When some person or circumstance makes us feel attacked, we often retreat into what I call defensive auto – we come up with an excuse that will save us from feeling wrong, stupid, inept, or to blame.

When operating in defensive-auto, we may attribute a missed deadline to a computer glitch, instead of facing our procrastination.

We may blame our nasty outbursts on gluten, rather than take a hard look at our cruelty and iffy self-control.

When our mate objects to clutter for which we are responsible, we may accuse her of nit-picking, instead of owning up to our lack of discipline and consideration.

The frequency with which we lapse into defensive-auto when threatened is a reliable gauge of our emotional maturity. People who’ve finally rooted themselves in I’m OK have learned to observe their emotions, rather than react to them reflexively.

Emotionally mature individuals respond to accusations, and other indicators their performance many have been sub-optimal, with equanimity and curiosity. They examine the situation neutrally, and respond honestly…and with gratitude.

Failure, after all, is feedback, and feedback is a gift.