Deflect to Protect Complex

The thing you are most afraid of is the very thing that will set you free.

The thing you are most afraid of is the very thing that will set you free.


Everyone of us suffers to some degree from the Deflect to Protect Complex. We’re all victims of it too. If someone has every told you that you think you’re all that or you don’t deserve such and such you’ve experienced such deflection.  What this means is that someone has an internal issue. They’re insecure. They feel at a disadvantage, inferior, afraid or whatever else the case may be. Instead of owning those feelings and getting to the root cause, they deflect. They attempt to burdened what they’re feeling onto someone else. A lot of times it works. Hurt people hurt other people. I always say that the things people say to you and about you (whether good or bad) are actually about them. Not you.

The irony in the Deflect to Protect Complex is that when we participate in this behavior we think we are protecting ourselves, but we are not. We are in fact hurting ourselves. If we decide to look inward and acknowledge what we’re feeling and why, we can actually do something about it. As long as we pretend the cause of our feelings is someone else we stay insecure, feeling at a disadvantage, inferior, afraid, etc.

When a child is afraid of the dark their parents don’t send them to bed with the lights on. Instead, they go in the room with the child. They open the closet door, pull back the curtains, and look under the bed.  They show the child that nothing is there. The child is able to conquer their fear of the dark by addressing it. They don’t avoid it. Imagine if the child slept with the lights on all the time. They’d grow up to be 20-somethings still afraid of the dark!

As adults, when we’re afraid of something we shouldn’t avoid it or deflect it either. We should open the closet door, pull back the curtains, and look under the bed. We should face what we fear so that the fear can be overcome. The Deflect to Protect Complex is grounded in fear. It’s a fear of being inadequate, a fear of what people will think, a fear of not being good enough, a fear of knowing the truth. Ultimately, that which we fear is the very thing that will set us free.

I’ve written before about how I was fired from my corporate job because my manager didn’t like my note taking. That’s what was on the paper, but it’s not really the truth. Here’s the truth – A month and a half after this women joins the company one of my colleagues quit. She doesn’t put in two weeks notice. She sends an email on a Tuesday morning saying that she would not be returning. It was that bad working under the new boss. Another month or so down the road I attempt to change teams. My manager schedules a meeting with my then soon to be manager to kibosh  the transfer. Why? She was deflecting to protect herself. She’s new to the company and in her first three months on the job half her team wants to leave. That couldn’t happen.  Instead of me “leaving” her, she “left” me. It was a deflection.

When we deflect we miss the opportunity to reflect. We miss the opportunity to reflect on what’s really going on and what to do about it.  How can we ever grow if we always deflect? How can we ever create the life and relationships we want if we never reflect? Opening your eyes can be painful, but what does staying blind cost you?

When we find ourselves feeling insecure or afraid and wanting to pass those feelings along to someone else we should stop ourselves. It won’t necessarily be easy but we have to learn how to do so. Instead of that gut wretch reaction to protect ourselves at all costs no matter who we hurt in the process, we should take a moment to reflect. We should take inventory of our feelings and own them. At that point we can actually make a difference in our life.

The new boss continued to have issues long after I left. People continued to leave. She’d hire someone new and they’d leave too. If she would have reflected she would have empowered herself to create better relationships with her team members. She would have asked herself and those around her, “Why am I having a hard time keeping people on my team? What could I be doing better?” With that, she would have learned something she didn’t know or wouldn’t accept previously. If she had the courage to act on what she learned she would have improved her management skills.

If the person who is secretly envious of someone else’s house would reflect they might realize they actually want more for themselves. Then they would be empowered to create a better life for themselves. That’s where the true change happens. Deflecting to Protect is temporary at best. Reflecting and then acting is long lasting and meaningful.

The next time you find yourself deflecting ask yourself, “What am I really feeling and what can I do about it?”

Charlene Dior

Blogger, author, podcast, investor, marketer, sister, daughter, pet mom, friend and Christian. Personal growth junkie who loves the idea that a caterpillar can transform into a butterfly! ? Grab my bestselling book From Caterpillar to Butterfly: Transform the Life You Have into the Life You Love on Amazon! Available in paperback or as an ebook.

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