Passive aggressive character types:
From: "NPA Personality Theory"
© 2008 A.M. Benis
Saguine perfectionistic non-compliant passive aggressive type, or
Narcissistic-perfectionistic non-compliant passive aggressive type,
Origin: Non-compliant (n-C) passive aggressive types are those in whom the trait of aggression is partially suppressed by genetic and/or environmental factors (notation A-).
[In compliant (C) passive aggressive types the trait of aggression is profoundly suppressed (notation A=).]
In these types the trait A is partially suppressed, but depending on the circumstances they can exhibit aggressive behavior in social situations. Most individuals tend to be non-confrontational. They can exhibit the aggressive
A rage, but this is unusual. Low-temperament individuals tend to be introverted. Higher temperament individuals can be "nervous extroverts," often with speech tremor or hesitancy.
Genotype: nnPaa-, nnPPaa-, nnPa-a- or nnPPa-a-. In addition, unusual cases of nnPaa or nnPPaa (phenocopies based on environmental conditioning).
Inheritance pattern: in the model, the allele of passive aggressiveness a- is expressed as a dominant with respect to the allele of aggression a.
Rage: Narcissistic rage (mass discharge of parasympathetic nervous system), or aggressive-vindictive rage (mass discharge of sympathetic nervous system), or combined NA rage. In non-compliant individuals the aggressive-vindictive rage may be rarely seen.
Also known as: NP-like non-compliant. Passive-aggressive personality. Agitated achiever submissive. Reactive depressive personality. "Type A" personality.
Complexion: Tending toward sanguine or flushed in individuals of light skin color.
Smile: Relaxed social smile rarely seen. Nervous smile.
Photograph: Usually uncomfortable before camera, sometimes to the extent of phobia.
Gestures: Agitated, inconsistent and tentative.
Handwriting: Usually legible but "jerky" quality, with large variations in size of letters. Sometimes slurred. Sometimes messy corrections. (May be highly perfectionistic in PA- type.)
Sexuality: Tendency to promiscuity: moderate. Tendency to ambivalence in sexual orientation: high.
Population Genetics: "The Introspective Habitancy," having a high prevalence of NPA- types, and moderate prevalence of NP and NPA types. (Example: Anglo-Saxon subpopulations).
Susceptibilities: Attention deficit disorders. Sadomasochistic "morbid dependency" as either the dominant or dependent partner. Shyness. Public speaking phobia. Social phobia. Avoidant personality disorder. Speech hesitation, stuttering (stammering), spasmodic dysphonia. Reactive depression. Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD, in dominant role). Coronary artery disease. Hypertension. Adult-onset diabetes. Thyroid disease. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease. Periodic (schizophreniform) psychosis. Relatively low risk of schizophrenia in NPA- and NA- types. (Higher risk of schizophrenia in PA- and A- types.)
Pitfalls: Unstressed NPA- individuals can resemble NP types. High temperament N types and NP types can resemble NA- types and NPA- types, respectively. Sexually profligate passive-aggressive types can have behavior that could be confused with that of N types. Borderline N- and N-P types can resemble passive-aggressive types.
Note: The discussion below also includes references to other non-compliant passive-aggressive types:
NA- sanguine non-compliant passive aggressive PA- PA non-compliant passive aggressive A- A non-compliant passive aggressive
From Chapter 5: A model of human behavior
The character structure of the non-compliant type is similar to that of the compliant type. That is, this individual is not a forceful person and may even be a shy, self-conscious introvert. We noted that the compliant type views his life from the bottom of the "pecking order" and is quite satisfied to stay there, somewhat contentedly awaiting retirement and death, provided that he is well taken care of and protected. However, whereas the non-compliant type also views life from the bottom of the "pecking order", he has one eye open toward the top and aspires to achieve power, glory and domination, even if ever so briefly.
He does, in fact, retain his narcissistic behavioral complex, even though his aggressive capacities have been stunted (NPA- and NA- types). He is, therefore, in the constant throes of an intrapsychic conflict. He desires narcissistic glory, but he lacks the aggressive power to support his ambitious drive. In competitive society he may be so unsure of himself, and fraught with stage-fright, that at the same time that he craves the limelight, he also fears it. In overtly stressful circumstances, he begins to glance about in search of protection or escape, like the classic coward who dies a thousand deaths.
He can ascend to an energetic XA+ state for only a brief period, and he is quite apprehensive and vulnerable there if he is in competitive surroundings. If he encounters an aggressive type in competition with him while in the energetic state, he becomes agitated, uncomfortable, easily intimidated, and is usually easily defeated. He may find himself behaving like a frightened rabbit. For one so low to have aspired so high, the agony of defeat is nevertheless severely stressful. Not only does he come crashing down to his original XA- state of submission in an abrupt personality split, but he may also enter an abject state of depression because of his failure. With repeated failures, he may become more and more wary of any aggressive ventures, or even of assertive behavior toward others of lower status. He may develop phobias or "panic attacks" with respect to situations in which he has previously felt himself to be humiliated.
Finally, he comes to temper somewhat his desires for glory. He will convince himself that somehow, in this life anyway, he was not meant to accomplish those glorious deeds of his visions. He becomes an opportunist and a dreamer. If opportunity knocks and presents itself to him, with little danger of his being overcome or humiliated in the presence of aggressive types, then he will abruptly split his personality to the energetic state and seize the opportunity by the horns. If he is lucky, he will descend to his baseline submissive state of his own accord, with the victory intact. To this individual "nature abhors a vacuum", and if a vacuum presents itself he will step into the situation. If thrown into a lifeboat with stronger types, he will be quite content to stay submissive. But if the others are weaker, then he will take command, and command he will. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king!
The love relationships of this character type are, as one may have guessed, often based on the "morbid dependency", and he may adopt the role of subjugator or subjugated, or even both simultaneously in a love triangle. Using the most blunt of terminology, he may assume the role of either a hardened sadistic master, or of a suffering masochistic lover desirous of nothing in life except to lose himself completely in a warm, tender, sentimental love of subjugation to another individual.
As with any individual possessing the trait of aggression, if the individual adopts the dominant role in a relationship of subjugation, or to the extent that he comes to consider himself above any person or group of people, then aggressive-sadistic trends may come to the fore. These may show themselves in several ways:
First, the aggressive sadistic behavior may be overt, especially if the individual is incited to one of his rare aggressive-vindictive rages. If goaded into a barroom fight, this type can become a wild panther, and he may not stop until no one is left standing and until every bottle in the barroom is broken.
Second, if the circumstances present themselves, he may become paranoid and quietly manipulative, hence similar in behavior to a PA type.
Third, he may become a "situational sadist" if he is tied to a relationship with a companion or mate from which, because of life circumstances, he cannot extricate himself.
Finally, his ventures to the energetic state of aggression if frequent and short-lived, may become transient states of exhilaration, or thrills. If these thrills are channeled into aggressive behavior, then our model gives us a quiet, introverted individual who becomes a psychopathic thrill killer. If the individual happens to be a PA- or A- type, then we have a psychopathic criminal who has a deeply schizoid baseline personality.
As may be predicted, NA- and NPA- individuals would have behavioral characteristics somewhat similar to N and NP dominant individuals. In addition to being incitable to aggressive-vindictive rages, the NA- and NPA- types would also be capable of narcissistic or combined NA rages.
What finally emerges in the non-compliant submissive character type is a basically introverted, active, even hyperactive, individual who may be capable of assuming practically any psychic state of any of the other character types. He may be meekly submissive or even masochistic. He can be sadistic. He can go into the wildest of rages and be depressed into the deepest of abject states. He can split his personality to aggressive behavior, and back to the submissive state in a flash. He can see the "morbid dependency" from both ends, even simultaneously. He may go into flurries of introspective narcissistic-perfectionist work activity of the NP type, or of hypersexual activity of the NA+ type. He may feel like an NPA+ king, or he may be drawn by circumstances to the psychopathic aggression of a PA+ individual. He seems to have the widest range of psychic states and the widest range possible of emotions. He has ability to empathize with practically any of the other character types but not necessarily to sympathize with them. That is, he may be to feel what his subjugated partner is feeling, but not necessarily able to offer his love and sympathy to him.
But life goes on, and little by little, the non-compliant type loses his energy and vitality and becomes compliant or resigned. The sweet verve of youth dissipates itself, little by little, and he comes to await the sweet kiss of death.
From Chapter 6: Character caricatures
NPA- type. We focus first on the NPA- type. This individual appears to be an introvert who periodically seems to come out of his shell. His demeanor, in fact, is highly dependent on the circumstances of the moment.
His baseline personality is essentially that of an affable compliant type, and his facial features often show that characteristic trace of sadness. But his car is parked outside, with the engine running, and it may be a sport model capable of flying him to the pinnacles of the glory of his imagination. Thus, this individual has a subtle, or sometimes not so subtle, agitated, fidgeting demeanor, as if he wants to go somewhere. He fidgets with his hair, his hands, his moustache, as if they were masturbatory equivalents suggesting repressed sexual yearnings. In stressful situations his eye contact with others is abysmal, and indeed he often has the wandering eyes of perpetual apprehension. His handwriting often reflects his agitation, and it is often barely legible, with many corrections, or else well-formed but jerky.
He is a compliant type who appears to be highly motivated, and indeed that he is. But more often than not his objectives in life are unclear. He would like desperately to succeed in life, but his ambition lacks the necessary aggressive component, and he would avoid using the word "career". He seems to scrutinize a ship as it passes, and he jumps on it in the hope that it will take him to reasonable success. But he, too, deep in his heart, feels that he is a stowaway on board.
The dynamics of this individual were presented earlier and will not be repeated here in detail. To summarize, he is an opportunist, a dreamer. He is introspective, sometimes a shy individual who requires privacy. He has something of a free spirit, and may be a traveler. He periodically aspires to heights and crashes to depths, like a majestic eagle whose wings have been clipped. He knows the thrills and exhilarations of the conquests of his dominant cousins, but he knows that his successes in the realm of aggressive behavior are of the hit-and-run variety, and that he cannot have aspiration to domination or to effective leadership in a career.
If he does ascend to a position of leadership on the basis of his affability or his intellectual qualities, he does not inspire confidence before his colleagues and subordinates. He is frequently very self-conscious. If at all intimidated, he becomes tongue-tied; his voice loses its forcefulness, and he tends to fidget and to stammer or mumble. Even if he is an expert in his field he cannot mount the podium with any confidence to speak extemporaneously. He exasperates others with his indecisiveness, as he tries to please everyone. He is vulnerable to the views of any strong personality, and as he is at the mercy of the last person with whom he speaks, he may be constantly changing his views. Thus, others will accuse him of being "good-natured" but "weak minded". Often they will misinterpret his apprehensive reticence for cynical indifference. His basic attitude toward life is seen in his usual photograph: he is not comfortable looking at the camera, and often he is not smiling.
In love relations he may assume any role in the "game", and he may lead a rather quiet life, playing either the dominant or submissive role of subjugation. If he is not too shy and is successful in competitive society, he is exceedingly vulnerable to being subjugated by a "power behind the throne". Alternatively, he too may assume the role of a quiet hunter or "bird of prey". In fact, he and the NA type are often both out on the prowl, looking for each other, and when they meet sparks are bound to fly. More often than not, an affair of the "lightning and thunder" variety begins, and exciting and exhilarating as it may appear, it is usually destined to achieve no lasting stability. As has been described earlier, sadomasochistic elements inevitably seep into the relationship, the two partners never really gain an understanding of their own or each other's needs and motivations, and the relationship comes to an end when the NA partner moves on to a new companion to continue the chain reaction.
Finally, we see the frustration that the non-compliant type faces throughout his active life. He has a strong sense of narcissistic ambition but a stunted component of aggression. And during his jerky ride through life he finds that others do not particularly admire his jerkiness, are ill at ease with him, and he often finds himself isolated. Sometimes he, too, seems to be a speedboat out of control in a fogbound harbor, and it is only in looking at his own basic character structure that he can begin to lift the fog and bring himself under control.
Insight into the basic character of non-compliant types may be acquired in the study of the lives of historical figures such as Edward VIII, Chateaubriand, Joseph Conrad, Henrik Ibsen and Somerset Maugham (in particular the self-revealing character of Philip in Of Human Bondage).
As an example of a non-compliant type, we give below an account taken from a recent newspaper column:
["Hers", L. S. Schwartz, New York Times, October 10, 1980]
« Far from strident, he was totally silent, never speaking in class discussions, and I was reluctant to call on him. Since he had a Spanish name, I wondered whether he might have trouble with English. Bureaucratic chaos was the order of the day, with the City University enacting in microcosm the confusion in the nation at large; it was not unusual for barely literate or barely English-speaking students to wind up in an Introduction to Literature class. His silence and his blank arrogant look could simply mean bewilderment. I ought to find out, but I waited.
« His first paper was a shocker. I was surprised to receive it at all -- I had him pegged as the sullen type who would give up at the first difficult assignment, then complain that college was irrelevant. On the contrary, the paper, formidably intelligent, jarred my view of the fitness of things. It didn't seem possible -- no, it didn't seem right -- that a person so sullen and mute should be so eloquent. Someone must have helped him. The truth would come out in impromptu class papers, and then I would confront him. I bided my time.
« After the first exam he tossed his blue book onto my desk, not meeting my eyes, and, wary and feline, glided away, withdrawing into his body as if attempting a disappearing act. The topic he had chosen was the meaning of the horror in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the novella we had spent the first few sessions on.
« He compared it to Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust. He wrote at length about racial hatred and war and their connection in the dark, unspeakable places in the soul from which both spring, without sentimentality but with a sort of matter-of-fact, old knowledge. He knew Faulkner better than I did; I had to go back and skim Intruder in the Dust to understand his exam. I do know that I had never before sat transfixed in disbelief over a student paper.
« The next day I called him over after class and asked if he was aware that he had an extraordinary mind. He said, yes, he was. Close up, there was nothing arrogant about him. A bit awkward and shy, yet gracious, with something antique and courtly in his manner.
« Why did he never speak in class, I asked.
« He didn't like to speak in front of people. His voice and his eye turned evasive, like an adolescent's, as he told me this. Couldn't in fact. Couldn't speak.
« What do you mean, I said. You're not a kid. You have a lot to say. You write like this and you sit in class like a statue? What's it all about?...»
NA- type. We now turn to the NA- type, keeping in mind the three basic attributes that rule his life: unbridled narcissism, non-perfectionism, and submission. In fact, the two traits of unbridled narcissism and submission seem to be continually acting in antagonism in this personage, so that sometimes he appears as an affable extrovert, and sometimes as a submissive introvert. In addition, lack of the behavioral complex of perfectionism often gives his character structure a labile, fragile quality.
Once the character structure of this personage is recognized, one can predict his general behavior, almost as if it were a foregone conclusion. In real life he appears as an affable, sanguine-complexioned, somewhat subdued individual who, despite his generally submissive nature, is ever ready to respond to the call of the limelight. If his life situation supports him so that his unbridled narcissism comes to the fore, then he may be somewhat expansive or even charismatic. He tends to adorn himself or "dress up" -- sometimes strikingly -- to a much greater extent than the NPA- type, and indeed this is often the most obvious superficial difference between these two types. He may, in short, display any of the attributes that we have come to associate with the charming, but often flighty, N character type.
As a submissive type, he is exactly that -- however much he would like to ignore or deny this facet of his personality. His tendency to be sympathetic and agreeable pervades his daily life, and his acquaintances will invariably consider him to be a "nice person". However, having a remnant of the trait of aggression, he reveals himself to be a "player of the game" in stressful situations, being susceptible not only to red-faced narcissistic rages but also -- albeit rarely -- to the aggressive-vindictive rage. In competitive society his submissive trait sooner or later becomes evident. When challenged, he is easily intimidated, and others will say that "he can't seem to get it all together", or will accuse him of "bumbling" or of "histrionics". If he comes to power on the basis of his narcissistic charisma, at the highest level of society, then he requires much support from his entourage in his attempts to achieve his grandiose visions of unbridled glory. Hence, he is easily subjugated, and indeed, hovering in the wings there is often seen a protective, perfectionist "power behind the throne", always ensuring that everything is progressing with the precision of a well-oiled machine.
In adolescence the NA- type is an active but reserved individual who will often describe himself as being "on the shy side". Nevertheless, his unbridled narcissism is continually seeking to overcome his submissive shyness, and he may be attracted to expansive, soaring projects, again reminiscent of the activities of the self-flaunting N character type. He may, in fact, be attracted to public speaking, to a career in modeling, to the stage, or to the dance.
If he aspires to be an actor, he may be highly successful in his portrayal of the affable, kind-hearted -- but perennially abused hero or heroine. Often, however, he is only moderately successful, since his generally submissive nature continually intrudes into his desire to be the forceful personality of his dreams. Although his likable qualities usually carry the day, onlookers will often titter behind his back for his general lack of talent, for his lack of "substance", and for his penchant for appearing as a second-rate actor in the grade-B motion picture.
Like his cousin the NPA- type, the NA- personage may lead a successful, relatively calm existence if his life situation is well supportive. If it is not, then this labile personality is prone to transient masochistic love affairs, hypochondria, phobias, fugues, agitated reactive depressions, as well as episodes of euphoria and hysteria. Nevertheless -- contrary to what might be expected -- like the NPA- type, this somewhat fragile personage is at very low risk of succumbing to a full-blown state of schizophrenia (see Chapter 11).
PA- type. Non-compliant submissive individuals of the PA type tend to be more profoundly schizoid than those of the NPA and NA types, and their relations with the opposite sex may be more disturbed. An historical example of the PA type is King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who succumbed to a psychosis.
Finally, we note that submissive individuals who have the N trait tend to have, even more than their dominant cousins, a sanguine or flushed complexion. Fair individuals of the A and PA types tend to be more pallid.
Benis A.M. (1985, 2nd edition 2008): Chaps. 5 & 6, in Toward Self & Sanity: on the genetic origins of the human character. Psychological Dimensions, New York, pp. 53-54, 116-122.
Benis A.M. (1990) : A theory of personality traits leads to a genetic model for borderline types and schizophrenia. Speculations in Science and Technology Vol. 13, No. 3, 167-175.
Horney K. (1950): Neurosis and Human Growth, Norton, New York.
Maugham W.S. (1915): Of Human Bondage. Random House, New York.