Am I a Covert-Aggressive Personality?

Reader’s Question

I have read some of your posts on the covert-aggressive personality and wonder if I might be one. I am in my mid-twenties now but have had various personality issues most of my life. Some of the aspects of my personality that I know are a problem include:

Having a poisoned tongue
I know that I make frequent, sarcastic comments and inflict pain on others by this, especially the people who are closest to me. I did this to my mother during my teens and I do it to my husband now. I eventually get out of the demonish phase I’m in when I do these things, but the damage has already been done and it seems almost impossible to console those I’ve hurt. I know I take advantage of their attachment and sincere affection for me and I do these things when I want something or am hurt. I think that if I make them feel guilty or bad they wouldn’t dare leave me and they’ll give me what I want. Most of the time, what I really want is to be pampered and to be with the ones I love because I hate being separated.
Separation issues
As I mentioned, I hate to be separated physically from the person I love the most. It used to be my mom and now it’s my husband. It’s like I am a 5-month-old on some level. Maybe it’s an excuse I give myself, but I didn’t grow up with my parents and always longed to stay with my mom. I lived with her briefly for 3 years just before I was 11 and started living with her, my dad and my younger sister only when I was 14. I have had a lot of issues with my dad. He is an abuser himself and needs a lot of sympathy and appreciation. I wonder if this extreme craving to live with my mom is triggered by this separation issue. I still cry when I have to leave my mom’s place and come back. My husband and I are students and don’t live together. We’re at different institutes in the same city and meet up at the weekends.
I have a huge sense of guilt for everything that goes wrong around me. Even when things happen to other people, I somehow feel like I might be responsible in some way.
I nag my husband a lot. And even when I know he’s right, I try to provoke him. I also want him to still accept me, pamper me and be affectionate with me despite all the nagging I do. I even go the extent of irritating him until he gets angry and I’m starting to get worried that I am emotionally abusing him and damaging our relationship permanently.

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Hopefully, this is enough information to detect if I am an emotional abuser and a covert-aggressive one at that. Please give me some thoughts or advice because I want to change and I certainly don’t want to end up being as abusive as my dad. I also don’t want to completely alienate those whom I love.

Psychologist’s Reply

There is plenty of information here to suggest that there is more going on with you than merely being the kind of personality outlined in the article on covert-aggression. Besides that, the fact that you are keenly aware of certain aspects of your personality and are uncomfortable with them bodes well for your prospects in the appropriate kind of counseling.

Sometimes, people have various personality traits that cluster in such a manner as to pose significant problems for them in their relationships. This can happen without a person having a distinctive, specific personality disorder of any type. Also, sometimes a person can possess traits from various different personality types. Your chronic fears of separation and abandonment as well as periods of irrational angry outbursts are generally associated with one personality type, whereas your admitted use of guilt-tripping as a manipulation tactic is typically associated with another. These facts, together with the fact that you are uncomfortable with the kind of person you are all indicate that you have not yet solidified a distinctive personality or a stable sense of self. From what you say, it also appears that you are experiencing some mood instability that might be exacerbating your problems.

It might be best to seek the counsel of someone experienced in personality and character-development issues and to secure the assistance you need in stabilizing your mood, learning more mature strategies for getting your emotional needs met, and developing a more acceptable and stable sense of self. If you form a solid therapeutic bond with a therapist, you’re likely to be tempted to engage in all the problematic behaviors you describe doing with your mom and your husband. But an experienced character-development therapist should be able to handle this in stride and to assist you in learning more adaptive ways to relate intimately with those you love.

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