I’m not talking to you

The New York Times on the passive-aggressive:

A 45-year-old college instructor in Hawaii recently broke off a long relationship with a man she said was a “wonderful, devoted listener, an extremely sensitive person.” But in time, she said, it was apparent that he was also passive-aggressive. On one occasion, she said, he gave away her seat on an airplane while she was finding a storage compartment for her luggage, saying he thought she had taken another seat. On others, he would arrive home early from work and finish off meals they normally shared, without explanation. And when he was in one of his moods, the listening ceased; she may as well not have been in the room. “The challenging thing was, you never know what you did wrong,” she said. “That’s the difficulty, all these scenarios, I could not point to what I did. I never knew.”

The person who has become hostile may not know exactly why, either. In some cases, psychologists say, people unable to recognize or express their annoyance often don’t feel entitled to it; they instinctually let the “little things” pass without taking the time to find out why they are so angry about them. Unsure of themselves, they take care not to offend a spouse, a co-worker or friend. The anger remains.

When the behavior pattern is deeply ingrained and compulsive, it is neither adaptive nor merely bewildering, but can be dangerous, some experts say. At her clinic in Salt Lake City, Dr. Benjamin treats many people with multiple diagnoses, from attention deficit disorder to obsessive-compulsive disorder to intractable depression, many of them with other problems, like substance abuse or multiple suicide attempts. “And I would say that in close to half of them this passive-aggressive behavior is running the whole show,” she said.

I think most people, Italians and Latins aside, are somewhat oriented this way. But what I found vastly amusing was that I spotted this at the top of the NYT’s most-emailed list.