What do you start to think about upon awakening in the morning? Is there a recurring pattern or theme to your early morning thoughts and reflections?
Those first moments upon awakening are, for a lot of us, unpleasant if not disturbing. That’s when people are evaluating their prospects for the coming hours, and their forecast is decidedly bleak.
They’re starting off their day with thoughts and feelings of a passive nature: “I really wish I could just stay in bed;” or “I’m tired, and I’ll be dragging myself around all day;” or “Everything is scary and overwhelming,” or “So-and-so is going to ignore me (or bully me) today.”
Morning thoughts are often focused on the workday ahead. People might be full of dread at the prospect of all the work that needs to be done (“I’m overwhelmed with projects and don’t have enough time”). Others are agonizing over looming idleness and a sense of emptiness (“I’ll just be hanging with nothing to do, feeling crummy all day long”).
These thoughts can be wider in scope, involving expectations and worries concerning marriage breakup, losing one’s job, running out of money, and not knowing what to do in life. Frequent morning reflections also involve thoughts and feelings of being a failure or a loser.
Thoughts of this kind are passive, and they set us up to experience our day in a passive way. The coming hours are now more likely to be unpleasant and frustrating, and our actions are more likely to be strained, incompetent, and self-defeating.
At those moments, while lying in bed or getting dressed, we can overcome this pattern by recognizing and understanding the passive nature of these considerations and speculations.
People with recurring passive thoughts believe in those moments that, in taking seriously the content of their thoughts, they’re being reasonable. They believe their anxious reflections are addressing legitimate problems with work, marriage, the boss, fatigue, and so on. This perception is wrong. These topics have little to do with what’s really happening psychologically at such moments.
What is really going on? These individuals are simply determined in that moment to feel passive, weak, and disconnected from their better self. They’re using the circumstances concerning their work, marriage, and whatever else as fodder or props for their unconscious determination to experience themselves in a passive manner.
Now, why would we be so tempted, even compelled, to play that game? We can see the roots of the problem in a growing awareness that itself becomes the remedy. We want to begin in those passive moments to acquire insight to this effect: “Ahh, look at what I’m up to—psychological mischief! This is not really about my work or my marriage. This is me wanting to feel weak and passive right now, in this very moment. This is my emotional attachment to unresolved negative feelings associated with failure, defeat, and inadequacy. This is how—right now in this moment—I’m prepared to identify with myself and to know myself. This shows how tempted I am to know myself through weakness rather than through strength.”
Most people are challenged, in varying degrees, by emotional issues or weakness. The symptoms of this weakness are plentiful, including difficulty with self-regulation, painful self-doubt, intrusive thoughts, and unruly negative emotions. This debility is on display in our addictions, indecision, sadness, loneliness, procrastination, cynicism, depression, feelings of entrapment, and sense of helplessness.
We can overcome emotional weakness through the knowledge of depth psychology and an understanding of inner passivity. As my readers know, much of my writing deals with inner passivity. (Some of my best previous attempts to explain it can be found here, here, and here.) It’s an elusive concept that I call “the phantom of the psyche,” and I’m constantly striving to find new ways to render it visible and understandable.
Inner passivity is a big troublemaker in our psyche, just like the id. At this point, allow me a lighthearted aside: Inner passivity could legitimately merit an acronym, the “ip.” I assure you, with a smiling emoji, that I have no plans to propose adding “ip” to the lexicon or using it in my writing. I’ll say only that, were “ip” to be coined as a new word at some future date, inner passivity might better be identified in popular culture, making its existence and menace more apparent. Wouldn’t it also be fun if we called the inner critic the “ic,” thereby giving this troublesome trio of the psyche—id, ip, and ic—more notoriety and visibility in popular culture?
Awakening in the morning, the tendency to gravitate to the emotional experience of inner passivity can feel as natural as breathing. Inner passivity creates a dullness of consciousness that blocks us from connecting with our better self. Awareness of inner passivity has eluded us, much the way a child born and raised in a polluted city takes dirty air for granted. People can be completely unaware of how, for instance, inner passivity sabotages friendship, romance, and marriage. This self-sabotage happens because, through psychological defenses, we unconsciously deny the existence of our passivity, and then we blame others for the negative reactions our passivity causes us to feel.
We expose our inner passivity and make sense of it cognitively as we become more attuned to its intrusiveness in our daily life. It emerges from the shadows and stands before us in gruesome magnificence. While certainly not pretty, it’s amazingly resplendent for revealing a vital feature of who and what we are. It’s saying, “You’ve got to deal with me, dear earthlings, before you get much farther on your evolutionary journey.”
When we first hear about inner passivity, we experience it as a hypothesis, a vague mental concept. Over time, as we apply inner watchfulness to our growing knowledge of it, we affirm and reaffirm its existence. Seeing it and understanding it are nine-tenths of the way to inner freedom. We can certainly practice acquiring an appreciation for the existence and power of inner passivity by seeing and acknowledging how easily we can gravitate to it—through passive, negative thoughts and feelings—first thing in the morning and throughout the day and evening.
More inner vigilance, along with this knowledge, serves our best interest. We wouldn’t bother trying to bring inner passivity into focus in our mind, and keeping it in focus, if we weren’t determined to use the knowledge to break free of its influence. While this knowledge and method speed up our self-development, we also have to be patient and realistic. In terms of self-discovery and the fulfillment of our potential, we’re trying to accomplish over the course of many months or a few years what most people never do in a lifetime.
With this awareness, we can stop playing the unconscious game of choosing to experience ourselves through weakness rather than through strength.
Inner passivity’s imperatives have been dictating our experience of self and the world around us. We’re not paragons of awareness, as we would like to believe, so much as humanoids, handicapped by psychological ignorance, staggering circuitously in the backwoods of consciousness. The passive orientation we haven’t recognized in ourselves is a key player in producing our worry, stress, anxiety, guilt, shame, and many other varieties of misery and self-defeat.
Two agencies of our psyche, our inner passivity and inner critic, are often at war with one another. (Yes, I’m repeating myself here from previous writings, yet I would like each post, as much as possible, to stand on its own.) The inner critic attacks, or at least pesters us relentlessly, and inner passivity cowers, defends, and compromises. It’s through inner passivity that we process the critical, mocking, harsh assessments and self-aggression of our inner critic. The problem is that inner passivity defends us badly. Our inner passivity is intimidated by our inner critic, often making deals and compromises with our inner critic that leave us in the lurch. These are usually bad deals that, in exchange for a temporary reprieve from our inner critic, require we pay a hefty price in misery and self-defeating behaviors.
When lying in bed with passive morning thoughts, try processing this knowledge. Doing so will open up new airways of intelligence. You’ll see the self-defeating game you’ve been playing. By acknowledging it, you’ll be able to stop the damaging foreboding.
Life, we now realize, is not so much just happening to us. We’re not simply victims of bad luck, or insensitive people, or malign forces, or our own stubborn self-defeating symptoms. Inner passivity, we realize, is a hidden psychological formation or congestion that has been making everything harder.
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.