I so enjoyed writing about psychopaths last week that I decided to take a look at some other personality disorders. They’re a fascinating bunch of behaviors that drive the rest of us ‘normies’ totally crazy. The problem is, as we noted with Psychopaths, often people with these disorders live very ordinary lives although the people around them usually are frustrated, confused and angry.
Passive Aggressive Personality Disorder is no longer included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Manual. I’m not sure why it was dropped, (I think it’s up for more study) but que sera. People with this cluster of traits are still hard to live or work with.
By the name, you can probably tell some of the symptoms of this disorder. On the one hand, these people are very easy to get along with. They’ll agree to almost anything. But, try to get them to finish anything. Good luck.
Their behavior is contradictory and inconsistent. On the one hand, they’re extraordinarily agreeable but on the other, their performance is sadly lacking and can sometimes be damaging. It’s all about looking good but remaining in control.
People with this cluster of symptoms usually avoid as much responsibility as they can. They may be master procrastinators, never finishing anything. Or they may claim chronic forgetfulness. And lastly they usually perform your requests in a totally incompetent manner. They’re very good at completing things on their list, but you’ll rarely get anything out of them.
The simplest way to tell if you’re dealing with a Passive Aggressive person is to listen carefully to them. If you hear “I’m sorry” regularly, odds are you’ve been caught in their smiling web of inefficiency.
A common symptom is chronic lateness (don’t go ballistic because you’re always late – there may be other reasons for your behavior). And of course this is always accompanied by a sincere and meaningful apology. Until next time when they’re late again. One of the clues that you’re dealing with someone who has this disorder is when you start telling them events start earlier than fact – so that you have a chance of them arriving on time.
Another cluster of symptoms is blaming, complaining and making excuses. Passive Aggressive people always have a reason for their failure. It’s always somebody else’s fault. At a minimum, their failure is because of their poor memory. I once had a client whose husband ‘forgot’ to tell her her brother was in the hospital. Not his fault, he forgot. And he was so sorry.
Some people with this disorder go through life with a perpetual smile on their faces. You would never know to look at them, that they’re angry and resentful at you and will do anything to make you look silly, foolish or incompetent by their failure to follow through. And it is hard to see their stubbornness for what it is – a desire to do anything that will make you look bad.
Other are openly angry and resentful – of the power they give you, of your supervisory role in the company or your bigger house. Whatever. The cause of the anger and resentment is irrelevant.
Another common statement from these folks is “I can’t”. What they should add is “I won’t, because I fear I might fail”. Since everything is a competition to these folks and the risk of failure is the most important aspect of every decision they make, they rarely try anything new. Rather there’s always an excuse for why they won’t do something new (this can even extend to trying new foods), whether those reasons make sense or not.
So think of a smiling, cheerful woman, who is always helpful. She is around all the time, volunteers regularly and enjoys the prominence of being part of the team. BUT she over promises and under-delivers every time. Maybe she says she got sick. Or misunderstood. Or her cat/dog/son/niece got sick. There’s always a reason why she doesn’t follow through on her commitment and inevitably, her failure makes you look bad. Worse, if you bring her pattern of behavior to her attention, she’ll be hurt and angry. And tell the world.
Nice, isn’t it?
Now remember, no diagnosing your siblings or in-laws. That’s not fair. I’d love to hear if you’ve met or dealt with people like this. Is there a way to make this type of person a minor character in a book? Would you want to?