The Five Styles of Avoidance of Self-Assertion

by Mark Sichel, LCSW

March may come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, but YOU don't have to. Lion and lamb personalities tend to fall into five unique categories of self-assertion avoidance. None of these five styles is a particularly pleasant or effective means with which to deal with other people.

Are you a lion/lamb personality? Do you find yourself unable to assert yourself in a reasonable manner? See if you can recognize the style of avoidance that YOU may fall into as we continue our discussion below.

The specific category a lion/lamb personality falls into is largely determined by a person's overall character, the nature of their trigger situations or "hot spots," and the way in which they deal with their trigger situations. The discrete styles of avoidance are learned early in life, and are often based on either the role modeling of a parent, or the techniques used for coping with one's parents employed during childhood.

Let's examine the psychologist's explanation of each style, and then see how both the lamb and the lion express themselves in all five styles of avoidance of self-assertion. Then, let's compare the lion and lamb approaches with a reasonable, straightforward, self-assertive approach.

STYLE 1: Avoidance that appeals to superego or conscience in an attempt to evoke guilt, manipulate, bully, scare, or threaten.

STYLE 2: Narcissistic exaggeration and primitive thinking, which contain black and white statements and dramatization in order to have impact.

STYLE 3: Disavowal of assertion so as to appear "nice."

STYLE 4: Indirect and evasive style of self-assertion

STYLE 5: Denial of ownership of wish for assertion

Whichever particular style of avoidance lambs or lions may adopt, these examples clearly show that true assertiveness is much more direct, clear, honest, and effective in getting our needs met. It is neither as evasive as the lamb nor as threatening as the lion. We may have learned how to be lions or lambs through our upbringing, but once we see that it isn't working for us anymore, we have the power to change it. Let's all make this March a month of self-assertiveness! Let us be neither lions nor lambs today.


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