Passive Aggression and Childhood Attachment

Childhood early experiences leave a permanent mark in our brains; they become our stories, the basis for our identities, and later on they shape our adult relationships because of our biological wiring.

This is not a common idea because we basically tend to think of ourselves as independent, self-reliant individuals and this is a very strong social myth. We are raised and aspire to be independent, resourceful beings that solve all personal needs in an efficient way. If someone can’t do this, he has to be a weaker individual, a dependent or needy one….In this way we reject the concept of interdependence in a very strong way.

Surprisingly, there is a gap between theories of human development and our social ideals. Biologically we are designed as social creatures, and is a fact of our biology that as babies we need to survive by attachment to our care-givers. Without this care, we would not survive.

The process of being raised by other grown up member of the species that guarantees our survival is based and supported by the creation of a bond between bay and caretaker called attachment. And attachment is predicated upon the quality of care that our parent or care-taker gives us.

When grown ups, we can achieve more if we have the right type of attachment. The more and better connected, the more effective we are.

What kind of attachment do we get from our mothers determines what attachment style do we have later as adults.

Basically, we have three options:

  • Either our caretaker/mother can provide a Secure attachment, and then things go normal and we learn self-reliance in due time. Mother was there, patient and calm, supportive and caring. Because we want someone committed to us, is best to form a secure attachment.

Or the caretaker had her own problems reflected in the kind of care provided:

  • Mother was psychologically absent, or detached and neutral; or demanding and critical of everything; not appreciative of baby’s progress:

Then, Avoidant attachment was provided: keeps you off balance; doesn’t want to be too close; talks about independence as a value; devalues others as “needy;” and you never receive verbal assurances of being loved.

  • Mother was there, but oscillating between being loving and patient one minute and being upset, tired or exhausted the next one:

Then, Anxious attachment was provided: you could get close to your mother, but always worried about not being loved the next minute; always wanting to be close; to feel securely connected, but never completely sure of it; they wait to say “I love you” up until the other side says it…

 

Now, get a look at some characteristics of a passive aggressive person…and see the actual version of an old Avoidant attachment present now:

Fear of Dependency: From Scott Wetlzer, author of Living With The Passive Aggressive Man. "Unsure of his autonomy and afraid of being alone, he fights his dependency needs, usually by trying to control you. He wants you to think he doesn't depend on you, but he binds himself closer than he cares to admit. Relationships can become battle grounds, where he can only claim victory if he denies his need for your support."

Fear of Intimacy: The passive aggressive often can't trust because an avoidant attachment made him always suspicious of being rejected later. Because of this, they guard themselves against becoming intimately attached to someone. A passive aggressive will have sex with you but they rarely make love to you. If they feel themselves becoming attached, they may punish you by withholding sex.

Can you make the connection? Can you see where from this attitude towards life is coming from? Not innate, but formed in the period of life between 0 and 5 years...and becoming "the" only way a passive aggressive person conceives relationships. He is trained to expect either an avoidant or an anxious mother...never to aspire to a secure connection, because he never knew one! This is the deep reason of all the defensive behaviors "protecting him" from the imagined perils of his present relationship. Very sad, right? to be reacting to the past loved one (mother or care-taker) and not being able to see and love the present partner!

Neil Warner

Neil Warner

I'm the “relationship guru,” and my main focus is to increase the quality of love-based relationship experiences. In this ground-breaking guide I offer useful strategies on healing a difficult angry relationship with love and compassion. You don't have to stay in an unhealthy relationship one more minute. Let us share our tools with you today. 

We can begin by you having a complimentary consultation (by clicking here), with a plan for action to change your life with new skills included. Just click this link and get started now!

  1. non-PA husband, 02 June, 2011

    I noticed a couple more things similar with BPD mentioned in your article; trust issued & childhood neglect by mother.

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