Treatment of the passive aggressive personality

1. The PA recognising and accepting they are angry

This may be very difficult for them to do as the defence mechanism of denial can be strong

The anger may be based in the Child ego state and they are angry about events that occurred usually in their family of origin

Or the anger may be an introjection of someone they have made usually in childhood

Or it can be both an introjection in their Parent ego state and an unresolved anger issue in the Child ego state.

Once recognised the anger needs to be accepted and owned as part of self. This can be enhanced by finding the angry part in the client’s body language and getting them to exaggerate it. As the anger is denied by the PA it will show it self unconsciously in the ulterior transactions such as the body language.

In particular they may have the PA smile as they passively express the anger


P:A script matrix

2. The anger is expressed openly. Empty chair work can be useful here. One needs to assess if there is also a more general overall don’t feel injunction. They not only repress their anger but other feelings as well. Such as grief and there maybe unresolved bereavement. With the experience and display of other repressed feelings this may open the door to the expression of the anger.

Life positions:

I-U-  or

I+U-, which is better presented to them as I-U- – as this forces them to accept that they have a negative view of self.

Common beliefs:

Life isn’t fair to me

Nothing good happens to me in the long run

Don’t trust others

I am just the innocent bystander

Other’s do bad things to me

Therapist need to protect self due to the I-U- –  life position of the PA. Therapist contracts with self not to end up feeling bad at the end of the session.

Don’t fight the PA client. Some times this can happen with therapists. The therapist’s Child can feel hurt by some comments and then want to fight back.


The therapist must avoid this counter transference reaction to the PA.

If one is feeling like this then obviously the therapy is going to be compromised

and you can never defeat a client anyways as they hold all the best cards.

Provide lots of positive stokes to the PA and work on how they may filter the strokes.

They tend to give out negative strokes (conditional and unconditional) that are well hidden

They are the expert of the ulterior transaction. Saying one thing and meaning another so the analysis of transactions can be of assistance especially if they have a good Adult ego state.

Group therapy can be useful as others can provide feedback to them on how they experience them. This needs to be done cautiously for obvious reasons.

PA smile

The PA smile. “How can I be angry because look I am smiling” and “You made me hurt you anyway.”

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