Come into my Parlour, said the Spider to the fly!
F.E.A.R: Forget Everything and Run
How to Spot Passive – Aggression and How to Run from it before it’s too late:
1. Does he tell you he’ll meet you at 7 and then turn up an hour late?
2. Does she seem distant or cold, but says she’s fine?
3. Does he provoke you and then ask, “Why are you so upset?” or “Why are you so sensitive?”
4. Does she constantly praise you for your nice house/car/spouse and then ask why she can’t be so fortunate?
Passive-Aggression is defined as “someone who appears very friendly, extremely agreeable, complimentary and full of promises, but chronically or repetitively undermines others by obstructing their progress, provokes feelings of anger in others, seeks revenge or sabotages a relationship, in order to work out their deep-seated anger.”
What is PA and where did the term originate?
Coined in WWII. Army psychiatrist, Colonel William Menninger; he studied soldiers who complied with rigorous training and appeared to be obedient, only to resist or ignore orders, undermine their fellow soldiers in battle, withdraw or flee from duty. This century, we have seen PA in action such as Saddam Hussein, after storming into Kuwait, and then claiming his country was the victim of American aggression. OR Hitler, who annihilated the Jews and all the while, professing the rest of Germany were the ‘real’ victims. Or as a friend of mine put it, “it’s someone who puts a knife in your back and then gets angry at you for getting their knife bloody!”
How does a passive-aggressive acquaintance lure you?
1. Very Charming
2. Excessively friendly
4. Extremely complimentary
5. Buys you expensive gifts or lots of them (usually early on, which initiates a feeling of obligation to them)
6. Extremely Helpful
7. Essentially, ‘becomes’ your DREAM date, friend, spouse, colleague, boss, (at least initially)
8. Life of the party; Fun to be around.
Psychological Profile: How to Identify Passive-aggression:
1. Loud; attention seeking
2. Extremely Gregarious (always smiling) and Out-going
3. The beginner who gets in there like a dirty shirt.
4. Very competitive with others and you
5. Infiltrates your personal circle, clubs and hobbies very quickly
6. Female: tends to dress provocatively
7. Male: tends to be extremely well-groomed
8. Constantly brings up issues or sore spots that he/she knows is a sensitive area for you (usually in the guise of being concerned)
9. Tells you how you’re GOING to feel or what you PROBABLY will experience in a certain situation because they’ve been through that!
10. Speaks of being angry at parents, boss, God, or other people in their life, but they never seem to confront or make peace with these people.
11. When you ask them how they are; they typically answer, “I had such a horrible week” and proceed to tell you how they were the victim of everyone’s mistakes or judgments.
12. If you confront them on minor issues, they will act offended and turn your hurt into theirs.
13. Silent Treatment
14. Empty promises.
15. Rarely apologizes; blames others or you and likely repeats the offending behavior no matter how many times you tell them it bothers you.
What causes PA? It’s an overall sense of lack of control or inability to express anger in a healthy manner. It can originate from any one of these:
1. High rate of PA people have alcoholic parents.
2. Controlling mother, passive father
3. Suppressed anger in the family
4. Sexual abuse
5. Fears of inadequacy
6. Sense of Entitlement (the world’s been tough on me, so I deserve or don’t deserve…)
7. Poverty or lack becomes jealousy of other’s lives
8. Not being able to express feelings easily
Typical Behavioral Patterns of a PA:
*You can meet someone who is passive aggressive anywhere, even within your own family.
Person Behaviors Common Expressions
|Boss||Excessively praising, yet you NEVER see a bonus or a raise. Gives approval, but undermines your efforts.||“I’d like to see you in the role of ____________” (but then gives the position to someone else.)|
|Colleague||Offers to complete or provide an item for your presentation (for the boss) and then ‘accidentally’ forgets it or damages it.||“I don’t mind doing that for you; let me help you. ”Followed by:“Oh, I’m really sorry, I forgot it. I’m so sorry.”|
|Family Member||A brother who promises to check in on your widowed mother, but constantly ‘forgets’ or just couldn’t get there (car breaks down), leaving the responsibility to you.||When they don’t follow through and you call them on it, they respond, “Well, you’ve got a car and more time, why couldn’t you have checked on her?”|
|Spouse||Generally disagreeable; Silent Treatment; Sabotaging plans you’ve made by not being available/feigning illness/he’s ‘too tired.’||“Yeah, I’ll get to that.”Not doing it and then when you ask again:“Why don’t you stop your nagging and then I’ll do it.”|
|Friend||Excessive compliments; extravagant gifts; too much, too soon. Infiltrates your life; personal relationships; clubs; hobbies.Flirts with your partner or excessively nice to your friends, too soon.||“I’m always here for you” and then not calling for days.“You work so hard; what a great house/car/spouse you have” followed by, “Why am I so unlucky? Why is God so unfair to me?”|
|***Acquaintance||Sarcasm; Non-committal; insulting or making fun of what you’ve just confessed is a sensitive issue for you.||“You’re really short!” followed by, “What? I’m just joking, don’t be so sensitive!”|
*If you can catch it at the “acquaintance” stage, then you might protect yourself from letting a passive-aggressive person infiltrate your life.
How will you FEEL with a PA?
1. Your intuition or “GUT” will tell you that you can’t trust this person.
2. A nagging feeling you’re not safe around this person.
3. You may feel like you’ve been dismissed or provoked or mistreated, but you’re not sure exactly what they ‘said’ or ‘did’ that has made you feel uncomfortable.
4. A general sense of uneasiness around this person.
5. You will doubt yourself or blame yourself for bringing on their behavior towards you.
6. Guilt: your feelings will be turned around on you (when you finally choose to confront this person or distance yourself from them) by statements such as:
1. “Why are you bringing this up now?”
2. “Why do you have to ruin our plans/date/evening?”
3. “I understand how you feel, but I think this is your issue.”
4. “I’m so offended. How could you possibly think I could do something like that to you?”
5. “I feel like you’re throwing me away!”
*In essence, your better judgment tells you he/she is being hostile, but you question yourself instead of confronting this person. You attribute your reaction to over-sensitivity, not his/her insensitivity. The minute you doubt yourself, or take on some of the responsibility (‘maybe it is my fault!’) the passive-aggressive person has the upper hand and often uses the rejoinder, “Yes, why are you so upset?” “Yes! Have you thought this might be your issue?”
How to disentangle yourself from a PA’s web?
1. Be clear to them about the behavior that upsets you. Use “When you do this, I feel…”
2. Refrain from sharing or divulging personal feelings, events or any information that could potentially be used against you.
3. Distance yourself from this person as much as possible.
4. Share your experience with at least one other person you can trust, so that he/she can observe and validate you, when you are doubting yourself or feeling guilty over distancing yourself from the PA person.
5. Set firm boundaries with this person. “I don’t like when you do that.” OR “Please don’t call me at home.” If they offer to help you and you feel uneasy, say “No thank you.”
6. Most importantly: trust your inner voice. Let it be your guide and hopefully a PA person will remain an acquaintance and you will not get entangled in their web. Good luck!
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