattern, you tend to assume that any accusation isn’t true or look for ways that it isn’t true rather than considering ways that it might be accurate.

Even more importantly, you don’t really take the person’s concerns seriously. It is most helpful to really hear the person and validate their feelings so they feel understood. Then, if necessary, you can explain the way they have misunderstood you and the way their accusation may be untrue. Because you have validated them first, they are much more likely to respond well to what you have to say.

If you have a Defensive Pattern, it may be very hard for you to admit your part in a problem that the person brings up. You may avoid looking at yourself and instead focus on defending yourself from criticism.

If the person is angry or harshly judgmental toward you, it does make sense for you to protect yourself from being treated this way. However, this is best done by setting limits on the person’s anger and judgment rather than by arguing that you haven’t done anything wrong. In addition, you may perceive someone as being very judgmental when they really aren’t because of your sensitivity to being criticized.

The Care Dimension

The Care Dimension is one of the interpersonal patterns in the Pattern System. It deals with the following questions: How do you balance your needs versus other people’s needs? Do you end up taking care of others rather than yourself? Do people tell you that you don’t show enough care or concern for them? Can you care about others without ignoring your own needs?

Understanding the Care Dimension

There are two problematic patterns in the Care Dimension—Caretaking and Self-Absorbed.

The Caretaking Pattern involves caring for and helping others to the exclusion of your own needs and even sometimes without being aware of whether they want help.

The Self-Absorbed Pattern involves being so focused on your own needs that you are unaware of other people’s feelings, needs, and boundaries. Entitled is a version of Self-Absorbed where you see other people as extensions of yourself.

There are two complementary healthy capacities in the Care Dimension—Caring and Self-Care.

The Caring Capacity involves being compassionate, nurturing, and empathic. You want the best for others and help them when you are needed.

The Self-Care Capacity involves knowing what you need or want and being able to ask for it or take steps to get it.

How the Care Dimension Works

Caring is the healthy version of the Caretaking Pattern, and Self-Care is the healthy version of the Self-Absorbed Pattern. When we have the Caretaking Pattern, we need to develop Self-Care to transform it. When we have the Self-Absorbed Pattern, we need to develop Caring to transform it.

Self-Therapy Journey has modules for most of the patterns and capacities in this dimension, where you can work through the underlying psychological issues behind a pattern and transform it to the corresponding healthy capacity. My book Conflict, Care, and Love covers this dimension in detail.



New Guided IFS Pattern Meditations

Our online store has had a number of recorded guided meditations that take you through the first part of an Internal Family systems Therapy (IFS) session, and now we have added quite a few more.

Each meditation is designed to work with a certain pattern, such as Procrastination, Anger, Depression, and so on. You access the part of you that enacts that pattern, get to know it, find out what it is trying to do for you, and develop a trusting relationship with it.

IFS has discovered that every part has a positive intent for you. This makes it much easier to connect with the part and help it to let go. In this meditation, you will discover the part’s intent and connect with it. This is a crucial step in transforming the pattern.

I have divided the meditations into those for interpersonal patterns and those for other patterns. Click the link to learn more about them or to purchase.


InterConflict-Avoiding-Pattern-Meditation-2personal Patterns

  • Intimacy-Avoiding Pattern
  • Self-Effacing Pattern
  • People-Pleasing Pattern
  • Conflict-Avoiding Pattern
  • Passive-Aggressive Pattern
  • Controlling Pattern
  • Judgmental Pattern
  • Defensive Pattern
  • Rebel Pattern
  • Angry Pattern
  • Caretaking Pattern
  • Dependent Pattern


Non-Interpersonal Patterns

  • Procrastination Pattern
  • Food Controller Pattern
  • Perfectionist Pattern
  • Foggy Pattern
  • Inner Critic Pattern
  • Depressed Pattern
  • Indulger Pattern


What Is An Interlocking Attraction

Based on the Pattern System™, an interlocking attraction involves being attracted to someone because their way of relating meshes with yours, in that it matches how you expect people to relate to you based on your interpersonal patterns.

For example, if you have a Controlling Pattern, which involves expecting to be in charge of your relationship and run the show, you will be attracted to people who have a People-Pleasing Pattern because they will comply with your desire to be in control and will try to please you.

An interlocking attraction isn’t necessarily a problem. If your way of relating is relatively healthy and you are attracted to people whose style fits with yours in a healthy way, this will work out well. For example, if, instead of being Controlling, you have the Assertiveness Capacity, you can take charge when needed and can also cooperate with others or even be receptive when that is called for. This is because your Assertiveness Capacity isn’t driven by underlying fears. As a result, you can stand up for yourself and exert power, but you don’t have a need to always win out.

The Controlling Pattern is a problematic version of the Assertiveness Capacity. Or you could say that the Assertiveness Capacity is a healthy version of the Controlling Pattern. So if you are attracted to someone who has a capacity that interlocks with a capacity of yours, this will probably work out well. If you are Assertive and are attracted to a Cooperator, this is promising.

Interlocking Attractions

A Cooperative person can work together with people easily and naturally, but they don’t have a need to give to others or please them. This interlocking attraction will work out well because the two of you won’t get stuck in your preferred way of relating, and you will be able to learn from each other’s strengths. You won’t get stuck in always having to assert your will, and you will be able to learn from your partner’s ability to cooperate.

However, if you are Controlling and are attracted to a Pleaser, this will probably lead to trouble. At first, things will go well because you are each getting what you want and expect from the other. However, after being involved with each other for months or years, there will probably be difficulties. When the hidden problem with your partner (and yourself) becomes more apparent, the very quality that drew you to your partner will become the reason for serious conflict in your relationship.

Let’s look at how this might happen. If you have a Controlling Pattern, you may be very happy with a People-Pleaser at first because they seem to want everything that you want; they seem to think and feel the same as you do. However, over time things will change. You may begin to realize that your partner doesn’t really agree with you but is just going along with you. You may start to yearn for someone with a backbone who has opinions and desires of their own. You may get annoyed at your partner for being so compliant with other people. You may long for a partner who has some spark, who is their own person, not just a doormat.

The same interlocking attraction often goes in the other direction. People-Pleasers are often attracted to Controllers because they don’t really let themselves know what they want. They prefer a partner who is strong, in charge, and knows what to do, so the Controller can take the lead and make the Pleaser’s life work.

This has been an excerpt from my book The Pattern System.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places?

Webinar: Looking for Love in All the Wrong PlacesLooking for Love
Understanding Your Problematic Attractions

  • Are you attracted to people who aren’t good for you?
  • Do they betray or abandon you?
  • Are they unable to commit?
  • Do they judge you, shame you, yell at you, or abuse you?
  • Are they incapable of seeing who you are?
  • Do they need you to take care of them or fix them?

We all have many reasons for being attracted to people. Some are healthy, some aren’t. In this webinar, I will use the Pattern System to help you understand the unconscious patterns and wounds that are driving your attractions, especially those that are not good for you.

This will help you understand what patterns you need to change, and how to do this, so you are attracted to people who will be good partners for you and who will love you.

This webinar will include not only PowerPoint slides but also voice and video interaction with those who want to participate.

Tuesday, Oct. 14
4:30-6:30 pm Pacific | 7:30-9:30 pm Eastern

Click and Register for the Self-Therapy Journey Webinar



Feel free to register even if you can’t make that time. A recording will be sent to you afterward.

Learn About The Victim Pattern

The Victim Pattern is one of the most interesting patterns in the Pattern System.

If you have the Victim Pattern, you tend to see yourself as being wronged by people or in an impossible situation. You may believe that your problems exist because harmful things were done to you. You may feel like the victim of your circumstances, and you may feel that there is nothing you can do about it.

With this Pattern, you may find yourself continually thinking about how others have wronged or hurt you. You may make excuses to yourself about why you cannot get your life together, feeling cheated and helpless to do anything about it. You may feel angry or depressed about your circumstances and helpless to change your life for the better. In the back of your mind, you may even feel entitled to special time and attention from others, especially those who have wronged you.

You may indeed have been victimized in your childhood and perhaps even as an adult. If you were truly a victim and had no options, this is not the Victim Pattern. When a part of you is attached to feeling helpless and wronged even when you could take steps to improve your situation, this is the Victim Pattern.

You may now have the power to stand up for yourself or to get away from someone who is harming you. However, if you have a Victim Pattern, you tend to focus on feeling sorry for yourself rather than looking for ways to get what you want in life.

This Pattern can keep you from moving toward goals for personal development or professional success. The Victim Pattern may interfere with your ability to take charge of your life. You may focus on how other people are to blame for what has happened to you rather than focusing on what you can do to change your difficult circumstances.

The Victim Pattern is one of the patterns in the Pattern System and in Self-Therapy Journey. Click here to explore the Victim Pattern module of STJ.


A Story of Overcoming Procrastination

This is a continuation of A Procrastination Story and how Sandy is overcoming and moving forward. 

Once Sandy realized she was procrastinating on working on her video project, she saw that she needed to understand her Procrastination Pattern better. When she explored the pattern, she found that it was a form of protection trying to help her by never allowing her to work on something that she might fail at.

Thinking about it, Sandy discovered that making this video represented a lifelong dream for her. Then she knew she had been scared that actually working on it would dash her fantasy of being a successful film director. After all, she thought, as long as I don’t actually start working on this, I could still potentially be awesome at it.

Sandy got connected with her Procrastination Part and reassured it that she wasn’t going to be shamed if she showed her completed video project to others. She told her part that even if her work wasn’t great, she would learn from the experience and would get helpful feedback from the viewers so that she could improve.

She reminded her part that every creative project builds upon the last one. And she let her part know that if someone did say shaming things to her about her work, she would stand up for herself and not allow her Shame Wound to be hurt. Her Procrastination Part felt soothed by this and allowed Sandy room to move forward.

Sandy started to practice evoking Work Confidence, reminding herself of all the video classes she had taken, and reviewing smaller video projects she had done that she liked. She also looked up some motivational quotes to help herself know that she didn’t have to be amazing right out of the gate; she could practice and learn and improve gradually. Overcoming procrastination and work confidence

Her attitude toward her video project changed once she started thinking more confidently about her skills and she found that she was excited to get behind the camera each day. Her sense of being capable increased with more practice, and now she felt happy to be in the creative flow.

Self-Therapy Journey  has a module for transforming Procrastination to Work Confidence.

A Procrastination Story

This is the story of one person with the Procrastination Pattern. Procrastination

Sandy wanted to take on a creative video project, but she couldn’t seem to get started. First she had to clean up her office, and that seemed to take forever. Then she found herself working out on the treadmill. “OK,” she thought, “now I’m ready to go.” But instead of going to her office, she headed for the kitchen. Half an hour later, she was preparing a three-course meal. After a few days like this, she acknowledged to herself that she was avoiding the project. Sandy had a long-standing pattern of Procrastination, and now it was back.

Once she realized this, she started berating herself for it. A part of her said, “You are such a loser! You should be ashamed of yourself. You never get the important things done. You are going to just waste your life if you don’t change.” This made Sandy feel terrible about herself. She started feeling down and hopeless. This was her Taskmaster Critic.

But she vowed to get going on the project the very next day. And that day, she did start on it and get some preliminary things done. However, the next day she got distracted with some tasks that had to be done and some other tasks that she pretended had to be done, and she didn’t do any more work on the video project.

At the end of the day, that critical voice came back in, “There you go again. I am so frustrated with you. You’ll never get anywhere with your life. You’re worthless.”

Naturally, Sandy felt even worse about herself. She felt more depressed, which made her feel low energy and tired. The next day, she didn’t even feel like dealing with the video project because it was such a loaded issue, so she just avoided it altogether. In fact, she completely put it out of her mind and forgot about it for about a week. Then the Taskmaster came back in and attacked her some more, and she felt bad about herself again. And so the cycle kept repeating.

In another blog, I will continue Sandy’s story to show how she overcame her Procrastination and developed Work Confidence.

Self-Therapy Journey has a module for working through Procrastination and developing Work Confidence.

The Procrastination Pattern

If you have a Procrastination Pattern, you tend to avoid certain kinds of action.

You may avoid tasks that have to be done that you don’t particularly enjoy. You may also avoid things you really want to do, especially activities that involve taking risks and the possibility of failure. You may start a project but not stay with it or not complete it. Or it takes you so long to finish it that you miss important deadlines.

Procrastination often happens outside of your awareness of it. People who procrastinate may not make a conscious decision not to do something. They just go along with their lives, and after a while they realize that they haven’t done the task. They may have gotten distracted with other things, or got lost in thought. They may have spent time relaxing, partying, and having fun. Sometimes they worked hard doing things that were less important than the task they were avoiding.

On the other hand, you may be very aware of your procrastination habits, and still feel powerless to stop it even as it is happening.

Sometimes it isn’t a specific task that you are avoiding. It is the thinking and planning that would be required for you to take action. You never seem to find the time to do it. Alternatively you may think and plan obsessively but never actually make a decision about what to do.

For example, Angie was tired of her current occupation and really wanted to find something that was more creative and meaningful for her. She made lists of interesting lines of work. She thought over different possibilities. She weighed the pros and cons of various directions. But she couldn’t make up her mind. There were too many options; she felt confused. Then for long stretches she would just get caught up in her current job and life and forget about a new career.

As a result of procrastination, important tasks are left undone or get done late. Projects may be done poorly because they had to be rushed at the last minute. Life decisions are postponed.

You may feel stuck in your life because the changes you want to make never quite materialize. Achievement and advancement are put off or abandoned because you don’t take the steps to make them happen.

Teleseminar on Taskmaster Pattern and Ease August 19

Tuesday, Aug. 19
4:30-6:30 PM Pacific time (7:30-9:30 Eastern time)
Click here to register

  • Do you feel driven to work too hard?
  • Is there a voice that attacks you for not being more successful?
  • Do you treat work as drudgery?
  • Do you feel like you can’t really succeed?
  • Is there a battle inside you around getting tasks accomplished?
  • Do you feel that you must work on yourself to correct your flaws?
  • Does your spiritual work involve too much effort?

YoImage of a taskmasteru may be dealing with the Taskmaster Pattern. Almost everyone has some aspects of the Taskmaster.

This has been one of the major patterns that I have worked on, so I know a lot about transforming it.

I have identified the following sub-patterns of the Taskmaster. Next to each one is the healthy capacity that resolves it.

  1. Workaholic – Ease
  2. Performance Critic – Ease
  3. Efforting – Flow
  4. Success Striving – Life Purpose
  5. Anxious/Driven – Work Confidence
  6. Failure Critic – Work Confidence
  7. Procrastination Critic – Work Confidence
  8. Psychological Taskmaster – Self-Acceptance
  9. Spiritual Taskmaster – Surrender

This teleseminar will help you determine which of these you have and what they look like in your life. You can also explore the specific capacity that you need to develop to transform each one.

I will show you how to transform your Taskmaster Pattern using IFS and Self-Therapy Journey.

You can learn to…

  • Accomplish tasks with a sense of ease
  • Have time for relaxation, fun, family, and creativity
  • Flow with your natural activity and creativity
  • Have the confidence that you can be successful
  • Pursue your life purpose as an expression of your natural unfolding
  • Feel good about yourself as you are, without having to earn it
  • Surrender to the unfolding of your spiritual development

This will be a teleseminar over the phone, not a webinar, so you will be able to talk with me and the other participants—to share your issues and ask me questions. I am still developing these ideas, so I welcome your feedback.

Because of the personal sharing, there won’t be a recording of this teleseminar, but in the future, I will do a webinar on the Taskmaster which will be recorded.

Click here to register.