Sunday, December 4, 2011

Passive Aggression/Invisible Disabilities

       Passive aggression seems to be a big consequence of living in a polite, civilized society. There is a little bit of it in everybody. It is also a term commonly used in popular psychology and in trendy "assertiveness" courses to describe some of those so-called "toxic"/negative people we should coldly avoid. Here is a site for anyone not familiar with the term: I bring this up not because it is a symptom associated with Autism- it's not, but because Autism is an invisible disability. And many times people with invisible disabilities are misunderstood as displaying passive aggressive behavior.
       I'm not implying that Autistic people are immune to being passive aggressive, just plain aggressive, or having faults just like anyone else, but I want to clear up some potential misunderstandings. I also understand that sometimes manipulative type behaviors can be a way of compensating to people's challenges. More often than not those with ASD are on the receiving end of passive aggression. No one wants to be seen being harsh to a "disabled" person esp. someone labeled Autistic. Autism awareness is a rather trendy issue right now and people want to be on the right side of it. If someone looks normal on the surface but has this label people can still see them as fair game for harsh judgment but may want to keep their resentments quiet and display their hostility in underhanded ways- so they don't look mean themselves...
       One example of this is that although I was diagnosed on the spectrum over a decade ago, before it became fashionable, I think people see having Aspergers as an excuse to explain my shortcomings and a tryout for the "victimhood Olympics". To aggravate this even more I was open before this about having ADD (which I also have in a big way). I was formally diagnosed with it in high school and is well documented enough that I'm not just self-diagnosing. It just seems a coincidence that in the 1990's ADD was also the flavor of the week diagnosis, but I also was diagnosed shortly before it became fashionable. On the other hand the few people I know of that were into the Kaballah swore on all of their deceased ancestors that they were into it long before Madonna brought it up. I guess I can't blame people for being jaded at all. Granted no one really confronts me about the authenticity of my Autism they wouldn't dare as no one wants to look bad, but I can intuitively sense when people are cynical or rolling their eyes in their own minds. Now I'm not saying Autistic people can't be difficult just like anyone else or that people should use ASD as an excuse for bad behavior as people sometimes do with ADD, Bipolar Disorder, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder... I'm not planning on robbing 100 banks and blaming it on Autism however.
       There are even times where I can completely understand how people can become P/A. Such situations could be those in controlling or abusive relationships or those severely oppressed by others, even those living in not-so-free societies. I'm not saying that it makes it healthy but in some cases it may be the only power one has (like with women in severely patriarchal societies).
       Some commonly listed passive aggressive behaviors would include but is not limited to, manipulation, gossip, sarcasm, sulking, playing the victim/chip-on-the-shoulder, hostile silence, making excuses, self-handicapping, procrastination, stubbornness, guilt trips, grudges, creating chaos, complaining of being misunderstood, deliberate inefficiency, forgetfulness and more... With ASD many could see a person's eccentricity as "attention seeking behavior" to be ignored, they can see someone who doesn't talk much or is a loner as "sulking" or just self-centered. Slow processing can be seen as self-handicapping. The rigid adherence to routines and schedules can be seen as deliberate stubbornness. The literal interpretation of rules can be seen as self-righteousness. The short term memory difficulties common in many with developmental disabilities can be seen as deliberate forgetfulness and game playing. As for complaining about being misunderstood, I think most of the world can legitimately make that claim. When people mistake ASD traits as passive-aggressiveness a common response is to fight back with even more passive-aggressiveness causing the ASD person to become really confused. Many times it's the other person who should talk. I'm finding a large number perceived as sweet, easy going, or laid back are actually P/A.

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