Excerpt From Relationships That Work: The Power Of Conscious Living
– By David B. Wolf

To assert ourselves means to know ourselves. If I want to assert myself I need to know what I believe, what I feel, what I think and what is truly important for me. Thus, assertiveness is indispensable for a life of spiritual integrity. In examining my core principles, beliefs and aspirations, it is important to distinguish between what I think “should” be my principles, feelings and values, and what my actions actually reveal them to be. Such awareness is an important part of the process of spiritual development and genuine assertive expression.

Even if Robert’s reaction to his wife’s assertive expression is some form of fight or flight, Lisa’s assertiveness has assured that she is in her integrity. She has expressed her truth with courage and sensitivity. Our responsibility is not to change others—though with our assertive expression they may change. Our responsibility is to assert our own truth in a manner that respects the rights of others.

Additionally, with assertiveness Lisa establishes boundaries regarding how she is and is not willing to be treated. It is said that we teach people how to treat us, and with assertive expression we consciously give lessons on what we are and what we are not ready to tolerate. Personal power, including the ability to create satisfying boundaries, comes from effective communication.

Non-judgmental understanding is a valuable commodity. As you become a better listener, you may find that more and more people seek you out. This itself can present a challenge, one in which it is important to know how to establish personal boundaries. Being assertive means that we are able to maintain healthy boundaries that prevent us from becoming jaded, drained and of little use to anyone, without building walls that isolate us from others.

Knowing how to say no is an essential tool in creating boundaries. Influenced by a desire to please people and to be liked, we may lack the assertiveness to say no when we really want to. Let us keep in mind that if we say yes to something, we are implicitly also saying no to other things. For example, if I say yes to working overtime, I may be saying no to family or recreation time. Perhaps I am saying yes to fear of losing my job.

Proficiency in assertive expression keeps us energized and continually inspired to relate, give and contribute. Research among helping professionals has led to the development of a new field of study—compassion fatigue. This phrase refers to feelings of depletion from constantly absorbing the pain of others. Immediately following a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster or a violent attack, a team of helpers, including doctors, counselors, nurses and social workers, is sent to the scene. Nowadays, as a matter of course, a few days later a second team of mental health professionals is dispatched to address the compassion fatigue of the first team. It is understood that after being present for and intensely absorbing such intense grief for several days, many persons will naturally need intervention. This recognizes the importance of having sound boundaries in place when it comes to emotionally charged exchanges, and indicates the value of assertive communication. Preserving boundaries is integral to steadily participating in life and relationships with joy, appreciation and compassion.

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