The evolutionary theory identifies a group of individuals who are referred to as ambivalent. These individuals are inclined towards both their self-interests and those of others, but often experience a significant conflict between the two. In the DSM, they were initially classified as having a passive-aggressive personality, characterized by a pattern of vacillating between prioritizing others and prioritizing themselves. They may behave obediently at one moment and defiantly at the next. Due to their inability to resolve their ambivalence, they tend to exhibit erratic behavior. (Millon 2011 526)
The passive-aggressive/negativistic spectrum is vastly different from the RCC’s compulsive spectrum. However, according to Millon (1969, 1981, 1990, 1996), both share a deeply ingrained ambivalence about themselves and others. Compulsives experience the same level of insecurity but deal with it by actively suppressing the resulting conflicts. Consequently, they tend to appear controlled and resolute in their actions, exhibiting perfectionism, orderliness, and predictability in their behavior. On the other hand, negativists fail to resolve these same conflicts, leading to the persistent intrusion of their ambivalence into everyday life. They display indecisiveness, fluctuating attitudes, oppositional behavior and emotions, and general unpredictability. They cannot decide whether to prioritize others’ desires for comfort and security or their own. They vacillate between obedient dependence and defiant resistance, between taking initiative and passively waiting for others to lead. (526-527)
Figure 11.1 from Millon 2011
The bipolarities in DRN personalities are primarily characterized by conflict and ambivalence, as indicated by the double-pointed arrow between the self and other polarities. This indicates that they struggle to find a balance between acting in their own interest and doing so for others, resulting in a lack of consistent or single-minded purpose. As a consequence, they shift erratically back and forth, exhibiting fluctuating attitudes and unpredictable behavior. When they move towards fulfilling others’ desires, they become irritated and annoyed with themselves and quickly shift to doing their own thing. However, this jeopardizes the security and support they need from others, leading them to become contrite and reverse their position again. DRN individuals are active and not passive, constantly shifting their behaviors, thoughts, and feelings from one moment to the next. This process brings little joy, as fear and self-preservation dominate their experience. Regardless of which direction they take, there are always uncomfortable consequences to face. The unsettled nature of the self-other orientation keeps negativists in a perpetual state of discontent and dysphoria. (535)
Table of Trait Domains of the DRN Spectrum
Figure of Salience of the Trait Domains in the DRN Spectrum
Expressive Emotion: Resentful: While almost everyone behaves resentfully sometimes, negativists are distinguished by their ease of being made to act in a resentful manner and the regularity with which this behavior is manifested. The excerpt goes on to describe how negativists exhibit embitterment in a variety of forms, such as procrastination, inefficiency, obstinacy, and socially irksome behaviors. These behaviors signify their resistance to fulfilling the expectations of others, as well as their gratification in demoralizing and undermining the pleasures and aspirations of others.(536-537)
Interpersonal Conduct: Contrary: Negativistic individuals are unable to commit to a particular behavior, vacillating between passive and active responses and struggling to find direction. Their ambivalence leads to erratic behavior, causing conflict in their social relationships. Despite the apparent lack of satisfaction and security that comes with this behavior, negativistic individuals seem to gain rewards and avoid discomforts by being unpredictable and discontented. In marital relationships, they use unconscious tactics to gain attention, support, and reassurance while venting their anger and resentment. Their inconsistent behavior and vacillation, interspersed with self-deprecation and contrition, serve to relieve unconscious guilt and solicit forgiveness and reassuring comments from others, making their strategy not entirely ineffective. (537-538)
Cognitive Style: Skeptical: The skeptical cognitive style is characterized by cynicism, doubt, and mistrust. Individuals with this style tend to approach most events in their lives with disbelief and skepticism. They view future possibilities with trepidation and may exhibit pessimism and suspicion. Additionally, they often display a misanthropic view of life and tend to appraise matters in a whining and grumbling manner. They may voice disdain and caustic comments toward circumstances and people who appear to be experiencing good fortune.
It is important to note that individuals with the skeptical cognitive style are typically articulate in describing their subjective discomforts, but they are often unwilling to explore or admit any insight into the roots of their issues. When discussing their sensitivities and difficulties, they do not recognize that these mostly reflect their inner conflicts and ambivalences. They alternate between preoccupations with personal inadequacies, bodily ailments, and guilt feelings, on the one hand, and social resentments, frustrations, and disillusionments on the other.
Individuals with this cognitive style express dismay about the state of their lives, their worries, their sadness, their disappointments, and their nervousness. Although they express a desire to be rid of distress and difficulty, they seem unable or unwilling to find any solution. Their thinking is characterized by ambivalence, and they find themselves shifting erratically from one solution to another, often acting precipitously on the spur of the moment due to their intense ambivalences. For them, any other course would lead only to hesitation, vacillation, or total immobility. (538)
Self-Image: Discontented: Negativists often feel trapped by fate and believe that nothing ever works out for them. They frequently express envy and resentment towards others who seem to have an easier life. Although they criticize and are cynical about others’ achievements, they still covet them. Negativists feel that life has been unkind to them, and they have not received the appreciation they deserve. They believe that their motives and behaviors are often misunderstood, and they are now disillusioned. They attribute their obstructiveness and pessimism to their sensitivity, physical disabilities, or the inconsideration of others towards them. However, negativists are ambivalent, and they also consider that their own unworthiness, failures, and bad temper could be the cause of their misery and the pain they have caused others. Guilt and resentment are two opposing forces that permeate every aspect of negativists’ thoughts and behavior. (538)
Intrapsychic Content: Vacillating: Negativistic personalities possess inner templates from the past that are composed of conflicting images and memories. These templates are largely inconsistent, and most internalized objects are associated with contradictory feelings, opposing inclinations, and incompatible memories. Consequently, the dispositions that serve to organize their ongoing perceptions and personal relationships are constantly in flux and divergently oriented. Adding to this internal vacillation is the fact that these objects are generally colored by negative emotions, resulting in a disposition to undermine self and others’ pleasures and achievements without necessarily appearing to do so.
The behaviors of these ambivalent personalities are even more erratic and vacillating than expected from their reinforcement history. They seem to labor under a double handicap, being deprived of external consistency and control in childhood and, as a result, never acquired the motivation and competencies of internal control. These persons seem adrift in their environment, bobbing up and down erratically from one mood to another, unsure of what their environment expects of them and unable to impose self-discipline and order.
These individuals lacked consistent parental discipline and acquired implicit modeling instead. Essentially, they imitated the contradictory or capricious style of their parents. Lacking the conditions for acquiring self-control and modeling themselves after their opposing or erratic and ambivalent parents, these personalities never learned to conceal their moods for long and cannot bind or transform their emotions. Whatever inner feelings well up within them – be it guilt, anger, or inferiority – they spill quickly to the surface in pure and direct form. (538-539)
Intrapsychic Dynamics: Displacement: Negativists stand out for their lack of internal controls and mechanisms, resulting in unfiltered emotions, thoughts, and desires that frequently surface without being moderated or transformed. This impulsivity gives their reactions an unpredictable and inconsistent quality, similar to children’s behavior. One common mechanism among these individuals is displacement, where they unconsciously and abruptly shift their anger from its original target to someone or something of lesser significance. This displacement often manifests in passive-aggressive behavior such as acting forgetful or appearing inept, as noted by Coid (2003).
The use of displacement creates confusion and often is accompanied by other erratic and contradictory mechanisms. For instance, some negativists will internalize their anger, which is called introjection, and direct it towards themselves, leading to guilt or self-condemnation. However, they also alternate between projection and introjection, blaming others for their faults by projecting their destructive impulses onto them and then reversing the sequence and accusing themselves of faults that should be ascribed to others.
Thus, even when using unconscious mechanisms, negativists display a vacillating and contradictory behavior that seems irrational to those around them. Their emotional outbursts and inconsistencies make it difficult for others to understand their motivations and reactions. (539)
Intrapsychic Architecture: Divergent: The negativistic personality is characterized by a distinctive intrapsychic structure that is divided among its components. This often leads to conflicting goals and purposes, with controls and defensive maneuvers employed to achieve them. As a result, major conflicts may remain unresolved, making full psychic cohesion impossible to achieve.
If the negativist’s emotions were calm and consistent, their weak intrapsychic control would not be problematic. However, their feelings are deeply ambivalent, leading to perpetual inner turmoil and anxiety. Their equilibrium is unstable, and their inability to anticipate the future as consistent or predictable creates a constant state of insecurity. When frustrated or confused, they easily turn to anger and resentment, with guilt frequently emerging as a way to control this anger.
In summary, the negativist experiences a range of intense and conflicting emotions that surge quickly and capriciously to the surface due to weak controls and lack of self-discipline.(539-540)
Mood/Temperament: Irritable: The personality pattern of irritable mood is characterized by frequent and abrupt changes in behavior and mood. These individuals often appear restless, unstable, and unpredictable in their emotions. They can be easily agitated, bothered by minor issues, and quick to become sulky or contrary. Their tolerance for frustration is often low, and they may become irritable, fidgety, and impatient unless things go their way. At times, they may swing from feeling despondent and distressed to being petty, spiteful, stubborn, and contentious. Although they can be enthusiastic and cheerful, these moods are typically short-lived, and they quickly return to feeling disgruntled, critical, and envious. They are often jealous and easily offended by minor slights, and their emotions are evident for all to see.
These personalities may possess an intrinsic irritability or hyperreactivity to stimulation, as they are easily aroused, testy, high-strung, thin-skinned, and quick-tempered. Minor events can provoke and upset them, and they often become inflamed and aggrieved by the most insignificant actions of others. It is possible that these hypersensitivities stem from both adverse experiences and constitutional proclivities, and that their behavioral ambivalences reflect the back-and-forth workings of conflicting dispositions, resulting in their erratic and contradictory emotional reactions.
While there is no substantive evidence to support biogenic conjectures, it is worth noting that the negativistic pattern may be more prevalent among women than men. Women experience hormonal changes during their menstrual cycles that may activate marked, short-lived, and variable moods, which can lead to the acquisition and perpetuation of an ambivalently oriented pattern. Unfortunately, characteristics that are seen as obstreperous and uncontrolled among men are often judged as a sign of being “tough-minded,” while the same traits exhibited by women may be viewed as “bitchy” and “negativistic.” However, these are nothing more than unconfirmed speculations. (540)
In the 1940s and 1950s, popular literature frequently referenced the “neurotic personality.” This term was used to describe individuals who exhibited emotional instability, impulsiveness, and a range of negative emotions such as sadness, guilt, hostility, and negativity. These individuals often created discomfort for themselves and those around them. While the concept of negativistic personality has historical roots in the passive-aggressive syndrome, a more comprehensive portrayal can be found in literature related to neurotic personalities. Oldham and Morris (1990) provide a detailed portrayal of these individuals, with their “mercurial style” being most closely related to the personality discussed in this post. Although they associate this style with the normal range of the borderline personality, the characteristics described correspond to the milder form of the borderline or what is referred to as the negativistic disorder in this chapter. Oldham and Morris characterize individuals with this style as passionate, yearning for experiences, and jumping into new situations with both feet, without hesitation. They describe these individuals as capable of enduring the emotional changes that come with a fervently lived life. Millon, Weiss, Millon, and Davis (1994) view the normal negativistic pattern as a manifestation of discontentment. They describe these individuals as feeling unfairly treated, unappreciated, and blamed for things they did not do. They may also be resentful of what they perceive as unfair demands placed on them, which may lead them to neglect their responsibilities. They may vacillate between acceptance and resistance, leading to problematic relationships and disappointments. However, when things go well, these individuals can be productive and constructively independent-minded, willing to speak out and address issues. (541-542)
Disputatiously Discontented Personality: The Disputatiously Discontented Personality is a complex individual who tends to focus on the negative aspects of life and is not particularly optimistic about the future. They are not inclined to find joy in everyday experiences and often wait for things to happen instead of taking control of their own lives. This personality is known for being argumentative and testy, particularly when it comes to their relationships and activities.
Despite their desire to ensure good outcomes for themselves, they are often indecisive and unsure about what to strive for. Their efforts to influence their own lives are inconsistent, and they may struggle to substantially transform their environment. Nevertheless, they are insistent on having their experiences determined by their own actions rather than by forces outside of their control.
Disputatious personalities are highly independent-minded and tend to draw inspiration and impetus from within themselves. They are often spurred by conflicting speculations and have an ease and quickness of understanding that is faster than logic alone. They are not inclined to deal with the obvious and ordinary and may be quarrelsome and petulant, lost in distant thought.
This personality type is also known for being skeptical of traditional precepts and may find logical flaws and inconsistencies in the beliefs and assumptions put forth by others. Relationships may take on an impersonal and intellectual character, with social encounters often becoming debates and challenges.
The Disputatiously Discontented Personality prefers work situations that are open and unstructured, allowing them to function alone or in silence. They care little for authority and often find themselves at odds with societal norms. Despite their desire for self-determination and autonomy, they are aware of the troublesome aspects that may typify others’ lives.
This personality type tends to respond to challenges quickly and may seem impulsive, but their decisions may have been percolating for some time. Discontent may lead to withdrawal, contrariness, or, in the best of outcomes, a constructively directed self-determination. Overall, this individual is highly independent-minded and motivated by their own principles and values. They prefer to be free and unencumbered in both thought and action, avoiding the constraints of traditional relationships. (542-543)
Ambivalently Discontented Personality: The ambivalently discontented personality is characterized by a desire for security, psychic stability, and social comfort. They tend to avoid problematic situations and troublesome relationships and strive to minimize social discomforts. The ambivalent person is often upset by disappointments and believes that life’s pleasures and joys are ephemeral and not genuine.
While the ambivalent person tries to deal flexibly with unpredictable and challenging circumstances, they are deeply resistant to altering their environment and taking the initiative to shape their life circumstances. They plan strategies and scan alternatives to circumvent difficulties, but their wishes are often irreconcilable and inconstant.
The ambivalent person seeks to benefit others as well as to extract a modicum of life’s bounties for themselves. Despite a negative view of how well they have been treated in the past, they have concluded that extending themselves to others may improve their circumstances. However, they rarely accommodate the desires of others, showing an inconsistent measure of concern for their welfare. This personality is disinclined to achieve psychic stability and may be too independent-minded to recognize more effective conventional solutions to problems.
The ambivalently discontented personality is characterized by strong antithetical dispositions, an introspective inclination that is constantly facing the contradictions of life, and a need for independence and autonomy. They prefer to fend for themselves, to move from one situation to the next as opportunities arise, to avoid the constraints of traditional settings, and rarely to be concerned with gaining the approval of others for doing what they wish.
In conclusion, the ambivalent person’s actions may appear impulsive, but they reflect a considerable measure of disillusionment with both self and others. They have a tendency to obsess over disappointments and dissatisfactions, resulting in either a self-contained withdrawal or an irritable contrariness.(543-544)
Vacillating Resentful Personality: The vacillating resentful personality is characterized by rapid fluctuations between emotional states and interpersonal attitudes. While this is a common feature of negativists, it is particularly notable in this group. Vacillating resentful individuals can be affectionate, interesting, and charming one moment, and irritable, oppositional, and disagreeable the next. They can also be self-assured, decisive, and competent, and then revert to being dependent and childlike. Tantrums are common, as are other recalcitrant behaviors and emotional instabilities.
The vacillating resentful personality is difficult for most people to understand, as their contradictory qualities and unpredictable behaviors and emotional states are baffling to those around them. This internal conflict is also evident in their shifting self-image and self-disparagement. They may also struggle to find a satisfying allegiance with any group, as they find them all to be filled with deceptions, jealousies, and competition.
While the vacillating personality has some similarities to the borderline personality, the ambivalence of the borderline is exhibited in all spheres of expression, while the vacillating personality’s struggle is more centered on the polarity of self versus other. As a result, their ambivalence is more limited in its intrapsychic scope and makeup, resulting in a less severe form of pathology than seen in the UBC borderline. (544-545)
Circuitously Resentful Personality: The Circuitously Resentful Personality, a subtype of the DRN negativistic personality spectrum, was previously classified in the DSM as the passive-aggressive personality disorder. This personality type is characterized by a resistance to the expectations of others, which is expressed indirectly through behaviors like procrastination, dawdling, stubbornness, forgetfulness, and intentional inefficiency. Although they fulfill the requirements set by others, they do so with foot-dragging slowness and opposition. This behavior is usually expressed in areas where it cannot easily be concluded that they are acting in an intentionally oppositional manner.
The Circuitously Resentful Personality blends both negativistic and dependent traits, and they are unwilling or fearful of expressing resentments directly and overtly. They effectively sacrifice their own opportunities for achievement in retaliation against the rejection and deprecation they have felt in the past. However, in seeking to undo others, they ultimately undo themselves.
These personalities are often not consciously aware of the problems they have caused, and some do so intentionally and consciously. They resist facing guilt feelings and interpersonal conflicts and maintain a high degree of repression, making their disagreeable behaviors impervious to change. They become highly defensive with others who wish to expose their maneuvers or force them to do anything they deny resisting on a conscious or intentional basis. (545-546)
Abrasively Negativistic Personality: The Abrasively Negativistic Personality is characterized by a direct and overt contentious and quarrelsome behavior, in contrast to the circuitous DRN types who exhibit a struggle between meeting others’ expectations and fulfilling their own desires in a passive manner. These individuals are intentionally abrasive and antagonistic, and everything and anyone becomes a sounding board for discharging inner irritabilities. They frequently exhibit features associated with the sadistic personality prototype.
The Abrasively Negativistic Personality engages in incessant discords that turn minor frictions into repeated and bitter personal struggles. They may be characterized as contentious, intransigent, fractious, irritable, caustic, debasing, quarrelsome, acrimonious, and corrosive. These individuals often have few qualms or conscience about contradicting or derogating even their closest associates.
Although some abrasive negativists claim to be dedicated to certain high principles, these principles correspond only to positions they hold and never to those taken by others. They tend to be faultfinding and dogmatic, achieving special delight in contradicting and derogating others. Their pleasure comes not so much from the legitimacy and logic of their arguments, but from their use to demean others and retaliate against them. (549)
Irritably Negativistic Personality: The Irritable Negativistic Personality is a pattern that lies somewhere between the circuitous and abrasive DRN personalities. These individuals are bitter, pessimistic, and complain a lot, but they express their displeasure and disillusionment in a more direct manner than the circuitous negativist. They tend to attack others from behind some pretense, taking piecemeal potshots with annoying criticisms and complaints. They leave their target unprotected and often with no clear response to make.
The irritable negativist is testy, cranky, petty, complaining, vexed, and fretful. They are not fond of direct confrontation and prefer griping with marginal and trivial complaints. Many exhibit features of melancholic personalities, especially the ill-humored type, with its sour and grumbling qualities. These individuals often give the impression that they have something worthwhile to say, but their complaints essentially reflect their hidden resentments and deep discontents about life. They rarely provide real solutions to the problems they gripe about. Therefore, their apparently worthwhile observations are merely sly ways to discharge their personal dissatisfactions and ultimately intensify problems rather than resolve them.
Like circuitous variants, irritable negativists avoid open battles and confrontations. They seek to undercut their adversaries by making them look inept or ridiculous, reaffirming the correctness of their own views without directly endangering themselves or being overwhelmed by the counteractions of others. They use small darts and stones rather than cannons and tanks. Having a distaste for and a fear of confrontational scenes, they use the cover of minor and tangential slights to avoid being exposed and punished.
Irritable negativists complain about everything and find fault with all sorts of things, appearing to have legitimate complaints that they seek to bring to someone’s attention. However, these complaints are merely safe ploys to discharge their deeper discontents, struggles, and conflicts. They act as if they are exasperated with the problems at hand, giving evidence of being a person of goodwill and good intentions who has had to struggle with the inefficiencies and ineptitude of others. Hence, they cannot be criticized for their ‘occasionally’ unpleasant behaviors and attitudes. Those who perceptively recognize the underlying anger of the irritable negativist may feel puzzled or bewildered about whether to examine the legitimate problems or confront the negativist for being an annoyingly persistent crank and grumbler.
The talent of the irritable variant is that they can quickly turn the tables on those to whom they complain, putting them on the defensive rather than on the offensive. Although their charges may be minor, trivial, and tangential, they are frequently real and justified. They rarely dump personal accusations on significant others, rather they complain to them about the terrible characteristics of associates and relatives, accusing them of being incompetent and negativistic, precisely those attributes they possess themselves.
Irritable negativists desire the privileged status of self-fulfillment, but they are resentful of those who possess that power. They are caught in a conflict between the need for self-expression and their resentment of those who have achieved it. This clash between envying others and being repulsed by them further intensifies the inner conflict that gave rise to their fundamental problem between self and other.(552-553)
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