The Power of Assertiveness: When Resentment Buildup Destroys (Part 1)
He woke up from the terrible nightmare with a jolt. He was profusely sweating and could still hear the cries of help coming from his best friend Steve, in his dream. A quick glance at his wife’s side of the bed confirmed his worst fears. She was not in bed, again. It seemed like every time he got these nightmares she was never there and to him it felt like a premonition of sorts. Earlier on he heard her slowly creep out of bed and he silently hoped that she was just out on a normal bathroom trip. He looked at his bedside clock and it showed him that she had been gone for over 2 hours. Over the past one month he had been hearing some rumors that his wife, Linda, had been seen cozying up to his best friend but he had no proof to his suspicion. He quickly got out of bed, changed into warmer clothes, picked up his firearm from his bedside drawer and went out looking for his wife. He blamed himself for not giving attention to his suspicions and rumors all this long and determined to put to rest the matter once and for all.
Joshua slowly opened their apartment door and walked to the stairway. Steve lived two floors below their apartment and he was sure that if Linda was having an affair with Steve, then that was the first place to look for her. As he approached Steve’s apartment, he could hear some smooth music coming from his house. He then heard Linda’s laughter fill the dark, cold night. He felt his heartbeat slowly increasing; he could hear the thud of his own heart in his ears and as the grip on his gun went into auto mode. ‘How could Linda and Steve be so ungrateful?’ He reflectively wondered, as he made his way to Steve’s apartment. He had been married to her for the past 5 years and had known Steve for the past 10 years. Three years back, Steve had been in financial difficulties after his business was bankrupted following a cancellation of a project that he had invested heavily in. Joshua had provided him accommodation in his flat as he struggled to get back on his feet.
Given this background, it was obvious that Steve owed a Joshua a lot of gratitude. This was a crude way of paying back. He trusted him so much to an extent that when he got married to his wife, he had no problem introducing her to him. When he observed that Linda was getting along, the assumption was that Linda was just a likeable person even when there appeared to be an excess of indulgence for two. He had ignored all the rumors he had heard about them and at times even defended their close relationship. Now he seriously prayed that there was nothing going on between the two or else they would all face their maker this very night.
He peeped through Steve’s curtains and sure enough there was Linda and Steve, dancing to a slow song together. They were in a tight embrace that left no doubt as to the kind of couple that they were. Joshua felt his mouth go dry and his stomach all in knots. He was having problems swallowing his own saliva and his breathing was getting faster. He rushed to the door and with one swift kick knocked it down. Steve and Linda were shocked as they both tried to get as far from each other as they could, but Joshua had already seen it all. He took his gun and aimed at both of them and shot them in the head without giving them time for any explanations. As he cocked his gun one final time, he remembered his recurring nightmares. He now realized that it wasn’t just a dream but it was a premonition. This was his dream coming true. He always ended up shooting the unfaithful couple and watching them die. He slowly raised the gun to his own head, looked at Linda and Steve as they breathed their last and he splattered his brains all over the place.
Cases like this are getting more common in our modern times. It is as if there is a catharsis of repugnant character among humans in the world we live in today.
Another Way: Overcoming the Knack to Retaliate
Life presents us with choices when it comes to making decisions- A life enhancing (constructive) or death causing (destructive) decision. The outcomes of things that we do are as a result of taking one of the decision paths. In the case of Joshua what were the choices on the table here?
- Would the above case have ended in a different way if Joshua had decided to confront the situation from the first time he grew suspicious about the relationship?
- Even with all grapevine and the rumors going round, why would a loving husband decide to do nothing about it?
- Was it fear or simply a fatalistic approach to issues as grave as infidelity?
- What held Joshua back from interrogating his wife and later Steve to establish the position of the situation which was seemingly get out of hand every passing day?
- If he took it upon himself to confront the situation early enough, would the story have taken a different but life-enhancing /preserving twist?
- What if he had decided that he deserved someone who loved him enough not to cheat on him and walked out on Linda?
- If talking it over with his spouse was a choice, why then didn’t he take this path?
- What lacked in his character?
- Is Joshua’s character any different from that of thousands if not millions of people who struggle with communicating their minds and instead result to impulsive decisions leading to catastrophic ends?
- Is assertiveness by the other characters in this story lacking?
- Would it be justifiable to only pick out Joshua as the only person whose character depicts non-assertiveness? When you think about the factors that contributed to this fateful event? How should Linda have handled her attractiveness to Steve in an assertive way? What about Steve?
Being Assertive is all about being able to express your feelings, thoughts, beliefs and opinions in an open manner that doesn’t violate the rights of others. Aggressiveness tends to violate the rights of others whereas being passive is whereby we violate our own rights. It, therefore, calls for a fine balance and great understanding of Assertiveness so that one can be able to communicate effectively with others while at the same time not trample on their rights.
LEARNED OR INBORN?
Assertiveness is a learned behavior and thinking style. We are all born assertive. However, down the road we gradually adapt our behaviors to fit into the responses that we receive from the environment. We tend to pick up communication styles that are dependent on the kind of environment that we grew up in. For example, if you grew up in a family that dictated you should always please others before yourself; then becoming assertive about your own needs becomes hard. There are a number of factors that stop us from becoming assertive and they range from Self-defeating beliefs, Skills deficit, Anxiety & stress, Situation evaluation to Cultural & generational influences. When we become anything less than assertive then we slip into a state of Passivity.
Joshua had grown up in a family that did not encourage assertiveness and his parents were aggressive. That meant that Joshua learnt to keep what he felt or thought to himself. This meant that he ended up agreeing with and fulfilling other people’s needs or wants rather than his own. He always felt that his life lacked some purpose and he did not feel like he was in control of his own life. He carried the same unfulfilled feeling to his marriage to Linda. The years of unexpressed thoughts and feelings ensured that he was always tense, stressful, anxious and resentful. He felt like Linda never really knew him and felt that if she actually knew who he was as a person then she would have never gotten married to him. These feelings of low self-esteem are what kept him from confronting Linda and Steve when he first heard of their alleged affair. He always had such a negative mental image about himself that he did not believe that he deserved something better and even his suicide after killing the two showed that he did not think of himself as worthy enough to keep on living afterwards.
So have you been programmed to keep your feelings to yourself because by sharing them you trample on other peoples’ rights? That is not the case. We can all learn how to be Assertive. We can all learn how to stand up for ourselves and act in a manner that is respectful to those around us. We can learn how to let go of resentment by expressing ourselves directly at the person who has hurt us and at the time it happened. All this can be learned by embracing a more Assertive lifestyle.
Is there a relationship between Assertiveness and Anger Management?
In our next part, we shall be interrogating assertiveness or lack of it on the part of Linda.