Readers often send me emails with their comments and questions. Here I answer four of them, all dealing with different aspects of inner passivity. My responses are in italics.
I wrote to you some months ago. Since then I’ve bought many of your books and read the new articles you’ve posted. I’ve enjoyed becoming more aware of my internal processes. Yet I can still feel stressed about spending time with relatives I don’t necessarily get on with. I read one of your articles about family gatherings, yet still I have been trying to understand why I feel so angry when I think about seeing my sister who often takes her aggression out on me.
She is touchy and gets frustrated over traffic jams, etc. When she raises her voice at me, it affects my personal harmony and makes me feel disrespected. From reading your books, I understand that I’m attached emotionally to feelings of being powerless and helpless (she is my older sister, and her reactions have always made me feel victimized and unfairly treated). When I think about my responses to her attitude in previous months, I can see that I have reacted inappropriately with aggression and anger. This has made me feel even worse, as I don’t like disharmony.
I have tied to assert my rights and ask her not to talk to me disrespectfully, which has not really worked. She does not see any problems with her attitude and appears to be in denial. Any tips to deal with this? – L.K.
Thanks for getting my books. Glad they’ve been helpful. Try to use your time with your sister as a way to practice applying what you’re learning about depth psychology. See her as an opportunity for you to grow, not as a trial you have to endure. You’re feeling passive and disrespected around her, and your challenge is to see how these negative emotions arise in you.
Your anger at her is an unconscious defense that says, “I’m not looking to feel passive or disrespected. Look at how angry and upset I get at her!” Your anger gives you a taste of aggression, yet it is a reactive, self-defeating kind of aggression. If you act on it, you will feel guilty afterwards because your angry reaction will be an overreaction.
You want to keep seeing and owning the weakness in you that gets triggered by her. Your weakness stems from inner passivity. The passivity causes you to absorb her aggression rather than deflect it. Be patient and loving to yourself as you take note of your passive side.
Watch for your inner critic. It’s prepared to ridicule and mock you for your passivity. As your passivity is dislodged and begins to dissipate, you will experience the ability to relate to your sister in a civil manner that connects you with growing self-assurance. Even if she remains belligerent or hostile, she won’t trigger you and you’ll be pleased at how you maintain your cool. As you see your passivity, you still might make in the near future only a bit a progress, or even what feels like none at all, in terms of getting upset at her. That’s okay, the process of getting stronger and less reactive occurs at its own pace. Be patient and be kind to yourself. Your attempt to apply this awareness is part of a process that builds on itself and can get you in a good place before too long.
I have a male friend who is being mistreated by his wife. He’s wealthy, well educated, functions well in business, and he appears normal in his life outside his marriage. He admits he’s passive and indecisive in his marriage, but acknowledges he’s not that way in the other areas of his life. He says he tries to negotiate with her but it looks as if he’s unsuccessful in his attempts. He’s been married ten years and every two years or so he gets fed up and leaves for three or four weeks and then comes back and tries again. Marriage counseling hasn’t helped.
I am curious as to what can cause someone to behave normally in most areas of their life and yet be a passive, indecisive person in marriage. Drugs and alcohol are not involved; neither of them drinks or uses. He appears unhappy and yet continues in the relationship. Thoughts? – J.S.
It’s quite common for people to be competent and capable in most areas of their life, yet act out in one particular area in ways that produce a lot of misery. Though we might be rich or famous, we still can’t escape from paying a painful price for an unresolved psychological issue.
Your friend is compelled unconsciously to act out inner passivity, and this acting out is occurring mainly in his marriage. Inner passivity, as you likely know from reading my blog, is an inherent sense of emotional weakness that often involves feeling submissive and victimized. An inner conflict is at play in our psyche: consciously, we want to feel strong, yet unconsciously we keep recycling feelings associated with being weak.
Your friend would be spared much of his suffering if he were to understand, with growing clarity, his inner passivity. He has to bring it into focus and understand his unconscious affinity for this old familiar sense of himself. We all have some degree of emotional weakness in the form of inner passivity. It helps a great deal for us to see, in all possible detail, the inner dynamics that maintain that weakness.
Sir, I have for years been on and off again in psychotherapy for panic attacks, hypochondria—with both cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic therapy. I’m not seriously mentally ill, just neurotic. No current addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Your articles on inner passivity really speak to me. My panic symptoms and health anxiety started 15 months into my marriage 20 years ago. After a fight about my hobby with my wife, she berated me for drawing and painting female nudes. My wife can be a sweetheart but also domineering to both me and my son. Therapy has helped me to stand up to her and my marriage has gotten much better. But issues remain. My dreams are frequent and recurring, where I’m feeling trapped or creatures are chasing me, and I’m not able to kill them and I get lost in my surroundings.
I developed an addiction to internet porn in the past ten years or so, specifically cuckold porn, and yes, I identify with the female taking on a group of men, but also the men (aggression?)
I don’t feel I am bisexual but I do fantasize being the woman and being passive in these scenarios. After orgasm, I do feel the same shame and guilt that people get, as you wrote, when they binge on food. Sex with my wife is great but I think my wife picks up on my passivity because she tells me about past lovers during sex. – W.T.
Thanks for writing and sharing this information. Yes, you certainly do have inner passivity in your psyche, and that passivity is libidinized (sexualized). Keep in mind, sexualized pleasure can be extracted through one’s passivity. Playing the game of imagining yourself a cuckold denotes large deposits of inner passivity in your psyche. The pleasure here is perverse, so it’s important that you resist it. Every time you libidinize the passivity in the way you describe above, you will pay a painful price in the following hours and days in terms of guilt, shame, and overall harassment from your inner critic.
Keep reading the content on my website, and try to keep an eye every day on how passivity is intruding into your life. The more you make a conscious effort to notice this passivity, especially in the sense of doing so as a learning process, the more you’re acquiring insight, expressing your determination to overcome it, and growing your consciousness. As you see more clearly the psychological self-damage you’re producing with cuckold fantasies, you’ll be empowered to refrain from producing those fantasies.
Your passivity can affect you in many ways, beyond what you have described. You want to become aware of all of its manifestations. To see the passivity with insight is to exercise inner strength. It means you’re determined to liberate yourself from this psychological liability. As you keep seeing your passivity, you will begin to feel more inner leverage, a growing strength, like secure handholds on a rock climb. This growing connection to inner strength can help you to resist the pull of the passive side.
I’m definitely starting to understand the dynamic between inner aggression and inner passivity, and I’m starting to notice when either of them takes hold of me. That being said, there are still moments where I get “taken over” by them and don’t realize it’s happened until it’s too late.
One of those moments happens with playing the piano. I first started learning the piano at about six years old, and playing reached its peak of enjoyment at around ten. After that, it started to feel more of a chore. I stopped lessons altogether at fourteen, and now I play various songs on an electric keyboard to keep the skills functioning. However, whenever someone suggests playing the piano or starting lessons again, I instantly find myself becoming very anxious and overwhelmed. It feels as though I’m being backed into a corner from which there is no escape.
So far, I haven’t been able to figure out why I feel this way. I do of course want to feel enthusiasm and pleasure towards playing the piano and becoming more skilled at it, but I also feel very strong resistance and guilt when thinking about sitting at a piano to play it. Any insight into this issue would be greatly appreciated. – O.N.
You’re able to play the piano with ease when, without outside influence, you yourself make the decision to do so. However, when outside influence is present, namely in the form of a person “pushing” you to play or to take lessons, you immediately interpret the situation emotionally, through unresolved inner passivity. As you say, you feel backed into a corner and overwhelmed. Instead of feeling free to make your own decision, you unconsciously highlight the sense of being coerced. The person’s request activates your inner passivity, which immediately kicks up your resistance.
Your resistance is likely based on a psychological defense that you employ unconsciously. The defense goes something like this: “I’m not looking for the feeling of being under the influence of this person and feeling I have to submit to his will. Look, I hesitate even to play for him or to consider starting lessons again. I do what I want, not what anyone else is wanting me to do.” This defense obviously becomes self-defeating.
Keep reading about inner passivity and watch for how, on a daily basis, it sneaks into your way of seeing and experiencing yourself, others, and the world around you. You will understand, too, that the guilt you feel is due to the degree to which you allow yourself, in an indulgent manner, to become entangled emotionally in inner passivity. Keep seeing this inner weakness with vigilance. You will feel new strength and a determination to grow as you apply this knowledge in a calm determined manner.