Passive Aggressive

Passive Aggressive : Procrastination: “Later” is my oasis!

Passive_Aggressive_Sleeping Mr. M is always very laid-back. His motto is “The sun will rise again tomorrow,” so he has no reason to be so busy like other people. He thinks, “I can do today’s project tomorrow and tomorrow’s project the day after tomorrow,” but his wife has a big problem with him always being this way. He always says, “I will take care of it. Don’t worry,” but he never does what he promises to do. For example, when she asks him to buy something from the pharmacy, he says, “I will do it later.”

An hour later she asks him when he will go, and he says he will go later. If she asks again, he says he will go sometime during the day, and he ends up not going until the pharmacy is closed. Then he says, “I promise you I will go tomorrow.”Did he even want to go to the pharmacy in the first place? Why did he not do it right away? Why did he want to do it later? To Mr. M.,“later” or “in a second” did not just have a temporal meaning. “Later” meant the time to take a break from his suffocating life. His father who was in the military was used to ordering people around including his own family, and everyone in the family had to obey his commands. Whatever the command of his father, his son had to follow right away without any question, and whenever he did not do so, he was punished.

one wants to be oppressed, and the oppression makes us rebel. However, when we are severely punished for rebelling, we feel that we have no choice but to obey. When we are continuously exposed to this way of interacting, we do not learn how to resolve the conflict with others through negotiation and discussion. Instead, we do whatever others want but end up holding a grudge against them. In his childhood there was no way for Mr. M to resist his father’s wishes. As a resolution to his suffocating life, to have a sense of freedom and dignity, he used the word “later” or the phrase “in a second.” He had to follow his father’s commands with no choice but at least “for a second,” he could feel a sense of freedom and dignity. The problem is that he is still using “later” or “in a second” even though he is no longer under the control of his authoritative father. What is even worse is that he now projects his childhood anger onto other people, and whenever they request anything from him, he reacts in a passive-aggressive way by not giving them what they want. Over the course of treatment, he realized that the word “later” may have been a solution to his suffocating childhood but is causing more problems in his relationships with friends and family now. He is now working on an alternative solution. Instead of always following what people want and holding a grudge against them, he is working on saying “no.” He is learning to evaluate people’s requests and saying “no” to the unreasonable ones without feeling guilty or fearful.

This column has been written by Dr.Hea-Kyung Kwon and published by Korea Daily Newpaper(JoongAng Ilbo USA).
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