shrug1In case you haven’t read Peter Michaelson’s book, The Phantom of the Psyche, you really need to understand the concept of inner passivity.

Perhaps no other psychological issue has such a devastating impact upon people as inner passivity. It’s pervasive – no one is immune.

Worse, inner passivity is fundamentally deceptive. We hide it from ourselves without even being aware that we are doing it.

Are you up to the challenge of seeing your inner passivity? If so, read on!

Inner passivity is the tendency to experience what you are actively doing as if it were being done to you.

Inner passivity is the most personally disempowering phenomenon imaginable because it takes you out of the equation and turns you into a victim. When something is done to you, it is out of your control, leaving you no choice, no freedom, and no hope to make things different.

Many things do happen outside of our control. It may rain. Your car might break down. The stock market could take a dive. You don’t choose these things.

However, most chronic emotional suffering is experienced in a similar way – passively – even though it is anything but a passive process.

To illustrate, here are some examples:

Passive: You made me so angry. (As if someone else is controlling your emotions).

Truth: I responded to you angrily.

Passive: At the end of the month, there is never any money left to make ends meet. (As if the money came and went of its own accord).

Truth: I spend more money than I make.

Passive: My laziness is really holding me back. (As if laziness had an agenda of its own).

Truth: I would rather lie around than be active and am willing to make the trade off.

Passive: That donut looked so good that I just had to eat it! (As if the donut overpowered me and forced itself into my mouth).

Truth: I ate a donut.

Inner passivity is favorite children’s ploy and they can be so creative. Examples from my family:

My son David punches his sister. I confront David: Why did you do that? His response: I didn’t do anything. I was just holding my arm out and she ran into it!

My son Jordan says something inappropriate (Jordan is five). I confront Jordan: We don’t say things like that, OK? Jordan responds: Those were just the words that went in my brain and out my mouth.

Inner passivity knows no boundaries. It permeates our every waking moment, waiting to take us out of the equation and render us victims of circumstance.

This may be a useful manipulation when it comes to justifying ourselves and avoiding punishment, but it comes back to bite us by rendering us powerless to do anything to improve our lot in life.

More than anything, inner passivity is an attitude; an attitude that says I am an innocent victim and have no options.

More things we tend to say while in a passive stance:

I can’t.
There’s no point.
Who cares anyway?
Nothing matters.
There’s nothing you can do.
It’s overwhelming.
It’s impossible.
There’s no hope.
Everyone’s doing it.

A Challenge

Get your favorite notepad and determine to track your inner passivity for just one day. How many times can you catch yourself thinking, speaking and acting from a position of inner passivity? How many times can you notice yourself acting as if something that you are doing were being done to you?

You may be surprised.

I highly recommend Peter Michaelson’s books, including The Phantom of the Psyche.

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    Last reviewed: 9 Jul 2013

APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2013). Inner Passivity:
The Phantom of the Psyche. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 28, 2015, from



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