Several months ago, I have observed that I have inner aggression. It was difficult to admit because it scared me. Howcome? When you talk to me in person, you would find me calm, warm, and friendly. Gee, I`m even aspiring to become a nurturing counselor, and yet I am aggressive. Before, I didn`t bother understanding this newly discovered, or acknowledged part of me. It is only this week, when my mother-in-law gave me her dose of unsolicited advice, that led me to understand my aggression.
When she told me to cut my daughter`s hair, I got really pissed off. The past events came flooding on me again. And I went back to my cycle of hating her over and over again. That I wish I was not associated with her. That never in my life I would think of her as a mother, because I don`t see her as one. Don`tell my husband, that I even called her a bitch in my mind. I know it is so disrespectful, which is a characteristic of aggression.
Anyway, the word bitch has struck a chord in my memory. Even that anger that`s simmering in me reminded me of that time. I remember, very long ago, I called someone a bitch. She was my math highschool teacher who kept on throwing negative comments on me. Since I couldn`t stand up for myself, I brewed with anger and secret aggression for her. I imagine pulling her hair and even screaming at her, saying things that would rip her heart open and bleeding. The same things I imagine doing with my mother-in-law. Not just with her, it also happened with our ministry leader, my classmates, and God knows who else. I soon realized that this has been my pattern of responding to people who I perceived as authoritarian, controlling, and demanding.
Now I understand what brought my inner aggressiveness, and it is my lack of assertiveness. Because I chose to be passive with seemingly imposing people, I would just go into my inner cave and secretly hate them.This is a strange realization to me because all my adult life, I thought I was assertive, that I could freely express myself. Maybe to some degree, I am. But when it comes to voicing out that I disagree with someone, or that I dislike what someone is doing to me, then I`m not assertive. It`s probably because I wanted to appear agreeable, to always be nice to people.
In my family of origin, however, is a different case. When I get fed up with any of our family members, which happens rarely (thank God), I have a tendency to raise my voice or to shout. This is an outburst of anger, an overt aggressiveness. I thought this is okay. That this is better than be passive and bury and harbor an angry feeling.
Now I learn that there is a better way than aggressiveness or passiveness. And that is assertiveness. The difference between the three is respect. Aggression disrespects others, passiveness disrespects yourself, while assertiveness respects both others and yourself. With assertiveness I could respectfully and confidently express myself whenever I am being put on the losing end. For example, when my mother-in-law told me to cut my daughter`s hair, I could say, “Oh, I wanted her hair to be long,” instead of staying silent and getting irritated like I always do whenever I`m being told on what to do with my daughter. Yet, however, that`s actually a minor incident. But it`s empowering to know that I could assert myself instead of resorting to being passive-aggressive. Because of this realization, the anger in me, brought by past events, slowly drained away. Now, I couId assert myself whenever I experience a challenging situation with people who I perceive as rigid and controlling. I know better now than to resort to passive-aggressiveness.
If you also need to learn how to be assertive in your personal relationships, in your work, or in any part of your life, you may want to read the book Assertiveness: How To Stand Up for Yourself and Still Win the Respect of Others by Judy Murphy. I bought a kindle copy from Amazon.