The Passive-Aggressive Pattern

PassiveAggresivePatternIf you have the Passive-Aggressive Pattern, you may act in a way that looks on the surface as though you are agreeable and pleasing, but in the end your behavior hurts or frustrates people. You may only be aware of your surface desire to please people and your fear of not pleasing them.

The clue to realizing that you are acting out Passive-Aggressive Pattern is when people you are close to get frustrated with you or confused by your actions. You may feel wronged when this happens. You may even say to yourself, “I’m doing my best to be nice and agreeable, but my partner doesn’t seem to get this. She keeps getting on my case for doing things that upset her. But I don’t have any idea what she is talking about.”

When you are acting out the Passive-Aggressive Pattern, there is an unconscious part of you that is resentful or defiant. This part is irritated at how much you give in to what someone wants. Or the part may feel resentment toward that person. However, that part doesn’t believe that it has the right to be angry or defiant, so those feelings go underground. You act in seemingly agreeable ways, but you add a mean little twist to your behavior that frustrates the other person.

For example, your partner asks you to do something for her that needs to happen by a certain date. You agree to do it, but then you forget about it until after the date has passed, and she has to suffer the consequences. Consciously, you just forgot, but your Passive-Aggressive Part did this on purpose to punish her.

Another example:

There is a woman at work that you are attracted to. You have no intention of acting on this because you are married. Your wife has met her and is jealous of her beauty, so she has made it clear that she doesn’t want you to even have a friendship with her. Part of you resents this restriction, but you push this into your unconscious and agree with your wife’s demand. However, you agree to have lunch with the woman without telling your wife, rationalizing, “I know I’m not going to have an affair, so what’s wrong with just having lunch?” However, you “accidentally” leave a clue that alerts your wife to the lunch. She is very upset. Your Passive-Aggressive Part has “gotten” your wife, in retaliation for her trying to restrict your contact with this woman.

It isn’t easy to know how much you have this pattern because it is often unconscious. In addition, most of us don’t want to admit to having this pattern because we see it bad thing. However, it is fundamentally no different from any other protective strategy.

Passive-Aggression is one of the many topics that we cover in the Advanced IFS Classes.