If your life’s no fun, you may be plagued by inner passivity. If you’re feeling stuck, unsettled, weak, trapped, overwhelmed, or anxious, you’re very likely under the influence of inner passivity.
As a description of a basic, clinical condition, the term inner passivity is unfamiliar to most people. It describes a congenital flaw in our mental and emotional programming. To understand it, start by reading “Lost in the Fog of Inner Passivity.” I also define and discuss the term in my books and in many of the posts on this website.
People have asked me if they can get rid of inner passivity by reading about it and studying the subject. Do they necessarily need a psychotherapist? Being able to go solo would be an advantage for those who don’t have the money to do therapy. Others will have difficulty finding a therapist who works, as I do, deep in the unconscious mind.
Yes, many people are able to made progress in releasing inner passivity without having to see a psychotherapist. This is achieved by studying the subject over a period of time and seeing clearly its manifestations or symptoms in one’s life. (I took up this question of needing a psychotherapist in an earlier post, “How to Be Your Own Inner Guide,” and this post looks at this issue more specifically in terms of inner passivity.)
In this post, I give examples of the symptoms of inner passivity to help readers identify it in themselves. Procrastination and indecision are two of the many behavioral symptoms of inner passivity. At the same time, these two painful states produce direct emotional experiences of inner passivity. Cravings or impulses associated with addictions and compulsions are also symptoms of inner passivity, at the same time that the cravings are direct experiences of feeling weak, unsure, and unsteady. Chronic worry is also a manifestation of inner passivity, while being, in itself, a direct experience of self-doubt, fear, and uncertainty.
Accurate insight is key. You want your mind to “click” with an understanding of inner passivity as it pertains directly to you. Often people feel it as an inhibited, doubtful, or painful sense of self. We want to see how, unconsciously, we choose on a daily basis to make this passivity an emotional default position within us.
Here’s the realization that takes place when someone is acknowledging the source of, say, procrastination (for the purpose, of course, of overcoming it): “I can get a glimmer in this moment of my unconscious willingness to experience myself through the weakness of inner passivity. My inability or unwillingness at this point to take care of important business is agonizing. Yet, painful though it is, it’s also what I’m willing to experience. This passivity is how I know myself. This old familiar weakness is what I’m ready to feel in this moment. It’s so familiar. If I’m willing to see this unflattering, masochistic side of myself and take responsibility for it, I can free myself from this psychological weakness. I can only choose inner freedom after I have exposed my unconscious readiness to know myself through inner weakness.”
This awareness might have to be processed in one’s mind several times a day—for weeks, months, and even years—in order to release the passivity. A daily practice such as this is required for anyone who is intent on self-development without having a psychotherapist. Such a practice is a test of one’s resolve to overcome resistance to self-knowledge.
This knowledge and practice enables us to see inner passivity objectively, as a clinical condition that blocks us from establishing a strong, healthy self. Without this insight, we’re likely to allow inner passivity to prevail as an ongoing problem. We will remain entangled in its painful symptoms, and we won’t see it, feel it, or bring it into focus. We’ll be too identified with both inner passivity and its symptoms to be able to step back from our emotional and behavioral plight in order to see ourselves objectively, with some clear sense, in clinical terms, of our psychological situation.
As introspection deepens, you regularly remind yourself that inner passivity is an emotional attachment to a sense of inner weakness. You’re entangled through no fault of yours (or anybody else’s) in this limited and painful way of experiencing yourself. Inner passivity is an old, familiar default position—a lingering emotional memory of childhood helplessness and its derivatives—through which you’re unconsciously determined and willing to experience yourself.
Everyone has some level of inner passivity, yet for many people it is more problematic. When inner passivity is undermining us, the following symptoms can be experienced chronically rather than occasionally. Individuals can be inflicted with several of these symptoms at once. All of these symptoms (and many others) are discussed in much more detail throughout the archives at this website and in my books.
Guilt and shame. Both guilt and shame occur when our inner critic is able to preside as the master of our inner life. The inner critic heaps disapproval and scorn upon us, and we absorb this abuse because, through inner passivity, we aren’t protecting ourselves from our irrational, mostly negative inner critic. We experience guilt and shame to the degree that we “buy into” the inner critic’s allegations of our faults and failures.
Clinical depression. Again, the inner critic heaps scorn upon the individual, and the individual, through inner passivity, absorbs this inner repudiation. The repudiation accumulates as a negative self-concept until the weight of all the self-punishment produces clinical depression.
Substance addictions. The individual is weakened and infused with self-doubt by the conflict between inner aggression (inner critic) and inner passivity. This inner weakening produces a deficiency of self-regulation. Cravings in themselves are the expressions or experiences of this weakness. Meanwhile, the addiction can be used as a defense to ward off the inner critic and to cover up the passivity: “I’m not attached to feeling weak and helpless. My addiction is a disease. The disease is the problem!”
Compulsions. Many compulsions—involving gambling, shopping, overeating, sexual misadventures, pornography, and reckless spending—are directly related to inner passivity. These compulsions display the inner willingness and determination to experience oneself through the feeling of being out-of-control, which is the chronic weakness produced by inner passivity.
Procrastination, disorganization, and indecision. These behavioral problems are all symptoms of one’s unconscious willingness to experience oneself through the emotional weakness that characterizes inner passivity.
Fearfulness, worry, and anxiety. These negative emotions are common and often excruciating forms of suffering. When chronic, they are (in societies where people are relatively safe from harm and violence) manifestations of the unconscious expectation that one will be overwhelmed or rendered helpless by challenging circumstances.
Stress. While often related to actual workloads and heavy responsibilities, the discomfort or agony of stress can be embellished by inner passivity, as when fearfulness, worry, and anxiety come into play.
Incompetence, willful stubbornness, and denial of facts. The individual is failing to muster inner qualities of integrity and brain power to bring mental concentration, focus, and power to a situation or problem. In some situations, truth or actual facts can threaten a person’s need to be buttressed emotionally by rigid beliefs, which produces a blockage of intelligence originating in inner passivity.
Relationship conflict. People often argue and fight over issues concerning control and domination. Some conflict arises because people, through inner passivity, can feel that they must be in a controlling situation in order to feel that they’re not being controlled. It’s an either-or situation for them. Through inner passivity, many people are inclined to be submissive. Yet, to cover up or defend against their affinity for the passive position, they soon react negatively toward those who they feel are being controlling. Fights and conflict ensue, with neither partner understanding the underlying dynamics.
In my writings I have identified many more emotional and behavioral problems—as well as varieties of ill health—that have their source, at least in part, in inner passivity. These include narcissism, emotional blocks to learning, writer’s block, loneliness, violence, terrorism, criminal behavior, greed, panic attacks, obesity, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, cruelty, bullying, cynicism, fear of intimacy, as well as our collective incivility and national disunity.
Why does inner passivity influence such a wide range of psychological problems? The human psyche is conflicted, and the main conflict is between inner aggression (inner critic) and inner passivity. (Read, “Our Messy Mix of Aggression and Passivity”.) Inner passivity is directly related to the profound helplessness with which children experience the first years of life. Even teenagers are still financially and emotionally dependent on their parents and other adults. Much of how children experience life (and adults, too) revolves around who has the power and who is subordinate. Old emotional associations concerning helplessness and passivity linger in the emotional life of adults.
To a large extent, we live and experience life within the vortex of inner passivity. Hence, we can’t easily see ourselves objectively from a perspective outside of it. We do, after all, have our limitations. On the physical level, human senses are extremely limited. Humans have a relatively weak sense of smell. We detect sound only on a narrow range of frequency. Our vision is restricted to a tiny sliver of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum. Many animals, unlike us, use subtle electrical and magnetic fields for their orientation and communication. We’re quite unaware of how little we know about the subtle connections, pulses, and waves of energy that make up our consciousness.
Hence, being burdened with inner passivity, while remaining largely unaware of its existence as a clinical entity, makes sense. It’s all part of our psychology at this stage of human development. Evolution likely requires that we now identify this weakness as the source of our self-defeat in order to overcome it. Supplied with a rough map of inner space, brave explorers don’t need a psychotherapist. As mentioned, the service is often too expensive for many people. As well, very few psychotherapists work at this depth.
People become captains of their destiny when they study the map of the psyche and then strike out to find and colonize with growing consciousness this inner realm.
My latest book has just been published. It’s titled, Our Deadly Flaw: Healing the Inner Conflict that Cripples Us and Subverts Society (2022), and it’s available here in paperback (315 pages) or as an e-book.