Negativistic (Passive-Aggressive) Personality Disorder
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Negativistic (Passive-Aggressive) Personality
Disorder is not yet recognized by the DSM Committee. It makes its appearances
in Appendix B of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, titled "Criteria
Sets and Axes Provided for Further Study." First described in 1945 by the
army psychiatrist William Menninger as “below the surface hostility”, it now
evolved to comprise a host of behaviors: temporary (delayed) compliance,
intentional inefficiency, escalation (of unresolved problems), hidden (but
conscious) revenge, and self-depreciation
(in the pursuit of vengeance and destruction).
Some people are perennial pessimists and have "negative energy" and negativistic attitudes ("good things don't last", "it doesn't pay to be good", "the future is behind me"). Not only do they disparage the efforts of others, but they make it a point to resist demands to perform in workplace and social settings and to frustrate people's expectations and requests, however reasonable and minimal they may be. Such persons regard every requirement and assigned task as impositions, reject authority, resent authority figures (boss, teacher, parent-like spouse), feel shackled and enslaved by commitment, and oppose relationships that bind them in any manner.
Whether these attitudes and behaviors are acquired/learned or the outcome of heredity is still an open question. Often, passive-aggression is the only weapon of the weak and the meek, besieged as they are by frustration, helplessness, envy and spite, the organizing principles of their emotional landscape and the engines and main motivating forces of their lives.
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Passive-aggressiveness wears a multitude of
guises: procrastination, malingering, perfectionism, forgetfulness, neglect,
truancy, intentional inefficiency, stubbornness, pseudo-stupidity, and outright
sabotage. This repeated and advertent misconduct has far reaching effects.
Consider the Negativist in the workplace: he or she invests time and efforts in
obstructing their own chores and in undermining relationships. But, these
self-destructive and self-defeating behaviors wreak havoc throughout the
workshop or the office.
People diagnosed with the Negativistic (Passive-Aggressive) Personality Disorder resemble narcissists in some important respects. Despite the obstructive role they play, passive-aggressives feel unappreciated, underpaid, cheated, and misunderstood. They chronically complain, whine, carp, and criticize. They blame their failures and defeats on others, posing as martyrs and victims of a corrupt, inefficient, and heartless system (in other words, they have alloplastic defenses and an external locus of control).
Passive-aggressives sulk and give the "silent treatment" in reaction to real or imagined slights. They suffer from ideas of reference (believe that they are the butt of derision, contempt, and condemnation) and are mildly paranoid (the world is out to get them, which explains their personal misfortune). In the words of the DSM: "They may be sullen, irritable, impatient, argumentative, cynical, skeptical and contrary." They are also hostile, explosive, lack impulse control, and, sometimes, reckless.
Inevitably, passive-aggressives are envious of the fortunate, the successful, the famous, their superiors, those in favor, and the happy. They vent this venomous jealousy openly and defiantly whenever given the opportunity. But, deep at heart, passive-aggressives are craven. When reprimanded, they immediately revert to begging forgiveness, kowtowing, maudlin protestations, turning on their charm, and promising to behave and perform better in the future.
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Collectives - especially bureaucracies, such as for-profit universities, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), the army, and government - tend to behave passive-aggressively and to frustrate their constituencies. This misconduct is often aimed at releasing tensions and stress that the individuals comprising these organizations accumulate in their daily contact with members of the public.
Additionally, as Kafka astutely observed, such misbehavior fosters dependence in the clients of these establishments and cements a relationship of superior (i.e., the obstructionist group) versus inferior (the demanding and deserving individual, who is reduced to begging and supplicating).
Passive-aggressiveness has a lot in common with pathological narcissism: the destructive envy, the recurrent attempts to buttress grandiose fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience, the lack of impulse control, the deficient ability to empathize, and the sense of entitlement, often incommensurate with its real-life achievements.
No wonder, therefore, that negativistic, narcissistic, and borderline organizations share similar traits and identical psychological defenses: most notably denial (mainly of the existence of problems and complaints), and projection (blaming the group's failures and dysfunction on its clients).
In such a state of mind, it is easy to confuse means (making money, hiring staff, constructing or renting facilities, and so on) with ends (providing loans, educating students, assisting the poor, fighting wars, etc.). Means become ends and ends become means.
Consequently, the original goals of the organization are now considered to be nothing more than obstacles on the way to realizing new aims: borrowers, students, or the poor are nuisances to be summarily dispensed with as the board of directors considers the erection of yet another office tower and the disbursement of yet another annual bonus to its members. As Parkinson noted, the collective perpetuates its existence, regardless of whether it has any role left and how well it functions.
As the constituencies of these collectives - most forcefully, its clients - protest and exert pressure in an attempt to restore them to their erstwhile state, the collectives develop a paranoid state of mind, a siege mentality, replete with persecutory delusions and aggressive behavior. This anxiety is an introjection of guilt. Deep inside, these organizations know that they have strayed from the right path. They anticipate attacks and rebukes and are rendered defensive and suspicious by the inevitable, impending onslaught.
Still, deep down bureaucracies epitomize the predominant culture of failure: failure as a product, the intended outcome and end-result of complex, deliberate, and arduous manufacturing processes. Like the majority of people, bureaucrats are emotionally invested in failure, not in success: they thrive on failure, calamity, and emergency. The worse the disaster and inaptitude, the more resources are allocated to voracious and ever-expanding bureaucracies (think the US government post the 9/11 terrorist attacks). Paradoxically, their measure of success is in how many failures they have had to endure or have fostered.
These massive organs tend to attract and nurture functionaries and clients whose mentality and personality are suited to embedded fatalism. In a globalized, competitive world the majority are doomed to failure and recurrent deprivation. Those rendered losers by the vagaries and exigencies of modernity find refuge in Leviathan: imposing, metastatically sprawling nanny organizations and corporations who shield them from the agonizing truth of their own inadequacy and from the shearing winds of entrepreneurship and cutthroat struggle.
A tiny minority of mavericks swim against this inexorable tide: they innovate, reframe, invent, and lead. Theirs is an existence of constant strife as the multitudes and their weaponized bureaucracies seek to put them down, to extinguish the barely flickering flame, and to appropriate the scant resources consumed by these forward leaps. In time, ironically, truly successful entrepreneurs themselves become invested in failure and form their own vast establishment empires: defensive and dedicated rather than open and universal networks. Progress materializes despite and in contradistinction to the herd-like human spirit – not because of it.
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