Meeting the Pain of Destructive Patterns

I’ve been reading Pathwork Lecture 100:

“Meeting the Pain of Destructive Patterns”

and thinking about how we are affected by our own

negative way of defending ourselves.


Here’s the way I think it works.  

We are born.


Eventually something happens to us—we don’t get fed or changed immediately,

Mom has to go out to the grocery store or to work.

We feel abandoned or rejected—in danger!!—or we are actually in a potentially dangerous situation.

We feel feelings but believe (true or not true) that we can’t show what we are feeling.

We shove those feelings down below the surface of our awareness.

Now what do we do?


We develop a defense system that we believe (hope?) will protect us.

The Pathwork Guide tells us about 3 different defense systems that we might use:



aggression, submission, and withdrawal.


Defense system #1:

Aggression. We demand, snark, bark, blame, let fury loose, incriminate—all to keep us safe. All in the hope of bringing love.

And the other person reacts whether to our words or to the aggressive energy stream coming at them. Then they either attack back or withdraw and leave.

That’s not what we want.



Defense system #2:

Submission. We prostate ourselves before the other person, will do anything for them, cling to them, beg and plead, humiliate ourselves, deny ourselves, be “nice”, be “good”. We will do anything to make the other love us.

Once again, the other person can feel and see what we are doing, can feel us plastered on them clinging for fear of dying.

And they attack or leave.


Defense system #3:

Withdrawal. We retreat into thinking, figuring it out, explaining, showing how much we know. We are the experts in diverting any indication of feelings down the track of reasoning. We live with fear of showing our emotions lest we be ridiculed or rejected.

The recipient can feel our hiding and will try to bring out our feelings but continuing to get more and more frustrated until they will (can you guess?) either attack or leave.



These defenses don’t work

because they continue to bring us abandonment or attack.

They don’t bring us closer together;

they don’t foster love;

they don’t even keep us safe.



We can slip from one of these defenses to another easily

Each defense system feels negatively about and/or judges the other two.

They can even work in direct opposition to each other.

Can you imagine trying to stay above the feelings at the same time we are begging and pleading for love?

I’d like to hear about how your system works.

Next time we can talk about what to do about it.