In Search of a Passive Aggressive Definition?

hidden anger

There is a lot of talk about this behavior, but not a good one passive aggressive definition to clarify things up…

There is a lot of interest in having a working passive aggressive definition around, but few ones that can offer solutions for this disruptive behavior.

The passive aggressive definition offered by James Long, in “The Angry Smile””, says that it is:
“a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger.”

So, we get to know what is passive aggressive behavior, but never we get information about the why.
And here is the great divide in passive aggressive definitions:

Most of them are but a list of behaviors, shorter or longer, like in Wikipedia:

  • Ambiguity and cryptic speech: a means of creating a feeling of insecurity in others or of disguising one’s own insecurities;
  • Intentional inefficiency, e.g. being late or forgetting things, as a way to exert control or to punish;
  • Convenient forgetfulness: to win any argument with a dishonest denial of real events;
  • Cold shoulder response: withdrawing into long silences to avoid either confronting or connecting with others.
  • Fear of competition;
  • Fear of dependency;
  • Fear of intimacy as a means to act out anger: the passive-aggressive often cannot trust; because of this, they guard themselves against becoming intimately attached to someone;
  • Making chaotic situations;
  • Making excuses for non–performance in work teams;
  • Obstructionism; Sulking;
  • Victimization response: instead of recognizing one’s own weaknesses, tendency to blame others for own failures.

So, we can reach the conclusion that passive aggression definition is the preferred compromise by a person who needs to be connected with the world, and does not like it.

But, she/he needs to go along…so this kind of “hostile cooperation behavior” is the end result.

Now, comes the basic question?

Why is it that the Passive Aggressive person can’t express his needs and confront others?

Rather than put their angry feelings into words and express emotions honestly, they use phrases like “Fine” and “Whatever” to shut down direct communication.
Passive aggressive behavior is a deliberate and masked way of expressing feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008).

Passive aggression involves a range of behaviors designed to get back at another person without that person readily recognizing the underlying anger.

Why the need to mask one’s anger feelings?

Because this is, really, what you do when the other is a grown up who can be dominant and you are a smaller child.

We support the hypothesis that, being frustrated and made feel insignificant and insecure of being really loved in his childhood, the child got the message: to be able to fit, he needs to conform, but distrusting the environment, he can never accept social rules, like trusting the good will and support of others….So he plays along the insider role, while making people feel his inner resistance and his anger as directed towards them
In the end, this behavior looks like a permanent reaction to something that used to happen way back in the past, with the family of origin. Now, anyone confronting them will be treated as if he or she was the original frustrating parent, with the same hidden anger, contempt and resistance that parent deserved….years ago.
Here and now, they use behaviors designed to get back at the hurtful person of their past, without the passive aggressor having to own up to or articulate their true feelings. Here in this core resides the paradoxical message that present friends, co workers and lovers will receive from the PA person: “I’m with you here and now, but will treat you and react to you as if I’m this frustrated child and you were the parent of this 5 years old again frustrating me…”

This is the hidden drama of the passive aggressive person: to be reenacting an interaction from the past, with an unsuspecting partner now, unable to react as a grown up.
And trapped in this chronic situation, his world of friends and relatives and co-workers crumbles around…
He gets to be more isolated and frustrated and angry and more prone to clam up as time passes, the inner situation is not addressed and people around leave because he is unable to express love instead of anger.

About Nora Femenia

Nora Femenia, Ph.D, is the CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions and the author of the book The Art of Living with a Passive Aggressive Husband, a field guide for women that have to deal with passive aggression in their partners. Nora also post regularly to her blog Creative Conflicts. Visit her blog and join the community to discuss issues related to Conflicts, Relationships and receive Free her book “Breaking Free From The Silent Treatment”

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