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Crazy-Makers: Dealing With Passive-Aggressive People
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.

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GUILTING EXAMPLES

Guilting. This behavior controls through using guilt either directly or indirectly to control the other. An indirect form of guilt may be "Don't worry about me...I'll be okay" followed by a sigh. A more direct form may be describing all the efforts made on your behalf followed by an expectation "I've only cleaned the house today, taken the kids to their activities, checked on your mom. Taking me out to dinner isn't too much to ask, is it?"

Father of adult child wanting him to visit his mother more:

Father: Your mother wouldn't say anything herself but I think she feels like you don't care about her.

Son: But, Dad, I call Mom everyday to see how she's doing.

Father: I know, but she's just so lonely and it means so much to her when you visit.

Son: I don't have a lot of time lately.

Father: Well I'm not sure how much time your mother has left.

You can certainly see how the son can't win this one. With guilt-inducing passive-aggressive behavior it is more important to address the underlying cognitions or "shoulds" about the behavior. You can only be made to feel guilty if you believe that you "should" engage in the behavior. In this example, if the son believes he is neglectful if he doesn't visit more often, then he is more likely to be controlled by these comments. However, if he believes that he is doing the best he can do given the circumstances of his life, then he is not likely to feel guilty and can respond with the broken-record technique:

Father: Your mother wouldn't say anything herself but I think she feels like you don't care about her.

Son: I'm doing the best I can.

Father: I know, but she's just so lonely and it means so much to her when you visit.

Son: I'm doing the best I can.

Father: Well I'm not sure how much time your mother has left.

Son: I'm doing the best I can.

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