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Why Anger is Expressed Passive Aggressively

Larry had a conflict between his false facade of “niceness” and the anger that he felt when life threatened his happiness. He cannot express his anger openly.  It would shatter the image that he wants to present to the world.

Larry doesn’t think about his anger.  He solves conflict by denying his anger out of existence. If his anger doesn’t exist, it cannot blow his cover.  His secret is safe inside him.  His pleasing facade is intact.  But his anger doesn’t go away, it’s still there.  Denial is not reality, the anger and pain were real.

Larry needs to relieve his painful anger. Yet, he feels it’s unhelpful to express his anger openly. Larry feels the only way to solve this problem is by expressing his anger with passive-aggressive, indirect, and ambiguous comments.

Larry dumps his covert anger on a safe target (someone who does not have the power to victimize him) because he knows they love him. He is not consciously aware that he is angry. He just does it.

In Larry’s mind, nothing is ever his fault.  He uses omission, deception, alibis, counter blame and other tactics to exempt himself from taking responsibility for his own actions.  As a “nice” person, he cannot accept that he has done something that is “not nice.”  But even if he does, it is not his fault anyways, so it doesn’t count.  This is not the logic of a grown up.

Larry is not interested in making others happy, or even himself happy. His agenda is not happiness, it is winning, preferably at someone else’s expense. The sad thing is that winning doesn’t make him happy. He has little or no interest in happiness.

“Winning” is not a positive accomplishment to him. Winning to him means “I didn’t lose!” This is a negative ambition, and the outcome cannot be positive for him or for anyone.   He confuses losing with unhappiness.

He may define “losing” as “expressing emotion,” “showing weakness,” or “letting go of control.” His ambition is to prevent these bad things from happening, which of course, he cannot do as a human being.

He has many such attitudes, and they do most of his “thinking” for him. He does not learn from experience. His attitudes do not mature or grow over the years. In the meantime, he doesn’t see why he should change. That is why no one can make him understand. Larry is oblivious to others wants and needs, or that his behavior is destroying his relationships. It is not his problem and he is exempt from having to solve it.

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Why Anger is Expressed Passive Aggressively

Aaron Karmin

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APA Reference
Karmin, A. (2016). Why Anger is Expressed Passive Aggressively. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Nov 2016
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