Monday, January 27, 2014

Calling My Inner Enabler To The Table: Overcoming Passive Aggression.......

My book list reads pretty funny for the past year.  It ranges from the hardest attachment and trauma theory to the 50 Shades of Gray (trauma effects played out in sex) with a side helping of history, fluff and encouragement to keep me sane.

Last night I put aside "Overcoming Passive Aggression: How to stop hidden anger from spoiling your relationships, career and happiness" by Murphy and Oberlin.  It was that sort of book that I needed to read - because for years I have known at the most basic level what P-A (Passive Aggressive) behavior is - but have had no real comprehension of how it was affecting my life and household. 

First let me say that P-A behavior is super common as a pattern for those under the ADHD, FASD, LD, RAD,  trauma, and insecurely attached realm.  It can start as a coping mechanism for some and a control mechanism for others - it can be intentional or unintentional and very nice -loving - smart - kind people can be using or participating in it without even knowing that it's going on simply to avoid direct conflict.  Hidden or repressed anger also has a large corner in this issue and truth is that almost anyone can use it as a method of interacting with other people. 

Reading this book made me realize that throughout my life some of the behaviors that have freaked me out most have fallen into this category. Those ones where something just felt, tasted or sat wrong in a certain situation where I was taking on blame (usually) and responsibility for something that wasn't my problem because someone was asserting or implying that it was.  Looking back I can see that I was simply enabling a person engaged in P-A behaviors by overcompensating and taking the weight off them - which is why it felt so confusing.  Be they a child or adult I had been playing the game and carrying out my part remarkably well. Though I can't really decided which type of enabler I am (I think I would be in a 'someone has to fill the void' category) - there is no question - that is what I have done.

I read the book twice and took notes. This week I hope to talk with my kiddos about what the whole P-A game is so that they can begin to see the dynamics in their own actions, understand that they can be direct and honest with both their needs and anger and hopefully reset our course so that the P-A game can be put back it its box on the shelf.

This book is definitely one I will keep and share.

Happy direct, honest and real communication to you today!  Go in peace.

1 comment:

Blessed said...

That sounds like something I need to read! I'm going right now to see if our library has it.

My MIL has always been abusive, controlling, manipulating, etc. and while our relationship has improved steadily over the years, the improvements did not even begin until I finally (about 10 years ago) realized that my husband and I were actually reaping what we were sowing--we were enabling her sin out of a desire to be respectful and avoid conflict, as was everyone else in the family. Also, we were all pretending the behavior was not so atrocious because she is a Christian and I really think we were on some unconscious level embarrassed to point out her sin to her, because doing so would make them real, and we did not want to hurt her feelings. As if verbal abuse is the same as your slip showing at church.

Anyway, before Christmas this past year the Holy Spirit started nudging me that it was time for me to confront her again about some things she keeps bringing up and holding over us--making us responsible for her feelings about things that happened in the past, even though she is purposefully misunderstanding us and won't accept our apologies. I was dreading it, but knew it would have to happen after the holidays. . . was praying ok, Lord, just show me when and tell me what to say, because I have no clue.

And lo and behold, the first time we saw them right after the New Year, my MIL pretty much exploded to me and spat up resentments going back over 18 years before my husband and I were married! And because the HS had been preparing my spirit, I was able to engage throughout the conversation, ask questions, try to understand, keep trying to point us both to truth, etc.

But it was not enough. She would not relent her tired, sad spewing. So after they left I wrote a letter to her, that the Holy Spirit helped me to write, and suggested several things we need to stop doing--things like I won't listen to her criticize my husband or our children any more, it's not ok to bad-talk us to our children behind our backs, and it's not ok to hold us responsible for her feelings.

But after living with all this behavior for so long, I wonder if we will even really see all of it--if we only recognize the really blatant stuff and there is much more passive aggressive stuff happening all the time. . . and I wonder to what extent my husband and I have allowed some of those behaviours to slip into how we relate to each other and our kids. . .

As you can see, this book might be exactly what we need to read right now!