In 2009 I was at an all time low. I was deeply unhappy in my marriage and very depressed. At my worst point I finally confided in my parents and they decided to pay for me to have treatment at arguably one of the best facilities in the world. During my time there I embarked on an unexpected journey of self discovery and began my life-long quest to gain greater psychological knowledge and understanding. It is a journey which has given me many insights into human nature and one I have found profoundly rewarding.
One of the very first things I was introduced to when I got treatment was the notion that all of us have basic rights we are born with. These rights are separate from our legal human rights however they are just as intrinsic to our very being. In one of my very first assertiveness classes I was given a list of these basic rights. I would later discover these were taken from Anne Dickson’s book ‘A Woman In Your Own Right: Assertiveness And You’. Although the book speaks to woman, the rights and assertiveness principles outlined are universal and are just as applicable to men.
With no prior knowledge of psychology I was astounded by some of the rights written before me in black and white. Being naturally passive, it had never occurred to me that, as Anne so eloquently puts it “I have the right to be treated with respect as an intelligent, capable and equal human being”. Before having treatment and coming into contact with Anne’s work, a large portion of my life was spent angry with others and never quite understanding why. I was overwhelmed with a sense of validation as I read through Anne’s list of our rights, each one designed to honour our innate dignity as human beings. Because I had never known what my rights were I had allowed others to violate them throughout my life, without even realising it.
In reading Anne’s list of rights, it was as if I had just been told I had been a prisoner all of my life, and I had suddenly realised why I felt so trapped. Finally I was liberated because I now knew where my anger had come from, but – most liberating of all – I could ensure these rights were no longer violated by using assertiveness. In her book ‘A Woman In Your Own Right: Assertiveness And You’ Anne Dickson lists the following as our intrinsic rights:
1) I have the right to state my own needs and set my own priorities as a person, independent from any roles that I may assume in my life.
2) I have the right to be treated with respect as an intelligent, capable and equal human being.
3) I have the right to express my feelings.
4) I have the right to express my opinions and values.
5) I have the right to say ‘no’ and ‘yes’ for myself.
6) I have the right to make mistakes and forgive myself.
7) I have the right to change my mind.
8) I have the right to say ‘I don’t understand’ and ask for more information.
9) I have the right to ask for what I want.
10) I have the right to decline responsibility for other peoples problems.
11) I have the right to deal with others without being dependent on them for approval.
Have others violated your rights when interacting with you in the past? How did this leave you feeling? When these rights are violated we can often feel angry we are not being treated with the consideration and respect we deserve – and rightly so! These are, after all, our fundamental rights from birth and are the basis of our most basic boundaries. Next week we’ll explore how these rights can affect our self-esteem and each right will be looked at in more detail so we can better understand each rights importance and learn how to master asserting them in our everyday lives.
What has been your experience of people violating your rights? Have you ever used assertiveness without realising it? Please comment and share your experiences with our community to gain encouragement and support from one another.
Exercises: 1) Try to memorise the rights that have been violated against you so you can more easily recognise when they are being violated in future.
Further resources: ‘A Woman In Your Own Right: Assertiveness and You‘ by Anne Dickson, available on Amazon