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One Psychological Trick to Self-Assertion Without The Need For False Bravado

We’ve all been there, but what does it look like for you? Perhaps it’s a knot in your stomach, or a tightening in your throat — or perhaps its clammy hands, coupled with a red-hot burning face. Whatever form it takes, we’ve all felt that feeling when somebody has crossed the line. Whether it’s a one-off comment, or a series of not-so subtle put-downs thinly veiled as ‘jokes’ by your boss, the fact is, we have all felt that same disrespect at one time or another. The question is, what do we do about it?

Shower Talk — A Seductive Consolation

We’re all guilty of shower-talk. Shower-talk is the term I like to use to describe the post-rationalisation of confrontations. This is where you can relax under the streams of hot water and come up with the most eloquent soliloquies as to why he or she was wrong for doing whatever they did. Now of course, it doesn’t have to be in the shower, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these two things seem to go hand-in-hand for so many people.

When you’re showering, you’re (presumably) naked- in other words, you are exposed, revealed, laid bare. The same can be said for how, in that moment, you are expressing how you truly felt about that person who crossed the line, who disrespected your boundaries. What’s more, unless you’re a self-proclaimed ‘modern stoic’ (aka a masochist) who pretends to enjoy cold showers, chances are you’re relaxing under soothing jets of hot water. It has been shown in multiple studies that hot showers and baths are often used by individuals to simulate physical affection and to self-soothe. (Bargh 2012) In essence, the shower, for some, is a vessel for consolation — providing a safe cocoon for the delayed expression of what the person really wanted to say, but couldn’t find the voice to do so.

False Bravado — The ‘Harvey Spectre’ Trap

On the other side of the spectrum, some individuals, rather than lay their hearts to bare, create a whole fantasy in their head, where they deliver a Harvey Spectre-eque closing speech, annihilating their adversary in the process, and winning the ‘case’. This again is an attractive idea, but unfortunately for most, is extremely unrealistic. Unless your father is Clint Eastwood, it is very unlikely that in the heat of the moment, you’re going to deliver the exact right words that are needed to pull off this style. What’s more, by adopting such an adversarial frame, you’re immediately setting yourself up for failure — in all likelihood, the person who has crossed the line is not an irredeemable ‘bad guy’, but instead, simply needs to re-evaluate the way they treat you. As such, it’s simply not conducive to go into a confrontation with aggression, as you are much more likely to encounter resistance. This isn’t to say that you should begin by playing defensive, but rather, neutrally — asserting boundaries is a win-win situation, and as such, all parties benefit when they are communicated properly.

Looking To Nature — Mark Your Territory

The fact is, when I described what it felt like to be disrespected in the introduction of this article, you knew exactly what I meant. The reason for this is that this feeling is instinctual — it’s visceral. In those moments where you feel yourself being attacked or undermined, it’s not your thoughts that process this information, at least not initially, it is your sensations- your intuitions. Accordingly, if we were to relate this same feeling to the animal kingdom, the equivalent would be another animal wandering into your territory and marking its scent. Your instincts know that something is wrong- it is your job to honour them.

Acknowledging Your Ancestors — You’re Not Alone

Those few seconds following that first blow of disrespect can feel like the loneliest moments of your life. It can feel like you are out alone, at the edge of a precipice, with everyone else stood watching from the sidelines. You are not alone.

Consider this: whenever you assert your own value and demand respect, you are representing not only yourself, but also your entire lineage before you, and indeed after you. A whole lineage of warriors, fighters and survivors that has braved every war, every plague, and every famine — that legacy is encoded within your very DNA. As such, any disrespect towards you, if left unaddressed, will indirectly have a negative impact on your ability to realise your own potential, and thus the potential passed down to you by your own ancestors. Your forefathers may have reached the ceiling of their own potential in their day, but it is both your duty and privilege to honour them, by upholding your heritage and fulfilling your own potential to the best of your ability.

No longer do you need to feel alone. No longer do you need to associate openness with vulnerability. When you stand up for your potential, you have an entire army of ancestors right behind you…

Credit to Steve & Pauline Richards, at Jung To Live By, for turning me on to this powerful new frame-shift.



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