A passive aggressive individual doesn’t always exhibit outward anger or appear malicious. At first glance, the behaviour might appears unassuming, gracious and benevolent; underneath there may be manipulation – hence the term “Passive-Aggressive”.
Passive aggression is a destructive pattern of behaviour that can be seen as a form of emotional abuse in relationships that bites away at trust between people.
It is a creation of negative energy in the atmosphere which is clear to those involved and can create immense hurt and pain to those on the receiving end.
It is a manifestation of emotions and feelings that are being repressed on a self-imposed need for either dependence, acceptance or further avoidance of conflict and is marked by a persistent pattern of negative attitudes and passive resistance in interpersonal or work situations.
It can either be covert (concealed and hidden) or overt (blatant and obvious).
Some examples of passive aggression might be:
Procrastination intentionally putting off important tasks for less important ones
Obstructing deliberately delaying or preventing an event or process of change
Fear of Competition Avoiding situations where one party may be seen as the winner
Ambiguity Being unclear, cryptic, not engaging wholeheartedly or honestly
Sulking Being silent, sullen and resentful because of a perceived wrongdoing in order to gain sympathy.
Chronic Lateness A way to exert control over situations and others
Chronic Forgetting Shows a blatant disregard for others and is a form of punishment
Fear of Intimacy Often passive aggressive people have issues of trust in others and guard against becoming too intimately attached
Making Excuses Always coming up with reasons for non-performance
Victimisation Unable to look at their own part in a situation will turn the tables to become the victim and will behave like one
Blaming Blaming others for situations rather than being able to take responsibility for their actions or being able to take an objective view of the situation as a whole.
Withholding usual behaviours or roles for example stopping cooking and cleaning or making cups of tea, running a bath etc. all to reinforce an already unclear message to the other party
Learned Helplessness where a person continually acts like they can’t help themselves which can include deliberate and repeated failures to accomplish requested tasks for which they are often explicitly responsible
Passive aggression is a defence mechanism that people use to protect themselves. This behaviour might be automatic and stem from early experiences. What they are protecting themselves from will be unique and individual to each person; although might include underlying feelings of rejection, low self-worth, fear and insecurity.
Patterns of unassertive and passive behavior are learnt in childhoodas a coping strategy possibly as a response to parents who exercised complete control and did not let their child express themselves. To cope, a child will adopt a passive-aggressive behavior pattern.
For example if a child was punished for openly expressing their feelings or disagreeing with their parents the child would learn to substitute open expression for passive resistance. If there was a consistent pattern within the family of punishment or rejection for asserting themselves the child would learn to become highly skilled at passively rebelling.
It has however also been listed as a personality disorder not otherwise specified in the DSM-IV (Appendix B) although there is controversy around it and need for further research on categorization of behaviours.
Please read my other articles on passive aggressive behaviour for more information