5 keys to understanding the passive-aggressive

A co-worker who responds positively to your queries, but never does the requested task, a spouse always on the defensive, or even a patient who forgets to systematically take his treatment despite good intentions… a person who says yes but who constantly thinks not, may prove to be a real ordeal. How to understand passive-aggressive to better protect themselves ?

Interview by Lucien Fauvernier – updated February 12, 2019 at 18:24


“The passive-aggressive disorder is defined by a resistance to the demands in both professional and social. This resistance is always expressed indirectly, through the maneuvers of avoidance, procrastination, insubordination, inefficiency, and forgetfulness is intentional. “This is the definition of the DSM-III, published in 1980, to characterize the passive-aggressive disorder, which was considered as a true personality disorder.

“He forgets constantly our appointment “, “He always has a good reason for not doing what I asked him…” as a couple, or at work, the behaviors passive-aggressive are increasingly being put forward as that could be the source of many relationship problems. He, like the perverse-narcissistic, encounter each day a passive-aggressive can quickly lose his cool. If it is not a question of manipulation in the context of the passive-aggressive, like hitting to a wall without ever that this confrontation is direct, can quickly deplete when trying to communicate with him. React appropriately in the face of someone who always avoids conflict and takes place constantly as the victim when blame is difficult. But not impossible, provided that one understands the logic of this behavior.

For Félix-Antoine Bérubé, a psychiatrist at the Program of relational disorders, and personality of the Hospital Louis-H Montreal, behaviors, passive-aggressive can be explained by a ” refusal of submission to the other but also, at the same time, and paradoxically, a fear of the self. “

How can we characterize the behaviors passive-aggressive ?

“Originally, the term” personality passive-aggressive ” has been used by the military to designate the recruits insubordonnées, resisting passively to the orders of superiors explains Antoine-Félix Bérubé. However, if one refers to the DSM-IV personality passive-aggressive is no longer considered a personality disorder, in particular because of the low quantity of studies his subject. These mechanisms of “defense passive-aggressive” are no longer necessarily a pathology, like for example a narcissistic personality disorder. This does not exclude, however, that in some people this reflex of defence is automatic, or that they frequently appeal. For these individuals, the submission appears revolting. The only problem being that for them, any request is easily perceived as a bid. It then invites these people to put themselves in positions of resistance that can be expressed through different conduits : back still later a task to perform, place themselves in a posture of victim. While the submission is perceived as unacceptable, the self – its opposite – is a source of anxiety. The individual, therefore, is a stalemate : she will neither submit to, nor emancipate themselves. Thus, the resistance indirectly becomes the bypass, the least worst solution. “

How to say stop to all these defense mechanisms passive-aggressive ?

“To reach an agreement with a person who is in a posture of passive-aggressive can be very complicated,” explains Antoine-Félix Bérubé. To get out of a defensive passive-aggressive “reflex” which can lead to pain, the person may wish to find solutions with a therapist. However, in general, it is the spouse, the colleague, or the therapist himself, who must “negotiate” with the defenses, passive-aggressive person. The important thing to get out of these problematic relationships is to be able to establish a relationship of trust and partnership, by asking the terms of a collaboration to be effective. Empower the other person by confronting them, calmly and constructively, to its contradictions can be interesting especially in the context of a psychotherapy. “

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