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Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder
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Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder
Guest Author - Sam Vaknin
The Negativistic (Passive-Aggressive) Personality Disorder is not yet recognized by the DSM Committee. It makes its appearances in Appendix B of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, titled "Criteria Sets and Axes Provided for Further Study."
Some people are perennial pessimists and have "negative energy" and negativistic attitudes ("good things don't last", "it doesn't pay to be good", "the future is behind me"). Not only do they disparage the efforts of others, but they make it a point to resist demands to perform in workplace and social settings and to frustrate people's expectations and requests, however reasonable and minimal they may be. Such persons regard every requirement and assigned task as impositions, reject authority, resent authority figures (boss, teacher, parent-like spouse), feel shackled and enslaved by commitment, and oppose relationships that bind them in any manner.
Passive-aggressiveness wears a multitudes of guises: procrastination, malingering, perfectionism, forgetfulness, neglect, truancy, intentional inefficiency, stubbornness, and outright sabotage. This repeated and advertent misconduct has far reaching effects. Consider the Negativist in the workplace: he or she invests time and efforts in obstructing their own chores and in undermining relationships. But, these self-destructive and self-defeating behaviors wreak havoc throughout the workshop or the office.
People diagnosed with the Negativistic (Passive-Aggressive) Personality Disorder resemble narcissists in some important respects. Despite the obstructive role they play, passive-aggressives feel unappreciated, underpaid, cheated, and misunderstood. They chronically complain, whine, carp, and criticize. They blame their failures and defeats on others, posing as martyrs and victims of a corrupt, inefficient, and heartless system (in other words, they have alloplastic defenses and an external locus of control).
Passive-aggressives sulk and give the "silent treatment" in reaction to real or imagined slights. They suffer from ideas of reference (believe that they are the butt of derision, contempt, and condemnation) and are mildly paranoid (the world is out to get them, which explains their personal misfortune). In the words of the DSM: "They may be sullen, irritable, impatient, argumentative, cynical, skeptical and contrary." They are also hostile, explosive, lack impulse control, and, sometimes, reckless.
Inevitably, passive-aggressives are envious of the fortunate, the successful, the famous, their superiors, those in favor, and the happy. They vent this venomous jealousy openly and defiantly whenever given the opportunity. But, deep at heart, passive-aggressives are craven. When reprimanded, they immediately revert to begging forgiveness, kowtowing, maudlin protestations, turning on their charm, and promising to behave and perform better in the future.
Collectives - especially bureaucracies, such as for-profit universities, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), the army, and government - tend to behave passive-aggressively and to frustrate their constituencies. This misconduct is often aimed at releasing tensions and stress that the individuals comprising these organizations accumulate in their daily contact with members of the public.
Additionally, as Kafka astutely observed, such misbehavior fosters dependence in the clients of these establishments and cements a relationship of superior (i.e., the obstructionist group) versus inferior (the demanding and deserving individual, who is reduced to begging and supplicating).
Passive-aggressiveness has a lot in common with pathological narcissism: the destructive envy, the recurrent attempts to buttress grandiose fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience, the lack of impulse control, the deficient ability to empathize, and the sense of entitlement, often incommensurate with its real-life achievements.
No wonder, therefore, that negativistic, narcissistic, and borderline organizations share similar traits and identical psychological defenses: most notably denial (mainly of the existence of problems and complaints), and projection (blaming the group's failures and dysfunction on its clients).
In such a state of mind, it is easy to confuse means (making money, hiring staff, constructing or renting facilities, and so on) with ends (providing loans, educating students, assisting the poor, fighting wars, etc.). Means become ends and ends become means.
Consequently, the original goals of the organization are now considered to be nothing more than obstacles on the way to realizing new aims: borrowers, students, or the poor are nuisances to be summarily dispensed with as the board of directors considers the erection of yet another office tower and the disbursement of yet another annual bonus to its members. As Parkinson noted, the collective perpetuates its existence, regardless of whether it has any role left and how well it functions.
As the constituencies of these collectives - most forcefully, its clients - protest and exert pressure in an attempt to restore them to their erstwhile state, the collectives develop a paranoid state of mind, a siege mentality, replete with persecutory delusions and aggressive behavior. This anxiety is an introjection of guilt. Deep inside, these organizations know that they have strayed from the right path. They anticipate attacks and rebukes and are rendered defensive and suspicious by the inevitable, impending onslaught.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, Global Politician, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Topics in Personality Disorders
Abuse in Relationships
Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited
Content copyright © 2008 by Sam Vaknin. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sam Vaknin. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Carissa Vaughn for details.
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