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Article ID: 10539
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,891
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Author: Lupa [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: February 26th. 2006
Times Viewed: 8,225
Pagans are only human. I know that, you know that, we all know that. We're not deities; we're not gifted with omniscience. We have our limits and our flaws, both as individuals, and as a group.
One issue I've been having with myself as an individual has been passive-aggressive tendencies. I can be quite avoidant about problems I don't want to deal with, and I've found that over time the problems have become worse because of it. I've also had to work to cure myself of badmouthing people who angered me in some way, and I'm trying to lengthen my temper so that I act consciously rather than automatically reacting. In hindsight, a lot of trouble could have been avoided if somebody had simply spoken. In my own attempts to break myself of passive-aggression, I've also been reflecting on how often I've seen the same characteristics in many of the Pagans I've met. Granted, more or less these have been otherwise good people to know; but passive-aggression seems to be a common affliction in our community. It affects friendships, romantic relationships, even business partnerships.
Here are some of the symptoms, and some of the solutions I've been using myself that may very well help others.
Breaking the Icy Silence
A passive-aggressive person, when angered by another, will not confront the source of hir anger. Instead, s/he will simply shut the other out of hir life without a word. The other person may have absolutely no clue that s/he's done anything wrong. Unfortunately, if you get passive-aggressive people on both sides of the equation, you end up with two non-confrontational, non-communicative people, and that's about it. No attempt is made by the offending party to find out just why the offensive action was taken in the first place, and so any chance of rectifying the problem is stopped in its tracks. If the other person tries to find out what the problem is, the passive-aggressive may very well respond by being a silent stone wall.
Whether you are the person being offended or (even unwittingly) doing the offending, closing down communication is the death of any interaction. Instead, extend an offer to talk about the situation. Even if it's something as indirect as email, at least give it a try. If you're rebuffed and don't feel comfortable trying again, at least make it clear that you're still willing to talk; leave the ball in the other person's court - don't grab it and toss it over the fence for good. If both people can continue to communicate until the situation is as resolved as possible, then chances are the wounds will heal (even if it takes some time).
When a person reacts to a situation, s/he is not thinking about what s/he's doing; instead, s/he's letting hir emotions run amok. The emotions themselves may very well be justified, but if they take over, the person has little to no rational judgment in play. In order for communication to be effective, emotions must be acknowledged and validated, but also balanced by cool-headed, rational judgment. A person may react in one of several ways. S/he may immediately shut down (see above section). S/he may also vent hir excess of emotion by complaining to hir friends not only for the purpose of stress relief, but also to deliberately make the other person look bad (see the next section). If s/he is in contact with the offending party, s/he may confront that person in a negative manner, screaming, yelling, and verbally abusing.
To avoid reacting, you may need to take a few minutes (or hours....or days....or weeks) to cool down. If it's going to be a while, let the other person know you're going to talk to hir, but that you need a little time first. Carefully think about why you are feeling the way you are. Then think of a way to tell the other person without being abusive, but that will get your point across clearly. Be civil, but firm. If you find yourself losing your temper, call for a time out (you may even literally want to say "Time out!").
An important note: avoid the words "always" and "never". These, and other absolute words, are bound to make people defensive. Even if s/he really does anger you every time you see hir (though this probably isn't the case), people don't like to be told that they're "always annoying" or "never do anything good around here". In fact, avoid bringing up any circumstance involving the other person EXCEPT for the one immediately in question, especially if you're not involved in the others. Keep the conversation focused on one problem.
If the other person reacts, call a time out as mentioned above. If s/he persists in being reactionary, it's best to walk away as gracefully as possible and try bringing it up later on when s/he's had time to settle down.
Taking Out the Trash Talking
One thing that people tend to learn early on is that it's a lot easier to make yourself look better by bringing another person down than by building yourself up. The problem is that eventually people catch on to what you're doing, and avoid you so A) they don't have to hear you complain, and/or B) they're afraid that if they anger you you'll start badmouthing them to others.
THERE IS NO REASON TO DESTROY ANOTHER PERSON'S REPUTATION. It's petty, immature, and speaks of very deep insecurity. I can't remember how many times a professional disagreement, or small social issue, turned into a huge personal mudslinging festival. There are people out there who seem to think that the solution to a problem is to destroy the perceived cause of it. This never actually solves anything; it just perpetuates divisions and (sometimes very inaccurate and harmful) gossip.
It's best to leave anyone not directly involved out of the situation. Unfortunately, the desire for drama (often hidden by the feigned desire for sympathy) sometimes leads people to drag an issue that should be addressed person-to-person, into the living room where the local coven meets, or even into a general public Pagan forum. Often grievances (real and imagined) from years ago get hauled out of the broom closet in order for one person to make the other look as bad as possible. Never mind that the person may have fixed the flaws in hirself since then; some people won't let history be if it (falsely) benefits them.
Again, if you have a problem with someone, bring it to their attention in private. Don't make a huge public spectacle about it, and don't bring others into it privately, either. Complaining to a friend or significant other just to get it out of your system is one thing. Telling everyone you can that so-and-so is a dirty lout in the attempt to make everyone agree with you is something entirely different and a lot more destructive both to individuals and to the community.
Lack of confrontation and constructive communication leads to misunderstandings and destroys any possibility of salvaging the relationship. This then causes a partial breakdown in the community as a whole, especially if the (silently) warring parties are active in the community. People have the tendency to take sides without learning both/all sides of the situation, which leads to destruction of further relationships.
Occasionally a situation really is beyond help, but most of the time it's due to one of the aforementioned issues on someone's part. The vast majority of conflicts that occur in the Pagan community aren't beyond help, and simply require better communication to solve. I've been having a lot of good results as an individual with the above methods, and I hope they help you as well!
Copyright: MINE! MY territory. Grrrr......
Location: Portland, Oregon
Author's Profile: To learn more about Lupa - Click HERE
Bio: Lupa is a twenty-something wolf-in-human's-clothing on the verge of moving to Seattle with her mate, Taylor Ellwood. She practices a unique mix of animism, shamanism, and experimental magic. She is the author of "Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic" (Immanion Press, May 2006) .
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