Articles on Anger
Anger Styles: Ice Cold or Passive-Aggressive
While all forms of anger are appropriate to use in some circumstances,
the more extreme kinds can be problematic if they form a style,
or a typical kind of response to injury. Mental health is about
having a full range of options, knowing when particular type of
response is likely to be most effective and being able to use
your anger appropriately.
Passive-Aggressive anger is one of the more destructive interpersonal
styles. It is a behavior characterized by the phrase, "You can't
make me!" The statement is undeniably true. We can hurt people;
we can threaten them, or lock them up. But we cannot make people
perform. People only perform out of a willingness to do so. Since
relationships are built on agreements, if someone makes an agreement
and then doesn't follow through, this is angry behavior that is
based on not doing something. That aspect of "not doing" is what
makes this kind of behavior passive-aggressive.
As a style of anger use, passive-aggressive behavior is incredibly
destructive to relationships. It destroys trust, and the people
on the other side of this behavior experience it as crazy making.
They hear the words of agreement spoken, and continue to hope
that agreements will be kept, only to experience escalating levels
of injury, frustration and anger.
In this way, passive-aggressive behavior draws anger towards the
person behaving that way. The partner, often called the "Hostile-Dependent,"
makes more and more accusations, all true, about the passive-aggressive
partner's betrayal of trust though breaking agreements.
One of the main difficulties for someone who has a passive-aggressive
style is that they are frequently out of touch with their feelings.
They don't know that what they're doing is angry. Frequently they
are puzzled and resentful of their partner's constant anger and
Another problem in changing passive-aggressive behavior is that
it has some of the dynamics of addiction associated with it. Doing
what you want instead of what you've agreed to do feels good every
time in the short term, even if it's destroying your relationship.
If you've identified that you have a passive-aggressive style,
and you want to begin to change it, you'll need to do several
things. First, you'll need to work hard to get in touch with your
emotions. Second, you'll need to realize that no one is really
trying to "make you" do the things that you agree to. Your partner
wants your participation to be voluntary. Third, since fear of
rejection often plays a major role in making agreements that you
really don't want to keep, you'll need to find your courage to
say "no" when you don't agree. Finally, don't give up. It's difficult
to change your anger style. Keep trying!