When I act passive aggressively I am hedging my bets. I am lashing out with the thin veneer of not lashing out. Everyone knows I am lashing out (or at least can feel it) but if accused I can deny it. This behavior comes from a place of both anger and fear. I am angry. That is the reason I lash out in the first place. I am afraid of the consequences of lashing out. That is why I strive to maintain deniability. The reason I choose not to outright display my anger and fear honestly is because of shame. Shame tells me I am not entitled to display my true emotions because to do so would break the rules and defy a social hierarchy. In this hierarchy shame tells me I occupy a very low rung. I am allowed to look down upon those who occupy a lower rung but I am not allowed to impose upon those who occupy the higher rungs. Shame tells me that displaying my true emotions is an imposition upon those who occupy higher rungs than me. But that anger (being a true emotion) still exists and wants to come out of me. And so I buy an insurance policy of passive aggression. My anger comes out of me cloaked in deniability. It is not as authentic or cathartic as a true expression of anger would be but it acts as a release valve and lowers the pressure of the simmering volcano that is my bottled up anger.
Of course the recipient of my passive aggression feels the true emotion behind it. Because it was expressed passive aggressively the recipient experiences a certain disgust in reaction to my cowardice and subsequent dishonest denial of my true emotions. This disgust is palpable and I agree with it for I disgust myself (when I act with passive aggression). This increases my anger and my shame. I am angry with the world for putting me in this position. I am angry with myself for not rising above it. I am ashamed of myself for not rising above it and resorting to passive aggression as the only means of expressing my anger. The more I persist in this state of affairs the higher I raise the cost of pulling it all down. The more I persist with passive aggression the more I fear expressing my true emotions and bearing my hypocrisy to the world. They will see the truth and judge me. I will see the truth and judge myself. Maintaining deniability not only means I can deny my true emotions and intentions to the world but it also means I can deny them to myself.
And so I have purchased this insurance policy of passive aggression. It saves me from experiencing the full weight of the tragedy of my shame. Never fully experiencing it will also insure that I never rise above it. But rising above it requires that I feel its full weight. That is too scary a proposition.