You’re having a perfectly good morning,and then you
walk into the kitchen and see it:the dreaded Post-It note.
It’s stuck above the dishes you were totallygoing to do
or the trash you’re definitely planningto take out.
It has a smiley-face, but the real messageis clear.
That thing you didn’t think was a problem? Yeah,
apparently it’s a problem.
We’ve all been on the receiving end ofpassive-aggressive behavior…
and maybe even been guilty of it ourselves. Honestly,
of feels like an unfortunate but normal part of social interaction.
But in psychology, the idea is a lot morecontroversial.
Psychologists define passive-aggressive behavior
as a deliberate but covert way of expressingfeelings of anger.
And it ’ s not just
Post-Its—this behavior can take a lot of forms,
from the silent treatment to sarcasm and pointed jokes.
It can also include indirect violence—likeslamming around pots and pans—
and unhelpful one-word responses…you know, like: Sure.
But one of the weird things about passive-aggressivebehavior
is how complicated its history is.
The term “ passive-aggressive ” originated in the American military during World War II.
It was used to describe soldiers who refused to comply
with orders in a particular way.
这些士兵没有直接拒绝服从 而是表现出生闷气 拖延
Rather than refusing outright, these soldierssulked, procrastinated,
and were deliberately inefficient.
And yes, it annoyed the heck out of the officers. So,
when the first edition
of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders,
or DSM, was published in 1952, psychologistsbasically just
copied-and-pasted this stuff in and calledit passive-aggressive personality disorder. And,
at the time,
it seemed to be a pretty good working definition of a real condition.
In 1966, passive-aggressive personality disorderwas diagnosed in
3% of patients in public psychiatric hospitals
and 9% of those who visited outpatient clinics,
where people don’t stay overnight.
But by the time the fourth edition
of the DSM was published,
it had become more controversial.
It ended up getting pulled from the main text,
put into the appendix, tweaked,
and renamed negativistic personality disorder.
And in the DSM-5, it no longer appears at all.
But psychologists still argue about it.
Some papers even have dramatic titles,
like “ The Demise of a Syndrome. ”
Those who criticize the idea of passive-aggressivepersonality disorder
think one of the big problems is
that there ’ s a difference between
being frustrated by an annoying behavior andpathologizing it.
They argue that it’s a response to certainsituations,
not an ingrained personality trait. Plus,
they think the disorder
overlaps too much with other personality disorders
and focuses on too narrow of a set of behaviors.
And then there ’ s the fact that there aren ’
t a whole lot of
direct studies observing and measuring it, though,
公平地说 它确实算是人格障碍 只是
to be fair, that’s true of mostpersonality disorders. Still,
there are some arguments for passive-aggressive personality disorder as a thing.
Studies published in 2009 and 2012 found thatthe definition
of passive-aggressive personality disordermore accurately described
the symptoms and experiences of the subjects
than that of negativistic personality disorder.
And even if this behavior only appears situationally,
it’s possible that it’s based in a stablepersonality trait.
A paper published in 1970 followed up with100 patients
who were diagnosed with passive-aggressivepersonality disorder after 15 years.
And the researchers found that these patients’symptoms
were fairly stable over the long term.
But whether or not it’s a personality disorder,
psychologists seem to agree that there arefairly strong
theoretical underpinnings of passive-aggressivebehavior.
At least one study has suggested
that there might be a genetic component to it.
But more research seems to support the idea that
it can be the result of things like ineffective parenting, neglect and abuse.
the idea is that
if a child grows up with situations
where it’s not appropriate to express angeror disagreement,
they find ways to be defiant that are sociallyacceptable
and won’t result in bad consequences.
Along these lines, a 2003 study had 62 heterosexualcouples
keep daily diaries for three weeks.
And the researchers found that people whowere more sensitive
to rejection were more likely to use passive strategies in a disagreement. Specifically,
those people were more
likely to stay silent to avoid arguments,
to withdraw rather than expressing hostility,
and to be less loving to their partners afterthey argued.
So it seems like there are some consistent reasons why people might act passive-aggressively.
That said, all this isn’t great.
Although passive-aggressive behavior may helpin certain situations,
in most cases,
it ’ s a frustrating and unproductive way to deal with conflict.
So what can you do about it?
In terms of therapy and treatment… there isn
’ t enough research right now to say whether
counseling can really help people whose lives are seriously impacted by their passive-aggressive behavior.
But for passive-aggressiveness in your day-to-day life,
psychologists do have a few pointers.
You can pay attention to
whether you might be triggering this kind of response
by getting extremely upset or being passive-aggressiveyourself.
And you can also try actively encouragingopen, honest conversations.
But mostly, more research needs to be doneto better understand
passive-aggressive behavior and to settlethe debates once and for all.
Thanks for watching this episode of SciShowPsych!
If you want to learn more about behaviorsthat can be
not so great in relationships, check out ourepisode on codependency.