Julie Miller's Mental Health Blog

#2 Passive Aggressive

Posted on: June 10, 2010

Passive aggressive behavior does not mean someone has passive aggressive personality disorder, maybe traits or features, if there is a pattern.

I don’t have much of a pattern, but I have two stories from my own life which I believe demonstrate passive aggressive behaviors.  I hesitate to share them because I know out there somewhere these poor people involved in this will be saying “SEE!  I TOLD YOU SO!” if they read it.  The chances of that are unlikely, I admit, but I must say these are not shining examples of my past behavior.  Anyway…

Many (and I mean many) years ago, I was engaged to a man who had moved in with me.  Well, naturally things went south and we broke up.  Actually, I broke up with him first, but agreed to give it another shot and go to couples counseling.  He then broke up with me in the therapist’s office.  I must say I was very highly peeved.  This seemed like a passive aggressive behavior on his part.  Within a few days, he asked to borrow my garden hose, to which I agreed.  I was meeting him to exchange some stuff.  Well, of course I “forgot” the garden hose.  I did not make a conscious choice to do so, but in retrospect, I can see I was angry with him and didn’t want to continue the engagement of his having my stuff and then having to get it back from him.  It was a convenient way to get what I wanted, and to say “NO” without seeming to be mean or petty.  Big deal?  No, but I didn’t feel good about myself.

Also many (many) years ago, I was asked by an acquaintance to meet with her regularly to talk about recovery in 12-step programs for relationship issues, like a sponsor.  I did not want to do this; I felt a little coerced by another person who wanted me to do it, and I did not stand up for myself.  Instead of saying “NO” and risking looking bad, I said yes.  I was late or “forgot” almost every one of those early morning meetings at a local restaurant.  I remember awakening to her phone call from the restaurant and just beating myself up time after time.  Finally, I realized I didn’t want to do it, and I was wasting her time and mine by continuing to agree.  I got honest, she expressed a worse opinion of me than if I’d just been honest from the beginning, and at last I could sleep past 7 am guilt-free.

Lesson learned.  If I’m not honest in saying NO when I mean it, I’ll find some way to say it indirectly.  So even though it’s sometimes difficult to say no, knowing it may hurt another’s feelings or disappoint them, I still know I must do it.  Otherwise, we’ll both be paying the price.

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