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Recovery from Passive Aggressive Stuff

June 18, 2000

Last March, I got an email from Richard on an article that dealt with passive-aggressive anger in the victim, Burnt Offerings. I heard from him again this week when he wrote to tell about his recovery experiences. More power to you Richard! His March email is followed by the June submission.

Please note that although the original article was written with regard to "victim" anger, the topic is equally applicable to abuser anger. Victims and abusers - a somewhat arbitrary distinction -  were both victims; are both victims...  Dr. Irene

Subject: "The Victim's Anger: Burnt Offerings" article

Very, very well written. This is the first article on the internet I have found so far which does not just simply "blast" the person who does this behavior. You took the time to explain what happened to the person to make them act like this.

I never realized it was my inability to express my anger and frustration. Total denial. I really liked part "She is unlikely to get a handle on her life and her behavior until she owns her anger and takes responsibility for her behavior."

You have given me ideas of how to recognize my behavior when I do it. (Afterwards unfortunately though for now.) Now I can recognize the behavior. I look forward to "fixing" this part of my life.

Thank you so much for this information. Richard

Richard sent the following in this week:

Being PA (Passive Aggressive)

Let me tell you what it is like actually being a PA.

When you are first told, by someone you respect, that they think you are PA, the first thing you think is "f*** you. Nothing is wrong with me. "Who are YOU to call me names and label ME?"

Then you decide to humor yourself to prove them wrong and you do the research on the Internet. You read and what you read is very, very unpleasant. What you are reading is really you and you never even knew these things about yourself! You realize you are a real jerk. More research finds nothing much except that most PA's are buttheads <grin> and treat people poorly.  Wow. This is a little too close for comfort.

The question remains though,

Why am I like this?

You cry a lot and you don't even know why.

I finally realized that I had a very unhappy childhood, which I had to suppress as my own survival mechanism. My father was/still is a screamer/yeller and my mother allowed it to happen. When you are continually told you can never do this or that right, yelled at pretty
much continually, made fun of, name calling, picked on, etc. you basically just shut down as a child and become very afraid to even try much of anything. You are almost never told you did a good job on ???? Or, you are a starting receiver for the football team and you father would rather watch TV than throw the football to you for practice.

Why would anyone want to actually try anything and possibly confirm they are stupid or dumb and that their parents are right? After all, they are your parents who "love" you. When you did try as a child and you made mistakes, you were not shown how to do it right, you were yelled at and told to go into the house by the parent, who always said, "I'll fix it."

You don't remember much laughter in my house. You never invited anyone over, ever. When you did, your parents seem to always treat the visitors better than they treated you. This was very painful since you feel like "why can't my own parents be this nice to me?" You didn't invite others over very often. You have very few friends even now.

You went to school and goofed off. You never ever studied and did homework. Your parents didn't know or even seem to care what classes you were taking. You were only criticized on the "D" in math and not complemented on the 5 A's in the other classes. You were told "we expect perfection". You try and you cannot do it so you're told your stupid. You did manage to pass school without even trying very hard.

You are very afraid to stretch and test your limits and skills. Not only the physical limits but also the mental and spiritual limits.

You get so used to being told how to think, what to think and when to think and when you eventually find yourself as an adult, the only parenting "skillsets" you have developed is the same as the "parents" who treated you like crap.

I was taught how to be dependent on someone else to do my thinking for me.

As a child, you learn not to show any emotion or you'll be considered weak and a crybaby. So, you don't. You just shut down.

And the cycle continues.

I can remember getting my younger brothers up for school, making them breakfast, (I still hate puffed rice) getting them dressed, (often in dirty clothes), kissing my Mom (who couldn't get out of bed due to the variety of psychotic medications) good-bye and walk to school with my brothers. I did this for many years. I think I started this when I was 8 or 9.

I can actually remember my father breaking and smashing my toys when he was mad and handing them back to me. I have never, ever heard an apology.

You learn to feel anger and hate at families and other people who seem to be happy and actually get along and appear to actually like each other. You hate them since they seem to be happy. You hate others who can think for themselves and are self-confident and happy.

You are told you cannot be "white collar" since we are a "blue collar" family. Your family entertainment consisted of watching TV. No talking AT ALL except during commercials. Vacations, scouting, sports, etc. seemed to always end up with lots of arguing, fighting and screaming either on the way there, the way home or once you were home. Sometimes, it was all
of them.

You didn't dare talk back so you just kept in all the frustration, anger, hate, everything.

I learned how to be shown, not to learn, or try or think on my own.

Very little you did was ever good enough or correct.

"Nice work", "good job" were almost never heard. Hugs from Dad? I don't
think so.

And the "funny" thing is, you still defend your family to others.

This is what I learned as a child.

When it is time for you to leave the nest and go out on your own, you are scared to death. You only leave after going into the Navy. Your scared, but excited. You write and call and almost never get anything back except a message saying "these phone bills age getting expensive". You don't call or write much after that.

When you enter the "real" workforce outside of the service, you get to a certain level and are scared to break the glass ceiling since you don't want anyone to make fun of you for making a mistake. You feel like you actually should not be in the position you are in and that you will be
ridiculed that you might be found out you really are not all that smart. So, you get into a comfortable position and you stagnate.

When you do make a decision, you are seldom confident in the decision and feel that if it is wrong, people will just re-confirm what the you have been told over and over,

You're stupid.

So, you never learned how to think and act as an adult even though you are now an adult.

Your "adult" skills have not been learned. You don't know how to ask for help to learn them so you just stumble along trying to figure out to get them. You don't want anyone to know you don't know. When you don't know, you revert back to what you have been taught, no matter how crappy it is, because that is what you have been taught and after- all, you've been told your too stupid to learn anything else.

I didn't learn to talk and discuss situations with my wife, I did learn to yell and scream at her like my parents did/still do. I did not learn to talk and teach my children, I learned to yell and scream or to send them into the house or bed and "I'll take care of it".

I do not yet even feel like an adult or even a parent. I feel like some dumb kid who is playing father figure.

As an adult, you finally get to the point in your life where you realize that you are very unhappy and for the life of you, cannot figure out why. The more you try and figure out what is wrong, the more frustrated you get and the more you lash out at those who only are actually trying to help.

One day researching, you finally find the answer to "Why am I like this?"

For me, I found that it was the "little boy"/inner child (I hate that term !!) inside of me basically felt unwanted and unloved since it is obvious, as a child, feeling like you are too broken and stupid to even being loved by your own parents.

And you cry, a lot, and you don't know why. I mean deep crying with snot coming out your nose and dripping off your chin crying. Inside of you is the little boy whose favorite model car was just smashed because he was playing with it and wouldn't take his nap. He was not allowed to show that it hurt so you just act like it is no big deal. After all, you HAVE to be a man.

38 years of emotions bottled up and never allowed to release. Scared. Numb. Feeling dead inside. No feelings allowed.

The more you think about this little boy inside, you feel how hurt he is and the more you want to cry not only for him, but with him for his pain, anger and frustration. You want to try and ease the pain he is going through and tell him he is not stupid and dumb.

After all, he's just a little boy.

The real kicker is, I am named after my father. My family was very mad when we would not name my son the same name.

No doubt about it, I am passive-aggressive.

So you say to yourself, "How can I help this little boy?"

Once you actually realize the problem, what do you do?

I am trying to learn how to think like an adult and become the person the little boy inside wanted to be when he grew up. I have to learn to re-discover what makes that little boy smile and laugh.

What were this little boy's dreams? What were his goals?

I have to learn to not only love the little boy inside, I also need to learn to become the father I never had, the mother I never had and the type of parent(s) I never had. My current views of my life may be off track a bit as an adult. I am still seeing the world as a scared little
boy.

When you finally realize what you have "become", you are very disappointed. The little boy inside expected more out of his life.

I would think that other people who feel they are also going through mid-life crises are also feeling much of these same things.

There is a little person inside them who was never really loved, and that's all the little person really wants. After that feeling is settled, go on from there.

I think of PA as a bad car wreck (Nobody dead, lots of damage). You don't see the police officer just say "Yep, that's a bad car wreck" and walk away. No, the police look for the cause of the wreck.

What is the "cause(s)" of the behavior?

I think this is the one main question I think every PA needs to ask themselves once they finally realize what they are doing. Getting a PA to actually recognize the behavior is going to be another thing. <grin>

Recognizing/Realizing the behavior is very hard though. You have to admit to yourself have a "personality/psych" problem. Not nice to tell anyone much less telling yourself.

It took a lot of soul searching for me to recognize the behavior.

What really worked for me, and hope works for others, is to think about and write down your painful memories as far back as you can go. This will hurt, a lot. Expect lots of tears and snot.

I then used a mirror and just looked at myself and thought about what I wrote.  I thought about my past, my frustrations, anger, hatred, and happiness. Expect even more tears and snot. (grin)

*** I could not do the above 2 things right after each other. It took me a while to "recover" from what I wrote. Others might have the "strength", I could not.

You cannot lie to yourself while looking in the mirror. You will see the little boy/girl inside who was hurt and now as the adult, you will hopefully understand why you were hurting during that time. It's like looking at yourself and talking to yourself when you were ??? years old. You tell them they are not ??? and they deserve ??? or words to help them/you through this hurt. You have to be the "parent" to yourself that you never had and needed and wanted.

This "exercise" takes more than once to get through.

I really think anger and hate are the keys. You don't realize how angry or hateful you became because you just bottled it up. As a kid, you don't always know, or have any options, how to deal with anger, frustration and hate.

Sooner or later, it will all "click". It feels like a huge weight has been removed and you are, for probably the first time, start to experience happiness. You feel giddy and grin like a fool for absolutely no reason.

I now am starting to recognize the behavior in me and I am also starting to see it in others.

I am learning to catch it (PA behavior) in myself, sometimes. Unfortunately, I still sometimes see it AFTER I do it. <bummer> I'm not over it (PA behavior) yet. As a matter of fact, I PA'd big time last night.

At least now I can see it which is the first step to trying to prevent it before it occurs. I know I won't always be successful. If I can catch it 1 time, it's much better than before.

I am just glad I am starting to learn about my behavior now and trying to change it and not when my own children are already grown and it is all they know. Then the cycle will have continued another generation.

So, this is what I am going through.

Don't look at a PA as someone who is just trying to piss you off. Chances are, they aren't.

This poem always makes me think and brightens my day.

"Naked we come into this world and naked we shall leave it. When the day and hour comes that no man knows, the only thing we will take with us is our loves, our friendships, our angers, our hopes, our laughter, our tears, our Memories. These are our only true possessions. We can make more money but the savings account of days and hours is all we will ever really have.

Don't miss the sunrises, rainbows or the sunsets. You only get so many chances.

May you and yours be happy and well."                 Richard

Honest and heartfelt...good stuff!  Thank you Richard! My very warmest regards, Dr. Irene 

Material posted here is intended for educational purposes only, and must not be considered a substitute for informed advice from your own health care provider.

Courtesy of Dr. Irene Matiatos  Copyright© 2000. The material on this website may be distributed freely for non-commercial or educational purposes provided that author credit is given. For commercial distribution, please contact the author at Doc@drirene.com

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