This topic is going to take us places. Passive-Aggression is a trait of everyone. Borderlines, the non-personality disordered, characteristic of many other PDs, and there’s even a Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder in PDNOS all its own. So let’s see where I go with this.
Passive Aggressive behavior is the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive, passive way (such as through procrastination and stubbornness). It’s a mechanism to express anger without openly admitting you are angry or confronting the source of your anger directly. It is common for a person to express passive-aggressive behavior when they are in a position of low influence or control over a person with whom they are angry. People who feel powerless, inferior or afraid of a person with whom they are angry will frequently resort to a passive-aggressive style.
From Out of the Fog:
Personality-Disordered Individuals or PDI's often feel a great deal of pain over their own situation. Because of the way their emotions can overwhelm their rational thinking, they are prone to destructive behaviors, emotional outbursts, making poor choices and having feelings of self-loathing, powerlessness and discontent at the state of their own affairs. Faced with this, it is common for PDI's to look for a person who is willing to share the burden, help clean up the mess and help them feel better about themselves. Family members, spouses, partners and friends are prime candidates for this role - a role which they sometimes accept willingly; hoping to make a positive difference in their loved-one's life but may unwittingly create over-optimistic expectations for what they can accomplish. When they inevitably fail to solve all the problems and fill all the voids, it is common for the PDI to feel disappointment, disillusionment and even resentment towards them. Filled with anger towards those who have disappointed them, yet consumed by fear that they will be abandoned by those who have loved them the most, the PDI may develop a pattern of passive-aggressive behavior towards the Non-PD.
Some Examples of Passive-Aggressive Behavior:
Withdrawal - of material support, contribution to shared goals, Re prioritizing alternate activities and goals, "go-slow's", procrastination or targeted incompetence are all manifestations of passive-aggressive behavior.
Silent Treatment, inappropriate "one-word" answers, inattention, making yourself generally "unavailable".
Off-line Criticism - propagating gossip or criticism to a third party in an attempt to negatively influence the third party's opinion of a person.
Sarcasm, Critical and "Off-Color" Jokes - Humor which targets a specific individual is a form of passive-aggressive communication.
Indirect Violence or shows-of-strength such as destruction of property, slamming doors, cruelty to animals in the sight of another is passive-aggressive.
I definitely fall to some passive-aggressive behavior. Personally my preferences seem to be in withdrawal, “silent treatment”-ish, and sarcasm, critical and off-color jokes. I’m putting “silent treatment” in quotes because it’s practically impossible for me to give anyone the silent treatment. I want to. I often want to go days without speaking to someone to punish them or make them worry about me, but I can’t. I’ll withdraw my attention to a point, but I can’t discontinue it altogether. I don’t want to talk to them, don’t want them to know anything about me, but I can’t be out of contact either. This and my tendency for rampant sarcasm are probably my biggest displays of passive-aggressiveness.
However this is not just a PD trait. I’ve known plenty of people that are passive-aggressive that are just you’re neuro-typical person. Then there are your non-personality disordered types that deal and live with those of us with PDs and they can have their own brand of passive-aggressiveness as well.
Non-Personality-Disordered Individuals or Non-PD's are often confused about the erratic state of mind of the personality disordered individuals (PDI's) in their lives. They may feel anger and hurt towards the PDI because of the way they have been treated by them, while at the same time they may be afraid of future outbursts. The Non-PD may be fatigued from taking the "high ground" over contentious issues while at the same time angry with the PDI whom they deem to be taking the "low road" or taking advantage of them. Non-PD's may develop a pattern of passive-aggressive behavior towards PDI's as a way of registering their disapproval while trying to maintain the "high ground" and trying not to provoke further aggressive behaviors from the PDI.
Passive-aggressiveness seems to be its own vicious cycle. Once it’s started, it’s almost contagious and starts reflecting back on itself from the person that it was originally aimed at. Theodore Millon identified four subtypes of negativist (passive–aggressive). Any individual negativist may exhibit none or one of the following:
circuitous negativist – including dependent features
abrasive negativist – including sadistic features
discontented negativist – including depressive features
vacillating negativist – including borderline features
Personality Disorder Not otherwise Specified: This is the incredibly vague and indistinct sub-classification of Personality Disorders that don’t otherwise fit into the Cluster A, B, or C types (odd, dramatic, anxious). PDNOS includes things like Depressive, Passive-Aggressive, Sadistic, and Self-Defeating.
I mention this because in my reading of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder I found a lot of similar traits to Borderline Personality Disorder. Now it is possible to have co-morbid personality disorders, but it’s more likely that there are just overlapping features associated with the lot of them. The way a personality disorder is diagnosed is by evaluating which PD is most encompassing of all the signs and symptoms; not choosing all the PDs that share traits with the symptoms displayed.
Tomorrow I’ll get more into the overlapping features of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder and how these traits apply and comingle with Borderline Personality Disorder.