"The Passive Aggressive Dilemma - Overcoming Criticism", by David G. McDivitt
Have you ever heard it said, "You should not use the word 'should'"? A passive aggressive person will immediately pick up on this. It sounds like a contradiction. Unfortunately, there are various limitations in language or communication in general, and sometimes it's necessary to use an apparent contradiction to make a point. Saying "You should not use the word 'should'" is similar to the First World War being called the "war to end all wars". Like war, criticism is a fact of life, and not something which will pass away, or be made to pass away by any well meaning individual. A good philosophical base will indicate human nature might be accepted for what it is, rather than fanciful illusion.
A passive aggressive person cannot be told to quit being critical. To do so is to imply criticism as well. So here we have a Mexican stand-off; the passive aggressive person is critical, and others are critical of that person for being critical. By way of circular logic, the passive aggressive's criticism is therefore justified, because of the criticism of everyone else.
The biggest thing is to avoid upping the ante. Everyone has some degree of pride. No one savors criticism. Most have felt a sense of righteous indignation at some time in their life. Usually people have at least some predisposition to react and stand their ground. A passive aggressive person may more readily escalate a simple conflict or disagreement, into some grand finale, placing everything at stake, simply to drive home an initial criticism, and of course pick up other fuel along the way. Instead of my thoughts are my thoughts, and your thoughts are your thoughts, to the passive aggressive my thoughts are your thoughts, my pain is your pain, and my criticism is your ideal. Individuality is not acknowledged.
We all seem to go through some rebellious, antisocial, or narcissistic stage in our lives. Some of us are still that way. The passive aggressive is the one who seems worse at it, making the subject highly relative and a question of degree. Very easily, we can each appear passive aggressive when around others more docile, humble, peace-loving, dutiful, and of course more morally upright than ourselves. God, I hate those kinds of people. The point is, it takes one to know one.
Our society has so many examples of passive aggressiveness. Look at the political system. They incessantly point the finger at one another, and do almost nothing themselves. Businesses are often passive aggressive, not being forthright. Employers are often passive aggressive toward those they hire. Parents are this way with their children. Here, procrastination and avoidance of responsibility are issues, being passive aggressive in nature. Seeing so many roles for this type of behavior, it is no wonder personal responsibility is so difficult to accept.
A good example are poor underprivileged youths, who chastise, condemn, and belittle their peers for doing well, thereby causing an entire social class to remain in a dismal state. To some extent a passive aggressive person is the same way. Rather than me getting up and doing something with myself, I will criticize what you do. Rather than me expressing love, I will criticize your love. Why do some people reach out, and others sit still? Why do some reach out despite relentless criticism? For them, it is as if passive aggressiveness has been turned inside out, working to their advantage instead.
David G. McDivitt
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