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Assertiveness & Aggression
Category: Sort Your Life Out
Last Updated: February 2011

"Fear is the path to the dark side: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering..."
- Master Yoda, Star Wars Episode 1

Both 'Assertiveness' and 'Aggression' tend to be seen as something 'bad' and to be avoided. This is partly due to the violent and dangerous nature of the uncontrolled 'explosions' of aggression we're more likely to see in our society, but also due to the fact that a display of aggression can be a profoundly frightening experience for people who are not 'at peace' with their own assertive nature.

The sort of Assertiveness, or 'Healthy Aggression,' that we are looking for could be seen as a desire to engage with life. It is a 'Will' to build things, to discover things, to explore and experience things - and then to defend these things if necessary. (It can also be one of the keys to the seemingly 'magical' ability to get going in the morning without even a single cup of coffee.)

Aggression based in fear, on the other hand, can be dangerous. This is an 'Aggression' coming from a place of imagined danger - where thoughts of 'I am not safe, I must be ready to attack any threats' cloud the mind. It is imperative that these feelings are dealt with before this work can continue in a safe and constructive manner.

So what do we do about it?

Working with 'The Good Goddess' for an extended period of time will help to set up a firm foundation for building a healthy expression of aggressive energies. A sense of safety is a necessary prerequisite for working with aggression.

A reasonable level of experience of mindfulness will prove helpful:

  • People who identify very strongly with certain concepts (e.g. flags, football teams) can sometimes seem to react to an 'attack' on their favourite concept as if they themselves were under physical assault. Mindfulness can help by creating a little 'distance' from, and objectivity about, these initially knee-jerk reactions.
  • Anyone with an unresolved fight-flight response (Excessive muscular tension may be one indicator of this) may find that they experience a vague bodily sense of 'something is wrong' but cannot quite pin it down. This feeling will exacerbate the problems involved with 'unhealthy aggression' by giving an actual physiological sense of danger and a need to locate the source of this feeling - easily leading to an aggressive response totally out of proportion to the level of any threat or challenge. Mindfulness should be one of the keys to allowing the mind-body system to finally return to a 'normal' and 'at ease' state.

Also useful will be spending some time affirming that your new resource of 'assertiveness' and 'aggression' is one of the things that your 'Divine Ally' is assisting with.

The Hunter

Any mammal that is continually physically overwhelmed will begin to internalise these experiences as a kind of 'negative belief' about their capabilities - 'learned helplessness' it is sometimes referred to. This is the quickest and easiest way, for example, to take a wild, spirited horse from the plains and end up with a work-horse. 'Breaking it in' is the expression.

This phenomenon also applies to Human Beings - something taken advantage of by 'Slave Breakers' whose job was to continually beat prospective slaves until the 'fighting spirit' went out of them, leaving a docile and easily intimidated work-force.

Hopefully most people have avoided the level of continued and purposeful violence visited on some unfortunates throughout history, but... If the normal mind-body process for dealing with stress and trauma is prevented from performing normally and if the sense of a 'supportive community' that could help to counter-balance any problems has been eroded and if society can't or won't provide a way for people to exercise assertiveness in a simple and direct manner - then it is really only a matter of time before the 'vitality' of the individual is eventually whittled down all the same.

Our main way of reversing this gradual decline is to re-energise the aggressive response.

In some tribal societies they have a kind of 'coming of age' ritual where an aspiring youngster is taken out on a hunt where they are guided to confront and defeat the animal themselves. In the West we often see this as having to 'prove themselves' and we use emotive descriptions like 'test of manhood' - but what if it isn't, and our Western assumptions have distracted us from the truth: that this ritual is not a 'test' - it is an actualiser, an enabler of adulthood? ... and that the experience of successfully defeating the animal affirms a reality of being a competent and physically able hunter.

In societies that depended on hunting for survival this ritual would serve a double purpose: as well as an empowering experience for the new hunter they get tonight's meal as well. In the modern world, where such hunting is no longer required, this kind of exercise degenerates into an arbitrary slaying of random animals which seems unnecessarily blood-thirsty to me (unless you are a meat-eater and need to learn a little respect for where your meals come from...)

Instead, I am going to suggest that prompting the subconscious to create vivid 'mental movies' of a similar successful experience will do the job just as well.

Because sometimes these 'mental movies' can turn into rehearsals for behaviours later enacted in real life it would be wise to be cautious about the precise content of these 'mental hunting movies'. I would suggest the defeat of vicious wild animals, mythical beasts and monsters from dreams as being useful targets for the majority of these 'movies'.

The procedure is the same as all of the other 'questions' -
"What would it be like to successfully defend myself against a vicious wild animal?"
"How good and natural would it feel?"

Shouting "This is Sparta" at any time is, however, purely optional.

Tactical Withdrawal

No matter how big, strong and powerful we get, the Universe will always be bigger - 'there's always a bigger fish' - and sometimes the smart response is to run away.

Augment your questions with something like:
"What would it be like to successfully and easily escape from an attacker?"
"How good and natural would it feel?"

Having the possibility of 'fleeing' made a part of the Assertive response helps to prevent the inner concept of 'who am I' from 'shorting out'-

If you've ever seen the first 10 minutes of the film 'The Fifth Element' then John Neville gives a demonstration of someone who has a very sound and robust 'aggressive' quality - but nothing else. He has no options to allow him to adapt to changing situations, and when his missiles and bombs have no effect at all on the approaching enemy all he can do is stand there paralyzed - trapped in some kind of internal 'existential anomie' - rooted to the spot as his spaceship gets destroyed.