Well Intentioned, Unnecessary Regardless

It has been said before to avoid loud and aggressive people as they are vexatious to the spirit (Desiderata). If we are peaceful and/or quiet people by nature, we tend to avoid loud people altogether, or limit our interactions with them. If we are loud and expressive however, we tend to attract and thrive in the same. What we are poorly equipped to do is deal with passive-aggressive behaviour.

As an example we may have a coworker who through life’s experiences decides to be a generally bitter individual. S/he is unable to take responsibility for his/her life and seems content to wallow and dwell in perpetual criticism (self/other). When not self-obsessing about his/her sad state of affairs, this individual is otherwise very sociable and interesting to speak with or listen to.

There is however an extremely mean streak in him/her that emerges and completely overshadows previous good conversations or actions. This internal self-loathing, allows the person to direct negative energy (through word and/or deed) to direct spheres of influence under the guise of care or concern. This may be seen in a comment such as, “I don’t know why people don’t like you, and I think you are nice”, or “Do you remember that guy/gal you used to date and you thought he was hot and he ended up being such a jerk?” Whereas this comment may be useful in viewing our relationships with others in context, it serves no purpose if mentioned out of turn. If carefully examined, and as previously explored in the series “Power of Thought”, the listener can be able to determine the root of such a comment and place it in its proper context. Passive aggressive behavior however, is difficult to prepare for, as it slithers its way into a conversation/action, as opposed to the openness in a physically loud or passive individual.

Passive-aggressive behavior germinates from a perceived inability to control one’s situation (family, work, love etc). The individual is usually very aware of this behavior and the reasons for it are known to him/her. S/he however, believes in his/her heart that s/he does not like conflict and generally stays away from negative energy/people. This is a contradiction as the individual is the epitome of conflict and negative energy. This can be seen in the few things counted as successful in his/her life. 

Everything seems to be and/or come as a struggle and anything that works out is not expected to work out the second time around. The person trades for time and friendship with items/loans (money) and places a disproportionate emphasis on things that can be bought and not acquired via virtues. The individual is unwilling to control his/her mean spirited words and brushes them off easily with a, “You know what I mean”, and if one decides not to play into it, the individual will justify his/her behavior by stating that the listener does know what s/he meant and is simply being stubborn or overly sensitive. A fruitful conversation is difficult at this point, as the listener is unable to point out the effect of the speaker’s words and/or question the relevance, as the speaker has already determined that s/he meant well (“you know what I mean”).

As easily as the coworker is negative about people and situations in his/her life when speaking with us, it is true that s/he is as critical and negative about us when speaking with others. This is not made apparent (passive) but seen in the inconsistencies (aggressive) of what one hears. Should we meet a person that the coworker has viciously described, we may find that the complete opposite may be stated of the person, or that the two are more similar than not.  Another example involves our coworker actively planning and contributing to events that s/he has no intention of attending. When asked for a reason, the individual gets defensive. This person is not always mean and is an awesome source of friendship. We are aware of this mean streak in him/her, however; we are also aware of an otherwise great personality that may be worth hanging onto. How do we amalgamate the two without compromising our internal strive for peace?

We may find ourselves lash out in frustration once determined that we have “had enough” of the self-martyring and self/other criticism. These outbursts and subsequent conversations act as temporary bandages. Verbal fights over defense mechanisms are futile as the elements in question are actively in high gear at the time of conflict. Our internal systems are built to raise flags if a threat is perceived, and as one party attempts to reveal the broken role of the passive aggressive behavior in the other, passive aggressive behaviors are employed in response. 

An element inherent in passive aggressive behavior is the individual’s inability to accept responsibility for any of his/her life outcomes. There is always an external factor that contributes to his/her unhappiness and/or failures and his/her responsibility is limited only to how much time/money/trust was given. This last point is where the idea that the individual generally shies away from negative people and conflict stems from. It is a warped understanding of what negative people and conflict situations constitute, as passive aggressive behaviors in themselves produce and cement the above.

The individual is prone to express excessive interest and/or happiness for someone else.  This display of emotion may be confusing for we may have experienced several occasions whereby the individual expressed the complete opposite, or made comments that question the authenticity of the good wishes. For example, a coworker may repeatedly express extreme happiness for our new hobby; however severally remark to our boss that we seem to be too busy in our new life to do our office work. 

A friend may buy champagne to celebrate our excellent choice in the new apartment hunt, however later remark that s/he is surprised that we would go for “that place” amidst all the other choices.  Regardless, passive aggressive behavior hides behind self-martyring, and this means that no amount of “pointing out” or ignoring these traits will change this behavior. It is an old friend that the individual must want to let go, and can only effect this change in him/her. As this individual assigns blame to anything and everything external, it is a character positioning that must be internally effected. The individual waits on outside influences (person/thing) to “fix” the bitterness/unhappiness without realizing that s/he is the source of his/her own reality.

A relationship with such an individual can only last if there is more time spent apart than together. It is not enough that we are aware of the individual’s mean streak and endless capacity to assign blame to anyone/thing, it is that there is usually little to no warning of an attack. One may carry out a wonderful conversation for hours or days and suddenly without merit hear a remark that does not invite growth or a learning opportunity. Chaos immediately ensues if one decides to question the origin of the thought. 

As we are aware that a verbal fight will only end in the individual licking his/her wounds in a corner while contemplating the unfairness of life and his/her well intentioned remarks, we may decide to turn the other cheek. If we politely point out the mean substance being elicited, the individual may immediately agree with us and promise to try for the next time. This seems to be a recurring cycle with our passive aggressive relationships; mean spirited comments or actions with little to no opportunity for learning or growth.  If allowed to persist, they are effective in taking away from our positive energies and fostering Resentment toward the stated individual.

The work lies within us. In the case of a coworker who has become dear to us, we need to evaluate the relationship and whether the individual fits into our grand scheme. In our personal relationships, we may find that we are no longer interested in excusing what seems to take us five steps back while we attempt to make positive changes in our lives. The determining factor in letting these negative influences go lies within our understanding of loyalty. 

While we realize that our life changes are attracting only those things and people inherently good for us, we are also simultaneously aware that we are losing habits, things and people who serve to generate negative feelings/actions. Constant realization as we learn and apply new knowledge is important as it functions as an effective catapult. The knowledge that we are growing away from the relationships known and loved by us takes a rapid downward spiral from Loyalty to Guilt, if unresolved.

We cannot have it both ways. What we can do, is appreciate the value of the previous relationships and the learning opportunities presented. We may pray hard that the individuals join us in our upward assent to happiness, and most importantly, we simply must let go. True relationships transcend distance and time. Conversations are not spent attempting to display how much one loves or misses the other individual, rather, a catching up takes place. 

Negative opinions and/or actions concerning the other individual that have no place in the conversation are left at the back burner, for we appreciate and fully utilize opportunities spent together. Deep down, we are aware of the demise of a relationship long before it takes place. Hanging on prolongs the inevitable. Pain is inevitable however suffering is an option. In trusting our guts and our commitment to pursue only that which is beneficial for us always, we practice and carry out with ease, the ability to say goodbye while there is still some good left in the bye.

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Well Intentioned, Unnecessary Regardless

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