You've seen passive-aggression in action...someone persistently denying their anger either imploding or exploding at inappropriate times. Hidden anger can be annoying or very destructive to the bearer or anyone that person comes into contact with. When some people think of anger they envision the Incredible Hulk who warns his audience by saying, "You won't like me when I'm angry". Now it is up to everyone to get out of the way and avoid pushing the buttons of this mild manner human that is two seconds away from becoming a green muscle bound monster that is destined to destroy everything in his path. Aggressive anger is obvious and takes the form of threats, screams, physically blows and destruction. That kind of anger can be scary and the damage is immediate and obvious.
Too many people fear anger so they overcompensate by avoidance, but anger can be very productive. Anger is useful for protecting yourself, solving problems, and spurring on honest and direct communication. Its okay to be angry, so if it occurs don't fight it. Emotions come and go but its up to us to know what to do when we feel them. Anger can never justify being hot headed, mean,rude, self centered, bitter, dishonest, or spiteful. Instead anger should be used as fuel to work through the problem until you come up with a smart and safe solution and then the anger should be let go.
I found the book Overcoming Passive-Aggression: How to Stop Hidden Anger from Spoiling Your Relationships, Career and Happiness very helpful in pinpointing the many of the signs of hidden anger. Co-authors Tim Murphy and Loriann Hoff Oberlin write that one of the biggest problems with hidden anger is its ability to mask itself as a mistake, a bad habit or someone else's failure. It can be subtle and hard to spot, but it is just as destructive as aggressive anger. The passive person is not aware of the control that the harbored anger has on their own actions. It could be as harmless as losing your key, arriving late, or accidentally knocking something over; it can be as dangerous as drug abuse or suicidal thoughts. Passive-aggression can be asssoicated with some or all of the following:
- Chronic irritability and chronic depression
- Low self-esteem
- Self-destructive behavior or acting out
- substance abuse and addictive behavior
- Unacceptable conduct that's excused for many reasons
This book included a quiz to assess hidden anger. If you're interested take a minute to assess how you're doing by completing a brief questionnaire on 3L-Saturday Love.
When you uncover anger you are able to deal with it in a healthy way. To get angry is not sinful is does not mean that you are likely to go on a murderous rampage, instead it will help you get in touch with your values and problems (or relationships) that are hindering your success in life. By accepting all your emotions as they come it will lead to balanced thinking and productive actions. Don't be so quick to assume that you are free of passivity; I would argue that everyone stuffs their emotions from time to time. Take the time to search your heart and mind for hidden anger and you might be able to explain why your old habits are so hard to break.