I often remark that depression is anger turned inwards. Passive Aggression and Depression go hand in hand and take down many good people who ruin their lives in depressed states, not knowing how to get out of it.
We’ve often hear the term passive-aggressive used to describe people who feel one way but act another. When they are angry, they work very hard at looking comfortable to con us into believing they are happy. Rather than frown, they smile; rather than tense their body, they intentionally swing their arms and legs. Their anger isn’t expressed warmly or directly. These people, more than most, suffer from feeling what they ‘should not’ feel. Their anger, when it arises, is expressed with mild, sugar-coated remarks. They laugh inappropriately. They prefer to discuss our feelings, rather than their own. But the true anger gives their remarks an odd, aggressive quality. Sometimes we can’t put our finger on it. But if we trust our feelings, we sense they are aggressive and we feel uneasy. Occasionally we all act this way.
Passive Aggression and Depression manifests in people who often boast about how they never get angry, as if anger to them wasn’t simply a human feeling we all have, but a disease or shortcoming of some kind.
Imagine for a moment, a passive-aggressive person (let’s say it’s a man) at a party, standing in a crowded living room. His spouse has just made an unkind and insensitive remark about him. This person, rather than show any feelings of hurt or anger, will often smile and say: “You shouldn’t say things like that”, or “You don’t really mean that”. And as he leans over the coffee table to pick up a snack, he changes the subject. From all appearances he looks comfortable.
If you comment to him privately about your own feelings regarding his spouse’s remark, he may well minimise or excuse it by discussing, not how he feels, but the stress his spouse is under at her new job. He might explain the why of her behaviour, but will rarely discuss how he feels about it. He may end the conversation by thanking you for your concern and advising you not to worry about him. In truth, worry, anxiety and depression follow these people like shadows.
Passive Aggression and Depression means that people are driven to control their feelings and will deny any emotion, such as anger, that makes them feel vulnerable and powerless. They want to feel powerful and in charge. They focus on controlling the feelings and behaviour they ‘should’ or shouldn’t have. They may tell their daughters that anger is unladylike, and their sons that showing pain is unmanly. Any time we use these terms should or shouldn’t in regard to other people’s feelings, we are participating in this passive-aggressive behaviour. This same denial motivates more aggressive people.
The aggressive types tell us they always let out their anger; they have no problem, they say in expressing it. They may yell and shake a fist, but when we examine their remarks we hare blaming and shaming. “You make me angry” is a characteristic remark. Rather than take responsibility for their own feelings, aggressive types often blame others for their anger. In essence, they are saying: “You are the one who made me feel this way and I want you to stop what you’re doing so I can feel good”. With Passive Aggression and Depression we find that all the yelling is an attempt to control and manipulate other into acting and behaving the way the aggressive person wants. Since aggressive people can’t warmly express their anger, the other people will have to change.
You might find this person at a street corner, involved in a fender-bender, yelling and accusing the other person of driving carelessly. “It’s your fault, you shouldn’t have stopped so quickly”, or “You should have signalled your turn properly”. Even if this person receives a ticket, you’ll often find him or her at home, eight hours later, blaming the other driver over supper. However, we must remember that anger is neither right nor wrong, does not try to win or lose arguments and does not find fault or excuse. If the goal of expressing our anger (or any feeling) is to show those we love who we are, then we can see how far away passive-aggressive and aggressive people are from this goal. We must also keep in mind that all of us periodically engage in Passive Aggression and Depression behaviours or aggressive behaviour. We need to identify this behaviour in order to share our real selves with those we love.
What Angers Us?
Suppose, for a moment, your spouse fails to pay a bill due on a particular date; or someone arrives late for an appointment with you; or you have a flat tire or the door handle suddenly comes off in your hands just as you are rushing our of the house to an appointment. Perhaps you don’t like to be hurried or kept waiting by someone else. Many things irritate, disappoint and anger us. It’s helpful to know what specific situations trigger our anger. If we take a quick inventory of these situations and compare our list with someone else’s, we’ll see many similarities. This will help us realise we aren’t alone. None of us like a flat tire when we are driving to an important appointment. Most anyone can understand us being angry and irritated.
Try to include in your list some quirky situations that seem to anger only you. Maybe cigarette butts in ashtrays irritate you, and even more so than the individual who left them there. Maybe your spouse seems to have the habit of calling you downstairs just as you settle down in bed to read. Do you tighten your jaws when your child cries in the middle of the night? Do you get angry and mumble under your breath when you find the shirt or the blouse you wanted to wear wrinkled? Identifying these situations now, when you are more comfortable and willing to be more aware of anger, will make it easier to express your anger when the situation happens.
It’s important to keep these situations in mind: the flat tire, the wrinkled shirt, the unpaid bill, showing up late for an appointment did not happen intentionally to harm or anger us. The tire did not pick that moment to go flat when we so needed the car to run smoothly. In fact, we might have known all along the tyre needed to be replaced. Nor did someone anticipate our desire to wear a particular shirt and sneak in, in the middle of the night, to wrinkle it. Absurd as this may sound, blaming others or the situation for our anger is just as ridiculous.
For more information on Passive Aggression and Depression get in touch or start a course, or come to our centre for healing. You can heal your life.