“Beware the Covert-Aggressive Personality” Comments, Page 2

Just click to return to the article “Beware the Covert-Aggressive Personality”.

112 Comments (35 Discussion Threads) on “Beware the Covert-Aggressive Personality”

  1. Hi, everyone.

    I can’t express how happy I am to see such a lively and frank discussion of the issues raised by this article.

    Inasmuch as many of the other questions have already been addressed, I wanted to comment a bit further about matters of conscience. As the readers may know, I draw a distinction between the concepts of personality and character – personality having to do with one’s relating style and character having to do with aspects of personality reflecting one’s commitment to moral, ethical, etc. principles. I also advance the notion that everyone falls somewhere along a continuum between being more “neurotic (i.e. excessively conscientious) and disturbed in character (not conscientious enough). Most covert-aggressives have consciences, but those consciences are not well developed enough to keep them from using the tactics they use to advance their own agendas by manipulating others. So they fall to the more CD end of the spectrum, but not at the end (as will be exemplified by my upcoming post on psychopathy).

    The main thing I’m so pleased about that has been coming through in this discussion is that confronting the issue dead on is ALWAYS the beginning of health. I’m really hoping that counselors who read these articles take note of this. For so long, traditional models of viewing and helping people gave confrontation a bad name. To make matters worse, addressing the core of personality dysfunction was given a back seat to exploring purported underlying issues of impaired self-esteem, feelings of insecurity, unresolved anger issues, etc., etc., etc. What I found out early in my research and practice is that folks like Jacob were more than happy to hear someone nail the issue on the head for a change. I found this true for ALL of the aggressive personality subtypes. Some, of course were not ready to change when I first encountered them. But most were glad to know that someone had pegged their core issues, and when they were ready to go to work on character development, they came back for the guidance they needed. And universally, they expressed DISTRUST of counselors who either couldn’t or wouldn’t see them for what they really were. I stress this fact over and over again at the professional training workshops I do.

    I also wanted to comment on the issue of counselors who work with either victims of abusers or with any of the aggressive personalities. Many of my workshop attendees (both lay audience and professional) have suggested that I needed to fashion a sort of specialized therapy approach for both populations that and then tailor the professional workshops to specifically train and credential counselors. I am considering that, although I must admit that I much prefer doing seminars and workshops that simply introduce the framework I have for understanding and dealing with character disturbances of all sorts because simply turning on the light of illumination appears to be the greater part of what folks need. If I ever did develop such a specialized training curriculum, I think I’d have to do it in collaboration with other interested professionals, groups, individuals, stakeholders, who could help transform the general principles I advance into a formal treatment approach.

  2. Hi Jacob,

    Thank you for your insights — they really make sense. The internal thought processes you describe are exactly what would explain the behaviouur. What I find interesting is that they are so calculated. It is a very different t spin on strategic thinking! If Coverts spent as much time, strategizing and patience trying to get positive things done rather than subtle attaching — gosh they would move mountains!

    I have been describing this guy a bit black and white — and as you say the behaviour is very sophisticated. He certainly did express regrets/doubts mentioning his best friends ‘issues’ even later arguing for him to stay ion the role as he was popular. His best friend probably to this day does not realize what he said about him — as others were manipulated to do the dirty work. Any yes — very insightful — there was a deadline, in this instance and some other deadline where he had to act relatively quickly so was not as elegant as he could have been. I do see complete Covert Agg here based on my readings of the type — it is just me probably not describing the behaviour properly. He may not be the worlds best covert aggressive — but good enough believe me. We have been lucky that we had the time to sit it out, there were some others who saw him for what he was (one very quickly, others only after they were also sabotaged — subtley and behind their backs), there was also some reasonably clear projects that everyone was contributing to — we are pretty good at some of theses things and just continued to work whereas he just kept trying to undermine and pretend to work. But the attempts never stopped, and he managed to get another couple of angles and owners on board to try to stop the major initiative for the year. Almost succeeded, but in the end we (us and other key owners) addressed their objections until there was no substance left to push — but boy it is very easy to critisise people who are ‘doing’ or have done things. People seem to love to agree to or support criticism — even if flimsy or incorrect. I can see how he did all this as we were also some of the people he spun his web with about others, before he started undermining us. The number of things we have found out that were complete (but credible) fabrications after the fact are still surprising us. However, I think one of the reasons we were ultimately targeted is that by our nature and training we tend to look into the facts and check them. Not just rely on someone’s opinion or their research — so we realized quite early that he was not completely accurate sometimes — but just put it down to him not being a good researcher or detailed enough. Now we realize he just couldn’t seem to tell the truth, even on things that there seemed no reason the lie about.

    You are absolutely spot on in your quote below — I can see all of it in this guy’s behavior, including the times when the planned outcome is not negative but intended to get a positive outcome.

    Quote from J: “It depends here what the lie is about, and when in the game it occurs. It is usually the truth told from a simulated viewpoint as that of the dissed (primary victim). One has to merge your own vision/dream with a *dream (*positive hopes for the future) of the victim, to experience their happiness and project it back to them in a way that they are reminded of themselves fondly (with charm)… and weaving a long term goal that may very well be mutually beneficial after all, is also a desired outcome, if not an intention. In the end one can say it may not all be a negative thing. Merits here to each case individually, see what I mean?”

    All I can say again is if a covert could use all that ‘talent’ to persuade, not lie, but fight on the issues – mountains would move.

    Dr Simon is definitely right that “simply turning on the light of illumination appears to be the greater part of what folks need”. Once we realized what was going on and had one or two others that did also, and finally finding a name for the behaviour has made it much easier to handle. It was always unpleasant to see a new attack, but we were much less thrown by it and able to positively deal with it than when it first started. We managed to come through it by resisting attacking back those that attacked us and to genuinely try to fix any issues raised. So we basically did not get defensive (at least in public) and it seemed to work ‘eventually’.

    Best wishes

  3. Dear Dr,

    You have certainly flicked some switches in my head. Sometimes I get frightened at the outcomes of the “plans”, especialy when they go right.
    Having read your post, I relate to the trust issue with counselors.Thinking back to a very abused childhood, I was taught that the truth does not set one free, but got me into deep trouble that resulted in heavy physical punishment usually… It felt like torture most times, so one finds a way to adapt… It is like pressure that cannot escape the pressure cooker, so as a person you learn to divert this energy(fear), for me it was lie or die in most cases. I learn’t to say what people wanted to hear, and realized at a very young age that this tactic stops the pain/hurt/trauma from punishment dished out by a grown man. This idea develops, and from there you can just imagine.
    Now, Sally, if you can really win such a persons trust, you will reach him.
    I think deep down he didn’t trust his best friend.
    Being a best friend excludes trust primarily for me. When someone is in the trust boundary/circle, only then will they know who we are completely. My ‘best friend’ is not completely trusted by me.(not that I would hurt him, but it’s a possibility because of my distrust). To ‘test’ a person to be your friend in the real sense takes years. My wife, and every one reading this knows my soul. Because you will never meet me, I find this quite therapeutic. Again, trust. I trust that you will never meet me, therefore you cannot hurt me. It is a lonely world, but if you are lucky enough to find a partner that you can trust, things do start looking better.
    It remains a slippery slope, because it is years and years of patterning that I would need to re-direct and re-shape. I realize now that it is quite extreme anti-social behavior.
    Thank you for not judging, and this interesting thread.

  4. I really enjoyed this article. This article really targets what goes on in arguments between me and my significant other. If I ever bring up an issue, my boyfriend immediately knocks it back down and makes it look like I’m the bad guy with insecurity issues (he knows this bugs me) who isn’t ready for a relationship and that I’m finding problems where there aren’t, and completely dissects my valid complaint telling me why I’m wrong and overreacting, and then demands a laundry list of similar examples (which then prevents me from bringing up issues in the future unless I’m 100% prepared with answers to his interrogation), and then when I DO have a “list” prepared he tells me that I should have brought the issue up earlier and not have let it get to the point of having a “laundry list” of problems. The end result is me kind of trailing off, defeated, (I’ve always been very frightened of confrontation which makes arguing harder) or just seething on the inside until I decide to let it go and not create arguments. Naturally, things are “great” as long as I’m always upbeat and positive about everything… like a robot.

    What do you think would be the best way to deal with the covert-aggressive type?

  5. I honestly can’t believe I am writing this!! But it is time I finally confront the issues in my marriage and maybe this will help. I am a counselor myself and have worked with teenagers for years. My husband is a teacher for 23 years. We have been married for 25 years. Throughout our entire marriage this covert/passive/agressive behavior has been there. It’s so covert that it’s sick. I am the only person who would ever see it because I am the only person who really knows him. I have thought for so many years I was going crazy. I have been online all evening reading about this and I truly think I have been a victim for 25 years. He had an affair after 2 years of marriage o with an 18 year old girl who was a student at the school he taught at. I was devastated when I found out. I decided to hang tough and we would go to counseling and was determined we could get through it. He ended the affair, admitted to all the wrong doing but only went to counseling on or two times. I was left with the garbage. He basically blamed me for his infidelity – if I had just been there more for him, not been so involved in my masters program etc. He also could never let go of my past. He always would question me about my past boyfriends and was so offended when my family would joke about my high school boyfriend and my turbulent teenage years. He always insinuated I was so wild as if maybe I wasn’t good enough for him.
    Fast forward 20 some years. This is the hard part we have has some amazing moments, years and I love him. We have raised two wonderful children, built 4 homes, traveled, attended church and shared in some amazing thing with each other. But I am forever feeling lost, lonely and manipualated. I have agreed to a lifestyle that was so foreign to me. We have built and sold 4 homes (a lifestyle he grew up with) and I have weathered through some tough times. He does many of the things the article and posts from others. I can’t argue with him because I am alway left holding the bag therefore I am not honest with my feelings. If I try to talk about how I feel he somehow always turns my words around so I am left trying to justify things and I look like the one with the problem. He can get angry but for the most part he is very positive, upbeat and loved by many. He has lately become the person I felt like I was at the beginning of our marriage – very outgoing and confident and I have become more withdrawn and less confident. He is very spiritual, very well read on history, politics and religion. He is involved in our church and now has become quite the public speaker and substitutes for our pastor when he is out of town. People love my husband. I am not sure he loves me, I don’t feel like he knows me anymore and I am getting failing further into lonliness, anger and depression myself. How can he be the crazy one, the manipulator, the aggressor?? I use to be amazingly confident when we we first married and I felt I had to subdue myself or I overshadowed him. Now it is the opposite. I feel like I have lost myself. I feel completely detached from him and it is affecting everything in our marriage. He still wants to have sex with me but he never makes love to me. For 25 years I have told him that simply rubbing my back would get me in the mood- a pretty simple request and he just can’t do it. If he does he will rub it very lightly and in one spot when he knows that I have lots of joint and muscle pain and can handle a deep massage. It’s as if he would give in to me too much.
    I don’t know what to do, how to get help and I am not sure I can keep faking it as if we have this amazing marriage. Thank you for listening. I have never ever posted to a sight like this before. I would appreciate some feedback.

    1. Your description fits my life and husband very well. I agree with you that they are masters at their craft and outsiders rarely see the man behind the mask. While H and I have a comfortable middle class life he is miserable and envious of others because “he deserves” so much more. We take get vacations but he will act like I haven’t earned -get to go because doesn’t want to alone. What has been my turning point is when I finally realized that it will always be this way as he has no desire to change-at all! I can’t change him so I either accept him as he is or I get out. He continues to decieve and cheat and i’ve decided 20years of not having my emotional needs not met is not wwhat I want for the rest of my life. I may possibly be alone for what remains but the good parts just aren’t enough when nothing I care about matters to him. Still so hard to walk away from the man I love and a decent life. Certainly hope i don’t end up regretting it but no “triangles” for me

  6. Hi Cathy,

    Wow! I remember hwen I first posted here and I know what you mean it hard to confront the issues. I have been married 27 years soon to be 28 and have four kids.

    Covert manipulations are hard to detect that is for sure. It sounds like you have had a hard time talking this out. It must be very hard to understand especially with his good standing in your church community. That is a tough one. A good book is The Verbally Abusive Realtionship to get clearer on what may be happening. Also following Dr. Simon’s work and Dr. Carver’s on this site. I often think that some of what you may be feeling is a frustration in getting your needs met with him. I can so relate to your feeling like you are to blame when they turn it around on you and then you are standing there wondering what just happenend. I think it is one of the things that is so hard that sometimes these people are one way in one arena but with their wives or husbands they are different and being a team is just out of the question. Or should I say validating the problem is out of the question so they use different ways to deflect the conversatin so you feel like its not even worth talking about. Its really hard to have intimacy when that is happening. I know its hard to digest that its an active aggressive style. The hard part for me is that it is often premeditated! Ugh…

    Do you plan on talking with him or ?

  7. Diane,

    Thank you for your comments and suggestions on the book. Will I talk to him? Probably not right now! I think I am going to try and work on myself for now. It seems the more confrontational I get the more manipulative he can become. I never feel like I can confront an issue with us and come out feeling better. If I have an issue with him and how he has handled something he is quick to tell me all my faults and how difficult I am to deal with and communicate with. I am sure I am – because now I am less likely to “always make things work” and I am less likely to “fix” things so I just let them be!! The hardest thing is he is a great father, a great friend to others and very loyal to his work. He is a great teacher and his students love him.
    I appreciate your comments!! Thanks for the communication. This is very wierd for me because I am a counselor and am usually on the other end!! I think I am finally just being honest and maybe this forum will help me.

  8. More great comments! Thanks, all. Now that I’m back from hiatus, let me add some comments of my own. All the many twists and turns of this dilemma and the principles one has to observe to deal effectively with these characters are the subject of my book “In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People.” But I want to respond in particular to comments from Kirty and Cathy about all the time and energy people expend when they are in relationships with covertly aggressive people. Often so much is invested in trying to get the other person to change. The problem is that no one has the power to make another person change. Therefore, the effort is doomed from the start. Besides, putting energy into something you haven’t the power to effect is the very formula for depression! It’s also the fuel for a syndrome I refer to in my book as “The Slot Machine Syndrome.” That’s where despite meager returns you continue to invest in a losing scenario because you’ve invested so much already and the prospect of possibly winning something eventually is certainly more appealing than the prospect of losing everything.

    The key is in completely re-structuring the terms of any and all engagements with the other party so that you either get a sufficient degree of what you want and need from the relationship or there is no relationship at all.

    1. Hello, I feel like this is my relationship. We have been going back and forth for two years. There is almost no such thing as talking about problems and resolving them, at least for me. His problems are about, how I can be a better house keeper, a better mother. my children are not his children, and they are actually very well adjusted…to the point that i am very proud of who my children are growing up to be…but he somehow takes this away from me.

      He also has a way, of putting me in the same boat with him. He screwed up all of his past relationships, hardly ever sees his own children, and hasent had a stable job forever. He will say things that put me into a boat of failure with him….my true position is that I have been in college studying for a bachelors degree and have been working hard on this goal in my life. He tries to take that away from me.

      He also uses the logic of science to question my rationale of things that are not logical, to him, anyway. I feel attacked, but he will always deny it. When I try to share new information with him, it is almost like he thinks I am applying it to him, and he tries to make me feel stupid for believing in some things that I either research, believe or have faith in.

      The past two weeks, he has done things that make me feel humiliated in bed….to the point that I do not want him touching me, I feel disgusted and a horrible sense of shame. He doesn’t know this, because he is so covert about it, that he has me questioning myself about the relevancy of it.

      He knows that I am against him going to the bars all the time, and drinking too. We will talk about it, he swears to change, and then he reverts back to his old ways, as soon as he has got me hooked again. I feel like I am being conditioned, and that for me to stay with him…I must lower my standards of what I believe to be good and moral. This makes me question what I am doing with this guy at all!!!

      I have seen him lie very convincingly to his boss, about why he didn’t make it to work. There wasen’t any nervousness about it. If I were on the other side of the line, I would have bought his excuses, hook, line and sinker…as the ultimate truth…does he do this to me??

      I find myself, more and more, trying to figure out what on earth is going on. I get tired, and just want to withdraw from everyone…including him. Even though this is my house, and he moved in with me, he keeps making rules. Turn the lights off,(though he hasent paid any electric bill since he moved in) make sure the shower curtain is closed, the dishes always need to be done.

      My teenage son accidently pee’d on the toilet seat a couple weeks ago…when he got up for work, he threw a fit, took the toilet seat off the toilet and threw it in my sleeping son’s bed at I find myself going threw my day thinking, “oh, know, I better get these dishes done, so he can’t refer to my home as a pigs house.”

  9. I have been in a relationship for almost 9 years. I have always blamed myself for our problems. I am finally beginning to see him as the master manipulator that he is. I really had the wool pulled over my eyes. I still am in semi denial, as I can not imagine not having this man in my life. Unbelievable. I want out! I must get out now that I know what I know. I feel violated, I feel cheated and I feel like a real idiot thinking this was love.

  10. I can’t believe it – this description absolutely describes my father and the relationship we have had since my Mother died in 1999. I have blamed myself and my husband, very nearly divorcing him. My husband saw what my Dad was doing to me but couldn’t convince me that there was anything wrong. It explains so much…..

    1. it was him karen..it wasn’t me…it has taken you over..it destroyed us..the psychopathy in your family nearly destroyed me…

    2. it was the worst thing that ever happened to me…I married into this family that was immersed in psychopathy

Page 2 of 7 1 2 3 4 5 ... Last »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
 characters available

In accordance with our Privacy Policy, your email address will not be published with your comment or shared in any other way. Please do not SPAM. Comments which solicit personal advice, are rude or inflammatory, are not about this specific post, or are otherwise not in keeping with our Terms of Use may be deleted at our discretion. If you would like to make a comment or ask a question about something other than the subject matter of this post, please do get in touch directly.

Overseen by an international advisory board of distinguished academic faculty and mental health professionals with decades of clinical and research experience in the US, UK and Europe, CounsellingResource.com provides peer-reviewed mental health information you can trust. Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. CounsellingResource.com is accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation.

Copyright © 2002-2023. All Rights Reserved.