We’ve all experienced passive-aggressive behavior in one form or another, either on the giving or receiving end. Teasing a sibling, a joke at a friends expense or telling a half-truth to a parent. It can show itself at anytime and anyplace where there are two or more egos at work. In small doses it can be annoying and sometimes funny. When exercised by the ego driven narcissist, it can lead to psychological torture, personal tragedy and even fatality.
While differing with outright aggressive and combative behavior, the passive aggressor results to obstructionist activity and psychic resistance to following through on expectations and obligations at the expense of another, or others. Their actions are marked by a permeating pattern of negative attitudes and passivity, unwarranted criticism, usually unacknowledged resistance toward positive progress in interpersonal or occupational situations and relationships. Although it can be exerted by strangers, it is more commonly observable with friends, family and colleagues.
Passive-aggressive behavior can manifest itself consciously and subconsciously as active or imagined helplessness, procrastination, unyielding obstinacy, personal resentment and deliberate-repeated failure to accomplish agreed upon tasks and objectives for which they have accepted responsibility; all veiled in the appearance of friendship, love and camaraderie. Emanating from the primary instinct to survive, the passive-aggressive narcissist crosses the line of disorder by quietly deriving emotional pleasure with the observance of the negative and frustrating effects of their actions and non-actions. Being nice and mean at the same time, is their emotional addiction.
Imagine for a moment you are paddling a canoe forward towards a goal and there are others paddling with you. While you have trusting people at your back offering positive reinforcement and actions by paddling with you, even when you are not looking, the passive aggressors sit toward the back and only paddle when you take the time to turn around and interact with them. When your attention is diverted, they stop paddling, or worse, put their oars in the water to slow the trip down or change direction.
We are our ego, and narcissistic tendencies are drivers to live and survive. As our birth yields the beginning of conflict and satisfaction, the unfolding of our psychic development is accomplished with a Universal structure of unconsciousness, as language and images. The formative and deformative power of narcissistic tendency development begin with the family, and how the complexes manifest. The seeds of aggression and passive-aggression are planted here.
Below are examples of three basic complexes as set forth in Lacan‘s “Les Complexes Familiaux”.
- Weaning: primordial relationship with mother
- Intrusion: relationship with siblings, rivalry-jealousy
- Oedipus : love for one parent and rivalry with the other
Narcissism, at its core, is libidinal in nature. While all living species have the natural instinct to survive, primary narcissism, it is the secondary narcissism that makes us unique in our psychic development, therefore human. Phenomenologically, much of our psychic activity is unconscious and subject to pre-depositional bias, environmental and cultural influences. While it is impossible to reduce consciousness and primary ego identification, the subconscious is continuously influenced by desire and culturally relativistic experiences. Instincts are driven and are in direct relationship to the (objects) of the desire and the unconscious nature of libido.
While well adapted and psychically developed humans experience various forms of love and relationships, the narcissistic passive-aggressor is subjugated to observance. They never achieve emotional fulfillment or relational bliss because their basic nature is to harm those around them, either directly (consciously) or indirectly (subconsciously). They are emotional leeches.
Images cannot exist independently from the subject, therefore every subject, thought or concept, is somehow connected either directly with the conscious or indirectly with the subconsciousness.