Saturday, March 9, 2019

My Aggressive for Your Passive

 Coming from Seattle I get passive aggressive behavior I really do.  In Seattle it comes in two forms: Agree and do not disagree or hear a lovely ad hominem attack but with multi syllabic insults.  The other is via complaints to authority figures.  In public schools kids would complain about anything and anyone and it was applauded as they were expressing their voice. Teachers and aids felt compelled to complain endlessly about other Teachers or even Students in a way to get support or find resolution about their own issues.  No one ever in my day felt compelled to be strong individuals or independent thinkers and that is why the chorus of "blame the union" seemed to resonate in the public sphere.  Here in Nashville there is no union and there is no collective as it is all fear based. But this is no less passive or aggressive in its manner as it works.   Silence is golden for those in power.

Amazon has really capitalized on it as individuals who work within the company are often reviewed using "information" given to an individuals superior with no supporting documentation let alone who is filing said complaint.  The endless "I'm telling" is something you hear repeatedly and might explain why the calls on Black people eating/walking/gardening/swimming/sleeping/reading are in largely white communities that are highly liberal and often from well educated individuals.   No one in Nashville will be calling the Police on a black man wearing swimming shoes at the pool as well there are no black people at the pool!  Seriously that stereotype/archetype exists for a reason. But in all honesty who gives a shit?  Segregation and Discrimination here is the passive to the aggressive here.  A city ringed with public housing, long neglected, riddled with crime, third rate schools, poor transit, no medical care but all run by White People with well placed Black faces on Councils and School Boards to ensure that whatever is done by the minority for the minority will remain in the hands of the minority.  The ones with the least power in which to pull the purse strings and all that is within said purse. 

To understand passive aggression is to experience it and in turn practice it:  Passive aggression is an indirect expression or communication of hostility, through deliberate, aggressive means. It is a purposeful, although covert, resistance to open and honest communication. Examples of passive aggression include the silent treatment, procrastination, stubbornness, resentment, withholding of praise or approval, purposefully excluding others from conversation or activity, deliberate (and repeated) failure to accomplish requested tasks, moodiness and learned helplessness. It can include a seemingly apathetic resistance to complying with expectations in interpersonal and occupational situations.
In the South it is demonstrated and also known as “sugar-coated anger.” It is a developed coping skill. These tendencies can be born out of a childhood environment where it did not feel safe to express anger. Instead of witnessing or experiencing honest expression of emotions, one may learn to deny or repress feelings. This eventually leads to finding alternate ways to express these emotions, especially frustration and anger. These individuals know of no safe, healthy way to directly communicate their feelings, and therefore resort to veiled methods.

I have long said that Southern Hospitality was created to mask the "honor code" that is a strong personality trait of the character of Southerners, particularly male, to cover anger and hostility particularly to Strangers who are seen with suspicion and doubt.  Psychology Today has many articles on studies done to demonstrate how this works and I have written on the subject many times to try to understand the nativist way of thinking I have come up against since living here.

But the most obvious is the Passive Aggressive manner in which resonates throughout the city, from its children to the adults, the bizarre blessings to admonishments that are masked in a type of baiting responses to get you upset/angry/riled up in which then to enable the provocateur to prove his/her point that you are not from here and therefore are a great source of amusement in which to ignore and dismiss.   I wear the comment or statement "I'm not from here" quite proudly. I really need a t-shirt with that one it would speed up the process. 

Signe Whitson L.S.W.
Psychology Today

The Passive Aggressive Conflict Cycle
How unsuspecting adults get caught up in destructive passive aggressive dynamics

Posted Jul 24, 2013

The Passive Aggressive Conflict Cycle explains how rational, straightforward, assertive adults can momentarily and unexpectedly depart from their typical personas and take on inappropriate, childlike, and unprofessional behaviors (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008). It describes and predicts the endless, repetitive cycles of conflict that occur when a passive aggressive individual succeeds in getting someone else to act out their anger for them.

The Passive Aggressive Conflict Cycle (PACC) helps observers to be able to look beyond behavior and better understand what is occurring beneath the surface. Take this real-life example of a seemingly minor conflict between a teacher and child that elicited an apparent major over-reaction by the adult:

Teacher: Jessie, can you please wheel the lunch cart out into the hallway?

Jessie: OK.

(Jessie doesn't move from his seat.)

Teacher: Jessie, will you please wheel the cart out now?

Jessie: Just a second.

(Again, Jessie doesn't move.)

Teacher: Jessie, that cart needs to go out now so that we can get started with math. I don’t want you to miss anything.

Jessie: I will. (Smiling.)

(For the third time, Jessie sits still in his seat.)

Teacher: I see you must be working in slow motion today, Jessie. Let's see if another student can move just a tad bit faster than you. Lisa, will you please wheel the lunch cart into the hall?

Jessie: No. I said I would do it. (Gets up slowly).

Jessie wheels the lunch cart toward the classroom door, banging it against several desks along the way. He runs the cart over a classmate's foot. Just before reaching the door, he knocks the cart into the teacher's desk, knocking over a vase of fresh flowers. The glass vase shatters all over the floor. She momentarily loses control! The teacher from the classroom next door hurries over when she hears all of the noise.

Teacher: Jessie, you can't even carry out the simplest job in this classroom. Why can't you do anything right? You are going to clean that whole mess up young man. And you'll do it after school because you are not going to interrupt my math lesson. I know that's what you were trying to do. Are you happy with yourself?

Jessie: (Looks briefly at the teacher from the classroom next door then says,) No, ma'am. It was just an accident. I didn't know you'd be so upset about a kid making a mistake. I'm sorry.

Teacher: (Caught off guard with Jessie's response. Embarrassed at her outburst.) I'm sorry too, Jessie. I shouldn't have said that. Everyone makes mistakes. Let's all help Jessie clean this up.
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To the observing teacher from next door, Jessie's teacher seems to have over-reacted to her student's mistake and engaged in cruel, humiliating behavior. Truth be told, it is any educator's responsibility to maintain emotional control and refrain from responses that belittle students. Still, the Passive Aggressive Conflict Cycle explains how this seemingly minor classroom incident escalated so quickly and is useful in providing educators and other adults with insight into how passive aggressive behaviors can so-suddenly provoke relationship-damaging reactions in unsuspecting adults. Without insight into the PACC, adults are doomed to engage in these no-win conflicts time and again.

The following is a breakdown of the five stages of the PACC, with reference to how it played out between Jessie and his classroom teacher.

Stage 1: The Self-Concept & Irrational Beliefs of the Passive Aggressive Person

Stage 1 represents a passive aggressive person’s developmental life history. Based on specific formative events during his early life, Jessie has developed the belief that the direct expression of anger is dangerous and needs to be avoided. His psychological solution to this problem is to conceal his anger behind a facade of infuriating passive aggressive behaviors, as we will explore further in Stage 4.

Jessie is proud of his ability to control anger and to remain rational and calm during conflict situations. He feels smart and clever about his ability to devise various ways to get back at others indirectly and without their knowledge. This awareness gives the person an emotional high and a feeling of power and pleasure at manipulating others so easily.
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Stage 2: The Stressful Incident

When a passive aggressive person is asked or told to do a specific task, the request often activates irrational beliefs, based on early life experiences:

• I have to do everything in this classroom

• That teacher is always picking on me

• She is singling me out. I'll get back at her and she'll never even see it coming.

Indeed, for people like Jessie, ordinary, everyday requests from authority figures often trigger angry responses based on such irrational beliefs. Instead of expressing these angry thoughts aloud, however, the passive aggressive person reserves his feelings for the moment. He pushes them below the surface because he is guided by the powerful set of irrational beliefs that anger = unacceptable.

Stage 3: The Passive Aggressive Person's Feelings

The passive aggressive person has learned over the years to defend against his angry feelings by denying them and projecting them onto others. Because the normal feelings of anger are unacceptable to him, they are masked and expressed in passive aggressive behaviors.

Stage 4: The Passive Aggressive Person's Behavior
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The behavior of most passive aggressive individuals is both purposeful and intentional. What's more, the passive-aggressive person derives genuine pleasure out of frustrating others. They engage in a variety of behaviors designed to "get back at" or infuriate others, including:

• Denying feelings of anger

• Withdrawing and sulking

• Procrastinating

• Carrying out tasks inefficiently or unacceptably

• Exacting hidden revenge

Jessie procrastinated. He verbally complied with his teacher's request ("OK," "Just a second," "I will.) but behaviorally delayed. He eventually wheeled out the cart in a manner that was intentionally unacceptable. All of these purposeful passive aggressive behaviors proved quite successful in eliciting an angry response from his teacher, who had no awareness of the trap she was falling in to.

Stage 5: The Reactions of Others

In a stressful situation, the person who behaves passive aggressively will create feelings of anger in a target. If the target is unaware of this dynamic and acts on the feelings of anger, she will behave in uncharacteristic, relationship-damaging ways.

As is quite typical of a PACC, at first Jessie's teacher remained calm, accommodating his procrastination and temporary compliance. By the second and third requests, she was surely beginning to feel more agitated, though she continued her polite, assertive manner. At the fourth request, her irritation becomes apparent in the form of the sarcasm in her response. For adults, sarcasm is often a red flag that they have begun to be caught up in a Conflict Cycle and are beginning to mirror a child's behaviors. With knowledge of the PACC, this could have been a good time for the teacher to check her own emotions, think about what was happening beneath the surface, and disengage from the dynamic with Jessie.

Instead, before she even knew it, she heard the clamor of banging desks, a student crying out in pain after having his foot run over by a heavy lunch cart, and a vase of flowers shattered all over the floor. She reacted in an instant, in frustration and with anger, her words belittling her student in front of all of his peers.

Jessie, still in perfect control of his emotions, feigns shock. He apologizes to the teacher, using appropriate words while also sending a clear, unstated message:

• I don’t know why you got so angry. It was just a mistake.

• I didn’t yell, swear, hit, or break anything. But what you did was scary. I don’t like to have someone blow up at me.

• I don’t deserve to be yelled at in front of my classmates. I think you overreacted to this situation and mistreated me. Don’t you believe you owe me an apology?

The teacher, immediately feeling guilty about the temper tantrum, also feels embarrassed to have been observed in the moment by her colleague. She ends up apologizing profusely. When this happens, Jessie reluctantly accepts the apology, but in the meantime, his deep-rooted beliefs about the danger of anger have been confirmed. The only thing that is truly resolved in this situation is that the destructive interpersonal relationship between Jessie and his teacher will continue.

The majority of teachers, parents, spouses and co-workers involved in daily interactions with passive aggressive individuals are ultimately beaten down by the relationship. Most end up feeling confused, angry, guilty, and doubtful about the stability of their own mental health. How is it possible for this destructive interpersonal pattern to occur over and over again with reasonable adults? How does it happen that the targeted adults end up accepting the blame and responsibility for this dysfunctional dynamic? The answer is clear and painful: they are unaware of the psychology of passive aggression. (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008). Understanding and insight into the repetitive nature of the Passive Aggressive Conflict Cycle can help adults disengage from destructive conflicts and choose relationship-building responses.

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