Thursday, August 5, 2010

I mean maybe if someone read this then I wouldn't have to say it out loud: Part 1

Bad Behavioral Patterns At Their Best
For Part 2 click here

Something has occurred to me.  Passive Aggression is not something I invented.  I am not the creator of the perfectly round-about-route to communication.  Neither is my mother or my father (although they're pretty damn good at it).  Neither are their parents, or their parents' parents.  In fact, I don't think any individual is primarily responsible for starting this old trend.

However, you have to admit--when you're in the heat of those quietly-angry moments, you feel as though you are the One And Only who puts all the work into everything and why doesn't anyone ever notice it, given how much work it was in the first place because you always put your all into everything you do (as opposed to some other people) and here you are yet again cleaning up their mess and obviously it's them not you because you're the one who's pulling your weight and is doing a good job and only an idiot would not take notice and god you've thought this thought so many times before that Resentful has become your new middle name.

Am I right Fellow Passive-Aggressors?  Am I right or are you just sitting their glaring at your computer screen, contemplating leaving an anonymous message that starts, "I'm sure you didn't mean to say it the way you did but, ...."

Before you do, I give you this.

Just saying, it might end up on this website.  How's that for aggressive-aggression?

Honestly, this blog is not intended to attack Passive Aggression.  In fact, having a long history of being a passive-aggression person--and currently trying to quit--I am more interested in the history behind it all.
Where did it start? Why did it start?  What are the basic impulses of a standard passive aggressive personality?  Can those personalities change?

And finally, the most important question (in my opinion):

Is Passive Aggression always a bad idea?

Well, the instinct is to say "yes."  Yes, it is always a bad idea to leave that note on the fridge door because honestly, the first thought any roommate is going to have upon seeing it is, "Oh, what the fuck now?"

And yet, I grew up in a household in which all four of us left notes (and still do) whenever one of us leaves the house, so that the rest could schedule our days a bit easier around when 1/4 of the household, and thus an integral part of the fundamental functioning and maintenance of the house, is out.  I'm still not sure whether it's a good idea to be so stuck on leaving notes every. time. you. leave.  However, I fully recognize that in the moment, it's quite helpful and yes, considerate, to be informative rather than just walking out without a word on your life, especially after years of adhering to that standard of communication.  But, if it's considerate is that then really Passive Aggression?  So, here's our first battle.*

Consideration v. Passive Aggression.

The line has to be drawn somewhere, and yet, like most things human, the line is dependent on the individual and the individual's intent.  If they are leaving a note because it hints "You Should Keep Me Informed Where You Are Because That Way I Feel In Control And Less Stressed In The Short-term," then we have a problem.  If it's because you wish to have dinner with that person but have to run out on a last minute dog-walk and you can't call them because they're law-abiding drivers who don't talk and drive, then you are within your right to go that extra bit of care and compassion for your fellow easily-confused human being.  Besides, sometimes notes can be witty--and I tend to like humor more than no note at all.

At least, that's the rubric I'm working with right now.

How to Combat Bad Communication.

I don't recommend books often, but this one is pretty spot on.  Especially the story of his mother getting her appendix out just because she wanted a new purse from her parents like the one her sister got after she had her appendix out, only to loose it to a nurse who mistakenly thought the girl was giving it to her and not just saying in a half-drugged state "Look at my new purse."  Ouch.

The thing is, when I first started thinking about this personality tendency I had, it was around five years ago.  Just entering UC Berkeley, and being thrown into the world of a vibrant group of young, somewhat-intelligent people, I was convinced that A). I had this flaw worse than anyone else and B).  It was the root at all my problems in forming healthy relationships with other human beings.

Now, while I find it kind of laughable how quick someone who has problems in seeing the world outside of their problems to jump to assuming they've got the problem the hardest, I have to admit that it was a hard turn around and I'm still learning.  And by learning, of course, I mean, I'm still re-programming the mental steps I used to take almost unconsciously that would then spit out the same over-anxious responses and compulsive resentment.

And these steps can be as simple as switching from:

"Hey, do you want to pick that up?"


"Hey, I want you pick that up.  Can you?"

The second part of this step is learning how to say the above in a tone that suggests you won't be horribly offended if the querent says, "No" and mean it.  Which means, you have to take the hardest step of all and let go of those urges to control.

This doesn't mean that the person can just get away with not doing their part in your household.  In fact, if the person doesn't pick up their shit, I suggest throwing it at their head each time they don't so they get the picture that it's your floor and you don't want it there--provided of course that the item in question isn't a TV.

I just get the feeling that if humans were more direct, we'd garner more respect from our each other and save our actual anger and resentment for situations that DO matter to us (like war, racism, homophobia, sexism, people who dress their dogs up, etc.).

But, these steps to a better-communicative world can be as complicated as blocking out all the urges to fulfill a tried-and-ultimately-not-true-but-familiar! method of communication with someone you've loved and had in your life since birth.

How do you combat the urges that psychologically have been ingrained in you since before you learned how to walk?

*The word choice "battle" was used specifically for its more-aggressive nature as part of my Passive-Aggression Recovery Program.

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