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Posted by: nwguy ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 05:01PM

There's a fascinating article today in the City Weekly sharing Weber State University Professor Michael Steven's insight to why Mormons appear to demonstrate such strong tendencies towards what's traditionally known as passive-aggressive behavior in their interactions with others.

Professor Steven prefers to use the terms "passive contempt" or "passive hostility". It's a great read.

Here's an interesting tibit:

Q: Does the practice of public sustaining votes in the LDS Church create a passive-aggressive culture?

A: Where on Earth do you have to stand up and justify your dissenting vote to the people who held the vote? What countries or places do you have supposed votes where the proposition is always passed with 99.99 percent of the vote? Totalitarian regimes, where the message is very clear—you obey, you submit. If you live in this culture that has this confusion between conflict and contention, and you’re told over and over again that you have no right to question, you just have to bow your head and vote yes. What kind of response does that condition in the members of the culture when it comes to dealing with conflict? You don’t stand up and challenge; you just drop your pen so you don’t have to vote and go along with it. Or you tell people, “Yeah, I’ll be there on Saturday,” and then you don’t go.

What's your experience with Mormons who demonstrate passive-aggressive behavior? How has it gotten in the way of healthy, constructive relationships either in the home or at work?

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Posted by: robertb ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 05:19PM

nwguy Wrote:

> What's your experience with Mormons who
> demonstrate passive-aggressive behavior? How has
> it gotten in the way of healthy, constructive
> relationships either in the home or at work?

I would look in areas where there is a great deal of emphasis and lip-service but poor performance, say, home and visiting teaching. In a highly controlled, oppressive environment people sometimes express their independence and unhappiness through failure to follow through. What is telling also is the church leadership keeps pushing programs people keep (passively) resisting. Lots of opportunities to passively resist in an overbearing system.

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Posted by: WinksWinks ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 05:44PM

"In a highly controlled, oppressive environment people sometimes express their independence and unhappiness through failure to follow through."

Oh my gosh! Thank you for this, it explains my personal reaction as a young person in many areas so well, and I had no idea WHY.

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Posted by: catnip ( )
Date: August 26, 2011 01:50AM

people get buffaloed into accepting callings they don't want and then passively resist carrying them out?????

(This reminds me of something my husband said (or quoted) when I told him about the Manager from Hell that I worked for years ago:)


That's just about the way it was, too. The day said Manager announced her retirement, during a staff meeting, none of us dared to even look at each other. But OMG, were the home phones ever buzzing after work!!!

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Posted by: robertb ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 05:27PM

I don't know if this applies to Mormons but a friend and colleague did his dissertation on Christians and assertiveness and found that in two congregations he studied the church members tended to feel negative toward people who were assertive, although polite; most positive toward people who were not a assertive and "nice;" and slightly positive toward people who were assertive, but only if they were "very nice." Any sense of whether this applies to Mormons as a group?

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/24/2011 07:12PM by robertb.

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Posted by: Pista ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 05:40PM

I always thought it was hilarious at the end of conference when the closing GA would implore people to drive safely and courteously as they left. Having driven in many places in the world, I always felt SLC was one of the scariest because of all the MAVs (Mormon assault vehicles). It always seemed so indicative of stressed out people who developed road rage when they felt insulated by their mini-vans.

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Posted by: Nate ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 05:52PM

This was first pointed out to me by an English professor at BYU, she said that most of her first year students would write in the passive voice because of Tom Monson and his "hearts were lifted, souls were saved" BS. A good portion of Mormons are just acting like their leaders.

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Posted by: Lost Mystic ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 06:06PM

Have you ever tried to be assertive to morgbots? It's such an awkward experience. "no sister, I will not remove my hat in the foyer. It's a Tuesday night and I'm just dropping something off to the bishop". She stormed away fuming and didn't know how to respond.

"I feel my blue dress-shirt is just as appropriate as a white one, and I don't like ties"...2nd councilor storms off in a huff.

"sorry bishop, I don't feel I need to shave my goatee to keep teaching the Sunday school kids"....lost the calling immediately

The list goes on and on.

My favorite was when the bishop asked me to help pass the sacrament right before the meeting. He then stopped the service and asked a volunteer to lend me a tie just before the prayer. They all waited while I fumbled to tie it, and he remarked "let this be a lesson to all of you priesthood holders...come to church dressed worthily because you never know when God might require your service"

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Posted by: notmo ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 12:37PM

TBM in-laws respond to my assertive self by getting all huffy and accusing me of being 'mean' or 'not nice'; when what really is happening is that I'm not letting them step all over me.


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Posted by: mcarp ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 06:17PM

I went to Dr. Stevens' presentation of this paper at Sunstone. The entire time I sat there thinking, "He's describing me."

At the end, I couldn't decide whether to say, "no wonder I am the way I am" or to just go out in the parking lot and shoot myself in the head (seriously). At my advanced age, even knowing the root cause doesn't encourage me that I will be able to change. :(

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Posted by: robertb ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 07:09PM

It took some thought and practice but I got better at asking for what I wanted. It's never too late :-)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/24/2011 07:10PM by robertb.

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Posted by: anagrammy ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 01:46AM

Just because you were conditioned to behave a certain way doesn't mean you are stuck with that pattern. Passive-Aggressive (or Passive Contempt/Hostility) is a learned helplessness behavior, nothing more. If you really want to be more healthy, you can, because the reasons you are not healthy represent a habit of looking at the world as "it's no use."

And who can blame you for feeling that way? How much effect did your protest have should you be the lone hand that does not raise to sustain the prophet? Zero. What happens if you complain about a decision the GA's made? Nothing. What happens if you have a doctrinal question? You have been told point blank your friggin question means squat to the GA's --go ask your bishop. Who tells you to ask FAIR. And the GA's are reminding the public that FAIR doesn't speak for the church.

Your passive aggressive behavior was just you finding a way to remain intact, albeit hidden, inside. Now that you know intellectually that this was going on, you must reprogram yourself. You can do this, I know because I'm doing it with narcissism, which the experts say is incurable, like borderline personality. Well fuck them.

Next time your wife tells you to do something instead of saying "Yes, dear," and then postponing it, say, "I don't have time right now--if you really think it needs to be done, I'll do it tomorrow." Start with something besides "Yes." Because you don't mean it.

Start meaning every single thing you say. "Yes, but I don't want to" is better than "Yes" if it's honest.

Let me tell you a true story about my TBM friend John. He is passive aggressive in the extreme. Once we took a trip out of state and I noticed on the way back he didn't want to stop anywhere. He kept criticizing every place as too hot to stop, too windy to stop, no good place to eat, let's move on to the next town. He looked nervous and preoccupied. Finally, I said, What's wrong with you? Why can't we stop here--what's the rush, isn't this supposed to be a vacation? He hung his head and said, "I promised my daughter I'd pick her up from school today." WHAAAAAT? He couldn't bear to say no and so we were ruining the last day of vacation (I thought we were going to stay in Nevada one more day)? Her school, by the way, is close enough to walk and she's fourteen years old.

Another time, I was helping him with a legal case which was three years in the making. Finally it was going to court. I was a paralegal, so I had prepared all the documents and the night before court, I found that the receipts which were the basis of the claim were not opened and filed, they were all in a lump in a grocery bag. That meant the amounts of damages were incorrect and the receipts had to be supplied to the judge as evidence. Before he went to bed, I said "OMG, John you haven't filed these for three years? You told me you had filed them and I need a total." He answered, "I didn't have time." In three years he didn't have time to add up what these people he was suing owed him?????? So he went down to his room and said, "I'll do them while I watch TV." The next morning they were still unfiled. John lost more than $6,000.

I asked him on the way home why he told me he would file them. He said, "I didn't want you to keep going on about it" I said, "I told you it was important." and he answered, "I have been told all my life that things were important that were not important and bad things would happen when they didn't. I guess I just don't believe it any more."

When you motivate people repeatedly by threatening them (like the church does) desensitization takes place. It just stops working.

You can reverse the process. You can become sensitive again by switching your inner dialog from "I don't give a shit, I'll do what I want regardless of what I said." to "I don't give a shit, I'm going to say what I mean and mean what I say." You will be restoring your own sense of pride by being authentic. It takes practice and repetition, but so does any new skill.

Best of luck


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Posted by: WinksWinks ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 10:09AM

Who is the narcissist?

Do you know your Myers-Brings personality type? I am an INTJ.

/nosy questions.

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Posted by: Finally Free! ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 12:58PM

Wow, great advice once again... I don't think I realized just how much I am like this and how important it is that I change. I'm not sure how to describe the way I used to feel, because, lazy or unmotivated just didn't seem to fit. I really do like my job, but nothing really seems "important" enough to really drive me to do it. When I read "I have been told all my life that things were important that were not important and bad things would happen when they didn't. I guess I just don't believe it any more." it fits perfectly.

We're told so often in the church that everything we do has "eternal consequences" that eventually, nothing can live up to that, filing paperwork, even ones that can have major financial repercussions just don't equate.

I guess it's just another thing that I need to be aware of and try to start reprogramming myself...

Thanks for sharing this!

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Posted by: Stray Mutt ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 11:28AM

I had grown up essentially being told/taught that my opinions, my desires, my needs didn't count -- unless they matched those of the church. You can't help becoming passive-aggressive in that environment. I didn't realize it at the time, but getting away from the church was my first positive step toward living without all that crap. But ditching Mormonism was only the beginning of the cure. I'm still working on it.

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Posted by: NormaRae ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 10:09PM

It seems to me that some exmos are even more passive agressive than many mormons I know (and I know some extremely P/A mormons). And it's funny, it seems to be worse with the ones who are vigorous about defending their decision to leave TSCC and their research and reasons behind it.

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Posted by: angsty ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 06:44PM

I just shared that link with my mother. She's an RS prez and I thought it might be helpful. I hope she doesn't take it negatively-- I'm not trying to be snarky about Mormons, it just makes a lot of sense.

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Posted by: gemini ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 07:41PM

and hence the term "Mormon Standard Time". People who do not want to go to church but are obligated to do so, reluctantly show up but NOT on time.

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Posted by: T-Bone (on the road) ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 08:42PM

He really nails it in some ways. It really is hostility.

I loved this line: " stifle all conflict, regardless of the motive, is usually a very unhealthy thing to do."

I was taught this at home. It basically meant that what Mommy and Daddy said goes, without question. (Bow your head and say "yes.")

Here's one thing I learned by a bit of introspection recently. I like to be in control. I was taught, by an abusive father, a patriarchal church, and big brothers who beat me up, that you get your way by force.

Sometime during high school, I figured out that I was not going to win every fight. In fact, I ended up having my nose flattened and rebuilt, adding an exclamation point to that realization of powerlessness.

But still thinking like a child and wanting to control everything, not being able to force everybody to behave the way I wanted, I found other outlets for that hostility.

One way was to start a fight and right to my big brother or one of his friends from the football team. Innocent little me getting picked on by a bully gets saved, the other guy gets pummeled or apologizes, and thus I set up a pattern of twisted hostility, coming out in strange ways.

I was also taught at home that the man makes all the decisions, and the wife and kids just have to get on board or get left behind. (Actually, according to my dad you can beat them in to submission. It’s faster and it cuts down on complaining.) But growing up in an era where women were asserting their rights more and more, the behavior I grew up watching and expecting to be able to get away with is not acceptable, women my age will not put up with that. Once again, a huge disconnect between expectations and reality.

After leaving Mormonism, and entering a different way of life that is actually more demanding in some ways, I try to live a way of life that demands rigorous honesty. I have come to realize that much of that hostility got internalized.

In other words, if I couldn't get somebody in trouble, I would internalize that anger. Often they did not behave, and I would resent them. I have heard it said 3 times in the last week that having a resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

Internalized anger has to have an outlet. It ends up turning in to stomach aches, headaches, and potentially (I'm not a doctor so I can't say with certainty) overeating, difficulty sleeping, and even more serious illnesses.

I love this piece. Unfortunately, this guy will probably be jobless and excommunicated in a very passive-aggressive way. "We love you, now leave and beg to be let back in."

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Posted by: robertb ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 11:21PM

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Posted by: Dona Bagley ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 11:35PM

T-bone, well written. Keep writing like that--it's easy to read when it comes from the gut.

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Posted by: T-Bone (on the road) ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 04:01PM

robertb and Dona Bagley,

Thanks. It is not easy growing up in a family that is 2 generations behind the times. If you're paying attention, you take your lumps and grow up.

I am finally realizing that my dad did the "best he could with the information he had available." The only problem was, he has lousy information! That's all. He thought it was his job to put food on the table and a roof over our heads, and if you have that, shut up and be grateful.

I have learned as a father that I can be nurturing and loving, teaching my child to have a balanced sense of self-esteem (hopefully).

I have also learned a few more things. One of my friends called me on my sarcasm recently. I have found out that my brand of sarcasm had a lot of hidden anger in it. Who woulda thunk it? Happy go lucky me hiding pain? Nooo~~~~~.

Actually, yup.

So here is how I see it today, and I reserve the right to change my opinion as I learn more, but passive aggressive/hostile/contempt-filled behavior is suppressed frustration, fear, and anger. We are sometimes afraid that we won't get what we want, we get jealous, we feel put upon, and we are either too afraid or too conditioned to have a healthy way to express that. So, until we are able to gain more balance, these things come out in strange ways.

I don't blame anybody for being passive-aggressive any more. I can have empathy for them. I know where they are coming from, and they sometimes look like they are in pain, even when they grin and "get their way."

I have forced others to do things my way before, and it was never satisfying. I can prevent somebody from changing lanes or getting what they want, but it just makes me feel worse.

In the end, I don't think passive-aggressive behavior is the root. I think it's a symptom of living in an overly controlled environment. I don't limit this to Mormonism or even to religions. It can happen in corporate culture.

I don't think rebelliousness is evil. I think it's a sign of oppression. (Not counting typical teenage rebellion.)

But this is just one man's opinion. I might change my mind tomorrow, but my new life allows me that freedom.

Today, I am happy, joyous, and free. But it's not because I left Mormonism. It's because I replaced Mormonism with better things for my time and energy.


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Posted by: Chic in the heart of Moville ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 09:18PM

My soon to be ex-husband and his mother both have passive aggressiveness refined. It was one of the things that really hurt our marriage. Example from husband: "I know if you take your dream job you will be fantastic at it, if that is what you decide to do....I hope it will work with the family life". He says as he leaves to go get drunk and hit on other women.
His mother would say the most hurtful things to me with a smile and a laugh.
Not going to miss that at all!

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Posted by: Tahoe Girl ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 12:27AM

Good to see you around, Chic. I think about you sometimes and hope things are going well for you :)


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Posted by: JoD3:360 ( )
Date: August 24, 2011 10:05PM

As a member you cannot complain about your leaders, no matter how they push your buttons. If the leader makes a mistake you must grin and bear it, lest the devil enter into your heart. Resentment sets in when you are forbidden to feel bad. So naturally you find yourself learning how to be secretly angry and getting what you want by indirect hostility- silent treatment, pointedly surrendering unnecessarily, and making them feel guilty without complaining outloud, and all the other passive-agressive tactics that a stifled person must resort to.

If you are openly angry, others will assume that you have some awful sin gnawing away at you or that statn has a hold on you and the Bishop will be sure to track you down for an interview.

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Posted by: Stray Mutt ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 11:37AM

...the tools thugs use to control people. They make submitting to the dictates of fools and their abuses a noble, righteous thing, while making it evil to stick up for yourself or call bullshit on the leaders.

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Posted by: SusieQ#1 ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 01:53PM

behavior in contacting people that don't want to be contacted that we read about on the board as clearly aggressive!

I grew up in a non LDS home and some of the behavior was mildly passive aggressive, but Mormons in my experience were much more direct and sometimes very aggressive.
Just my experience.

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Posted by: nwguy ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 02:17PM

It's interesting how much this thread has struck a nerve.

Understanding my own passive-aggressive behavior tendencies after leaving the Morg more than 13 years ago made this article really relevant to me, personally. It took years of therapy and conscious living to realize that getting my needs met was not only important, but should be my life's priority.

One of the techniques I use is to take time to ask myself when I am facing a choice: "what do I want and what do I need to be happy?"

For folks who have been programmed since early age to automatically be submissive to authority and simultaneously deny feelings of worth and value, it is a very difficult thing to do. But it can be so worthwhile and rewarding if you are able to identify what kind of life you want to live and what kind of relationships your want to have with others.

You find yourself dropping relationships that are inauthentic and wanting to engage daily not only in meaningful relationships, but meaningful work. You find that living consciously each day can bring real joy and meaning to your life.

Knowing that your happiness is vital to your life's work, you find that you are able to be assertive and are able to maintain healthy boundaries and can tell people firmly that you are unable to do things or act in a certain way because it crosses your personal boundaries or is incongruent with your values and standards and conflicts with who you are at a fundamental level.

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Posted by: hapeheretic ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 04:05PM

Speaking as a woman, I think the pressure to be "nice" is especially tough, as women are expected to capitulate to their priesthood leaders, including their husbands.

Whenever I listened to General Conference, the female speakers usually had voices that were very, carefully, soft and sweet. The soft and sweet thing is very common throughout Mormonism where women are concerned. I know it isn't wise to generalize, but I do think females in the church are conditioned, directly and indirectly, to be more on the passive, sweet-sounding side because they are less of a threat to their leadership counterparts.

Now please understand, guys, I'm not trying to kick up a male chauvenist (sic) fuss here. I'm totally into guys. But I do think somehow the message gets out that a good Mormon woman is a
compliant woman, or at least one that SOUNDS like one (hence the
cover for passive-aggressive behavior.

As an outspoken, female, albeit with a soft heart,I know first hand that my approach isn't very popular in Mormon circles.

No wonder I don't go to church anymore.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/25/2011 04:07PM by hapeheretic.

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Posted by: baura ( )
Date: August 25, 2011 08:52PM

When facts and reason go against your position you have to rely on shaming people into not stating the obvious.

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Posted by: chuck riley ( )
Date: May 27, 2013 03:44PM

Repression and Opression screw people up. It isn't normal and creates neurotic behavior and a lot of stuffing feelings etc It's very messed up and seems very ok form the top brass that feed off of it.

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Posted by: Infinite Dreams ( )
Date: May 27, 2013 03:55PM

My parents aren't passive-aggressive because of being in a cult. It's because they grew up in abusive houses with abusive parents. My dad was raised as a non-mo, & his family didn't join until he was an adult.

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Posted by: deconverted2010 ( )
Date: May 27, 2013 04:17PM

'Or you tell people, “Yeah, I’ll be there on Saturday,” and then you don’t go.'

The above line is what happened in the wards and stakes here in the area. People saying they'd do something or be somewhere and failing to do so. One of my friends was the female YSA rep and was always upset that the male YSA rep would not show up for meetings or activities. I once told her just ask him if he'll be there so you don't get stressed and she said she asked every time. His response always was "I should be there". Later she'd confromted him and he'd say "I said I should be there, I didn't say I will be there". LOL.

I never quite understood why a simple no was so hard to say. I always labeled them as irresponsible, but then realized they were some who were selective in being responsible, like in depending who to impress. Just now, with this thread I'm seeing that as passive-aggressive behaviour.

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