Defiance Has Many Faces

Defiance – we have all felt and experienced it. Defiance has received a bad reputation. It is thought of as a refusal to conform or obey and it can be. Defiance is usually assumed to be a failing of one sort or another.

Is it?

What is Defiance?

This is definition from the Free Dictionary:

  1. The act or an example of defying; bold resistance to an opposing force or authority.
  2. Intentionally contemptuous behavior or attitude; readiness to contend or resist.

Does it work then that being defiant is culturally defined? Is it perhaps something more than an issue with authority? What is the basis for deciding what is defiance and what is not? Obviously, we need rules in order to make our shared world work; we recognize that traffic laws and the like are necessary.

However, defiance is about much more than rules. As the Free Dictionary suggests, defiance is actually something deeper and more personal. It is also universal. Defiance is a refusal to be present. It can exist in an individual, in those who are in a position of authority, and in a culture.

The Liability Of Defiance

Defiance is not the same thing as questioning. Defiance is a preconceived idea about what should not be happening. It is a mental imposition on reality. So it is a refusal to accept reality. Whenever you decide what reality “should” be then you take yourself out of reality and increase your vulnerability and your potential to make mistakes.

What that means that in not accepting reality you close yourself off to the real possibilities in any situation. It is a limited consideration of what is happening that sets us up for failure because it overlooks important factors.

Identifying Defiant Actions

There are a lot of ways in which defiance operates:

  • not getting a night’s sleep when tired
  • not accepting or listening to your feelings
  • not listening when in a conversation with someone else
  • being in denial about real problems: ex. climate change
  • expecting problems to magically disappear
  • not respecting your limits and the limits of others
  • driving too fast
  • drinking and driving
  • eating food that is unhealthy
  • impatience
  • competition and snobbery
  • littering
  • expectations
  • self-deception
  • overwork

These are just some examples of ways in which an individual can be defiant and it is not limited to individuals. It can show up in groups as well and often does.

Attachment And Defiance

All fixed ideas end up inevitably creating defiance because life is not fixed, reality is not fixed and therefore our perceptions should not be fixed either. When groups get together and develop fixed ideas they become a set of beliefs that become the basis of social bonding and the platform that organizes daily life. Life, however, is organic and non-linear so all fixed beliefs will result in failure of some kind. It is not the job of reality to maintain our beliefs. It is our job to relate to and operate effectively in reality.

Since we need others to survive, when we are part of a group that has beliefs that defy reality then we are creating risks for ourselves and the group is making everyone more vulnerable. The easiest way to see this in action is to notice the increased vulnerability of people and the planet to environmental catastrophe because of climate change denial.

At a personal level, we can tune into the universe, and our surroundings and take them in without denial. At group level, it is a more difficult problem when the majority claims a set of beliefs that is harmful. We are still not able as a group to manage our beliefs so they are in touch with our life circumstances.

The Many Faces Of Defiance

Defiance can be found anywhere: in individuals, groups, organizations, and countries. It is our job to get a handle on what is happening so that we can respond intelligently.

Only in giving up defiant attitudes wherever it arises can we access out natural intelligence and creativity and put them to work in healthy ways. Relinquishing digging in our heels and replacing it with healthy receptivity is an important skill for anyone to learn but one that highly sensitive people with their increased receptivity have an easier time mastering.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program using cultural and personal development frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers The Magic Of Joy program for quantum healing and the Emerging Sensitive Community focused on living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is a Certified Theta Healer and certified in Spiral Dynamics. She is an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.


  1. Sally Milow on May 28, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    I am just realizing how defiant I’ve been. And you’re right: It IS due to my fixed ideas of how reality should be. I see that I have all too often put people into categories–good and bad ones. The last few days I’ve been seeing how it doesn’t work that I’ve kept strong fixed boundaries with people in the categories I’ve labeled “I don’t like this kind of person”.. I understand now that I did this because I wanted to be “safe”. But I’ve been experimenting with dropping these boundaries and staying in the present moment with people, And I realize that with this new approach,, I can think, feel, and act more flexibly. And I’m often finding that the person I’d labeled as “a person I don’t care for” has some qualities that I like and even enjoy. Wow, this is a wonderful transformation for me!

    • Maria E. Hill on May 28, 2018 at 12:53 pm

      Excellent, Sally!