Julie Miller's Mental Health Blog

Archive for the ‘“P” is for Passive-Aggressive’ Category

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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“He’s/She’s so passive aggressive…”

A pervasive pattern of negativistic attitudes and passive resistance to demands for social and occupational performance, beginning by early adulthood.  The DSM describes this as a condition requiring further research, but I’m guessing most of us have interacted with someone who displays these characteristics at some time in our lives, or maybe BEEN one of these folks.

The DSM-III (p. 733) goes on to describe the individuals as those who resent, resist, and oppose demands to function at a certain level.  This can include procrastination, forgetfulness, stubbornness, and intentional inefficiency, especially in response to tasks assigned by authority figures (or frankly, anyone willing to make a “demand”).

Remember, this is a PATTERN of these behaviors.  A way to say NO without really saying no.  It’s like being a wolf in sheep’s clothing – I look so nice and docile on the outside, but underneath it all, I’ll show you.  And I’ll get my way,…