Some of my readers send me emails with comments and questions about personal issues. Here I reply (in italics) to more of these emails. The topics here deal mostly with inner passivity.
Hello, I have enjoyed reading the posts on your website. I’m going through a really tough time. I’m beating myself up big time for purchasing a home that I truly don’t like. Somehow in my depression and obsessive search of a home, I made a huge mistake.
I’m past middle age, so I should have known better. Now I feel stuck. I so want to go back to the simple apartment we rented during our house search. My husband says we’ll have to stay in the home for at least a year, and he won’t discuss a time frame for putting it on the market. He adamantly does not want to go back to apartment living. We always had our own home, so I understand that.
I’ve had other depressive bouts. Most involved my helplessness over my first-born son’s serious mental illness. His life has been so very difficult. My heart will always break for him. I don’t know where to begin. Is there any hope for me?
Hi. I’m sorry for the difficulties you’re having. All of us need to be aware of our unconscious readiness to keep recycling negative emotions such as feeling helpless and trapped. If we don’t flush these emotions out of our system, they come back to haunt us.
People unconsciously “go looking” for experiences that involve their unresolved negative emotions. That means you might be using your new house and surroundings to accentuate a feeling of being helpless and trapped. In other words, you could have decided you don’t like the house for the unconscious purpose of feeling trapped in it. If so, you’re not being objective about the quality and attractiveness of the new house. Instead, you’re choosing emotionally to dislike it in order to remain mired in inner passivity.
Your inner passivity enables your inner critic to harass and torment you. That means you unconsciously give permission to your inner critic to chastise you for supposedly having made a bad decision concerning the new house.
Part of your anguish about your son could be your unconscious willingness to identify with his plight, especially his helplessness. That means you’re choosing to feel what you imagine he feels, to a degree that becomes painful for you. That’s not empathy. Rather, it’s your emotional attachment to inner passivity. It doesn’t do you any good, or help him in any way, for you to accentuate a sense of helplessness in this manner. Keep reading about inner passivity in order to understand it and recognize it in yourself. That’s how you eliminate it from your life.
Hi. I have been reading Carl Jung recently and that is how I ended up at your website. I’m hoping that you might be able to help me. I seem to be incapable of making important decisions. In other words, I can be profoundly indecisive. For instance I have been thinking about religion and spirituality since I was about 14 and I have still not decided which religion to join or which spiritual path to follow (I’m now in my 30s).
I can make a decision but almost immediately indecision takes over again. Years ago, I became a Catholic but even on the day of my Baptism I felt confused about my decision. I ended up sending text messages to my girlfriend to have sex (hardly very Catholic!). Afterwards, I rarely had any positive feelings towards Catholicism. A few years later I became a Muslim, and the same pattern repeated itself. The day I took Shahada I was depressed and had to listen to Wagner’s “Parsifal” all evening to get rid of the painful feelings.
My wife then converted to Islam and that made things worse. We then veered between Christianity and Islam for about 18 months until it completely broke her. We got a divorce. Recently she tried to kill herself because she had completely lost her faith.
I think that having some kind of faith is essential for a meaningful life; but I can’t attain it! This leads to despair. Quick background: I have two very emotionally distant parents. I have never had a meaningful relationship with either. My mother is introverted, anxious, critical, and isolated; my father is introverted, passive, depressed, unhealthy, etc.
Thanks for writing. It does indeed look as if you are experiencing much of your life through inner passivity, as indicated especially in your indecision concerning which religion to join. You’re having difficulty feeling the inner authority—vested in your authentic, essential self—through which you would make a decision and then stand by that decision.
Inner passivity blocks you from connecting with your authentic self. It appears that your parents were quite disconnected from you, from each other, and each from his and her own self. It’s not surprising you’re struggling in the same manner.
You’re trying to figure out which religion best represents the truth, when truth, as best we can seize hold of it, will come to you when you connect more deeply with yourself and thereby with the wise inner authority of the authentic self. Try to keep understanding inner passivity and how it is compelling you to experience yourself as helpless to make a decision and inept in terms of ascertaining what is true and real. Inner passivity separates you from the comfort of knowing inner truth as best you can. Keep reading about inner passivity. Deeper understanding will alleviate the painful symptoms.
I have a fear of committing suicide. I feel, although it’s highly unlikely, that nobody in this world has ever had this fear. It’s as if I don’t have a choice. It’s as if I will act out of my anxiety without thinking. I’m extremely confused because I don’t know if I’m depressed, and if so, will I ever become suicidal? I am 100 percent against suicide. I do not know how to get my unconscious mind to stop expecting suicide as the future. This is why I’m feeling hopeless. I am willing to do anything in this world to gain the hope of life back. My only goal in life now is to wake up with zest and gratitude every day. My perception is drowning my motivation to live, and it’s scary.
I’m sorry to hear about your emotional difficulties. Perhaps I can offer some helpful insight. When you are “expecting suicide as the future,” you are likely, in that moment, deeply entangled in the experience of inner passivity. That means, in your case, that you’re entangled in the feeling of not trusting yourself to protect yourself against self-damaging impulses. It means you’re experiencing yourself through inner weakness and the feeling of lacking self-regulation. This painful feeling is an unconscious attachment, or an inner default position, and it acts upon you like an emotional addiction.
It’s not as if you’re likely to commit suicide. You are, instead, emotionally determined to feel inner weakness. In your case, that’s the sense or impression that you can’t (or won’t be able to) protect yourself from self-harm.
When inner passivity is lodged in our psyche, we’re compelled unconsciously to keep experiencing it. Entertaining the possibility of committing suicide is just one of its many, many symptoms. Continue to read the content on my website, and perhaps purchase my book, The Phantom of the Psyche, in order to better understand inner passivity. Bringing it into focus is the way to strengthen yourself.
Does the mind need fear? I noticed recently that my mother, who has Alzheimer’s, seems to use fear to focus on information. Is this the mind using emotion to obtain adrenaline? Is it possible that the mind generally uses emotion to obtain energy in order to be more aware of the world?
Yes, fear can sharpen the mind and make us more vigilant. But it can also distort our perceptions and impair our intelligence. Fear can cause a person to misinterpret information by placing emphasis on a minor consideration or a false lead. This person can become too emotional to make good rational decisions based on facts. Certainly fear is not a pleasant way to absorb information. It’s better to be able to absorb it in a calm neutral way or through, say, the pleasure of learning.
Fear, anxiety, and paranoia are common symptoms of people with Alzheimer’s, due in part to their sense of increasing helplessness. It might be that the disease of Alzheimer’s makes them less able to cope with the inner passivity already lodged in their psyche. With less coping skill, their sense of helplessness is thereby magnified, along with their level of fear.
I realize I have nothing driving me. Though I have a good education, am skillful at different activities, and good- looking, these are just futile rewards no one cares about and not goals. I have always been this way. Whatever I tried wasn’t enough. At times I’ve had the illusion of having an ultimate goal, but it was a mere expedient. I’ve pretended to find answers, but in the end I discovered that life has no purpose at all.
I’m almost 40 now and left with two options: Find a fake purpose to drive my life forward, or live with no purpose, day to day, drifting till the end.
In the first option (where 99 percent of people unconsciously hang out) you chose the kind of “drug” you want—career, cars, a house on the ocean, sex, love, kids, cool clothes, fame, success, and so on. Everybody choose their personal “drug” which gives sense to their existences and drives them through life.
The second option, which is basically where I am right now, is definitely more coherent but unless you are able to totally repress any kind of thought which falls outside the circle of numbness (becoming a robot), that’s just a way to live in a virtual little world you created in your mind, apart from the rest of the world, like in the fairy tales where the kid has imaginary friends and an imaginary reality. It means being totally isolated by others, not only socially, but mostly emotionally. While others talk to you about their new cars or the coming Caribbean vacations, you filter their words, put them in the trash bin and think how far better and logical is one’s little imaginary world.
And please, don’t tell me that life’s purpose involves helping others! That’s the new message of this century. Everybody use this statement—internet marketers, gurus, doctors, reverends, corporations. It’s just a slogan which became viral and people use as a way to make their money-machine business look like charity.
To close, I’m probably affected by inner passivity. But my lack of drive goes beyond all the therapies. I feel I’m in an unexplored territory which isn’t treated or mentioned by experts.
Thanks for writing. I’ll try to be helpful with some thoughts:
There’s not necessarily anything wrong with not having any particular drive. Many people who do have a lot of drive are acting out neurotic impulses. Enlightened people have often been quite content to sit back and (figuratively, of course) watch the grass grow. What matters is whether or not you are suffering because of your outlook on life.
If you are suffering, it could be because your inner critic is harassing you for allegedly being a failure, for being weak and passive, for not meeting personal or social expectations, or the expectations of your parents. If you are emotionally attached, through inner passivity, to being on the receiving end of such allegations from your inner critic, then you are stuck in this limbo of inner conflict. That means you would be mired in inner passivity, especially in the sense of how that enables your inner critic to attack you mercilessly. Your defense could then become: “I’m not prepared to go through life feeling unmotivated and uninspired, unable to feel strong or powerful and unable to create any worthwhile goals or purpose for myself. The problem is, life has no purpose anyway. It’s all absurd, a big charade.” If you adopt this line of defense, you’ll be required psychologically to suffer some degree of melancholy, if not depression.
This kind of defense was adopted by existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, who, in my opinion, expressed this “philosophy” as a way (unconsciously) to excuse the defeat and passivity of the French during the Second World War.
Inner passivity also cuts you off from yourself, meaning from a sense of being a unique, worthy, and precious person in the world. That’s why you are, as you said, “totally isolated by others, not only socially, but mostly emotionally.” The separation you feel from others is the separation from self that inner passivity induces.
In your writings, you mention the “authentic self” and how the inner critic and inner passivity want to thrive in the psyche. I’m a psych major in college and I strive to eventually have my own practice. In my studies, I came across the False Self theory by Donald Winnicott. The parts of the personality he mentions are also what you describe in your writings. I am wondering: If I were to free my authentic self, would these aspects in me vanish?
I noticed my passivity the other day when I bumped into a coworker who didn’t hear me say “Excuse me” before we bumped. He looked up at me bothered, and he also didn’t really accept my apology. The amount of guilt I then had was immense. I was trying to convince myself that it was just a mistake, and that it won’t mean anything long term. I noticed how I was experiencing my inner critic. Do you have guidance about this incident?
Thanks for writing. When we resolve inner conflict, particularly our attachments to unresolved negative emotions, our true authentic self emerges and becomes our new sense of self. In this process, our overall intelligence consolidates or integrates the previously conflicted, discordant aspects of our psyche into a harmonious whole.
In the incident you describe, you probably absorbed negative aggression from the coworker (you said he was “bothered”) after you bumped into him. Because of your inner passivity, you weren’t able to protect yourself from his aggressive words or glare (or whatever his being “bothered” consisted of). Because you absorbed that aggression, you would experience one or more unpleasant symptoms (such as guilt). The guilt is the feeling of punishment. You experience that guilt to the degree that you absorb his aggression. Not even your innocence in the manner in which you bumped into him protects you as long as you’re compelled, through inner passivity, to absorb (rather than deflect) his aggression.
The coworker in that moment was likely a personification of your inner critic. Your inner critic apparently pestered you for hours after the incident, likely accusing you of having been passive in absorbing that person’s aggression. You went on the defensive, trying to convince yourself “it was just a mistake” and “won’t mean anything long term.” Such defensiveness—an expression of inner passivity—does little to alleviate the guilt. Hope this helps. Good luck with your studies.