“I don’t understand why my step-brother, Shaun, hit me. I just…” I trailed off. I couldn’t explain how much I was at a loss for words with my therapist. This is one of the recent conversations I had with her. The explanation has stayed with me. I can’t get it out of my head.
Passive, aggressive, and assertive.
I am paraphrasing here because I don’t quite remember the wording, but, she explained, there is passive, aggressive and assertive. When an individual feels powerless or out of control, they seek to regain that control. They can be passive, aggressive, or assertive.
Today , I review her words. Passive is Harry Potter. The child who is abused, who takes the abuse, and pulls it inward. The more the child is abused, the more kind they become. But then there is the assertive victim. Dudley Dursley was aggressive. He felt powerless and this, people, THIS is how Dudley felt! His parents gave him no structure, and he felt out of control and powerless! He sought to regain that control and so became aggressive and targeted Harry. This is what Dumbledore meant! The child abuse (book #6). Dudley had no limits. To any child, that is terrifying. Dudley faced “infinity” and existentialism every day of his life. Horrifying. Powerless. No control and so, to gain some control, abused Harry. The child (or adult) who looks to regain control and power by applying the aggression they were taught.
(Vernon also felt powerless, and so became the aggressor and targeted Harry as well. Petunia was passive, which is why she mostly stood by and watched. She became assertive, when she looked at Vernon and said, “The boy must stay.” Petunia did care. She was hurt. But too passive to interfere. In a way, she was afraid of Vernon.)
The abused becomes assertive and, in the likeness of the abuser, the abused targets something or someone smaller than them to regain power and control…helplessness.
My jaw hit the floor and I looked at her. “Shaun felt helpless when his abuser hit him.”
“This is a possibility,” she said.
“So, Shaun, feeling helpless, sought to regain that power by hitting me.”
I thought for a moment, stunned. And that’s when it hit me. Bullies.
My therapist nodded. The bully. Anyone who beats on someone smaller than themselves.
Today, I googled “passive aggressive and assertive” and wow! The information that came up…
I lived in the passive (Hold it in…that is me 🙂 while Shaun lived as the Aggressor. Neither of us were assertive. I did become assertive once. When I stood between Shaun and the dog. I refused to let him beat the dog with a pipe. I found my assertiveness to help animals and others…but never myself. That is where my self-value came in. I wasn’t worth being assertive for. I wasn’t worth the risk. The cats and dogs…all the animals, all others…They were worth it.
And I think…I think…we all take turns with all three levels. The question I have for me is, where is the balance?
I’m not a psychologist. I’m a philosopher. I’m just hypothesizing 🙂