Passive Origins, Aggressive Outcomes – Or is it the other way around?

When you have Borderline Personality Disorder and you’re displaying Passive-Aggressive tendencies there are a lot of issues that may affect you.
“Individuals with PAPD are vulnerable to anxiety, somatoform disorders, and depression. Major depressive episodes are not uncommon. In the PAPD depressive cycles, there is evidence of a tendency to blame others, a demanding and complaining attitude, and low self-confidence. These individuals are most likely to experience chronic dysthymia. Typically, individuals with PAPD display an agitated dysphoria, shifting between anxious futility and self-deprecation to demanding irritability and bitter discontent (Millon, 1996, pp. 198-199).”
This cycle describes me very well, though I don’t attribute it to a passive-aggressive disorder in me.  I think that having this cycle creates a sense of powerlessness in my moods that in turn, leads to passive-aggressive behavior. Not the other way around. So for someone with PAPD the PA trait would be the cause for this cycle, where in someone with BPD this cycle would be the cause for the PA actions. The results and ultimate actions may be the same though. It’s important to recognize these so that a  better way of dealing with these types of cycles and actions can be found.
Origin of PAPD behavior:
“Stone (1993, p. 361) suggests that the contrary, sulking, and verbal nitpicking behaviors of PAPD appear to have their origin in unending power struggles with parents. The comparative helplessness of youth made it impossible to win in these struggles so the face-saving technique of passive resistance was employed. Parental overcontrol, neglect, or favoring of a sibling can all contribute to the development of the silent protest and grudging obedience associated with PAPD (Stone, 1993, p. 361).”
For me growing up was a study in contradiction of independence. I was told over and over that independence was something to be valued, but at the same time I was no allowed to exert my independence without repercussion. Also, the very idea of being independent inspired an anxiety in me that I could not reconcile because while I knew I was supposed to value my independence, that meant I had to release my bond to my parents, which I both wanted, and did not. Having not felt particularly bonded to them in many ways, releasing what little hold I had on them was distressing. Having them tell me that I should be one way, and then be punished for exerting the nature they valued, made me feel like I had even less control over my life and its outcome. Especially since I had very little opportunity to exert my independence in the first place. I was one of those over achieving, over involved, super children. I played on a dozen different sports teams, various school clubs, piano, dance, etc. beginning when I was about 7 years old throughout high school and into college. My life was absolutely and utterly structured and scheduled beyond my ability to control, so yes, I acted out in ways that allowed me to exert some independence when I could. Unfortunately these ways were often very destructive for me. That I was told to be independent, but apparently only in a way that my parents found acceptable during a time frame they chose, seemed like a massive contradiction to me and I refused the contradiction.
For someone with Borderline Personality disorder the parent figure can be just about anyone that they feel has ‘authority’ over them. It’s been postulated that the emotional maturity of someone with BPD has not evolved past the age of 3-5 years old. This is often when the root contributors to the personality disorder has taken hold so emotionally speaking, most people that are in a close relationship with a Borderline person may act as a parental figure in some sense.

When someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder is actually a parent, they may struggle with the same issues they grew up with in their own childhood, but now from the flip side. Not having a stable sense of give and take, of communication and compromise, everything feels like rebellion or being told what to do. It feels like once again, their choices are being taken away. The control is in someone else’s hands and reduces that inner child to a place of past powerlessness.
I’m not an expert on this. I do not have my own children, but I know how it feels when people do things without including me in the process. I feel like my opinions are not enough, not good enough, and maybe even rejected. I want to be the sole decision maker because, to me, that shows how much I am needed in someone else’s life. If someone needs my opinions, and only my opinions than it means that I am a crucial aspect of their world and it is very unlikely that they will no longer need me. They won’t abandon me. I do recognize that this is not rational, but the fear that is inspired when people look to others for help, instead of me, is not rational. I don’t lash out, I internalize everything these days. My self-worth plummets, I feel hurt, bad, and unhappy; alone. I want the people that are close to me to revolve their activities around me. Well, maybe not around me entirely (I actually don’t like to be the center of attention), but I desperately want to be included in the process of things. Being included reinforces the idea that I have not been forgotten, that what I have to contribute is valuable, that I have value.
It’s incredibly disconcerting for me as I write this, because I realize just how dependent I can be on the need for strong relationships, for others to need me as much as I need them.  I am an incredibly independent person. The idea of being dependent/codependent makes me angry. The very thought makes me feel weak and not in control of my life. I need people, but I don’t want to need people, I want people to need me, but I don’t want them to need me too much. It’s a massive internal conflict.  Especially since, at the same time, I realize that the things I want so strongly, I also recognize are not necessarily obtainable from people. Other people have their own lives and can only do so much when they have other things to worry about. This knowledge does not ease my internal anxiety, but it does increase my awareness of those around me. It begins to lessen the resentment I feel just a little, which makes me less likely to shut down around others or shut others down.
“The classic passive-aggressive transference pattern is to comply (sort of) with the therapeutic recommendation, and then to declare triumphantly that it was a very poor suggestion and failed miserably. These individuals are programmed to ask for help and then both to defy it and to suffer from it. Clients with PAPD expect to be injured by a negligent and cruel caregiver.”
This is what’s considered Transference and/or Countertransference Issues. Getting help for passive-aggressive tendencies isn’t easy when you constantly fluxuate between wanting help and not believing you need it (effectively making you not want help). Tomorrow I’ll talk about ways to address and work through passive aggressive problems.  Or at least try to find some tricks and methods to work through it.
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4 comments on “Passive Origins, Aggressive Outcomes – Or is it the other way around?

  1. Very interesting post. Thank you very much for sharing.I think my ideal self is one who has no value for other people's approval because my real self craves it so much. I need relationships, I'm very dependent on other people, no matter how I try not to be. Some call it vanity, other people just think it's needy. I can sort of sympathize with your massive internal struggle. I too, want people to view me as important but not overly important that they will curb my freewill. Your post was remarkably clear and I liked how it reflected how I felt – way better than I could have expressed it myself.

  2. @Lemons… "I think my ideal self is one who has no value for other people's approval because my real self craves it so much." I relate to this sentiment so much. Thank you!@Maasiyat… Birds of a feather =)

  3. Being needed is important to most, I imagine. It is for me. It motivates me to remain active in my passions. Blogging is a perfect example. When no one is reading, it is hard to churn out the next post and it is only because of a few loyal readers that it eventually gets done.

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