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Children often behave inappropriately. They say and do things that shock adults.
The codes of conduct that govern adult society are largely unknown to children.
Children are (in many ways) true to their natures.
Taoism and Zen encourage a person to return to a condition of innocence.
To see the world anew. Without the ugly illusions created by modern industrial society and commerce.
Unfortunately, many people who seek a 'spiritual path' fake such child-like conduct.
They carefully cultivate an image and hide behind the conceit.
Those who are defensive do not understand.
Those who understand have nothing to defend.
Negative emotions are biologically harmful and can make you ill.
When you become angry, your body is flooded with hormones and adrenaline; you enter a 'fight or flight' mode which is only intended for extreme situations in which your life is endangered.
'Fight or flight' puts your body under duress.
Taijiquan encourages a person to change the way they think in order to reduce the likelihood of becoming angry.
Calm? Oh, really?
Taijiquan attracts a wide spread of potential students.
Many people are drawn to the idea of being calm and laid back, at peace with existence.
We come across countless people with soft voices and hard eyes. People with dreadlocks, tattoos, friendly clothes but inner hostility.
Sadly, they often think that dressing calm and affecting a peaceful demeanour is the same as actually being composed and detached.
We find out quite quickly that many of the seemingly calm people are actually very angry inside.
They mask it with an image.
Zen has no time for facade. It is hard enough to come to terms with reality without hiding your own nature.
Not everyone shows their anger outwardly. Many people brood inwardly and a quiet kind of anger develops.
This inner anger is never expressed through overt action or confrontation.
It is manifested in small ways, through pettiness and dishonesty. Stubbornness. Awkwardness.
People who feel angry inside find their lives changed by the pent-up emotion.
It twists their behaviour in unpleasant ways.
The anger becomes second-nature and involuntary. The person ceases to be consciously aware of it.
Here are some examples of passive aggressive behaviour:
Act contrary to your feelings
Act contrary to your word
Afraid to show your anger openly
Agree with something when you do not really agree with it
Avoid conflict at all cost by giving in to others, only to deceive them
Avoiding responsibility by claiming forgetfulness
Blame other people for your own mistakes
Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
Failure to be true to your word
Failure to take responsibility
Falsehood and benevolent-seeming behaviour
Fear of intimacy
Feel pressured to act or believe in a certain way when you really do not want to
Hide your hostility by seeming to be nice to someone you dislike
Inability to be honest about your true feelings
Quietly manipulate to get your own way, rather than be honest
Resists suggestions from others
Tell people what they want to hear
This is not an exhaustive list.
It simply provides an indication of what 'passive aggressive' behaviour
A passive aggressive person often has a poor self-image and low self esteem.
They blame other people for their situation.
They feel disempowered and unable to change things.
Instead of dealing with problems, they always back down publicly.
Rather than have a confrontation, the passive aggressive person acts sneakily.
They lie and deceive. They give their word but do not keep it. They mumble rather than speak clearly.
Sadly, a passive aggressive person actually reinforces their situation by behaving in a manner that encourages other people to mistrust them.
The 5 ego defences
A passive aggressive person causes a lot of difficulty and conflict in their own lives.
They create relationships that are unhealthy and unpleasant.
If their behaviour is questioned/challenged, the passive aggressive person hides behind well-practiced ego defences:
Projecting your thoughts/feelings onto others
Anger must have something strong to hit against. If there is no response, no feedback, anger dissipates.
Passive aggressive people are often quite hostile
and sometimes unwittingly vindictive.
Unfortunately, they are unaware of this and see themselves as being unable to behave in that way.
It contradicts their own self-image.
Instead of being openly hostile, the passive aggressive person is evasive and indirect.
They avoid addressing their problems. They avoid improving their relationships.
Here are some examples of this behaviour:
Putting people down in a sarcastic way
Deny that they have any problems with their relationships
Avoid discussions about unpleasant topics
Talk about others in a negative or disparaging way, yet are nice and friendly to their faces
Make people look foolish by letting them down
Talk about change but take no action whatsoever
Show a consistent pattern of exerting no effort toward improving their relationships
Minimize the extent of the problems facing them in their relationships
Continue to deny that a problem exists when all the
evidence points to the opposite
Speaking is the primary form of human communication. It serves to express ideas and feelings.
Mumbling is a common occurrence amongst passive aggressive people.
By mumbling, the passive aggressive person is once again withholding honest, open communication.
They are failing to express their inner feelings.
Imagine that talking is like throwing a ball to another person...
You need to throw the ball to the person your are interacting with. They need to be able to catch it.
If you hurl the ball randomly off in any direction, this lessens the chance of the catcher receiving the ball.
Clear, direct, open speech improves the likelihood of other people hearing what you have to say and understanding the intended message.
Mumbling assumes that the listener is prepared to be patient.
Eventually most people grow tired of asking the mumbler to repeat themselves and give up.
They simply pretend to hear, but do not.
The person who is mumbling may realise that other people are not listening to them and feels increasingly marginalised.
Not all passive aggressive people mumble. Others love to talk but their words seldom have import.
They talk rather than act.
Words are used as a veil to hide behind.
The passive aggressive person feels safe behind a screen of 'lies and evasions'.
Passive aggressive people may hide behind an internet 'personality' in order to avoid face-to-face confrontation.
They may even own a dog and use the dog to express their anger by allowing it to aggress people.
Overcoming passive aggressive behaviour
If you behave in a passive aggressive way, and want to do something about it, there are options:
Be assertive, open, and honest
Admit your negative feelings and anger
Contemplate your own behaviour, especially when it is inconsistent or dishonest
Look for the root of your conduct in each situation: what is making you upset?
Be in the moment, addressing your problem as it is happening
Behave in a manner that is consistent with your feelings
Interact with people in a more honest way
Admit that you are a liar
Be honest, even if it causes contention
You do not need to agree with everyone
Consider how irrational you are when you become angry
Learn to compromise
Speak clearly, simply and honestly
Ignoring passive aggressive behaviour is foolish. It will not simply go away.
Your daily interaction with people demonstrates the truth of your conduct.
Pretending that you are friendly and nice is a fallacy when you behave in a manner which contradicts this.
Talking with a soft voice is a deceit when your heart is hard and unyielding.
The journey of a thousand miles may start with one step, but that step entails doing something.
Taking action. Being committed.
If you are earnest enough to take one step and have the integrity to take another, each step will lead somewhere.
Do not be disheartened. Do not give in to hate. Have courage. Be strong.
18 April 1995
Last updated 19 November 2018