How to move from Passive to Asserting yourself

Understanding Passivity

You were not born passive, it was a behaviour you adopted that kept you safe. I meet many clients who are passive and I ask them, ‘Does that go back a long way?’ Invariably, it goes back to childhood and perhaps an angry or aggressive parent. Often, something is mentioned, a poker that was brandished perhaps. It never had to be produced again. The child develops the defense mechanism of passivity to survive the defensive behaviour of the Dad perhaps.

Passivity means ‘I have no voice’

1335209.largeThe genius of the child is in developing behaviours that keeps them safe – albeit at a cost. You see, feelings do not disappear because you are told not to have them. It simply has become unsafe to speak up as no one is listening. The child’s feelings now need to be suppressed and repressed, which is very unhealthy as feelings need to be expressed and received in order for conflict to be resolved. The child may be goody goody, people pleaser, conformist and ‘the perfect child’.

Out of the blue outbursts

As feelings build up, every so often there is an ‘out of the blue outburst’ which is how the child managed to ‘keep a lid on it’.  In the absence of having anywhere to go with your feelings, over time we use ‘Fake Friends’ like reaching for a cigarette when we may need to say something, we inhale deeply. ‘I need a drink’ is commonly said to keep a lid on things, when we bottle it up, we need a drink, or drugs, or food to keep it down.

The child has no choice, but as an Adult, you have a choice

The child is dependent on the parent, therefore it would be very unsafe to speak up and assert self ‘I do not wish to be spoken to so disrespectfully’. However as an adult, maybe it is time to find your voice again and assert yourself when someone tries to treat you with disrespect.

Asserting self

Maybe, step back and take a breathe to help you feel grounded and secure before making eye contact and saying ‘ when you need to speak with me, please do so in private’. Asserting self is about holding your boundary, and once you do it, time and time again, clients say ‘I felt so empowered’. They follow on to say that once they hold their boundary, they notice a shift. The shift is that the other person backs down, treats them with respect.

From Unconscious to Conscious

Many of us are unaware that we have ‘lost our voice in our family of origon’ and as long as we are unaware, we can do nothing about it. However, once we become aware it creates the possibility for new choices and new actions. Before we do that however, take a moment to touch into some compassion for self, for how it was for you when you were young. Time and time again, I hear stories of belts, slaps, threats and the child’s fear of what comes next. Be compassionate with  yourself and of the impact it had on you, whether it was just verbal or physical, it took it’s toll.

All behaviour makes sense – but maybe now it is safe to move from passive to champion myself or another?