Sunday, March 15, 2009

Passive-Aggressive Tendencies

It's important to me to keep getting better in whatever ways I can. Of course, I start out with a basic package of assets and flaws, and my relative strengths and weaknesses may not change all that much over time. But I do work on many of the things about me that are troublesome.

Something I've worked on a lot in my relationship with Ed is passive aggressiveness. I've never thought of myself as particularly passive-aggressive, and I don't think most people would characterize me that way (in the spectrum of humanity), but I definitely have tendencies. Ed is particularly sensitive to it, and that has...helped.

When I get angry with someone, my first impulse is to be silent at them. Once I reject that option, the next few that come up on the list are also passive-aggressive. I could make a snide remark to let them know I'm angry. I could say something sarcastic. Or I could just go somewhere else and wait for them to figure out that I'm avoiding them on purpose.

These days, I try to first think and determine whether the anger seems justified or not. If it isn't, or if I can't tell, I'll say something like, "This may not be fair. But I'm feeling kind of angry [about X]." Otherwise I'll just say the angry part.

Even at this point (and Ed is amazing supportive of this type of communication), it's hard for me not to follow up with passive-aggressive remarks like, "I guess I just thought you would have known how that would make me feel," or, "I guess I just trusted that you knew how to cook a steak," or, "Never mind - I shouldn't have thought you'd get it."

It's not that being passive-aggressive is generally so very awful. There are definitely worse ways to handle anger. But I think my tendency to be this way comes from feeling essentially powerless whenever I am angry. I see no hope of remediation, and that's what makes me want to just snub the other person. I feel contemptuous or fundamentally angry towards them, as though whatever has happened changes the underlying reality of the whole relationship.

I am actually getting a lot better at this through practice, this thing of just saying, "I am angry. Here is why," and listening to the response and working through it. For me, right now, in this relationship, even when it turns out that my anger is unfair I seem to be better off expressing it.

No comments: