Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Commonplace 240  George & His Tendency To Tyranny  PART TWO.

George was, to say the very least, critical of his second wife, Edith. On almost every - no, on every - level, right from the beginning, he saw her as being composed of various faults he would have to tinker with and obliterate.
A typical diary entry might have said:
'Very trying day. Had to address two incorrect uses of the possessive apostrophe on Edith's shopping list. She refuses point blank to comply with standard usage. I said to her, 'If in doubt, leave it out, because to leave it in - and it be wrong - you prove to the world you are an ignoramus'. Made her do one hundred lines: 'I am an ignoramus'. She made four spelling mistakes with that simple task! Had to resort to a fair chunk of Heine and several bowls of Cavendish Old Black Shag packed hard into my pipe to regain equilibrium. How I bless the Fates for making me a smoker. Thought about how the Romans in the Colosseum dealt with female dissenters and wondered if Edith would have arm-wrestled a tiger to the ground, or just make a lunge for its windpipe. Made me wish we lived in those days and could settle things once and for all with the jab of a trident. Noticed a smear on the hall mirror and cursed Edith (silently) for not managing the servants to a higher standard. Put my unused postage stamps in order of value, which took much longer than planned, then in colours of the spectrum, from red to black. Noticed I am very short of the 2d. How I rail against the Fates that omitted to remind me to buy more when I slipped out this morning to purchase tobacco. Fretted for a bit over why no-one wants to read my books - just because I think they are shit doesn't mean everyone else should. The monstrous cheek of it! Wondered at the number of turnips we are using - three since last Tuesday fortnight, which is a disgrace. The cost of turnips is astronomical; advised Edith to be more economical with them as they don't grow on trees. Noticed a pimple on my bell end; took me right back to the old Owens days. Mused a bit on why Fate made me dip my hand into the pockets of others when it just as easily could have found me a Saturday job at the Dog Inn in the city centre. I suppose Fate didn't have me down as a barman - it had me down as a 'tea leaf', as Edith would be wont to say if she ever found out about it. Felt a bit shivery and feeble after supper (lentil sandwich and cold tea - if only women could learn to enjoy lentils we would have harmony in this world) then coughed up some yucky stuff. Fate decreed it wasn't red, just yellowy-green. Chastised Gubbins for noisily slurping his rusk - that boy takes after his mother, poor wee common as muck mite that he is. Cursed the Fates that made me fertile. Moaned at Edith a bit for not teaching the boy more Greek nursery rhymes. She charmingly told me to 'do one'. O, why did Fate make me offer marriage to this totally-unsuited-to-my-particular-peculiar-pernickety-needs girl? After tea, penned letters to Alg; Nelly; Madge; Mother; Bertz; Roberts; Hick; Alg again, Nelly again and a post card to Alg's Katie's cat who is three next Monday. Quite overcome with writer's cramp after that, so took a nap. Odd dream where Bertz, wearing a spectacular black off the shoulder evening gown, came round to fix the gas boiler not sure what it means, but it certainly woke me upAll these distractions keep me from the sacred art of book writing! Kismet, I suppose.'
Is This Really Worse Than Marriage To A Totally Unsuitable Woman?
Naturally, George made use of sly manipulation as much as in your face fronting of his criticisms, probably in the belief Edith did not get his clever barbs and insults. He was, and this is a dead cert, a passive-aggressive cove. But, what is passive-aggressive behaviour? How could we recognise it in our hero?

Here is a table formulating Theodore Millon's 4 sub-types of negativism (the 'passive' bit) from   I've left the links in for your enjoyment.

Personality Traits
Emotions fluctuate in bewildering, perplexing, and enigmatic ways; difficult to fathom or comprehend own capricious and mystifying moods; wavers, in flux, and irresolute both subjectively and intrapsychically.
Grumbling, petty, testy, cranky, embittered, complaining, fretful, vexed, and moody; gripes behind pretence; avoids confrontation; uses legitimate but trivial complaints.
Includingdependent personality disorder features
Opposition displayed in a roundabout, labyrinthine, and ambiguous manner, e.g., procrastination, dawdling, forgetfulness, inefficiency, neglect, stubbornness, indirect and devious in venting resentment and resistant behaviours.
Includingsadistic personality disorder features

Contentious, intransigent, fractious, and quarrelsome; irritable, caustic, debasing, corrosive, and acrimonious, contradicts and derogates; few qualms and little conscience or remorse.

A passive-aggressive personality is 'often overtly ambivalent, wavering indecisively from one course of action to its opposite. They may follow an erratic path that causes endless wrangles with others and disappointment for themselves'. Characteristic of these persons is an 'intense conflict dependence on others and the desire for self-assertion. Although exhibiting superficial bravado, their self-confidence is often very poor, and others react to them with hostility and negativity'.
Monarch of the Glen by Sir Edwin Landseer 1851
We also have this:
'Passive aggressive behaviour takes many forms but can generally be described as a non-verbal aggression that manifests in negative behaviour. It is where you are angry with someone but do not or cannot tell them. Instead of communicating honestly when you feel upset, annoyed, irritated or disappointed you may instead bottle the feelings up, shut off verbally, give angry looks, make obvious changes in behaviour, be obstructive, sulky or put up a stone wall. It may also involve indirectly resisting requests from others by evading or creating confusion around the issue. Not going along with things. It can either be covert (concealed and hidden) or overt (blatant and obvious).

A passive aggressive might not always show that they are angry or resentful. They might appear in agreement, polite, friendly, down-to-earth, kind and well-meaning. However, underneath there may be manipulation going on - hence the term "Passive-Aggressive".

Passive aggression is a destructive pattern of behaviour that can be seen as a form of emotional abuse in relationships that bites away at trust between people. It is a creation of negative energy in the ether which is clear to those involved and can create immense hurt and pain to all parties.

It happens when negative emotions and feelings build up and are then held in on a self-imposed need for either acceptance by another, dependence on others or to avoid even further arguments or conflict. 

Some examples of passive aggression behaviours might be:

Non-communication when there is clearly something problematic to discuss 

Avoiding/Ignoring when you are so angry that you feel you cannot speak calmly

Evading problems and issues: burying an angry head in the sand

Procrastinating: intentionally putting off important tasks for less important ones

Obstructing: deliberately stalling or preventing an event or process of change

Fear of Competition. Avoiding situations where one party will be seen as better at something

Ambiguity. Being cryptic, unclear, not fully engaging in conversations

Sulking. Being silent, morose, sullen and resentful in order to get attention or sympathy.

Chronic Lateness: a way to put you in control over others and their expectations

Chronic Forgetting: shows a blatant disrespect and disregard for others to punish in some way

Fear of Intimacy:  problems with trust issues and guarding against becoming too intimately involved or attached will be a way for them to feel in control of the relationship

Making Excuses : tending to come up with reasons for not doing things

Victimisation: unable to look at their own part in a situation; will turn the tables to become the victim and will behave like one

Self-Pity: the poor me scenario

Blaming others for situations rather than being able to take responsibility for your own actions or being able to take an objective view of the situation as a whole.

Withholding usual behaviours or roles for example sex, cooking and cleaning or making cups of tea, running a bath etc. all to reinforce an already unclear message to the other party

Learned Helplessness where a person continually acts like they can’t help themselves – deliberately asking others to do their dirty work for them or doing a poor job of something for which they are often explicitly responsible
Mask II by Ron Mueck 2001/2
One of the clearest indicators for assessing George's tendency to passive-aggressive behaviour is the way he looked to others to make his decisions for him, thus relieving himself of all personal responsibility for the outcome - classic learned helplessness. I mentioned this in the previous series of posts looking at the time he thought to divorce Marianne. In this, if we are to take his version as authentic, we can see he suspected the police spy/detective was immoral and corrupt and yet still employed him - George did not ask himself if such a tripe hound was reliable and trustworthy because then he couldn't be blamed tor making a wrong call if things went badly. He doesn't seem to have spoken to Marianne herself. He preferred to sneak around behind her back employing a dishonest policeman (who could also take the blame for doing the actual sneaking around) hoping to find evidence against her. He admits he does not want to be unfair (with her alimony) whilst plotting behind her back (did he really want her out of his life or was he looking to gain more control over her?), going to Fred Harrison for guidance, though in fact he was just looking for someone to agree with him as he had already made up his mind. Harrison would have taken the rap for instigating the divorce proceedings, and, if George had subsequently regretted it, he could have said, 'Fred Harrison made me do it'.  
When no evidence materialised, George doesn't seem to have cared one jot. He seems to have embarked on it with a sort of distanced indifference and when it fizzles out, he just grieves for the money it cost him, not for the moral implications of his actions, or the existential emptiness of his passivity. One wonders if he ever thought of apologising to Marianne for his bad faith. But, did he ever really want her out of his life? I think not. Marianne was still very much his girl until the day she died -  and then, she haunted him. 
Having her in the background would have been an immense totem of sadistic control - and we should never underestimate George's penchant for retributive cruelty especially towards his first and second wives. If you find that 'heroic', I pity your damned soul.
The Eagle Slayer by John Bell 1851

You can see the bind George was in: to appease his peers in this middle class world he could not be authentic - just in case that authenticity turned out to be naturally lower middle class with working class traits! However, he stopped being authentic to himself when things didn't go his way quickly enough, and he degenerated into the bully who blamed Marianne for his failings and her lack of good health. Whatever tendency she had to scrofula would have been exacerbated by poor nutrition in damp, cold houses, and so George, inadvertently would have contributed to her decline.

But, who did he have to guide him? He felt himself surrounded by nonentities who were not up to his high academic standard, and that is why thinking movements like Pessimism and Socialism appealed, but he soon gave up on them. Demos was creeping up on him left right and left again. I like to think he wanted to be honest with his communication but he confused good manners with deceit - most people prefer the truth to lies, don't they? Suppression of rage is debilitating and counter-productive. We know from Maslow the self-actualised life requires authenticity of communication. The endless acute sense of having to edit every word - no wonder redacting the Diaries came easily to him. The nervous energy required to maintain a front at all times, and the assault to his sense of self-esteem at being a base liar must have dented his pride in his manliness. Poor George (for a change) indeed... 

So, we now know more about passive aggressive personality. Does any of it sound familiar? Where is the line between this and just being polite or easy-going or that dreaded concept 'nice'? It's very British to be this way - we favour politeness and making the other gal or fellow feel good. White lies, irony, manners, good-naturedness, kindness... maybe we all passive aggressives at heart - all except for you psychopaths!
So, where does this leave us? There is another explanation... One that is not often considered as a cause for this sort of rank awfulness - syphilis. Sounds fanciful, I know, but the disease causes rampant personality changes, enough to mar a life. Easy-going dufuses become tyrants; good men become bad; gentle souls develop vices. Something to think about!

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