10 Ways To Start Taking Control

One of the common themes I notice about people trying to deal with a passive aggressive spouse or partner is the total lack of control we feel. Of course that is their primary tactic, to make us think we’re crazy, but it doesn’t mean we have to go there.

Practicing positive thinking allows people  to focus on our strengths and accomplishments, which increases happiness and motivation. This, in turn, allows us to spend more time making progress, and less time feeling down and stuck. The following tips provide practical suggestions that you can use to help you shift into more positive thinking patterns:

1. Take Good Care of Yourself
It’s much easier to be positive when you are eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest.

2. Remind Yourself of the Things You Are Grateful For
Stresses and challenges don’t seem quite as bad when you are constantly reminding yourself of the things that are right in life. Taking just 60 seconds a day to stop and appreciate the good things will make a huge difference. This is a really nice idea for just before you fall asleep.

3. Look for the Proof Instead of Making Assumptions
A fear of not being liked or accepted sometimes leads us to assume that we know what others are thinking, but our fears are not necessarily reality. It’s really easy to fall into this trap if your passive aggressive partner is withholding sex, which is very common. If you have a fear that your partner’s bad mood is due to something you did, speak up and ask them. You may get the usual answer “nothing’s wrong” but at least you have faced the problem and make them face it to a certain extent. Don’t waste time worrying that you did something wrong unless you have proof that there is something to worry about.

4. Refrain from Using Absolutes
Have you ever told a partner “You’re ALWAYS late!” or complained “You NEVER talk to me!”? Thinking and speaking in absolutes like ‘always’ and ‘never’ makes the situation seem worse than it is, and programs your brain into believing that certain people are incapable of delivering.

5. Detach From Negative Thoughts
Your thoughts can’t hold any power over you if you don’t judge them. If you notice yourself having a negative thought, detach from it, witness it, and don’t follow it. Our negative “self talk” can be more damaging than anything others say.

6. Squash the “ANTs”
In his book “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” Dr. Daniel Amen talks about “ANTs” – Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the bad thoughts that are usually reactionary, like “Those people are laughing, they must be talking about me,” or “The boss wants to see me? It must be bad!” When you notice these thoughts, realize that they are nothing more than ANTs and squash them!

7. Practice Lovin’, Touchin’ & Squeezin’ (Your Friends and Family)
You don’t have to be an expert to know the benefits of a good hug. Positive physical contact with friends, loved ones, and even pets, is an instant pick-me-up. One research study on this subject had a waitress touch some of her customers on the arm as she handed them their checks. She received higher tips from these customers than from the ones she didn’t touch! We all need this and if your passive aggressive partner is withholding to punish you, you can still benefit from the hugs, love and support of others.

8. Increase Your Social Activity
By increasing social activity, you decrease loneliness. Surround yourself with healthy, happy people, and their positive energy will affect you in a positive way!

9. Volunteer for an Organization, or Help another Person
Everyone feels good after helping. You can volunteer your time, your money, or your resources. The more positive energy you put out into the world, the more you will receive in return and for a little while you can concentrate on someone else’s problems. (I think that’s why we get so addicted to soap operas. LOL).

10. Use Pattern Interrupts to Combat Rumination
If you find yourself ruminating, a great way to stop it is to interrupt the pattern and force yourself to do something completely different. Rumination is like hyper-focus on something negative. It’s never productive, because it’s not rational or solution-oriented, it’s just excessive worry. Try changing your physical environment – go for a walk or sit outside. You could also call a friend, pick up a book, or turn on some music.

 Some of these are really easy and don’t cost anything to do. Some will take a lot of practice, but the sooner we start the sooner we’ll have more, or better control over our lives.

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2 Responses

  1. I like these suggestions to take care of yourself. Passive aggressiveness often is an attempt to indirectly punish another person for something. But, if the other person is happy, then the punishment has failed. Then, the behavior is not having its desired effect, and the incentives to act that way are reduced. I only really wanted to stop being passive aggressive when I realized that I was only hurting myself, selfish though that might be. So, the best tactic really might be living well and being happy!

    As long as passive aggressive behavior is being rewarded, it might seem worthwhile to continue it. I used to punish my ex boyfriend via all sorts of withdrawls. I sometimes had legitimate complaints, but I could not bring myself to voice them directly, so I’d give him the silent treatment and he’d have to guess what was wrong. At the time, the cost of speaking up seemed too high, and so that sort of behavior seemed like the only way to express myself.

    I think that I got the idea that speaking directly was costly because my mother would go nuclear on me if I ever complained about her behavior (which was often crazy and/or inappropriate) when I was growing up. I was severely punished for ever voicing a complaint or need, so I have this huge fear barrier to overcome in order to speak directly. I don’t know for sure if I’ll ever get there.

    • Hi Val- So good to hear from you again. Happy New Year and all that stuff. LOL. Thanks for commenting.

      I too believe if someone’s pretty happy and secure in themselves, it’s a lot harder to do damage and get the reaction the passive aggressive person is looking for. It’s like any of us. Once a behavior isn’t benefitting us any longer, we try something else. It’s just unfortunate when we somehow (even if it’s subconciously) benefit from even bad behavior.

      I also understand where you’re coming from on the “speaking up”. I was never allowed to say anything either. It was considered “talking back” which was a punishable crime. I couldn’t speak up at home, but that’s probably why I was so “bossy” when I was out. It’s amazing to me how complex people are and how we all handle situations differently. I remember how good it felt after all those years of taking it, my Dad and I got in an argument shortly after I had gotten married (at 16) to just walk out the door. It was great! I can still remember hearing him say “Oh you think you’re hot shit now that you can just walk out”. I did. LOL.

      I guess I went the opposite way in that I always spoke my mind and was a scrapper. There were a lot of times I probably would have been much better off keeping my mouth shut. I left my first husband when he almost strangled me to death over something I said.

      I also want to say I am really proud of you that you are working so hard to know and understand yourself, and overcome some of the things you don’t like. It all takes time and practice, but you’ll get there. I have faith in you.

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