Sunday, April 10, 2016

passive aggressive you say?

Passive aggression is under-diagnosed as a relationship problem by marital therapists; maybe because we dismiss it as a “milder” form of aggression, or because “passive aggression” is the default position of many husbands in reaction to their wives’ over-functioning, or maybe our attempts at “therapist neutrality” translate in our offices into benign neglect of victims.

Whatever the reason, passive aggression is a form of exploitation; and we should not ignore it more than any other form of aggression.

It keeps targets on the hook of lateness, interrupted plans and broken promises or other ways of going suddenly incommunicado, repeatedly provoking feelings of abandonment, exasperation and betrayal, often made worse by the denial of any personal accountability by the saboteur.

Passive aggressors are constantly explaining their (in)action, apologizing for yet defending their blunders with excuses that boil down to some variation of “it wasn’t my fault” (the car broke down, the bus was late, I got an important phone call, other priorities came up, etc.) which, in their eyes, makes them beyond reproach.

Targets are trapped in a Catch-22: if they do not discharge their aggressor of responsibility, or insist on holding him accountable, or if they get angry-- watch out!  He will turn the tables and accuse them of groundlessly attacking him, or engage them in an endless debate on the philosophical meaning of the word “responsibility”, baiting them with hooks that go deeper and deeper, a kind of psychological torture.  But- woe is she who complains- for she will be accused of “reactive abuse”, an explosive but futile attempt at self-defense.

No wonder targets exhibit the same symptoms as battered women: hyper-vigilance, anxiety and depression, insomnia…

Colleagues, wake up!  Please.  Let's be proactive against passive aggression.

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