"Moral Games and PA", by David G. McDivitt

To: Passive Aggressive List 
Subject: moral games
From: "David G. McDivitt" 
Date: Sat, 6 May 2000 11:59:17 -0500

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I have often been rebellious in my life. I've had a "cut off my nose to spite my face" attitude on more than one occasion. I have hated moralists. I will not have any sudden affection for moralists. I must say however, maintaining a sense of ethic is the only thing that provides sanity for me in my present circumstance. They are my ethics and what I think is right. I am not living pursuant to guidelines set by someone else. I have another mailing list where we have been debating morality and ethics for over four years. This has done much for me. I am happy to say I no longer live under the shadow of myth regarding morality and ethics, but I realize they are important, and we are each enhanced by constructing and owning our own personal standards to live by.

Regarding this forum, I would like everyone to consider how so-called passive-aggressiveness has much to do with moral game playing. Guilt seems to have a certain virtual fabric associated with it. It is brokered as if physical property. The way to overcome PA is to stop playing the moral games. This applies equally whether you are PA yourself, or live with a PA. For some reason it is so easy to be reactive in our relationships regarding any hint of guilt. It is also easy to use guilt to manipulate and get what you want. The key to understanding PA is morality. If morality, then the guilt associated with morality. If guilt, then the criticism and accusations needed to convey that guilt. That is why I urge everyone to explore the nature of morality on a philosophical level, and not be intimidated by the many words, debate, and rationalism associated with such a pursuit.

In future we might analyse the various situations we find ourselves in, from both the PA perspective and those who live with a PA, and try to identify whatever morality and guilt issues involved. We can query one another and pull these items out, so they can be recognized for what they are, and so we can STOP reacting to them, continuing to play into an unhealthy dynamic. We do that by using our minds and learning to think - expressly not by merely hoping things will get better, or hoping some therapist can intervene and make things better FOR us.

To: Passive Aggressive List 
Subject: Re: moral games
From: "David G. McDivitt" 
Date: Sat, 6 May 2000 13:14:18 -0500

I would like to qualify what I said in my previous post about pursuing morality and ethics philosophically. If you are a PA, or if you live with a PA, you are already doing that. It just isn't called philosophy.

The crux of passive-aggressiveness is responsibility, and subsequent guilt associated with that. It is the PA who has the problem, but the PA pulls in other people to share in that problem, with the end result being all participate in it.

Guilt is a hot potato. The PA does not want to hold it. It is passed to other people who can hold it more readily. Anything that might possibly engender guilt is avoided at all cost. Failure to live up to responsibility might cause feelings of guilt, so responsibility is avoided. It is not the avoidance of responsibility which is significant, but the avoidance of guilt from responsibility, and the low self esteem whereby one thinks responsibilities cannot be met. Because we see the obvious avoidance of responsibility, we react against that. But what do we do but impose guilt, which is what the PA was really trying to avoid, so it is a never ending cycle. People remain trapped in their own continued reactions in the same way. The PA continues avoiding responsibility, and those who live with a PA continue assessing guilt. Psychologically, the scenario has positive reinforcement to continue the same way.

Because the PA looks at everything through the filtering mechanism of guilt, interpreting life as a whole in terms of guilt and needed victory over it, there is a limited language set. The PA will also try to impose that guilt on you!

It is essentially a never ending debate over morality and ethics. Stated another way, it is who is right and who is wrong at all times. That is philosophy, friends, whether or not you choose to admit it. Maybe PA exchanges could be characterized merely as lower or gutter level philosophical exchanges. If you have ever participated in a philosophical debate or witnessed one, the first time you would no doubt be amazed at the conniving, misdirection, and avoidance of rationality employed by such "high thinkers". They start by quoting authors, however ancient, and using big words or concepts. With successive challenges the words become smaller and smaller, to the point where they talk no differently than anyone else. The thing to be observed is the various rationalities employed as people seek to make their point.

A PA is often very adaptable, quick, and smart. I put forth the idea many PAs would make excellent philosophers if they sought to apply themselves in this regard. Those who live with PAs might qualify as well. I am not saying everyone should become a philosopher, but I am saying it is advantageous to see PA exchanges for what they are, as philosophy of a lower order. Do you ever feel good when you win an exchange? Do you feel vindicated? Do you enjoy it when the other person must acknowledge you are right, spoken or not? That is philosophy. As we become more cognitive, it is of great value to know we can kick it up one more level. It is good to know how to properly structure rational arguments. You are not then simply debating over whatever vague and ambiguous feelings you cannot sufficiently describe.

Have you ever noticed PAs and those who live with PAs are often politically minded, with a vengeance? Why do you think that is? I challenge each of you. Begin making your arguments more rational. Begin analysing the structure of both your arguments and those of the other person. Do not simply give in to whatever reactive urge you have, but pause, and think consciously about the structure of what you or the other person is saying. Will that not cause the other person to rise to the same level? In the long run, you may effectively change the dynamic of your relationship to one of competing rationalism, rather than competing guilt. If the other person does not do that then so be it. You are left with the satisfaction of knowing you have become a more rational being, and frankly, that says a lot. There is no greater boost in self esteem than to know you are intelligent and smart.

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