Donna recently had a conversation with her adult daughter. They were talking about a family relationship when her daughter said, “Mom, I feel like you are protecting me.” Her daughter has a Master’s in Counseling Psychology and is highly skilled at recognizing relationship dynamics. She is also experienced at firmly and directly calling out behavior in real time.
In the next week, another issue arose with David. He asked Donna a direct question and made a request for information. She sensed that David was fatigued and wouldn’t like her answer, so she gave him sufficient information as to not be lying, but she was not totally forthcoming either.
A short time later she realized her protection trait had showed up again. She “protected” David from the information because she judged him as too tired and believed he wouldn’t like her answer.
Donna realized that this protecting quality was a form of Rescuing, a common role in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™. She was Rescuing herself from uncomfortable feelings by avoiding the truth, or sharing only part of the truth.
The epiphany she had was that her Rescuing was experienced as Persecuting by others. Her daughter felt she was not being treated as an adult and David was not happy when he later learned he only received half the information. Neither situation was really that upsetting, yet Donna used protection to avoid any uncomfortable feelings that might arise.
If asked, Donna would say she sees her daughter and husband as healthy adults who can handle difficult situations. After self-reflection, she understood that her early childhood message to “be nice” was still ruling some parts of her life.
Have you ever used a protection strategy to manage stress or anxiety in the moment? You might protect your boss from information to avoid upsetting them. Maybe you “spin” information from co-workers or cover for someone without asking them if they want or need your help.
Protection is often used to avoid conflict or stressful situations (which is what Donna learned in her family). This belief rests on the policy of “don’t rock the boat” and keep things under wraps and on the surface.
When appropriately used, protection is a sign of loving care and concern for others. When used to withdraw or minimize the information, protection is rooted in fear and the DDT.
A more empowered response would be to step into the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) ™ roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach. In the role of Challenger, Donna could have said to David: “You may not like the information, but here is the reality.” In the Coach role, Donna could have asked her daughter what support, if any, would she like given the situation she was speaking about.
While living TED* is not always easy, we are grateful for opportunities in our own lives to learn and grow as human beings. As we become aware of our (often unconscious) reactive patterns and strategies, we can make more empowered choices as Creators in our own lives.
By sharing these weekly stories—-often of our own journey—-we trust you may be experiencing similar situations and can apply what we are learning in your own life. That’s our hope and desire.
Here’s to the Creator in you!