Earlier this month I received an email from a young psychotherapist, in practice for just a few years, who was struggling to understand how, despite his best efforts, a client of his had committed suicide. He wrote, in part:
I recently experienced a therapist’s worst nightmare and lost a client to suicide. I’ve struggled to make sense of it as he exhibited almost none of the traditional warning signs. One thing I do remember about him is that he was very inwardly passive. Your writings have given me the clearest picture of his internal world, one of a harsh critic and a passive recipient. Nothing in my training even remotely addresses the passivity that I now think was a big part of his suffering. I look forward to reading more of your work and using it to help more people in the future.
Since this therapist is interested in applying this psychological knowledge in his practice, I can offer a few points to assist him and other therapists. My regular readers, meanwhile, can benefit from understanding more about inner passivity and the therapeutic relationship from the therapist’s point of view.
The individual in danger of committing suicide is likely to be inwardly weak and disconnected from self, unable to support himself or herself emotionally. (See an earlier post on the subject.) This weakness is a symptom of inner passivity, which I describe in my books and articles. Inner passivity operates as an enabler of our inner critic, and it’s a major factor in many kinds of dysfunction, including depression, anxiety, and addictions.
As my clients start seeing and understanding their inner passivity, they’re able to recognize it as a clinical condition and a universal peculiarity of human nature. With growing insight, they begin to see and feel the powerful influence of the passive side as they also shift away from their unconscious identification with it. As a benefit of this recognition, they start to detach emotionally from false impressions of themselves (such as impressions of being unworthy or a hopeless failure) that their symptoms have misled them into believing. In this process, their best self emerges from under the weight of painful and self-defeating symptoms. [Read more…]