Mental-health professionals and lay persons alike often fail to recognise aggressive agendas and actions of others for what they really are. We strive to understand them as opposed to taking care of ourselves. Therapists whose training or experience overly indoctrinated them in the theory of neurosis can thus ‘frame’ situations incorrectly. Let’s clarify some of that.
Covert aggressives are mostly distinguished by the way that they fight: in subtle, cunning and underhanded ways. They can be charming and disarming. Their dislike of appearing overtly aggressive is practical and face saving. They can be deceptively civil, charming and seductive. They know what to say and do to get you to abandon any intuitive mistrust and give them what they want. “Maybe they just can’t help it” or “They must do these things unconsciously,” people tell me. That’s not my experience.