Understanding Passive Aggressive Behavior Guest Post by Carthage

Passive aggressive behavior has various traits and many ways of disguising the way a person with this behavioral problem truly feels at any given moment. This type of behaviour is reactive and is identified by non-verbal aggressive actions or reactions. Anger and frustration is bottled up instead of being discussed in a proactive manner and the outlet is often negative, with an indirect method of communicating with others about the way you may be feeling. Let me put that in simpler language for you – there will usually be a giant mismatch between what the person says and, what their body language or tone of voice communicates.

Not all passive aggressive people display the aggressive side of their behaviour immediately. Many will keep a lid on how they feel, hiding the rage until it begins to further annoy them. Unfortunately when they do eventually begin to display the aggressive side of their behaviour, it can seem to be an overreaction and even out of context. This can make it very difficult to resolve the issue.

Common signs of passive aggressive behavior

A passive aggressive person can display their issues in many different ways. Below are some signs to look out for:

  • Sudden (violent) Outbursts
  • Moodiness/mood swings
  • Ignorance
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Evading contact – verbal or physical
  • Sulking
  • Sudden, frequent changes in attitude
  • Self-pity
  • Procrastination

Note: Not all people who can relate to the above traits/characteristics are passive aggressive – all humans have experienced most if not all of the above at some stage in their lives. Occasionally employing some of these tactics does not automatically mean that you are passive aggressive.

However, if you find that you can identify with the above and that these characteristics are frequent, then you would be wise to start monitoring your behaviour and identify positive changes that you can make.

The difficulty with recognizing passive aggressive behavior

It is not always easy to recognise when you are in the company of a passive aggressive person.  Most of the time, they display a calm and approachable demeanour. This makes it difficult for others to know or understand what the passive aggressive person is really thinking or feeling at any time; let alone recognise that they are unhappy about something..

This is often due to the fact that they do not want to raise their objections or discontent. They do not want to rock the boat and upset others. Rather than raise their issues and attempt to resolve them, they will instead hide their true feelings and hope that everything sorts itself out. In reality, things rarely sort themselves out and their anger and frustration builds until eventually they snap. Of course, when they do snap, it is not always with the person who upset them which makes matters worse.

Passive aggressive behavior in relationships

Many relationships suffer due to passive aggressive behavior. People who use passive aggressive behavior will often lash out indirectly at the people around them, rather than those whom they are actually upset with. They also tend to manipulate others into a situation in which they’re powerless to resolve because they are not really aware of what the true problem is (hence the ‘passive aggressive’ causing the confusion). The passive nature of the behavior means that the real motives remain hidden, making it much more difficult to deal with.

Passive aggressive behavior and bullying

Another subtle and sneaky behavior used by the passive aggressive person is to seek out those people who they’re sure will act according to their requests; acting in ways that almost force others to cooperate with their demands whether they want to or not. Although the passive aggressive person may not realise it at the time, this is a form of bullying and as such, is completely unacceptable. Other little tricks that the passive aggressive person may use to get their way include:

  • making themselves unavailable
  • lack of communication
  • mumbling
  • one worded answers (this used to be one of my favourite tactics)
  • no eye contact

Criticism is another method used to mask any feelings of vulnerability that a passive aggressive might have in order to hide their true feelings. This is a form of reverse psychology which allows them to use more manipulation. This criticism is often labelled as feedback but it is nothing of the sort. Feedback, when delivered properly, is objective and impersonal. The focus is on the behavior rather than the person. When the passive aggressive person criticises, they make it personal in an attempt to manipulate the emotions of the other person, in order to get a desired response.

 Awareness of passive aggressive behavior

It is important to remember that the passive aggressive person is not a bad person. They are employing a learned behavior in order to make the most of their situation. Often, they do not realize the problems that this behavior causes for others. In reality, they are usually experiencing a great deal of emotional activity which they have not learned to manage effectively. This can lead to a lack of emotional availability, self-loathing and other destructive patterns. Hence, why they feel the need to off-load onto another as the frustration builds up to a point where it becomes too much to bear and so, needs an outlet.

You can learn strategies to recognize and deal with passive aggressive behavior in our guide to Tackling Passive Aggressive Behavior.

Passive aggressive behavior becomes a habit if not tackled soon enough. When it does become a habit, the behaviour tends to reinforce itself i.e. they get their own way, thus seeing it as an effective tactic. However, this can lead to a person falling into the hole of despair and depression, as well as imposing their problems onto to their family, friends and loved ones. Should you suspect anyone in your family or social circles of being passive aggressive; it is important that you take action, as soon as possible, to tackle the issue. With patience and effort, passive aggressive behavior can be overcome.

READ MORE: http://www.coachingpositiveperformance.com/understanding-passive-aggressive-behaviour/

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Forty-Eight

Pursue knowledge, daily gain
Pursue Tao, daily loss

Loss and more loss
Until one reaches unattached action
With unattached action, there is nothing one cannot do

Take the world by constantly applying non-interference
The one who interferes is not qualified to take the world

                                                                        Lao Tzu

When you have been searching for something to offer an explanation to countless questions or a solution to challenges that loom large in your life and finally sense that you’ve found it; your very human tendency is to hold on tight and never let go. You want to wrap yourself up in the comfort and safety that it offers. You never want to stray too far for fear that you will lose its warmth and the sense that you are anchored to something secure.

Lao Tzu understood this possibility and cautions us in verse forty-eight to resist letting go of our old attachments only to develop new ones. These prose warn against becoming a professional student, getting lost in the promise that learning about spiritual practice and energetic healing offers and never actually incorporating the content into a new way of living your life.

I am a huge advocate for life-long learning. I believe that it is the only true anti-aging treatment that works. The goal of embracing the practice of the ongoing intellectual development of your mind is to stay current and engaged in your world. However, the desired outcome for developing your Spirit is to open your heart, deepen your ability to be compassionate and step into your citizenship with the Great Oneness.

Your spiritual studies are reduced to busy work if never practiced. Taking one more class or spending one more weekend exploring yet another aspect of mindfulness may deepen your knowledge base but it will only serve to keep you in your head. You must find the courage and discipline to practice daily. It is only through daily practice that you can turn on the light in your heart and discover what you really seek…Wisdom.





The Tao Te Ching: Verse Forty-Three

The softest things of the world
Override the hardest things of the world

That which has no substance
Enters into that which has no openings

From this I know the benefits of unattached actions
The teaching without words

The benefits of actions without attachment
Are rarely matched in the world

                                                                   Lao Tzu

Verse Forty-Three speaks to the professional or family caregiver that has ever been criticized for stepping up to help or perhaps even resented by the one you intended to serve. If you ever found yourself mumbling, no good deed goes unpunished, then this verse of the Tao is for you.

So often caregivers are overtly or covertly relied upon to get things done. While it can be a great complement to be known as a mover and shaker; we can sometimes get caught up in our own ego-based needs and confuse being tough for being strong. This is where we invite all sorts of trouble for ourselves.

The guiding message of this verse is to channel all your desire and well- meant ability to be of assistance into a subtle rather than overt effort. This is not to say that less is more but rather not underestimate the value of non-action. In this example non-action does not mean, do nothing. Rather it is a reminder to be mindful of your motivation. If your desire to be of help is fueled in anyway by your clinging to a need to be needed, then non-action is required.

Lao Tzu likes to use nature as a metaphor for his lessons. He often suggests focusing on the nature of water. It has a gentle quality that flows around obstacles yet relentlessly carves its own path over time. He references the wind as the force that moves much without being seen. Caregivers must always be more self-aware than most. The lack of self-awareness can sow the seeds of compassion fatigue; because you will never be able to fully have what you crave without creating a distance or a void between you and the recipient of your compassion.

Non-doing is also a powerful method of self-discovery.  As you attempt to refrain from your usual behavior, you uncover the internal forces that make stopping so difficult. You learn where you are attached; and learn about the emotions, impulses, and beliefs that keep you caught up in that attachment.  When you resist doing something out of habit, you will be afforded the opportunity to see, perhaps for the first time, the cost of your behavior. Of course this goal can only be attained through much gentle introspection but with time you will be more self-aware, more authentic and more able to use your good judgment before leaping into action.





The Tao Te Ching: Verse Forty-Two

Tao produces one
One produces two
Two produce three
Three produce myriad things
Myriad things, backed by yin and embracing yang
Achieve harmony by integrating their energy
What the people dislike
Are alone, bereft, and unworthy
But the rulers call themselves with these terms

So with all things
Appear to take loss but benefit
Or receive benefit but lose
What the ancients taught
I will also teach
The violent one cannot have a natural death
I will use this as the principal of all teachings

                                                                       Lao Tzu

In this Forty-Second Verse of the Tao, Lao Tzu is referencing the ancient Chinese legend of the Pangu. This story conveys that Chinese explanation of Creation. The Tao is the Great Oneness, the Great Oneness produced the dualist, yet balanced nature (Yin/Yang) of all things; Yin/Yang energy in turn, produced the third vital element of our existence, our life force or our Chi. Stories of creation are meant to serve as the foundation for building a spiritual practice and living a good life. This version is no different and its message is very simple. Do all you can to address any obstacles to the natural Flow of your life force/Chi.

Those caregivers who practice Holistic Wellness through the various implementations of Complimentary Therapies are well schooled on the subject of blocked energetic meridians that can close off the flow of Chi within the body and environmental obstructions that can hinder the flow of Chi within any space. I have practiced Feng Shui for over a dozen years. It is powerful form of energetic healing and quite honestly, it has changed my life completely.

However, the changes that honoring the principles of Feng Shui jump started within me and then supported; did not just happen because I hung and mirror or a crystal. The changes occurred because I was honest in my personal assessment and acknowledged to myself that I was not content and knew I could be better. In essence the message I received from the Universe during that time was, caregiver care for yourself.

I started with the basics, addressing clutter. Not just the clutter of a closet or a room but actually addressing what that clutter meant. It meant that I was stuck. Stuck in the loop of old repetitive thoughts and actions that no longer served. I had formed attachments to unhealthy coping mechanisms and mindsets that were not only slowing my journey down my Path, but sabotaging any future I could have envisioned for myself. Letting go of anything that does not serve you such as old clothing, items stored in a closet or garage so long that you don’t know what is in those boxes, or outdated neurotic needs that trap you in self-induced misery; creates a much needed space for new energy to enter and revitalize everything.

In Tibetan Buddhism, ego-based thinking and the distress that it brings is known as Samsara.  A person spins the wheel of repetitive thinking in an attempt to steady themselves from fear. The irony of course is that any ego-based thinking is always fear-based; so we place ourselves in this hamster-like wheel of self-torture and perpetuate what keeps us stuck in the cycle. We wrap ourselves up in a Cocoon where we feel warm and safe until one day there is no denying just how claustrophobic and trapped we feel.

Complimentary therapies offer vital assistance and support to an individual in his/her efforts to purge themselves from this energetic clutter that blocks the healthy Flow of their Chi. I cannot overstate just how much faith and courage this effort takes. Often it dredges up such wonderful feelings as regret, remorse and self-contempt. Little wonder this adventure can take a lifetime.

It is vital that anyone who decides upon this journey to remember the closing lines of Verse Forty-Two. It restates the Universe’s mandate against violence and makes it very clear that the Universe will never support anything that uses violence as a fuel. Therefore, as we do this introspective work and process what we discover, we must seek to understand the etiology of our issues but resist assigning blame; we cannot turn any anger that arises inward and become depressed. Rather we must be patient, embrace our essential goodness and demonstrate great loving kindness to ourselves all along the way.

Today, my fellow caregivers is Independence Day in the United States. Should you choose to begin to address the clutter in your cocoon on this day, the symbolism in your personal declaration cannot be lost. Om ma ni pad me hum.The meaning of this Sanskrit phrase is, I honor the life force within you.


The Tao Te Ching: Verse Forty-One

Higher people hear of the Tao, they diligently practice it
Average people hear of the Tao
They sometimes keep it and sometimes lose it
Lower people hear of the Tao, they laugh loudly at it
If they do not laugh, it would not be the Tao

Therefore a proverb has the following:
The clear Tao appears unclear
The advancing Tao appears to retreat
The smooth Tao appears uneven
High virtue appears like a valley
Great integrity appears like disgrace
Encompassing virtue appears insufficient
Building virtue appears inactive
True substance appears inconstant
The great square has no corners
The great vessel is late in completion
The great music is imperceptible in sound
The great image has no form
The Tao is hidden and nameless
Yet it is only the Tao
That excels in giving and completing everything

                                                                Lao Tzu

This Forty-First Verse of the Tao serves as words of recognition to those who have made a commitment to live a life in synchrony with the Great Oneness. It recognizes the challenges and benefits of such a choice.

You certainly invite others to think that you are in essence, abdicating your right to self- determination in favor of passively letting life just happen to you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Aligning yourself with the Universe is an active choice for peace and harmony and serves to focus the strength of your personal power in a very specific manner.

You choose to accept that you are a good person worthy of love, forgiveness and inclusion in the Great Oneness. You choose to believe unconditionally in the essential goodness of your being. You choose to resist your innate dualistic, judgmental nature in favor of embracing your birthright of citizenship in mankind with a compassionate heart fully aware of the strengths and shortcomings we all share.

You choose to work through your ego-driven need to make yourself the center of everything you do and to let go of the neurotic self-imposed suffering that that behavior causes. You choose to let go of the need to try to fix everything and to allow each person in your circle to walk their own Path.

You choose Mindful living which is far from the easy choice. It demands gentle introspection into your darkest corners, frank discussions with that parts of yourself that would rather not face and a good deal of discipline to practice daily Silence. Choosing an awakened life lived in synchrony with the Universe (Tao) takes a daily reaffirmation of faith and courage but the outcome is priceless.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Nine

Those that attained oneness since ancient times:
The sky attained oneness and thus clarity
The earth attained oneness and thus tranquility
The gods attained oneness and thus divinity
The valley attained oneness and thus abundance
The myriad things attained oneness and thus life
The rulers attained oneness and became the standard for the world
These all emerged from oneness

The sky, lacking clarity, would break apart
The earth, lacking tranquility, would erupt
The gods, lacking divinity, would vanish
The valley, lacking abundance, would wither
Myriad things, lacking life, would be extinct
The rulers, lacking standard, would be toppled

Therefore, the honored uses the lowly as basis
The higher uses the lower as foundation
Thus the rulers call themselves alone, bereft, and unworthy Is this not using the lowly as basis? Is it not so? Therefore, the ultimate honor is no honor

Do not wish to be shiny like jade. Be dull like rocks                             

                                                                                        Lao Tzu

People often comment on how small the world is now that we are all connected by the phone, TV and the Web. But has all this technology really joined us together? I believe this is one of the great ironies of our times. Everyday someone figures out some way to communicate slicker and quicker but I ask; are we listening to each other or just talking at each other?

The lesson in Verse Thirty-Nine is a gentle reminder that we are all part of the same Whole. It is our birth right to feel this connection and draw great comforted and strengthened from this fact however; it is our nature to want to distinguish ourselves and establish our own identity.

The Universe will always support the vision and accomplishments of the individual as long as that accomplishment does not lead to isolation or subjugation of others. Acknowledging our local and global Interdependence is the key. Our future success as a planet depends on resisting our inclination to build barriers or focus on those things that keep us apart.

It is vital to understand that Isolation is one of the primary symptoms of an addiction. Whether it is an addiction to a substance, addiction to dualistic/judgmental thinking or an addiction to hate, power, or greed; the symptom of Isolation is very real and very toxic. So stay vigilant. If you feel yourself drifting and losing your sensing of citizenship to the Whole stop, re-evaluate and reconnect.

Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try
No hell below us, above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for and no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one

                                                                                  John Lennon 1971

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Seven


The Tao is constant in non-action
Yet there is nothing it does not do

If the sovereign can hold on to this
All things shall transform themselves
Transformed, yet wishing to achieve
I shall restrain them with the simplicity of the nameless
The simplicity of the nameless
They shall be without desire
Without desire, using stillness
The world shall steady itself

                                                                 Lao Tzu

The meaning of the words The Tao is The Way and those who have either translated or study the work agree that the author intended it to be a guide to the natural way of living one’s life in harmony with nature or The Way Things Are. In Verse Thirty-Seven Lao Tzu references the opposing natures (Yin/Yang) of the Universe and calls it the subtle clarity. I believe he is trying to make the point that everything in nature is in a delicate balance that should be observed, respected and let alone.

The Taoist individual, as a citizen of the community (The Great Oneness), accepts that all things exist in harmony with nature and; should things go wrong for the individual or the community, it is most likely due to a disruption of the energies of Yin-Yang. To restore balance, the individual must resist/stop trying to control nature. As a result, the natural Flow of life is restored and nature regains its equilibrium.

When the individual tries dominating nature (impose his/her will) it usually means that personal/selfish desires are at work. The Tao cautions that these desires may be disastrous to the individual and the community and; it implies that the individual is tampering with that which is sacred. Thankfully, these set-backs are often temporary, and Universe will restore balance but not before some amount of damage occurs as one forces his/her will into the Universe’s plan.

So much of what professional or family Caregivers do is motivated by heartfelt compassion and benevolence. But these noble sources of fuel and intent can get confused with the Caregiver’s need to know best and control if that Caregiver does not stay grounded and clear. Buddhism teaches that all human suffering (personal torment) has Desire at its core and that Suffering is self-inflicted. Try to recall the outcome and your emotions surrounding that outcome the last time you interfered, invited or uninvited.

I grant you that often times we are recruited as earth angle by the Universe. I’ve often congratulated the good works of my staff and colleagues by saying the Universe could not be everywhere, so It sent a nurse. We’ve all been asked to represent higher powers at times and many have not hesitated to answer that call. But I am not referring to those moments. I am speaking of the times when we dressed up our lower level emotions such as frustration, fear, need and anger and presented them as something very different. How would we know the difference? The outcome is torment free.

When you make a commitment to being a Caregiver, you must make a personal commitment to live a Mindful life.  Mindfulness is the ability to remain present, alert and open to what is going on in and around you without letting our emotions overpower thoughts and speech. You must work to know what fuels your actions and trust in the Universe to guide you.  Then each of us may come to know the peacefulness of putting down something that was never ours to pick up to begin with.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Six

If one wishes to shrink it
One must first expand it
If one wishes to weaken it
One must first strengthen it
If one wishes to discard it
One must first promote it
If one wishes to seize it
One must first give it
This is called subtle clarity

The soft and weak overcomes the tough and strong
Fish cannot leave the depths
The sharp instruments of the state
Cannot be shown to the people

                                                                         Lao Tzu

How do you achieve a balanced perspective on life that can facilitate a joyful, peaceful mind? Be open to all that life serves up. Resist trying to avoid experiences that you may prejudge as difficult or painful. Have the courage to walk the difficult Path and resist the seeking the easy way out.

In Verse Thirty-Six, Lao Tzu appears to be stating the obvious in suggesting that you cannot fully know strength unless you have experienced being weak or you cannot fully know freedom unless you have been held captive. It is easy to acknowledge the truth of this axiom intellectually; but that means you are grasping this concept with your mind and not your heart.

Being open to all that life serves up takes a lot of faith and courage. It means living with your heart readily accessible to feel all the joy or all the sadness associated with an event. Easily said but not easily done. We reflexively close our hearts in anticipation of fear, disappointment or pain; but that is more limiting than protective.

The challenging times offer us more than we realize at first. The ability to expand our hearts and be compassionate to others as we broaden the depth of our common experiences, the awareness to appreciate the highs in life even more; and the choice to let go of extremes and embrace the Middle Way. To attain this state of mind is a process and it takes work. It requires the strength to live life as it comes and the discipline to practice silence daily so that you will have all the spiritual tools necessary to get the job done.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Three

Those who understand others are intelligent
Those who understand themselves are enlightened

Those who overcome others have strength
Those who overcome themselves are powerful

Those who know contentment are wealthy
Those who proceed vigorously have willpower

Those who do not lose their base endure
Those who die but do not perish have longevity

                                                                 Lao Tzu

In Matthew 7:3, Jesus asks this question of several who came to hear him preach, “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?” This simple question captures so much of the underlining neurosis common in us all. It is so much easier to see the shortcomings in others than it is to do the introspective work necessary to know and better yourself.  500 years earlier, Lao Tzu gave us Verse Thirty-Three as encouragement to set ourselves on a Path to self-mastery.

To work to know yourself so well that you can meet life’s challenges without attaching judgment is a lifetime commitment. It is possible to know that kind of peace of mind but it does take discipline. Not the type of discipline associated with self-control but the discipline of daily practice with silence.

Meditation is a safe, supportive place where you can come to make friends with yourself. It is the place where you can re-connect with your essential goodness or worthiness. Extending that kind of unconditional love toward yourself can help you feel right in your own skin. It offers you the ability to call up great discernment, demonstrate equanimity and release the need to judge anyone.

Create a place where you can sit comfortably with you back strong and your chest soft, with your knees positioned just a bit lower than your hips, with your arms gently resting on your thighs. Lower your gaze and breathe a natural easy breath. Initially your mind will sound like the noisiest place on earth but with practice and patience; you will slowly be able to make the space between each though longer. It is there, in those silent moments that self-knowledge and self-mastery wait for you.

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.

Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you,

not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” The Buddha


The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Two

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Two

The Tao, eternally nameless
Its simplicity, although imperceptible
Cannot be treated by the world as subservient

If the sovereign can hold on to it
All will follow by themselves
Heaven and Earth, together in harmony
Will rain sweet dew
People will not need to force it; it will adjust by itself

In the beginning, there were names
Names came to exist everywhere
One should know when to stop
Knowing when to stop, thus avoiding danger

The existence of the Tao in the world
Is like streams in the valley into rivers and the ocean

                                                                                     Lao Tzu

In Verse Thirty-Two Lao Tzu is encouraging us to resist our very human nature to over complicate things. I can just sense a compassionate smile come over him as he wrote these lines and connected with our need to try to control all that is around us; which of course then leads us to agonizing over why our lives seem so unmanageable.

Desire complicates the choices that we make and the actions that are taken. This complexity needs to be replaced with simplicity so that we may find the Middle Way and be more content. Grabbing for control is like clinging to delusions. They seem real while you live in your head but in reality they are just the cravings of your Ego taking form in your dreams. When you realize that you have been dwelling in fantasy, the pain is gripping.

In Buddhism this is known as Suffering or more closely translated as Discontentment. The Four Noble Truths in Buddhism are: (1) Suffering exists; (2) Suffering arises from attachment to desires, (3) Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases, (4) Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the steps in eightfold path. These steps are (1) Right view or understanding, (2) Right thought, (3) Right speech, (4) Right action, (5) Right livelihood, (6) Right effort, (7) Right mindfulness, (8) Right contemplation or concentration.

So you see the relief to Suffering is in knowing and accepting that life Flows and that we throw the obstacles in our own Path. We create the rapids and the chaos by clinging. So just let go and float. Find the faith and courage to accept that all is as it should be.

“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” His Holiness, The Dalai Lama