Assertiveness Clarified

Following my article on Assertiveness, a reader commented:

“I was really intrigued by this week’s newsletter focus on women and assertiveness training as an essential crux. But how do you define assertiveness in your practice? Physical challenges and exercises certainly help develop women develop a sense of power, but it has always concerned me that the whole concept of assertiveness has become a little fuzzy and risks becoming a buzzword similar to what has happened with the term ’empowerment.’”

The commenting reader is, of course, correct. It’s easy to assume that everyone agrees on a words definition when such is not the case. Or that the way to achieve “assertiveness” is the sort of one way fits all that AA demands (though, of course, assertiveness is anathema to Steppers).

So, to be a bit more specific about our use of the term, I will begin by saying that there are many routes depending both on where you start and what you wish to achieve. Okay, I know that’s pretty obscure too.

Let’s consider passivity which usually means never setting boundaries on what is and is not acceptable behavior. This leads to unbalanced relationships, resentments, and, often, passive aggressive drinking. The same is true when dealing with a controlling spouse, family, or even culture. Instead of “stepping up,” one grumbles, drinks, acts out, sabotages, etc. In any case, it means “dealing” with an unacceptable situation destructively.

I’m not suggesting that you go to war over every little annoyance.

I am suggesting you slowly work your way towards a more balanced relationship. Little steps. When to go out to eat and where. Which movie to see and go anyway if your spouse doesn’t care to. Who cooks and who cleans up. Who helps with the homework. Where to travel, when, how, with whom?

And the guiding rule is always, the person who has the responsibility has the final authority. It can go back to the first rule of driving I ever learned: he who drives selects the music. Yes, responsibility confers benefits.

As an adjunct, many people, men as well as women, find their self-confidence enhanced by taking better care of themselves. Whether it strength training, Pilates, or sports, active participation tends to make us braver.

Assertiveness takes practice, easing into, and a belief that our preferences are as valid as anyone else’s. Start acting like you believe that and eventually you will.

Regress! Grow Up! Regress! Grow Up! Regress! Grow Up!

There is no better way to begin to understand the difference between the 12 Step and Non-12 Step views of ending self-medication than to consider what each requires of you.

AA requires that you remain at a 10 year old’s emotional and psychological level, dominated by peers, bullied, enamored of tokens, trinkets, bumper sticker slogans, and a tight knit group of equally “regressed” peers.

Of course it offers the benefits of evading responsibility for your drinking, past, present, and future since you are “powerless over your disease.” Additionally it allows you to evade responsibilities at home because you always have another meeting to attend. And then there’s the added benefit of continuing an alcohol focused life with the same group of drunks you’ve always hung out with.

Those are a lot of benefits to give up.

The option is, essentially to grow up, assume responsibility for your drinking, and addressing it, and becoming a functional adult.

The benefits?

Enjoying a life free of worrying about where the next drink is coming from, getting a DUI, precipitating a divorce, while also having actual relationships – not just drinking buddies or the girls who do lunch – and actually managing your life rather than having it managed by a bunch of silly Steps, “Sponsors” and slogans.

As a long ago client noted, “You have a three Step program: Get a grip. Get a life. Get out of here.” 15 years later we still like her summation, though we might state it as, “Grow up. Being a real functional adult is a lot more fun than being a drunk, wet or dry.”

Ready or not, you can start any time.