First, it is helpful to understand why we have hair trigger responses that are defensive and unpredictable: these reactions are in place because of trapped emotions that we have not dealt with… more often than not, feelings with a painful undertone.
Gaining sovereignty (power) over our emotions requires us to be self-contained rather than self-controlled. Self-control is admirable, but is most often the result of simply suppressing our emotional and verbal expression. The seal on this container is never airtight and, when full, tends to burst off at very inopportune moments.
Winner takes all?
In the conditioned world, we learn to respond to situations with defensiveness because we hold an understanding that there must always be a winner and a loser. This is because the ego self feels we have to fight to survive. We hate to back down because, on some level, we fear being annihilated. Understanding its roots allows us to change our defensive behaviour to become more authentically responsive to situations as they are presented.
The person who is self-contained is steadfast; able to listen properly; to respond from his or her own available experience, and to rise above the attacking attitude of another. The person who is self-controlled may also be able to do these things with relative ease, but they are more likely to be distant than detached, and slightly superior rather than relaxed. Self-control holds feelings in, whereas self-containment is flexible and open, as well as clear regarding boundaries. Good boundaries mean we no longer require defensiveness.