Over the recent years I’ve discovered that I’ve become something of an ‘expert’ on passive aggression. After having experienced it for most of my life, realised it, understood it, and overcome it, I have a unique perspective on what it is, how it affects your life, and how you can change it.
Everyone has passive aggressive traits in them, some more than others. However, when those traits become your predominant behaviour pattern, it becomes a ‘personality disorder’. Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder (PAPD) is something I’ve had most of my life, and I certainly know the effects of it, but in the past few years I’ve been able to eliminate most of it.
Healing passive aggression
All the books I’ve read about it say that healing PAPD is rare, if not impossible, because denying that you are responsible for breakups in relationships and social connections is one of the prominent traits. If you believe you’re not responsible for the situations going on around you and in your life, then you also believe there’s nothing you need to do for yourself. You’re not the one with the problem, so there’s nothing you need to heal. And so the behaviour and screwed up life continues.
When I realised I had PAPD and I read about how sufferers rarely heal because they don’t believe they’re responsible, I immediately saw all the times in my life when I blamed everyone else but myself for all the things that went wrong. And I knew that if I wanted to heal from this disorder, then I needed to start taking responsibility.
With many decades of programmed behaviour resulting in my attitudes and behaviors at that time, I knew that changing it would not happen overnight. But I also knew that if I did want to change it, I had to do something radical.
So I decided to accept responsibility for everything that went wrong, even if I ‘knew’ that I wasn’t responsible. If the problem revolved around an inability to take responsibility, then surely finding a solution to this problem revolved around taking responsibility for everything.
It was my logical mind thinking, but it also worked.
Over a few years, taking responsibility and apologising for every emotional breakdown in my relationships helped me to manage those relationships more successfully, as well as understand exactly what I was doing to cause those breakdowns.
Overcoming passive aggression
Once I knew what I was doing that contributed to emotional breakdowns in my relationships, I could begin changing my behaviour so that the consequences were different.
Instead of engaging in behaviour designed to sabotage or upset my partners because I was inwardly angry but unable to express it, I engaged in behaviour that would take responsibility for my actions and my future, without needing to sabotage or upset my partners with passive aggression. I prevented passive aggressive behaviour occurring by choosing actions that made me responsible, instead of actions that tried to make someone else responsible.
It turned out to be quite amazing how things changed for me. Not only was I able to change the quality of my relationships by engaging in more responsible and loving behaviour, but I was also able to change the quality of my career because of how much extra responsibility I was willing to accept.
As a result, I’ve been able to improve my life quite considerably, by accepting responsibility for my behaviour and for the effects I have on other people. I’ve been able to heal my disorder so that it’s no longer a disorder.
Sure, I still have my episodes of passive aggression, just like everyone does, but when I realise it’s inappropriate, I apologise for it and work on changing it.
Developing better relationships
I also quickly learned at the beginning of my healing process that I was choosing the wrong women to partner with. I was choosing women that were the very opposite of the kind of woman I actually matched with. The results of being with these women caused anger and resentment in me because I was trying to make something work with someone that I should never have been with in the first place, and ended up sabotaging it instead.
Don’t get me wrong. I really did need to be with them in a holistic way of thinking. It’s because of them that I was able to understand my personal issues and grow from them, so I’m thankful and grateful for what they brought into my life and my personal growth.
Healing my behavioural issues also helped me understand what kind of woman I really needed to be with, that I would match with, and that was an important understanding for my own peace of mind and happiness.
It’s only from seeing and understanding what brings us pain that we can understand and explore what will bring us pleasure.
Some people don’t need to make it so difficult to understand, and they just choose the pleasure. But nooo, I had to be different. I had to go through decades of pain in order to understand I really wanted and needed someone that would bring me lots of pleasure.
Maybe I’m a masochist or something, I don’t know. But I do know I’m very much happier now than I ever used to be.
Passive aggression and powerlessness
Passive aggression is a result of feeling powerless with the circumstances of your life, but not feeling able to safely express your feelings about it. Those with PAPD have grown up as a child, often punished for the expression of their feelings, and they’ve been powerless to prevent it.
That feeling of powerlessness continues on into adulthood, but it becomes a familiar pattern, a familiar way of life. So when they go out and date others, they’re subconsciously attracted to potential partners that they feel would allow them to continue the same old familiar patterns. And so passive aggressive behaviour is often a continual part of their relationships with partners that they feel powerless to express themselves with.
For men, it’s usually their mother who punished them as a child for expressing ‘undesired’ emotions like anger. If something made them angry and they expressed it, they were punished for it, so they learnt that anger was best expressed in subtle, passive ways.
It’s because they had no power to take control, and this powerlessness becomes a pervasive belief that creates a life where they continue to have no control.
As these men grow up, the familiar pattern that gives them comfort is to be with women that are similar to their mother, who will emotionally punish them for the same behaviour that their mother did. They will continue to feel powerless in their relationships, and continue to engage in passive aggressive behaviour as a result.
Many women who are with passive aggressive men often find themselves to be similar to the man’s mother. It’s not a coincidence.
This is also applicable with careers. Any passive aggressive man will resent authority, being told what to do, being expected to be a particular way, and if they don’t conform, they’re punished for it. So he goes through his working life angry and resentful, sabotaging his own work as well as the expectations of his employers, but in ways that he can deny responsibility.
He’s a liability to himself and to anyone that he works for.
Passive aggression and masculinity
For myself, growing up with PAPD, I had my own personal issues with understanding masculinity. I doubted my own masculinity because I felt powerless to take control.
The energy of the masculine is ‘active’, while the energy of the feminine is ‘passive’.
If you’re being active in any way – whether you’re a man or a woman, it doesn’t matter – then you’re engaging in a masculine trait. Building, creating, changing, destroying or competing – these are all masculine traits.
If you’re being passive in any way, then you’re engaging in a feminine trait. Maintaining things, tending or nurturing, being caring and compassionate, avoiding change, even being resentful of masculine expectations – these are all feminine traits.
Being passive aggressive is being feminine.
The masculine thing to do is to take control, to know what you want and to go for it, and to accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions.
So passive aggressive men are being very feminine by avoiding and even resenting masculine responsibilities and expectations. It’s a confusing state for them to be in! I should know, I lived it.
One of the things that has become clear to me recently is that overcoming passive aggression is a pathway towards becoming masculine. But when you’ve had so many years of avoiding masculinity, it can create some confusion about what masculinity actually is.
Understanding and teaching what it means to be a man
The journey to overcoming passive aggression for men is also the journey to understand and become more masculine. In this world where passive aggressive men resent the controls and expectations placed upon them by demanding women and authority figures, finding comfort in their masculine skin feels like an incredibly difficult thing to do.
It’s also my own journey, and one which I feel I’m achieving in my own way.
Because of my own healing of severe passive aggression, and my own journey towards understanding what it means to be a man, I feel a strong calling to help other passive aggressive men through the same journey.
It’s not enough to heal passive aggression. It also has to be approached with understanding what it means to be a man, because ‘real men’ aren’t ‘whiny bitches’ engaging in passive aggressive behaviour.
I’ll be exploring and writing about this a lot more as I move through this journey, learning for myself and teaching others what I’ve learned.
If you feel you can relate to anything in this post, please leave a comment below and share it with me.
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