by Tom Swift

In all sports, one key factor to playing defense is intensity. It is one instance in which tenseness is encouraged. To guard, to withstand, to prevent, to defend is to tighten. One can be loose on offense. You can be fancy free and still score. Not so to execute on defense. On defense you must be vigilant. You must be highly reactive. The body of the defender is contained; it is ready to respond to whatever assault may come.

Just the same the body stiffens in preparation to defend oneself on the playing field of life. This is automatic — you do not have to remember the scheme. As soon as you engage in conversations from a defensive posture you can feel it; your body registers the command; you tighten — your shoulders lock in, your throat constricts, your belly stirs — so as to be ready to respond to whatever assault may come.

It’s one reason, presumably, they call it being uptight.

It is important to note that this is the case whether the conversation is real or imagined.

You are apt to engage in a sort of fantasy football, passing an argument or conflict back and forth in your mind, from one part of you to another part of you, all the while bracing to defend your territory. It would be hard to overstate what a waste of time this is — such a worse violation than the same amount of anger or passion that might come up in actual dialogue with another.

For to raise all defenses against a shadow is to expend energy in opposition to the air. It is to fight against figments. There is a fine line between such behavior and outright delusion.

What to do when your defenses raise unbidden?

Write them down so as to rid them from your mind. Come back to the moment. Get back to your work. Actively move beyond. Go play an entirely different game.