A Form of Acting Out – Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Dealing with passive-aggression is frustrating and confusing.In divorce and custody cases, it insidiously perpetuates the disagreements. The parent who acts in a passive-aggressive manner, is likely to behave unpredictably, regardless of any agreed upon understanding.This behavior will often leave others feeling manipulated or doubting their sanity. This complicates any negotiated agreements and follow through with custody recommendations. Passive-aggressive behavior is a form of hostility disguised as innocence and compliance where one never truthfully says why he/she is angry. This behavior develops when a person does not learn how to express anger constructively; instead pushing their feelings underground and expressing them in hidden ways.It is this unrecognized anger that leads to passive-aggression. A person acting in this way may claim not to be angry but to the observer, the anger is obvious.A child, partner or friend then becomes a convenient target for that person’s aggression.Sometimes the person acting in a passive-aggressive way will provoke an angry response, and then blame others for having a problem with anger! The origin of passive-aggression is varied however, one explanation is that a child forms a dependent relationship with a needy parent and that parent fails to support the child’s need to grow and become autonomous.Without knowledge and self-confidence, the child will cling to the parent for support (which is never really given), and when the child tries to express anger, it is never validated – don’t be angry is the message.The only way the child (and ultimately the adult) can achieve any degree of independence is to stay in control at all costs through anger and to express it passively.Ultimately, passive-aggressive people are both afraid of being alone and unable to achieve full independence as an adult. A passive-aggressive person can be very attractive at first.In the beginning, he/she is capable of containing their anger. They appear strong and capable on the surface and can read your needs very well.When problems in a relationship erupt, a destructive circle of behavior starts.One person gets unreasonably angry, the other feels victimized. The passive-aggressive person apologizes and seems to change.In the “honeymoon” phase both parents minimize problems and then stress builds.With the stress, frustration sets in and an angry outburst once again starts the vicious circle. This push-pull dynamic tends to feel like a never-ending trap. Passive aggressive partners fight independence by trying to have control of the other; they are out of touch with their...
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