Rebuilding a Shattered Core & Dealing with Threatening Humans (Help for Aggressives)

Often in cases of trauma, your subconscious feels that a certain human in your life is primarily responsible for making your mind feel so unsafe and upset. That threatening person might be a parent, a sibling, a relative, a boss, a stranger who assaulted you in the past, or someone else. Sometimes there are multiple threatening figures. Regardless of the numbers, these people terrify your subconscious because they seem to have an incredible amount of power over you. Often that power seems to be a natural trait of the person–such as parents, who are automatically perceived as immensely powerful figures by their children simply due to the biological connection. Other times, someone who seemed neutral at first suddenly attacked you without warning and successfully devastated you. In these cases, your subconscious is shocked by how quickly and effectively it was caught off guard, and it is extremely distressed by how much damage was done under its watchful eye.

Your subconscious’ primary goal is to keep you safe. When it fails to do this, it has a very hard time dealing with its failure. Instead of reasonably assessing what happened and giving itself credit for the efforts it made, it becomes so distressed about its limitations that it can’t see past them. Your subconscious is like a soldier who gets jumped on by 6 other soldiers, fights as hard as he can, but inevitably loses because he is so outnumbered. Afterwards, instead of saying to himself, “I did a darn good job of trying to defend myself against such impossible odds,” the soldier says, “I can’t believe I couldn’t hold them off! If I lost that fight, how can I expect to ever win any fight in the future?! My life is hopeless! I’m pathetic and defenseless! I’ll never be able to relax again! I’ll have to spend the rest of my life on guard waiting for an attack that I’ll surely fail to defend myself against.” This is the grim perspective of a traumatized subconscious, and it is being fueled by four main factors:

  • An unreasonable assessment of what happened.
  • A lack of self-compassion.
  • A lack of self-affirmation.
  • False conclusions about the future.

Once your subconscious becomes traumatized, it starts living in a state of perpetual tension and fear. To try to keep the fear manageable, your subconscious cloaks its fear as anger, which gives it an illusion of being strong. Think about the difference between how strong you feel when you are weeping uncontrollably versus when you are furious. Even though both of these emotions are being fueled by pain and fear, the fury feels safer doesn’t it? You feel better positioned to defend yourself when you’re worked up into a rage with adrenaline coursing through your veins than when you’re feeling embarrassed and ashamed of the tears streaming down your face. Your subconscious has many creative methods of trying to keep things tacked together, and cloaking fear and pain as anger is one of its automatic defenses.

Now when the humans who you feel so threatened by are still in your life, every time you interact with them (or anticipate interacting with them), your subconscious’ stress levels spike. If your natural temperament is aggressive–which means you are prone to lashing out when threatened instead of pulling in–then these surges of stress are often experienced as surges of anger. Because the anger is really fear in disguise, and because your natural instinct is to lash out when you feel afraid, interacting with a threatening human can trigger a strong desire to attack that human. Here is where you might give your wife a hard whack across the face when she makes that cutting comment, or you might punch your brother in the gut when he mocks you. But what happens when the threatening human is someone who you are too afraid to oppose? This is often the case when it comes to parental figures. Aggressive men and women often feel too intimidated to physically attack their parents, even though this is what they internally want to do.

Respecting Your Temperament

Aggressives and passives have a lot in common, but there are some important differences which need to be respected. The very strong need that aggressives have to lash out is one of those differences, and this natural need calls for some different therapeutic methods. An aggressive simply won’t be helped by some of the therapy tools that help passives, and vice versa. If you’re an aggressive temperament, then in addition to practicing things like self-compassion and self-affirmation, you need to give yourself a safe outlet for lashing out–one that does not involve you attacking living beings. Despite the fact that many religious groups and most passives consider your natural attraction to violence to be a “bad” trait that all aggressives should try to scrub out of their personalities, I would argue that such a view is biased nonsense. A thorn is only bad to the person who wants to tear a rose from its bush without getting pricked. To the rose, the thorn is a very helpful defensive tool. Now of course it’s not a good thing when you go beating up your spouse and kids, and aggressives are very prone to doing this sort of thing when they become too agitated. But let’s be fair: any human trait can be turned into a negative when it becomes excessive or misapplied. At the same time, every trait that seems negative has a positive side to it as well.

There are many positive aspects to the aggressive style of lashing out. Rather than curse yourself for being a violent monster (as many traumatized aggressives do), you should put that energy towards finding a better outlet for yourself to express this aspect of yourself. Here is where things like punching bags and video games can be extremely helpful. I especially like violent video games as a therapy tool for aggressives because they allow you to not only attack and neutralize living targets within the game, but there is also a chance to see yourself succeeding and growing in power–two themes that can be extremely helpful in managing your stress.

The Importance of Respect

Self-respect is a core need for humans, which means you must have enough of it before you can feel comfortable in your own skin. That respect is based on different things. There is a moral aspect, which is determined by your soul, and which has to do with you looking in a mirror and seeing someone who you feel is morally decent. But for aggressives, there is also a very important power aspect in which you feel it is critical that you look in a mirror and see someone who is strong.

While no human likes feeling too weak, aggressives are far more sensitive than passives about maintaining a strong self-image. The fact that aggressives feel this way makes them especially upset by traumatic experiences in which they are forced to act weak. When dad towers over you with his fists, beating the crap out of you while your only hope of surviving is to curl up into a cowering ball with your arms protecting your head, your subconscious perceives your behavior as weak. Is that really a fair assessment of what happened? Not hardly. Smart would be a much better summary, and if I were talking to you about your specific situation, I could also point out to you how much strength you were actually demonstrating in the way that you behaved. But until your subconscious learns to make a more reasonable assessment of your behavior, it feels terribly stressed by the fact that its preferred style of defense (a loud, powerful lashing out) was blocked. To your subconscious, the fact that dad forced you to behave passively indicates he has incredible power over you.

It is quite normal to feel a deep internal sense of shattering when you are forced to behave in a way that directly opposes who you are. This is what makes sexual assault so particularly devastating to both passives and aggressives: being forced to have sex with someone who you feel repulsed by is one of those situations in which you are feeling forced to be the antithesis of who you want to be. But aggressives also experience this kind of core shattering when they are forced to act passive in situations where they feel extremely threatened. Even in non-sexual situations, being forced to act passive and do your personal definition of cowering in front of a powerful figure who is dominating you emotionally, psychologically, or physically is enough to get your subconscious locked in severe trauma. When you then feel forced to continue acting passive in life, forever trying to stifle your true self, the resulting stress will eventually reach overwhelming levels. Before you reach a breaking point, it is vital that you start taking steps to begin expressing your true self again. But how can you do this safely?

The longer you roleplay someone who you don’t respect (a passive), the more unhappy you will feel. In these cases, it’s common to think, “I should just say to hell with it all and let myself do whatever I want.” But is this really a good idea? Not in cases of trauma. You see, by the time you’re feeling like you’re going to explode from all the stress of living a lie, your subconscious is so agitated that what it really wants to do is kill every human being that it feels threatened by. Remember that as an aggressive, lashing out is your natural way of dealing with threats, so if you really were to just let yourself “be free,” you’d grab a machine gun and start blasting every human you come across.

Traumatized minds do not see the world as it actually is. Instead, they see it through a heavy filter of fear and negative expectations. Until you get your stress levels down, you’re going to see many threats that don’t really exist. Innocent remarks will sound like malicious insults to you. Friendly gestures will seem like taunting tests. A traumatized mind is a tired mind, and when we’re psychologically fatigued, we don’t have the patience or resources to analyze our situations fairly. To a traumatized aggressive who is stuck in a passive behavior pattern, “shoot first and ask questions later” sounds like a very appealing way to quickly make his world a happier place. But as you’ve seen from watching news coverage of other aggressives who went down that road, blasting your human antagonists to kingdom come only ends up complicating your life with things like prison and rap sheets and public ostracizing.

Instead of going berserk with some form of hands on assault, a far more helpful approach will be to look for ways to increase these two elements in your life:

  • Lashing out at safe targets.
  • Increasing your power in humiliating relationships.

Safe Targets

Let’s deal with the safe targets issue first. Again, I recommend violent video games. I would start off with a solo player game and avoid group playing until you have regained some degree of calm. Many of the folks who get involved in online multiplayer forums are rather unstable themselves and you just don’t need more agitation right now. To be therapeutic, you need a game that appeals to you, so shop around and take the time to watch previews of the game provided by the manufacturers or on YouTube. Open world games are the most in-depth and give you the freedom to veer off script and explore at your own pace. Platform games force you to follow a tight script but that can also mean an intense battle schedule which can be very helpful in the early stages of debriefing. It’s important that you play at a level that is challenging yet doable, so that you can level up and see yourself improving. If you’re new to gaming, set the skill level to easy and give yourself a chance to have fun in battle situations. Seeing the character that you control succeeding–especially in situations of confrontation–is very helpful for traumatized aggressives. To avoid unnecessary stress, avoid games that emphasize themes that are closely related to your own trauma (such as sexual assault).

When you’re trying to reconstruct a shattered self-image, improving your physical abilities can be helpful. If you are interested in sports or martial arts, those can be other excellent ways to safely vent stress through lashing out activities. Lightweight bodybuilding can also be very therapeutic, especially for men, who naturally get a much greater visual effect from working out than women. To keep yourself from getting into an unhealthy obsession with weights, stick to light weights. You can get satisfying results with a few small dumbbells, so there is no need to risk severe injury or shell out the money needed to stuff your house full of a bunch of heavy equipment.

When you’re in decent physical shape, you will feel more confident about defending yourself in a physical alteration. The more confident you are, the better chance you’ll have of staying calm and avoiding confrontations with real people. For both passives and aggressives, the goal is to try to avoid attacking real people (while aggressives attack others, passives tend to attack themselves). The best way to achieve this goal is to find safe ways to vent the stress that is building up in your system and choosing methods that work with your natural temperament.

Gaining Power Over Your Antagonists

While you’re creating opportunities to see yourself acting powerful and successful in your private world, you also need some tools for dealing with the antagonists in your life. Here is where modern technology is such a blessing. Things like texting, caller ID, and custom ringtones are awesome boundary tools that you need to start using to your advantage. First, make a list of who really hacks you off in life. Then remember that anger is a cover for fear, so the people who make you lose your temper the fastest are actually the ones who you feel the most afraid of. You are specifically afraid of their ability to harm you, either emotionally (as Mom does when she refuses to affirm you), or physically (as Dad has done countless times in the past). Being honest with yourself about who scares you in your own life is the first step towards building better defenses.

Ideally, you want to transition all communication with threatening figures over to texts and emails because these forms not only allow you to pause and plan your responses, they also block your antagonists from monitoring you.

When you talk to Mom on the phone, she can glean a lot of information from your tone of voice. When you talk to her in person, she can also monitor your body language. In dysfunctional relationships, power is being badly managed and at least one partner in the relationship is feeling very miserable. In abusive relationships, the abuser learns through their experiences with you how best to control and upset you. Withholding information and changing your response patterns are vital steps to throwing your antagonists off balance and undermining their sense of power over you. You withhold information by keeping your contributions to conversations ridiculously superficial. You also need to whip out the fabulous tool of deception, which plays a critical role in dealing with abusers.

When you are serious about wanting to gain power over an abuser, you need to get into a habit of reporting that your life is always going fine, nothing new is ever happening, and that you never have time to talk. These three lines block your abuser from gaining any new intel about you (which they will instinctively try to leverage against you). By always claiming to be out or busy or getting another call when you’re really not, you keep conversations as short as possible.

In addition to using deception as a means of withholding information, you will also want to employ the fabulous delayed response technique. Here is where you consider what your culture considers to be the max amount of time acceptable to delay before answering a text, email, or phone call, then you wait that long (or perhaps a bit longer) before responding to any communication from your antagonist. When using this technique to change your response patterns, it’s important to avoid giving immediate responses, and that means you should set their number to a silent ring tone and allow it to go immediately to your voice mail. The effect you want here is for your antagonist to feel insecure that their message was received, then frustrated by your lack of response. When Dad sends his usual fishing text that is designed to test your availability so he can suddenly call you and rip you a new one, you need to not respond to the text. If you’re using an app where it will be visible to Dad if you read the text, then leave it unread for at least a day–preferably longer.

There is a complex psychological strategy to people ramping you up which I won’t get into here. But a very important element of successfully agitating someone is timing. The ideal situation for riling someone up is to trap them in a situation where back and forth exchanges can happen rapidly. Where there is rapid back and forth, there is a great opportunity to quickly escalate emotions and knock someone off balance. When you use the delayed response technique, you are preventing that ideal situation from forming, and this really trips up antagonists who are used to getting you riled in just a few sentences.

Power is intimately linked to control, which means the more control you feel you have, the more powerful you will feel. By gaining control over how your antagonists communicate with you, you will increase your sense of power in those relationships. The more powerful you feel, the calmer and less vulnerable you will feel. Less vulnerability means less fear, which means less anger, which means less of a desire to lash out.

Traumatized aggressives who are not trapped in passive roles are very easy to provoke into violent outbursts. Are there people in your life today who you keep striking out at? Instead of just accepting their assessment of your behavior, take a closer look at the situation. Often in cases of traumatized aggressives, aggressives seek out dysfunctional relationship partners who then intentionally provoke them into losing their tempers. There are always logical reasons for why people seek out abusive partners, but as an aggressive, you need to be very wary of people who are trying to take advantage of your current instability. Terror based assaults are ones in which your better judgment goes out the window and you actually become quite vulnerable to being psychologically harmed as you frantically try to physically neutralize the threat in front of you. It’s much better for you to avoid losing your temper so that you can focus enough to make wise choices. Putting more space between you and the people who quickly trigger you is a helpful step in gaining more control.


A critical point I want you to take away from this post is that as an aggressive, you have a built in need to express your stress in a lashing out way, and there are safe ways to express that part of yourself without harming others.

You also need to understand that feeling powerful is a critical part of you being able to respect yourself–much more so than it is for passives. Once again, there are ways of gaining a sense of power that don’t involve you beating heads or cussing people out.

Completely stifling who you naturally are and letting your subconscious run amuck are two unhealthy extremes which only end up increasing your misery in life. But between those two extremes is plenty of room for methods and strategies that allow you to express yourself in ways that don’t violate your soul’s moral code or get you into trouble with the law.

Aggressives have many fabulous strengths, and they bring a much needed balance to the world’s population of passives. By respecting who you are and being honest about your personal needs and fears, you can take steps to help yourself feel calmer while maintaining a greater distance from the humans who threaten you.

This post was written in response to a request.

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