I am not a psychologist nor am I a therapist.
Yes, I am doing a PhD but it is not in attachment theory. I am still an expert though. I know the secret places of my mind, the dark and illuminated crevices where no one else goes but me. I trace the lines of my every unfolding back to its core, cracking open the things that hide in corners.
I am an observer of people and life. I watch and listen and tie things together. I tuck them in. Here, there. Sometimes closely and tightly. And at other times, loosely so they can find their way back to where they need to be.
The other day I came face to face with something in me I had never named before. Little actions that can be easy to dismiss. Little actions that can be huge in the ripples they create.
There are moments, dear friends, when I can be passive aggressive.
At first this hit me like a tonne of bricks. Me? How? Where? When? I had to sit down for it. When I did sit down with this fact and allowed it to press against my chest, the swelled questions flooded in. I rode them to the end, and at the end there was nothing but quiet. I didn’t need to hurl insults at myself. I just needed to understand as understanding made herself visible. And she does.
I found myself sitting on that chair with the secret parts of me open in my hands that particular day because my best friend had to work. But when her work slid into the spaces of time when I needed her to be there for us to talk and connect, I became angry. Yet it seemed so silly and childish to be angry, and so I took a heavy-duty plunger and pushed the emotion down, down to the pit of my being. I thought it would never bother anyone there and I would be okay. Until she arrived in our space and I found it difficult to lovingly respond to her. There was something heavy sitting in my belly. I was avoiding her questions, evading and not initiating conversation. I was sulking and resisting the connection she was offering.
Later I realised that I was hiding. I was withholding myself from her as punishment for her absence. My unacknowledged and unexpressed anger was finding other ways to self-manifest.
Passive aggressiveness is often supressed anger seeping out in subtle verbal and non-verbal ways. It includes the bubbling to the surface of the uncomfortable feelings we try to push down into the bowels of our being where they will not see the light of day either because we are shamed of feeling them or we think they should not be expressed.
Experts will tell you there are particular people who are textbook passive aggressors, complete with textbook characteristics. Here is my theory: anybody who is a human being can be passive aggressive. Even though some human beings may be more prone to passive aggressiveness that others, it is not a secret society group to which some are condemned. Rather, it is a consequence of the human failure to express and interact with emotion in a healthy manner. When we hide or suppress emotion that needs to be expressed, over time we create blockages in our communication channel, which in turn miss-feeds the harmony that chains body, mind and soul. Emotions will always find a way to self-manifest; this is why it is crucial that we learn to do the tango with them. Emotions are not a curse. They are the rain showers that make the gardens of our lives rich and decadent. But if left to control us, they become the floodwaters that carry us away.
This is a big space of a subject. And it can be overwhelming. But I want to make it simple, human to human:
Say it. Say the stuff that hurts. Say it. Say it to the one you love. Let them see your disappointment, your anger, your pain, your hurt, your confusion. Say it. But whatever you do, please say it with grace and integrity; with compassion for yourself and your loved one. Learn how to. And listen. Listen to the moment. Listen to the one you love. Listen to yourself. This is a two-way thing. It is not just about you. It is never just about you. As long as we are human, our potential to be passive aggressive will be one hundred percent. But we need not succumb. We can rise above this.
I had to apologise to my best friend. I told her I was being passive aggressive and that I was sorry. I said the words. Saying it made it real. It forced me out of hiding. And in that moment I knew that I can rise above this. I am committed to. I can cultivate a healthy and loving way of dancing with my emotions. No more secrets. This work begins today.