Aggression and Assertiveness Part II: Passivity and why contradiction is not argument

Most people only think about aggression and passivity as a dyad, seeing passivity as the opposite as aggression. In many ways there are opposite characteristics, as passive people tend to violate their own rights while denying their own needs, thoughts and feelings often while filling the needs of others. The passive individual is often identified as the one not speaking up, not taking initiative, and not causing trouble, and appears to be the polar opposite of the aggressive person. The relationship between passivity and aggression, however, is a lot more complicated, and, in some ways, rooted in as many similarities as differences

First, passive individuals assume just as much aggression in others as aggressive people. Sometimes the person does not have the strength to return aggression in a given situation, or sometimes the person recognizes aggression as being wrong and self censors or refuses to act because they do not want to be aggressive or face the consequences of aggression. However, this mindset assumes that the aggressive responses are the only possible responses. The choice is giving aggression or receiving aggression, and so they choose receiving aggression but the assumptions still focus solely on aggression as the only option, similar to being offered soda or nothing and choosing nothing.

Passive people are also blame oriented. Many passive individuals defer all decisions to avoid being the blame for a problem that comes from that decision, while others will take on more responsibility than they should because they feel that doing otherwise would just lead to more problems. In the most extreme form, passive people take on the blame of others to end an aggression. When it comes to thoughts and feelings, where aggressive people will blame you for having thoughts and feelings they know you have (even though you probably don’t actually have them), passive people tend to assume the other person will automatically know the passive person’s thoughts and feelings and will blame you when you don’t know what is in their head.

Passive people waiver between externalizing and internalizing problems. When the passive person defers to others, then they are just following rules and orders, and therefore it is not their fault. When they take on the responsibilities of other people, they are just doing what they see the situation calls for and taking one for the good of the everyone else. However, they also react to the perceived aggression in others by accepting blame, and therefore internalizing problems and responsibilities. Passive people will accept blame and discount their own thoughts and feelings in reaction to the real or assumed aggression of others. It should be noted, that when passivity is involved, problems are considered as external or internal, solely the fault of one person or the other, but not as a “both and”  consideration of how responsibility is both internal and external.

Finally, Passive people still confuse opinion and fact. Passive people are just as prone to thinking in absolute terms with words like “should” and “ought.” Sometimes this comes a from a very rigid form of thinking that serves to internalize blame, such as “I should not have,” or avoid the aggression from others “I should be a team player and do the other person’s job,” or “the other person’s feelings should be considered over mine.” Other times, however, it serves to reinforce their rewards for passivity, as the other person “should” know what they are thinking or feeling.

Next: The Aggressive and Passive interactions and mixes

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3 thoughts on “Aggression and Assertiveness Part II: Passivity and why contradiction is not argument

  1. Pingback: Aggression and Assertiveness Part I: What is aggression? | Dr. Zack's Blog

  2. Pingback: Aggression and Assertiveness Part III: The Aggressive/Passive Cocktails | Dr. Zack's Blog

  3. Pingback: Aggression and Assertiveness Part IV: Assertiveness – The real alternative | Dr. Zack's Blog

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