Lions, Tigers, and BEARS....Oh My!

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We all get stuck: Stuck in the same argument with our partner over and over; stuck in feelings of helplessness or hopelessness; stuck at a job we hate; stuck in a relationship that has no future; or stuck in some other pattern of behavior that we can’t seem to change for good, no matter what we try. 

The reason you stay stuck traces back to your defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are the work of your unconscious mind. Basically, when you end up with feelings of anxiety or stress, your unconscious pulls out these defense mechanisms todeny, manipulate, or twist what’s happening so that you can maintain your sense of self. In other words, you pull these puppies out when you’re upset so that you don’t have to change.

The problem is that this whole “not changing” thing is exactly what’s keeping you stuck and unhappy so it’s the very thing that needs to change!

There are five main defenses that are keeping you stuck. I want to point out that these could be something you’re doing or they can be something someone else in your life is doing that you’re allowing. Any time these defenses show up, they’re signs that you’re going to stay stuck: in that same argument, in that same dead-end job or at that same weight. I’ve created an acronym, so you can remember to look out for them: it’s BEARS. 

Here’s what BEARS stands for:  


When you blame someone else, who has the power? Is it you? No, it’s the other person. The control belongs to them because blaming others avoids personal responsibility. You’re acting like a victim and, that’s not going to get you anywhere.  

Yes, you might have been victimized or this other person might have done something horrible. The world can be a difficult and unfair place and so many of the people I meet have been victimized at some point in their lives. Being victimized can be unavoidable but, acting like a victim, is optional. Never think “poor me.” This type of thinking does nothing to help you move forward. I’m not saying you can never have yourself a little pity party. When bad stuff happens, it’s important to take a step back and lick your wounds. What’s also important is not to live in that place the rest of your life. Take the time to grieve, mourn or feel bad and then find a way to move on, no matter how small the step.  


Here’s the stark truth: No one owes you anything: not your partner, not your parents and not your friends. Thinking that there’s something that “should” come your way is an issue. Feeling you’re owed sets the other person up for failure because you’re focusing on what they “should”do instead of what they are doing. In the end, it focuses on them, instead of you and you end up with no power while you wait on their actions.  


Attacking someone is never going to get you a healthy outcome. When we attack someone else it’s because we’re feeling frustrated and helpless on some level. So, although it seems like an act of aggression, it’s really an act of someone who feels powerless on some level. Attacking puts people on the defensive and invites no problem-solving or solutions. It’s all about control and being correct, not effective.  

Reading Minds:

You can’t read anyone else’s mind and they can’t read yours. Period. Saying things like, “I know what she’s going to say, so I’m not going to ask” or “We’ve been together for ten years, he should know what I want for my birthday” are great examples of what not to do. Expecting someone else to read your mind is setting them up to “prove” their love to you. Thinking you can read someone else’s mind is just a way to try to keep yourself in control and, once again, you’re trying to be correct instead of effective.


If you’re spending your time focused on saving or rescuing anyone else, you’re in trouble. It’s not your job to save anyone and it’s a way to take the focus off yourself and put it on them so you don’t have to look at your own issues. You’re deflecting and it does you no good. It’s also an issue if you’re waiting around for someone else to fix things in your life or “save” you. Saving in either direction is a problem.  Anytime you’re caught up in any of these thoughts or behaviors, you’re setting yourself up for continued or future unhappiness, frustration and disappointment.  

So, what do you do if you want to get unstuck and stop these negative patterns? Here are my top three answers to getting unstuck and being happier:

1. Take Responsibility: If you do nothing else, do this. It all starts with you. You’ve got to take responsibility for your life. No more making excuses, no more saying you “can’t,” no more looking to other people to solve your problems in any way.

2. Take Action: Take a step back from your life and think of one thing you could do about what’s going on. No matter how small, taking some action will move you from hopelessness and blame to self-empowerment and hope.  

3. Ask Questions: Asking open-ended questions (instead of making suggestions, offering advice or criticizing) creates openness and dialogue. It’s solution-focused and helps you be curious instead of focusing on being right. Open-ended questions are questions where the other person can’t answer with “yes, no, good, fine or I don’t know.” Questions like, “What have you tried before?”“What’s one thing I could do right now to help make this better?” “What else would be helpful that you could do?” “How can I support you in this?” All of these types of questions create an opportunity for connection and dialogue. 

I’d love to hear what BEARS means to you and how identifying it has changed your life so please leave a comment below. I also want you to download your free BEARS cheat sheet. Being aware is more than half the battle and keeping this sheet front and center somewhere in your life will definitely change it for the better!  

Self-AwarenessKate Rufener