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The Need to Defend


Explanations > Needs > The Need to Defend

Need | Example | Related to | Discussion |  So what?




We seek to protect and defend that which is ours.

Things that we will defend include:

  • Our families and especially our partner and children.
  • Our friends and colleagues.
  • Strangers who seem vulnerable, especially if they call for our help.
  • Our possessions, especially those which cost us more and those which we have for longer.
  • Our country, culture and ways of life.


A man leaps to defend his female companion who is insulted by a stranger in a bar, even though the stranger is bigger. Realizing that the man will act recklessly, the stranger backs off.

A branch falls from a tree towards a child. A passing stranger throws himself in the way and gets seriously hurt while saving the child. Later, he says he didn't think -- he just acted instinctively.

Related to


Part of Related to
Control, Identity Possess, Respect, Safety



We are a possessive species, constantly acquiring new things. We define ourselves partly by what we own. In fact when we own something, it becomes a part of who we are. When others try to take our possessions it as if they are taking a part our selves. It is perhaps unsurprising that we lock up our valuables and detest thieves.

When it comes to our families, evolution adds a whole new level of importance. To lose our mate to another is to lose our chance of breeding. Even if another person mates with them our position is threatened and we could be saddled with raising another person's child. We also open ourselves to ridicule and risk losing social position unless we react strongly.

And most important of all, we will defend our children, even with our lives. Evolution needs the species to continue and has programmes us to strongly protect and defend our children against all threats.

Evolution also makes us very sensitive to threats, which particularly affect our sense of control. While defending exposes us and may decrease control in the short term, by doing so we assert our ability and so gain longer-term control.

So what?

If you connect with people, then if you appear to be in danger they may well want to defend you. This is one of the reasons why we make friends and go out together. You can also provoke defending by exposing a threat to something the other person owns or holds dear. Beware in this of becoming the target of their attack!

See also

Aggressive Body Language

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