It’s All About Attitudes- Part 2: Aggressive

by Rusty Fleischer, Program Director, and Jerry Medol, Director –

aggressive man

In the process of preparing for the attitude “aggressive”  (the second topic in on our “It’s All about Attitude” series), we checked out definitions online to see how well they align with the Anger Alternatives understanding of aggressive behavior. Some of the words and descriptions we found were; “ready or likely to attack or confront”, “a behavior or disposition that is forceful, hostile or attacking”, “belligerent”, “may occur in retaliation or without provocation”. With some additions, this fits for us.

In our work we relate to an aggressive attitude as the “you” attitude. Someone who is aggressive is usually making “you” statements; in other words, telling others about themselves or what they should do. We all have come in contact with an aggressive person at some time or another in our personal relationships or in our workplace and have heard that person telling us what we should or shouldn’t do or how we should or shouldn’t behave or even think.

A person with an aggressive attitude usually approaches issues by making unilateral decisions or giving orders to others. An aggressive person wants to control and believes there is no other way. The deep fear of not being in control is what determines the aggressive behavior.

When someone is aggressive, he or she is attempting to dominate and is acting without respect. He or she give orders and does not see others as equals relating to themselves, and see themselves as superior to and having more power than others. People with aggressive attitudes can be difficult to be around. They tend to not listen, be impatient, and can be pushy and intolerant.

The irony of aggressiveness is that there is a constant need to dominate and enforce. It indicates low self-esteem that gets acted out by controlling or trying to control someone or something. The aggressive person does not realize that their behavior sets him or her up as a target to be discounted and undermines his or her credibility

One of our clients, Fred, has been dealing with aggressive behavior his whole life. Over the past few months it has reached an extreme in his relationship with his wife and other family members. With the threat of being separated from the ones he loves, he decided to address his aggressive and controlling attitude.

Fred’s father was a “jock”, a total sports freak and demanded the same attitude from him. In high school his father forced him to go out for football and wrestling. When Fred did not perform according to his father’s standards, he was shamed and verbally and physically abused. From early childhood  the relationship between Fred and his father was very distant and filled with fear, shame and anger.

As a result of this, Fred grew up fearing failure, needing control and to be in control. This attitude has carried on throughout Fred’s adult life, continuing into his marriage of 17 years and 3 children.

Fred joined our “Stoppit!”© Program and by the end of his very first meeting he began to realize how his controlling behavior was affecting those around him and driving them away from him. He became aware that on a regular basis he was telling others what to do, how to do it and what was wrong with them. These were the same things he heard as a child growing up.

Until that time Fred had believed that he was helping and supporting his wife and kids because he “knew better” than they did as to what they needed. He felt unappreciated because of the lack of cooperation and was always upset with them because they did not do what he said without an argument or a fight.

Fred had to learn that he could only control himself and could not control anybody or anything outside of himself. The “Stoppit!”© meetings were  a life changing experience for Fred. He learned to slow down and breathe, and listen. His entire family has begun to relate differently to Fred and to each other as their interpersonal communication improved. Fred is amazed to discover that he really has become the positive family influence he  wanted to be.

All names have been changed to protect the privacy of clients.

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