Do you never show your anger? © Martyn Carruthers

Passive aggression is a relationship problem, usually fuelled
by repressed fear or hidden anger and motivated by insecurity.
Covert hostility damages relationships and alienate people.

While people can and should be angry sometimes, some
people habitually hide their anger. They may even believe
that they have no anger or that they never get angry.

Passive Aggression & Covert Hostility

Have you noticed that some people may be nice to you at first, but later, when they feel safe, they may insult, attack or hurt you? Some people promise good things but then seem to forget or procrastinate. Yet they seemed to have such good intentions.

The words passive aggressive summarize the behavior of people who may react to you with fear and later rebel against you with anger. Secrecy, lies, affairs and silence are common passive aggressive habits, although these people may be unable to say why they do these things – and be genius at denying or rationalizing their behavior.

My husband would make a mess each day and expect me to clean it up.
I did this for years until one day I walked out – to a lawyer. It seemed to be over.
Then we had some sessions with you … we are both pleased with our changed lifestyle.

Afraid to be Angry

Passive aggression is unconscious. If a person pretends to be passive as a tool or as a weapon, then the words diplomatic, strategic or even covertly hostile may be appropriate. Passive aggressive people compulsively hide their emotions … which precipitates predictable relationship problems.

My wife says I’m cold but I’m not. She says we have big problems but we don’t.
Things aren’t bad, but she cries a lot and says I don’t love her. I do love her,
I don’t hurt her, I don’t try to control her and I don’t know what her problem is.

For some people, acting passively or behaving like a victim is a normal way of life. Such people may respond to tasks with excuses, complaints, procrastination and forgetfulness. They may avoid completing tasks, perhaps claiming to be sick when a task is due. They may blame others to avoid responsibility.

Passive aggression not only abuses other people – it is also self-harm. It is a way to avoid meaningful human bonds. Relationships with passive aggressive people may feel emotionally frozen. They may not deliberately hurt you – they simply avoid expressing their emotions, even to themselves.

You may see some characteristics of passive aggression in people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder or an antisocial disorder. (Note that these labels are only opinions that cannot be confirmed by any laboratory.)

How is this possible?

Immature parents often teach their children to hide emotions. These children may appear subdued, with less vitality than normal. Later in life, their hidden emotions may be triggered by or projected onto other people – often onto authorities such as teachers, police and team leaders … and perhaps transferred onto their partners.

We hear many such stories. Often these people had unstable parents, or parents who demanded that the children do things beyond their ability. The children often learned to hide their feelings and forget their goals.

They call me passive aggressive but they are wrong. They are jealous because
I don’t work so hard … they blame me for everything, just like my parents …
I had to look after my sisters since I was six … I never had time to be me …
I was just their babysitter

Passive Aggression in Relationships

Passive aggressive people seem to move through life like knights on a chessboard—two steps forward and a step to the side. They want relationships but avoid commitment. They may act childishly in the presence of authorities, and they may feel unable to end unpleasant relationships.

Submissive resistance damages relationships. Passive-aggressive people may have problems saying, “No“, yet not finish tasks that they commit to. They avoid showing anger yet are often envious of other people’s success. They often prefer symbiotic or codependent relationships. Other signs are that they :

  1.  are easily irritated
  2.  avoid telling the whole truth
  3.  make excuses or blames others
  4.  may have sexual or romantic affairs
  5.  start arguments and fight about trivia
  6.  deny emotions and avoid commitment
  7.  deny their behavior or claims good intentions
  8.  avoid or forget to do their share of household tasks

They can be abstract, vague and philosophical – people may often ask them what they are really thinking. They may encourage other people to think that they have failed. They may feel that they are so special that societal rules don’t apply to them.

My ex-wife pretends to be nice but she simmers with anger. She is always suspicious.
Before our marriage she criticized and insulted her first husband. After our marriage
she criticized and insulted me. We separated over two years ago but
she still tries to hurt me.

Help for Passive Aggression

Many counselors and therapists avoid clients with emotional problems because such people do not respond well to cognitive techniques.

While our work often provides rapid benefits, we find that passive-aggressive attitudes seem to delay those benefits. We help people assimilate their difficult emotions and develop better ways of coping. Aggression is often driven by childish anger, and then suppressed by childish fear, creating a complex conflict between childish personality parts. (Such conflicts often originate in emotional incest and/or parental alienation.)

If people who request our coaching have already given up on therapy, we may have to help them resolve any therapy damage. People who have tried and failed to manage passive aggression may believe that their situations are hopeless.

People may rationalize or justify their behavior, perhaps saying that they are helpless and cannot change. We often help people accept and assimilate their conflicting parts and change their limiting beliefs about their emotions.

The aggressive side of passive-aggression often arises from buried childhood anger, and the passive side from hidden childhood fear. Children need love and attention – if parents’ reject their children’s emotions, most children learn to hide them.

My mother gave me mixed signals like, “You can play outside or you can stay with poor me.”
I needed a PhD in psychology and sessions with you before I could recognize this …
Since our sessions I can accept her anger, her fears and her ability to distort the truth.
Now her issues are her issues … not mine! Finally I can relax!

Success comes when people who had been labeled as passive-aggressive can define and achieve what they want – when they can calmly say to authorities, “No!”, or say to certain people, “Our relationship is over!“, while enjoying relationships based on honesty and candor.

Contact us to solve your emotional and relationship issues.

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