Assertiveness & Jungian Psychoanalysis

We are social beings and in our interactions with each other there can be - conflict, violence, domination, control, exploitation, submission, deference and, amidst these social encounters, we can fail to live our lives fully because of an inability to open our mouths - to have a voice and to be assertive.

Why are people sometimes unable to be assertive? It might be because of genetic factors, such as being born with a tendency to be highly sensitive and thus a bit shy of other people and apprehensive of the world. It could also be due to neglect, abandonment or abuse in childhood, leading to low self esteem and a sense of having no rights - no needs and no confidence to be assertive and ask for those rights to be met.

Conflict Resolution Strategies


Passive aggression


The aggressive strategy is characterised by behaviours such as;

Bossiness, Arrogance, Bulldozing, Intolerance, Dominance, Control.

The passive aggressive strategy is characterised by behaviours such as;

Sarcasm, Deceit, Ambiguity, Insinuation, Manipulation, Guilt tripping, Moaning, Helplessness, Submission, Indecision, Apologising.

The assertive strategy is characterised by behaviours such as,

Directness, Honesty, Positiveness, Acceptance, Responsibility, Spontaneity.

What is Aggression?

The aggressive strategy involves standing up for your personal rights and expressing your thoughts, feelings and beliefs in a way which is usually inappropriate and always violates the rights of the other person. People often feel devastated by an encounter with an aggressive person. Superiority is maintained by putting others down. When threatened, you attack, aiming at the vulnerability exposed in the other.

The message communicated is,

"This is what I think, what I want, what I feel. These are my rights. What matters to you isn't important to me. You are inferior. You are in the wrong."

The goal is to dominate, to win, to force the other person into submission or to punish them.

The aggressive strategy is often motivated by feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.

What is passive aggression?

This involves violating your own rights by failing to express honest feelings,thoughts and beliefs, and consequently permitting others to Violate your rights. Passive or non-assertive behaviour can also mean expressing your thoughts and feelings in such an apologetic and self-effacing manner that others can easily disregard them. The passive responder allows others to walk all over them, like a doormat. Non-assertive people feel they have no control over events: they are controlled and immobilized. Passive people do not allow their needs to take precedence over, or be as valid as, others. They allow others to make their decisions for them, even though they

may resent it later. They feel helpless, powerless and inhibited. Non-assertion sometimes shows a subtle lack of respect for the other person's ability to take disappointments, to shoulder some responsibility, and to handle their own problems.

The message communicated by passive aggression is,

“I don't count, so you can take advantage of me. My feelings, needs and thoughts are less important than yours. I'll put up with just about anything from you.”


To appease others and to avoid conflict and unpleasantness at any cost. We use the passive aggressive strategy to deflect aggression, our own and that of others – often because we find conflict frightening and we have unconscious or semi- conscious fears that our aggression will damage the other person or that they might retaliate and damage us.

What is Assertiveness?

The concept of power is often confused with the concepts of domination and control. If we are seeking power to use it for dominance and control of other people, to assuage our insecurities, that is a kind of narcissism. On the other hand, if we are seeking power to be honestly and authentically ourselves and to further our lives in that trajectory, this is assertiveness and it entails; having power, having a voice, claiming and defending rights, needs, boundaries territories in our external and internal world.

This assertive expression of power requires;

  • Honesty rather than deceit

  • Equality and reciprocity rather than inequality and injustice

  • Compromise – a win win, rather than a narcissistic, aggressive one sided victory

  • Sharing feelings rather than hiding them

  • Taking the risk of voicing our truth rather than passive aggressively blaming the other person

  • Having initiative rather than hoping for rescue

  • Directly and honestly expressing both our positive and negative thoughts and feelings

  • Voicing our rights whilst respecting the rights of others

How Do We Do Assertiveness?

We need to make a conscious decision to name our needs and call people out for intruding on those needs. To gain the strength to do this, we may need to engage in some kind of stress management process such as yoga or meditation.

The physical process of delivering this assertiveness may include;

  • Listening in a fair and receptive way

  • Speaking in a firm, relaxed voice

  • Varying between direct eye contact and looking away

  • Presenting a relaxed but erect – confident yet not threatening posture

  • Using a calm, firm, confident voice.

The vocabulary and phrasing may include;

  • Statements of preference - I’d like, I want, I’d prefer, I don’t like

  • Statements of understanding the other person’s point of view – I can understand how you might want….

  • Phrases of co-operation - What are your thoughts on this?

  • Statement of boundaries – You’re disturbing my peace by….

It’s extremely difficult - emotionally and in terms of unconscious default habits of deference – to change from being someone who hasn’t any needs to being someone who clearly states their needs. Take your time with this process, be forgiving of yourself if you occasionally wimp out or swear at someone in the process of trying to be assertive.

My Rights To Be Assertive

  • I have the right to state my own needs and have them met..

  • I have the right to be treated with respect as an intelligent, capable and equal human being.

  • I have the right to express my feelings.

  • I have the right to express my opinions and values I have the right to say 'Yes' or 'No' for myself.

  • I have the right to make mistakes.

  • I have the right to change my mind.

  • I have the right to say 'I don't understand'.

  • I have the right to ask for what I want.

  • I have the right to decide for myself whether or not I am responsible for another person's problem.

  • I have the right to deal with other people without having to make them like or approve of me.

The person I’m speaking to also has these rights, but we don’t have the right to deceive, manipulate nor exploit each other.

The limitations of assertiveness arise when we are relating to someone who is bullying, aggressive or narcissistic. They will tend to ignore or manipulate our assertiveness. Therefore we are unlikely to come to a win win solution when dealing with someone who tends towards the aggressive option. On the other hand, by calling out and naming the conflict, we are more likely to become aware of the realities of the dynamic between us and a narcissistic person who isn't being gratified would tend to walk.

Assertive Skills

    • Body language – it’s important to maintain a relaxed alert and confident stance – not insecure and apologetically twisted up

    • Choose the time and place – best public if there’s any chance of emotional, verbal or physical attack

    • Decide what you want from the situation and clarify what you want to say

    • Disclose feelings in a non threatening way, taking responsibility for your own feelings whilst avoiding blaming the other person

    • Empathise with the other person in order to improve communication

    • Acknowledge that you have heard the other person and validate what they’re saying

How to Say “No”

  • Avoid giving long-winded excuses or blaming others – give simple explanations

  • Don't say “Yes” when you mean “No”

  • Listen to your body - if it’s feeling “No”, listen to it and say “No”

  • Use the broken record technique of repeating the same message

  • Don’t look or sound as if you’d easily change your mind

For further information or to book a session, please feel free to contact me at:

t. 01297 625006 m. 07989 000088

11 Wessiters, Seaton, Devon, EX12 2PW

Providing Counselling, Psycholology, Psychoanalysis, Jungian Analysis, Couple & Marriage Therapy and Supervision for people in and around:

Seaton, Axminster, Chard, Yarcombe, Dunkeswell, Cullompton, Payhembury, Honiton, Dalwood, FenitonWhimple, Exeter, Ottery St Mary, Kilmington, Budleigh Salterton, Sidmouth, Branscombe, Axmouth, Rousdon, Lyme Regis, Uplyme, Charmouth, Seatown Bridport, Beaminster, Tiverton, Ilminster, South Petherton, Taunton and Crewkerne.