Passive-Aggressive Behavior in Recovery
Passive-Aggression and Addiction
When people feel angry they will not always openly express these feelings. Those individuals who feel uncomfortable with being openly aggressive can express their anger in hidden ways. This passive-aggressive behavior can be just as destructive as direct aggression, but the individual is able to deny any intention of harm. Some people are so dependent on passive-aggressive behavior that they are classified as having a personality disorder.
Those individuals who have been addicted to alcohol or drugs often rely on passive-aggression behaviors. This may be because they are too focused on hiding their addiction to risk being openly aggressive in order to get their way they need to resort to manipulation and underhand strategies. Addiction also prevents people from developing mature ways of dealing with anger that would do away with the need of passive-aggression. When these people become sober, they may continue to resort to these maladaptive ways of expressing their ire. In order to achieve emotional sobriety, the individual will need to learn new ways of managing their life. They will want to replace passive-aggression with assertiveness.
Passive-Aggressive Behavior Defined
Passive-aggressive behavior occurs when people deliberately mask their expressions of anger. They may be smiling on the outside, but inside they are seething with rage and plotting their revenge. The aim of the individual who is passive-aggressive is to punish other people without being viewed as an aggressor. They are able to achieve this by resorting to a number of different passive-aggressive behaviors.
Types of Passive-Aggressive Behavior
This type of behavior can take different forms. The most common types of passive-aggressive behavior include:
* Obstructing behavior, in which the individual does their best to delay or prevent changes from occurring
* Chronic forgetfulness, which involves using forgetfulness as a weapon to cause problems for other people
* Making excuses to mask their failures
* Learned helplessness, in which the individual constantly relies on other people to sort out their problems
* Chronic lateness, as in deliberately late for work, appointments or events in order to punish or control other people
* Deliberate ambiguity, such as subtle dishonesty to confuse other people
* Blaming in order to evade responsibility for any their actions
* Withholding behaviors, or even changing them in order to punish the other person; for example, a boss might stop offering an employee the chance to work overtime as a form of punishment
* Unwillingness to be intimate, which involves not allowing anyone else to get close to them
* Assuming victim status regardless of how bad they have messed up
* Sulking or appearing silent and sullen in order to gain some sympathy
* Avoiding competition and steering clear of situations in which they are likely to lose
Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder
Some individuals are so reliant on passive-aggressive behavior that it is classified as a personality disorder. These are the primary symptoms of the condition:
* The individual is envious or even resentful of people who appear to be more fortunate than they are.
* The person frequently feels that other people do not understand or fully appreciate them.
* They will use passive resistance techniques to avoid performing their expected occupational and social tasks.
* The individual fluctuates between contrition and hostile defiance.
* They express exaggerated claims of personal misfortune.
* They appear scornful of authority and are overly criticize of others.
* The person appears argumentative or sullen.
Dangers of Passive-Aggressive Behavior
Passive-aggression can be damaging for the person using this behavior and the person on the receiving end. These are the dangers of this type of activity:
* This type of behavior can cause as much pain and suffering as open aggression.
* This is a dishonest way for people to act. When people behave dishonestly they may sometimes get what they want, but it is ultimately self-defeating.
* Those individuals who have passive-aggressive personalities find it hard to make friends. When they do develop friendships, these tend to be of a shallow nature.
* The actions of the passive-aggressive person will often be obvious to other people. This means that their attempts to hide the aggression will not fool these individuals.
* There are far more effective ways for people to express their dissatisfaction and anger. Those who resort to passive-aggression are using a flawed coping strategy.
* This type of behavior means that conflicts tend not to be resolved. This is because the issues that are causing the problem are never directly dealt with.
Passive-Aggressive Behavior in Addiction Recovery
For most addicts, just giving up alcohol or drugs will not be enough to get their life back on track. This is because many of them will have resorted to substance abuse in the first place because they were not coping with life very well. If the only thing that changes is that they no longer abuse these substances and therefore end up right back where they started. It is therefore usually necessary for the individual in recovery to make major changes to the way they interact with the world.
Passive-aggression is not a good strategy for people in recovery. This is because emotional sobriety requires a more honest approach to life. If the individual continues to behave dishonestly they will not be able to find true happiness. They will likely find themselves dealing with dry drunk syndrome. It is not suggested that people go from passive-aggression to open aggression, or that they just try to swallow their feelings. It is preferable to learn to be more assertive and eliminate the need for aggression.
The Importance of Assertiveness in Recovery
When people are assertive, they are willing to stand up for themselves. They do not need to resort to manipulation or underhand strategies in order to get their way. Instead assertiveness involves a clear and honest form of communication:
* The individual takes full responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Unlike the individual who is passive-aggressive, the person who is assertive is not going to blame other people for how they feel.
* It is up to the individual to be the ultimate judge of their own behavior. They do not need to rely on other people to decide if their behavior is right or wrong. They do not need to offer justifications for their behavior.
* It is perfectly reasonable for the individual to admit that they do not know something.
* Ultimately, the individual is only responsible for ensuring their own happiness. They may decide to help other people do the same out of compassion, but they are under no obligation to solve other people’s problems for them.
* The individual is not required to have an opinion on every issue
* It is normal for people to have gaps in their knowledge. Not knowing is perfectly reasonable and to be expected.
* It is acceptable to make decisions based on hunches. Life is complex and uncertain. It is not necessary that the individual should always have to give a logical explanation for their actions.
* Making decisions usually involves making some people unhappy. The individual does not need to have the goodwill of everyone in order for them to make a decision.
* If the individual makes mistakes, they will need to take responsibility for this. This does not mean that they are required to allow other people to use this mistake as a tool of manipulation. A good example is when another person uses this as an excuse to demand that the individual change their behavior in some way.
* Assertive people reserve the right to change their mind. The world is a complicated place. Things change, and new information becomes available all the time.