No, No, It’s Fine. Really.

Having planned the menus for the next few days, I’m heading out to stock up before our friends arrive for a visit.  We just got home yesterday from two weeks away, so the larder is bare.  I stop to smile sweetly at the Big Guy, engrossed in his tablet.

“Do you want to get the wine, or do you want me to do that too?”

Who says I don’t know what time it is?  It’s Work-to-Rule Wednesday: my favourite day of the passive-aggressive week.

Passive-aggressive behavior is “a type of behaviour … characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation.” . . . The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) revision IV describes passive-aggressive personality disorder as a “pervasive pattern of negativistic attitudes and passive resistance to demands for adequate performance in social and occupational situations.” – Wiki

Is it playing the victim—something we usually reserve for Fridays—to note that referring to a “disorder” is a bit judgmental?  It certainly seems fair to comment that the definition doesn’t capture this behaviour in its full glory.  I mean, think about Sullen Mondays, Silent-Treatment Tuesdays, and Sarcastic Saturdays: all the old familiar interpersonal stand-bys.

I’ve recently been asked schedule noncooperation in this busy week.  While finding a day is a pragmatic challenge, I have to consider the conceptual ones too.  I mustn’t muddle the noncooperation that is an essential element of the negativistic passive resistance that underlies passive-aggressiveness (Whew!  Still with me?) with the noncooperation that represents the principled passive resistance of civil disobedience.

Me, I suspect that some people won’t go along with Noncooperation Thursdays, for unknown and, of course, unspoken reasons.  Getting people on board will be a big job.

Do you want to handle it, or would you like me to do that too?


 

Enjoy the Fed-Ex passive-aggressive ad, here.  (Only 0:30.)

 

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10 Comments

  1. Alison Uhrbach

    Ahhh – you can always make me laugh! 🙂 it’s like you are writing down all the thoughts that are in my head – I love you for that! I’ll be sharing this post! (passively/aggressively of course )

  2. The problem is that this definition of passive aggressive also encompasses what simply intends to be politely non-compliant for perhaps quite justifiable reasons in the face of expectations for performance that are possibly less justifiable. Is that undefined range of “demands” and expectations not what the ruckus in US television and entertainment morals and ethics presently agonizes over in a society with polarized values? Did I not spend my youth edging to the far right of front car seats, moving cagily around tables, finding pressing business in a different office, and keeping a slate of alternative appointments for bosses who wanted me to “work late”? Is the DSM rev IV turning into a compendium of meaningless musings? Or is it the wine?

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – I wonder whether our frequent and casual use of mental-health language seduces us into believing that we understand these conditions, if conditions they be. Think “split personality,” which many conflate with schizophrenia. Or the movie version of obsessive-compulsive disorder (think “As Good as It Gets”), all compulsive behaviours but without any talk about the underlying obsessive thoughts. And so on. I suspect that “passive-aggressive” is another such – used casually to mean a whole range of behaviours, without any analysis of whether the expectations being resisted are justified, rather than a stringent diagnosis.

  3. Lorna

    I’m reminded that self awareness is a necessary first step to positive change. If it can be achieved with humour it is a kinder, gentler way to start. Thanks for the example.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Lorna – In my defence, I was left unsupervised. No, sorry, that’s not the line for this case. In my defence, I did say it, but was making a joke. However, I suspect I’m not always self aware . . .

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