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Thread: "You can't possibly understand what I'm going through" defensive mechanism.

  1. #11
    Mud and rain and chaos... Array TickTock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008


    Fluffywolfs OP
    Ah, Fluffywolf, this took me a long time to crack this old chestnut. It is the trait of the emotional manipulator. There are others, but the general motivation of someone like this is to turn everything around to them. There pains are always worse than your pains, they are the masters of the guilt trip. A lot of people don't spot this one so you're in the minority for having done so. It is worse for anyone in a relationship with one.
    Far better than I explain there is info out there I you google the term. I'm sure you'll recognize all their traits.
    ~ Truth ~ Freedom ~ Health ~ Love ~ Communication ~ Humor ~ Respect ~

  2. #12
    Protocol Droid Array Athenian200's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by Fluffywolf View Post
    I hope you understand my question, here goes.

    I don't understand why people use this defensive mechanism when someone is inquiring about someone elses problem. But still so many people use this 'arguement' when they're trying to change the subject or don't with to talk about their problems.

    Why is it so hard to just say "I don't want to talk about it.". But so easy for people to say someone degrading and offensive as "You can't possibly understand what I'm going through". Indicating they do not have any faith in the other person's ability, and most likely only make them feel even worse about even inquiring in the first place.

    Why do people try to isolate and distantiate other people when they're coping with problems? What are they afraid off?

    You talk to them about it or you don't talk to them about it. Are they afraid they might receive help and solve their problems? Do people really enjoy feeding on their own problems so much?

    I have many questions regarding this issue. I wonder if anyone can point me somewhere or explain to me why people with issues often resort to these types of defensive stances. If they don't wish to hurt or involve other people. They can just say "I don't want to involve you, it's my problem, I'll deal with it. Don't bother.". But no, they agressively try to distantiate themselves. "You can't understand.", "You're only making it worse.", "You're not helping, I hate you.", etc.

    Where does that come from?
    Perhaps it's because they're afraid you're going to pry unless they do that. There are a lot of people out there who can't take a hint (would read the versions you wrote as being bashful about accepting help), won't mind their own business, insist that they know what's best for you even if they have no clue, and eventually the person might develop aggressive defense mechanisms as a first resort to protect their inner world and problems from that kind of assault. Chances are, if you see someone like that, someone (or possibly a group) is to blame for making them that way... focus your anger on THEM.

  3. #13
    Senior Member Array alcea rosea's Avatar
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    Nov 2007


    Maybe they really feel that nobody understands them and thus feel lonely.
    Maybe they can feel sorry for themselves by thinking that nobody understands.

  4. #14


    I've never experienced this reaction from others as a backlash but I'd be surprised if it was one of attacking. The times I've felt like that was when I genuinely thought that the other person just didn't understand, when they were supplying advice that was just so off base that it just comes across as projection rather than understanding. Listening to advice like that sparks the reaction similar to that of listening to someone attempting to save your soul. I for one don't like to be pitied so the whole you don't understand what I'm going through kicks in.

    Besides... in some listening training program I did. I once said "Oh yeah... I understand what it means to be stressed from late assignments" when someone was upset about failing his marks. The trainer decided to go VERY harsh on me and rebutted.

    "How many words and essays did you need to write?"
    "1 essay..."
    "WHY the hell are you talking about as if you understand what it's like to write 2 3000 word essays?"
    *Proceeds into rants about how stupid I am*

    Clearly that's ever unlikely to happen in real life, but it does throw back the idea that we can never truly grasp what another person might feel like since we all react slightly differently. Someone might be in pain, but might be in much much more pain than we can understand. So for someone to say they understand, it's just... intrusive and inaccurate. Guess it's one of the reasons that counsellers and such are only meant to listen rather than offer their on input on the matter.

  5. #15
    12 and a half weeks Array BerberElla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008


    But it is actually true, each person experiences things differently from another, so no one can ever truly understand what the other person is going through, they can only guess, empathise at best, that is it.

    I must admit I have said it, but not in anyway as a disrespect to the other persons capabilities to understand, but just because it is actually a fact.

    Sometimes you meet people who are much better at empathising with you than others, who you actually believe do understand quite closely how you are feeling, but again as I said, it's a "not quite" thing.
    Echo - "So are you trying to say she is Evil"

    DeWitt - "Something far worse, she's an Idealist"

    Berb's Johari Berb's Nohari

  6. #16


    I can tell you why I might do this-it may or may not apply to the person in question:

    When i am hurt I will first defensively lash out in anger, then withdraw and sever ties. I rarely get hurt as I rarely allow other people close.

    Allowing people close means sharing of my emotions. If I do not trust you I will not share them. I could see using the "you will not understand" as a mechanism to push others away if they tried to get in without my permission or trust. (Not that I have done that-I use big walls instead) It's an excuse rather than having to say "I dont trust you or know you well enough to share what I am feeling"

    You mention severing of ties as well. I WILL do this as a defense mechanism-not a healthy one-working on it. If I trust someone and feel they will reject me, I will often sever ties first. It allows me to avoid being the receipient of overt rejection-which is agonizing for an Ne dom-and it allows the other person a graceful departure without having to overtly reject me. The problem is that I will sometimes leave and sever ties at any sign of rejection, whcih eliminates the possibility of emotional intimacy altogether.

    Hope that is helpful.

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