Saturday, 08 October 2016 04:15

From passive aggression to assertiveness

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Why I Was Not An Adult Man; The Need For Assertiveness Training

Ozodi Osuji

As a result of my problematic body, in childhood I was very fearful; I feared harm and death. When a child is in a state of fear he tends to cling to his parents for protection. Thus, I clung to my parents to protect me.

To be protected one must do what the protector wants one to do. Thus, as a child I found out what my parents (and significant others in general) wanted me to do and did them. I was totally law abiding and never did anything that was slightly antisocial in nature.

However, I was obedient not because I independently arrived at the rules that I was obeying but because I feared not obeying them, for to not obey them would bring my parents rejection and their not protecting me (these were what were in my mind; of course I cannot speak for my parents; may be they would not have rejected me?).

I generalized my approach to my parents to fearing alienating society and God, for I wanted them to protect me. I did not do the right thing because it was self-evident but to get the protection of my parents, society and God; that is, I feared disobeying my significant others.

Obedience based on fear of rejection is childish obedience. Thus, I was a childish person who blindly obeyed all the rules of my parents, society and so-called God.

To be adult in one's psychological make up one must do only what one believes is self-evidently true and not do them to please other people out of fear of their rejection of one.

The person who fears people's rejection and conforms to what they would approve is psychologically not a man; he is developmentally a child under the age of twelve years old.

That was where I was at before I evaluated my life style and said good bye to my passive aggressive behavior life style.

The passive aggressive person obeys other people, and pleases them to get them to like him, and since he is not living his own life as he sees fit, occasionally, feels imposed on by other people. When he feels imposed on he feels like he is a door mat that other people walk all over and push around and feels angry at them; he explodes in anger at those he hitherto pleased and who had seen him as a nice man.

Those he explodes at (he may have intermittent explosive disorder) wonder where all that rage came from; it came from not doing his own thing, from not living his life as he sees fit.

If you do not think your own thoughts and do your own things you are disloyal to yourself and feel angry at those you believe made you betray you, those you compulsively pleased.

The solution to this problem is to figure out what makes sense to you and do it and not do anything to please other people so as to get them to like you.

This is very critical in intimate relationships: you must not do things to please your significant others (parents, siblings, peers, pastors, work bosses etc.); you must only do what you believe is right and if as result of being yourself other people reject you so be it.

You do not need other people's acceptance to live your life; in our capitalist society other people do not feed you so you can do without other people's approval (Albert Ellis, in his cognitive therapy, used to make this point regarding why you should not care for what other people think of your behavior) .

One must only do what one believes is true. For example, I believe that love is the only appropriate behavior towards all people so I love people. This does not mean pleasing them or allowing them to take advantage of me; if folks dared telling me what to do I would immediately set them straight; I am the boss of my life, not the boss of other people's lives.

Often times, passive aggressive folks who please people out of desire to be liked by them and fear social rejection go from their passive life style to becoming aggressive.

In aggressive behavior they assert their rights and insist on them been done by all around them. Well, other people do not live to do what you consider your rights; all you can legitimately do is state your rights but you cannot insist that other people obey you. Aggressiveness is when you want other people to do as you asked them to do or else you feel angry at them.

The middle ground between passivity and aggressivity is assertiveness. In assertive life style you vigorously assert your rights, allow other people to assert their rights and both of you make compromises as to what is done in your shared milieu.


The individual's character comes to the fore in boy-girl relationships or marital relationships. If you are passive and unassertive you tend to do things to please your partner because you are afraid of displeasing her; you do not want to alienate her for doing so may lead to her rejecting you, ending the relationship. Thus, you allow your partner to push you around and or anticipate what she wants done and do it.  If this is your life style you will not have a happy relationship with your significant other.

To have a happy, peaceful and satisfying relationship with your love object you must insist on doing what you believe is right and have the other person do the same and both of you find a compromise on what is done in your shared environment.

Sex is critical in marriage. Suppose that you want sex, say, twice or thrice a week (which books on human sexuality say is the norm in marriages), and your partner does not want that frequency of sex and insist on, say, once a month? If you go along with her life style the marriage will not be a happy one.  If she does not like sex then you have to leave the relationship and find a partner whose sex drive is at the same level as yours.

Or suppose you like to talk about sex and your partner does not want to talk about it; or suppose you want to play with each other's body and your partner does not even want you to see her naked, talk more touch her body playfully?

You cannot allow yourself to be deprived of sexual satisfaction because of your partner's religious belief as to what is sexually appropriate or not.

All behaviors are appropriate provided that no one is hurt; any sexual behavior consented to by two adults is appropriate for them.

Those who plan to live together happily and peacefully must satisfy each other's animal needs or they have no business being together.

A good relationship requires both parties in it to meet each other's physical, emotional, psychological and material needs.


At some point in my life I recognized that I lived to please my significant others and as a result I was not really an adult man who did what he felt is right.

Because I lived to please other people I had undercurrent passive aggressive anger towards those I pleased.

For example, if I had money I would give all of it to those around me and then have none left. I would then feel angry at what I did, especially since other people do not have a need to do as I did hence do not give me money, even when I am in need of it.

The solution to my problem is for me to be assertive and only do what I believe is the right thing to do in every situation I find myself.

I no longer do anything to please other people. In fact, I could care less if you jumped into an ocean and drowned yourself if the alternative is for me to fear displeasing you; all that matters to me is figuring out the right thing and doing it.

This approach to life transformed my interpersonal relationship from pleasing people to get them to like me to assertiveness.

The assertive person is an adult person.  Thus, I now live as an adult not the child I had lived as during most of my life.

Ozodi Osuji

October 7, 2016

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176