…and staying with us for another three weeks. Yep, that’s right. My lovely cousin-in-law is a passive-aggressor and his parents didn’t bother warning me before I was driven up the wall by his antics (or lack thereof). You see, I’ve never dealt with a passive aggressor before and I had no idea how annoying (to put it lightly) it can be. What I do know now is that passive aggressors and I mix about as well as oil and water do. As in not at all. So, since I was rather ignorant about passive-aggression right up until his parents finally admitted to me that he is the king of it, I’ve decided to write a little something about it today, if only to try to figure out some way to negate his behavior.

Symptom #1: Calling the research project that my major professor and I designed for him “insignificant.” Well, I’d like to see you come up with an idea on your own. No, better yet, I’d like you to tell me exactly why you think it’s so beneath you, who are but an insignificant bug in this pecking order. Yeah, that’s what I thought, you ignorant little ass. You don’t know why because you didn’t bother doing any background reading. Which means you’re calling it “insignificant” because you’re just not interested in it. Well, too bad. Unless you come up with a better idea, you’re stuck with it.
Trait #1: Negative attitude. Passive-aggressors have a constant negative attitude about everything that someone tries to “push” on them because they interpret it as another attempt at controlling them.

Symptom #2: Two weeks into his six week stay here and he has yet to write a proposal for his project, which is required by his teacher before the project can be started. So I tell him to have a draft for me by the following Friday (a rather generous deadline, by the way) to try to jumpstart some progress out of him.
Trait #2: Procrastination. Passive-aggressors don’t like being told what to do or having deadlines imposed on them. So they procrastinate.

Symptom #3: The following Friday comes around and no draft.
Trait #3: Passive resistance through failure to fulfill tasks assigned to them.

Symptom #4: Reason for not having draft by Friday: “You were in your room all day.” Well, have you ever heard of knocking?! Not that the door was even closed. Meaning that there was no “Do Not Disturb” sign either.
Trait #4: Lame excuses for why he did not fulfill his responsibility.

Symptom #5: Sitting there with a mopey-woe-is-me attitude as we have a frank talk with him about our expectations + more of those lame excuses.
Trait #5: Sullenness and argumentativeness in response to expectations.

Symptom #6: He never tells us anything because he sees us as extensions of his parents.
Trait #6: Unreasonable scorn towards authority. Passive-aggressors don’t like authority because they don’t like being controlled.

Symptom #7: Refusal, even after five weeks here, to wake up early enough/modify his morning routine in order for everyone to leave on time for work/lab. Everyone else is always waiting for him.
Trait #7: Trying to exert control over the situation by being perpetually late. This way, he is in control, even if it’s something as lame as what time we depart for work/lab.

I can’t believe I didn’t notice this pattern of behavior until it was pointed out to me by his parents. This is a prime example of how I’ve failed to apply my basic science training to real life. We learned about passive aggressive behaviors in our first-year psychiatry class. And yet I couldn’t see the traits in my cousin-in-law even though they were screaming at me. Too bad they didn’t teach us how to deal with passive-aggressors. They just taught us the catchall treatment for mental health issues: therapy. How do you get a passive-aggressor into therapy anyway? You would have to tell him he needs therapy, which he will interpret as an attempt to control him, so he will conveniently fail to follow your suggestion. What if you order him not to go into therapy then? That should work, right? Don’t I wish. Until I figure out a way to put my king of passive-aggression cousin-in-law in his place, I guess I’ll be counting down the days until he finally leaves.

Sources:
http://www.mcg.edu/students/mentalhealth/PAbehavior.htm
http://www.toad.net/~arcturus/dd/papd.htm
http://www.coping.org/anger/passive.htm

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