(MARCH 2018) 

All of the things we have talked about so far in the Life Experience Chain have been internal activities. Behaviour on the other hand, is external.

I like the analogy of the iceberg. All these things (childhood rules and messages, resulting beliefs which form thoughts, feelings, choices, and decisions) are the part of the iceberg that lay below the surface, the unseen parts. All of those parts then form the behaviour, the part that people do see. And like the iceberg, people respond to what they see.

You may believe that people know, or at least should know, what you are thinking and feeling but this is not so. That is a form of twisted thinking just like believing you know what others are thinking and feeling. What you see on the outside may not always match what is happening on the inside. Just as it is important to check out a person’s behaviour if you are unsure of the cause, it is important for you to tell people what you think and feel instead of letting them “read” your behaviour.


Sometimes people get caught in what is called victim behaviour or self defeating ways of behaving. Below are a few examples of some common types of victim behaviour. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • don’t take responsibility: instead of looking at how they might have contributed to a situation, they blame others or circumstances. Sometimes this can lead to “bully” type behaviour


  • are “stuck” in life: since they believe they haven’t caused anything, they believe they are powerless to fix or change anything.


  • have trouble being assertive: struggle to state what they need, desire or deserve so will hint instead of asking or telling directly. This may cause them to do something they don’t want to do or not do something they want to do.


  • have no sense of limits: letting other’s opinion/behaviour intimidate or manipulate them or allowing abusing words or behaviours.


  • feel sorry for themselves: comparing themselves to others negatively; getting stuck with regrets of what could/should have been; seeing life as always lacking.


Can you trace the victim behaviours (that you personally identify with) back to your old rules/messages and beliefs/thoughts? Here is an example:

Victim Behaviour: have no sense of limits

Rules/messages: “You’ll do as you’re told ” ; “Don’t be a know- it- all ”;

Beliefs/thoughts:What I think/want doesn’t matter ” ; “Others know better/more than me



There are three main styles of interaction – aggressive, passive, and assertive. These can be defined even further but we will look at the three broad categories.


Indicators Aggressive Passive Assertive
Body language lots of movement, fists, pointing finger, moves in close to overpower  

nervous movements, powerless stance, may not face you but turn aside

attentive but relaxed, poised, close but not “in your face”
Facial expression  

grim, tight, frown, red face


expressionless, frowning

firm but friendly

Eye contact




furtive or none



Tone of voice angry, harsh, hard  

whiny, baby-like, whimpering

calm, firm, unemotional

Level of voice


raised, loud


low, weak, soft


even, level volume

Words used  

blames, orders, swears, threatens, focuses only on wants of speaker

hems and haws, rambles, apologetic  

reasonable, logical, deals with issues not personality




I’m important/ you’re not. I win/you lose


You’re important/I’m not. You win/I lose


We’re both important. We both win

Possible results others get angry, defensive, scared, don’t want to be around you  

gets no respect,

may get “used”,

you feel badly yourself



self respect,

gets respect from others, feel

confident and in control,

usually gets cooperation


Becoming Assertive

You have all the tools you need for making good interaction although you may not use all of them: your breath, body, facial expression, voice, gestures, words, and intonation are all universal human communication tools. The condition your tools are in depends on the use you make of them. You may feel awkward and unreal as you try new ways of interacting and return to the old and familiar. Keep trying. Be aware of when and how you use them. Have patience while you are learning and practice them for greater skill.

  1. Practice standing in front of a mirror. Remember, people are reading you from the outside; you are feeling from the inside.
  1. How are you standing?
  2. How does your face look?
  3. Are you making good eye contact?
  4. How does your voice sound?


2. Practice what you say. The words you use can determine how the interaction is received. “You” often  sounds like an accusation so start by using “I” statements. Describe the situation and do it from your viewpoint. Ask for what you want.

Example:I feel upset when I talk to you and you don’t respond. It makes me think you are not listening.”

Example:Right now I feel really frightened. Would you be able to stay with me for awhile?”

Start trying new ways of interacting by picking a situation that is easy to handle or a person with whom you are comfortable. The level of risk is low and you are more likely to succeed. Then as your confidence builds, try situations that involve a bit more risk.


It’s time to take some of your old self-defeating behaviours (victim, aggressive, passive) and turn them into assertive ones you choose to live by now. Here’s a couple of examples to get you started.


Old Behaviour: I would hint that I wanted to do something with my friend, then pout when she didn’t suggest it.

New Behaviour: I will ask my friend directly to go for a coffee with me.


Old Behaviour: I would accuse my son of being lazy when he didn’t take out the garbage.

New Behaviour: I will tell my son that I get angry when it seems he doesn’t do his share of the work.


As a child, you were not responsible for knowing they were self-defeating behaviours. You do have a choice as an adult about what type of behaviour you continue to have. You have the right to change them to the assertive and sociable behaviours that will validate and empower you.

Choose today to start making changes in your behaviour. Change will occur as you continue to:

  • Recognize yourself-defeating, antisocial behaviours.
  • Replace them with assertive, sociable ones.
  • Start practising these new behaviours.



self-defeating, antisocial                               BEHAVIOUR                            assertive, social



poor, unsafe                                                 DECISIONS                                     wise, safe



few, limited                                            CHOICES                                       many, varied



painful, intolerable                                     FEELINGS                                helpful, manageable




illogical, self-defeating                             THOUGHTS                                logical, self-enhancing




irrational, damaging                                     BELIEFS                                   rational, healing



unhealthy, dishonouring                                                                                         healthy, trustworthy

given to me as a CHILD                   RULES AND MESSAGES               created by me as an ADULT




Judith S. Carscadden