The Nature of Human Aggression
Our instinct to fight is a close cousin of our survival instinct. Most everyone "fights" to survive and prosper, and most
of the fighting we do is neither physically violent nor inherently destructive.
In this book, the term aggression will refer to the forceful energy we all expend in our daily bids to survive, advance ourselves, secure things we believe will bring us some kind of pleasure, and remove obstacles to those ends.
People do a lot more fighting in their daily lives than we have ever been willing to acknowledge. The urge to fight is fundamental and instinctual.
Fighting is not inherently wrong or harmful. Fighting openly and fairly for our legitimate needs is often necessary and constructive. When we fight for what we truly need while respecting the rights and needs of others and taking care not to needlessly injure them, our behavior is best labeled assertive
, and assertive behavior is one of the most healthy and necessary human behaviors. […] But when we fight unnecessarily, or with little concern about how others are being affected, our behavior is most appropriately labeled aggressive
. […] Adopting a perspective advanced largely by Carl Jung, I would assert that the evil that sometimes arises from a person's aggressive behavior necessarily stems from his or her failure to "own" and discipline this most basic human instinct.
Two Important Types of Aggression
Two of the fundamental types of aggression (others will be discussed later) are overt
aggression. When you're determined to have your way or gain advantage and you're open, direct, and obvious in your manner of fighting, your behavior is best labeled overtly aggressive. When you're out to "win", get your way, dominate, or control, but are subtle, underhanded, or deceptive enough to hide your true intentions, your behavior is most appropriately labeled covertly aggressive. Concealing overt displays of aggression while simultaneously intimidating others into backing-off, backing-down, or giving in is a very powerful manipulative maneuver. That's why covert-aggression is most often the vehicle for interpersonal manipulation.
Covert and Passive-Aggression
[…] Covert and passive-aggression are both indirect ways to aggress but they are not at all the same thing. Passive-aggression is, as the term implies, aggressing through passivity. Examples of passive-aggression are playing the game of emotional "get-back" with someone by resisting cooperation with them, giving them the "silent treatment" because you're angry with them, pouting or whining, not so accidentally "forgetting" something they wanted you to do because you're angry and didn't really feel like obliging them, etc. In contrast, covert aggression is very active
, albeit veiled, aggression.