Loving Yourself Through Another's Passive-Aggressive BehaviorBy Dr. Margaret Paul
August 01, 2017
Passive-aggressive behavior is crazy-making. It's important to tune into this so that you can show up to love yourself in the face of it.
A major challenge in many relationships is passive-aggressive behavior.
How can we know when someone is being passive-aggressive? We FEEL it – and we need to trust our feelings.
What do you feel when you are being crazy-made with passive-aggressive behavior"?
Madeline, who wrote to me about this kind of behavior, said it gives her “the feeling of being punched in the gut…It's the under the radar kind of meanness.” She often feels crazy-made by her mother’s passive-aggressive behavior:
“My mom can reasonably deny that she did anything on purpose, and tell other people ‘how sensitive’ I am. Like when she gossiped and I confronted her, she said that she was ‘asking people to pray for me.’ For what? I wasn't acting crazy….There have been things she said that I literally felt a pain in my tummy, and I could never call her out on it because she can say, "I didn't mean that. You're so sensitive."
Fortunately, Madeline now realizes that her mother’s passive- aggressive behavior has nothing to do with her. She sees that her mother takes her anger at her father out on her, and she has stopped believing anything her mother tells her about herself.
When people are afraid of speaking their truth to someone, they may stuff their anger and pain, and then it comes out sideways in hurtful ways. Because it’s not direct, it’s hard to comment on.
My mother was a master at passive-aggressive comments. She was threatened by my father’s attention to me, as well as just by who I was, but rather than take responsibility for her own feelings, she would try to covertly squash me. When I got good grades, she would say things like, “Darling, this is wonderful, but really, you don’t need to work so hard.” This made me feel completely unseen, as I wasn’t working hard. School was easy for me, but because my mother didn’t believe she had much intelligence, she needed to diminish mine. She was angry at me because my highly intelligent father was often teaching me important things that my mother couldn’t keep up with, so she needed to covertly diminish and ridicule who I was. I’ve always been a high-energy and productive person, and she would often tell me that I looked tired or unwell as another way to diminish me. Her voice and facial expression looked caring, but the energy felt like, as Madeline said, a punch in the stomach.
I learned to love myself….
I finally learned to love myself around my mother’s passive-aggressive behavior. Here is what I did:
I learned to stop taking her covertly undermining comments personally. I realized that they were a reflection of her own self-judgments and had nothing to do with me. Because she couldn’t see herself, she couldn’t see me, so everything she said was a projection of her own self-judgments. I learned to bring much compassion to my own feelings.
I learned to lovingly disengage when she started in with her crazy-making comments. I would kindly get off the phone, or, if I was at their house, I would causally walk away and do something else. I learned to limit my time with her.
- Because I stopped taking her passive anger personally and was able to be compassionate with myself, I was also able to be compassionate with her. I was able to see her very sad abandoned inner child and give her a lot of love. My mother loved it when I held her and mothered her! This helped her back off some of her crazy-making comments.
The most important thing in the face of someone’s passive-aggressive behavior is to understand that this is what it is. Once you name it and understand it, it’s much easier to take loving care of yourself.
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."
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Photo by Takmeomeo
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Fun and joy exist between two people when the energy is clear and flowing between them. Clear energy is the result of open, spiritually-connected hearts. Likewise, intimacy and passion in committed relationships are the result of clear, heart-centered energy. The words "I love you" mean nothing without the clear spiritual energy of the open heart.
By Dr. Margaret Paul