Passivity in men has been one of the least studied, discussed, and explained aspects of masculine psychology. Understanding passivity is an essential and important key to creating healthy relationships, increasing self-esteem and healing the bodies, minds, and spirits of men who are hurting or hurting others.
Passivity is a compulsion or learned tendency to live at half-speed which ultimately many men feeling their glass is half-empty and thus they half-heartedly committing to projects, plans and goals. Passive men are half in and half out of relationships. Passive men are more attached to not having what they think they want or desire, even though they protest loudly this is not so.
A client of mine, James, is 40 and a very successful real estate agent who earns a high six figure income. During a session he said, “I work all the time on my marriage. I’m in therapy, I read books and I regularly attend self-help workshops. No one can say I’m passive.” When asked about his marriage he quickly replied, “I want more physical contact, more touching, and yes, more sex, but I don’t get hardly any at all.”
James wants his wife, Brenda, to be more affectionate and yet he indulges in a whole host of behaviors that guarantees he won’t get this and actually gets him just the opposite of what he thinks and says he really wants.
I asked him to give me an example of his efforts to get affection from his wife, so I could see and show him his passivity and addiction to not having what he says he wants.
James said, “I go into the living room all the time and Brenda is on the couch watching television for hours on end. I say something like, ‘Can’t you turn that thing off for a little while? There’s nothing intelligent or worth watching on TV. I don’t know why you watch these silly shows.’ But she never agrees and I end up storming out of the room frustrated as usual.”
I jokingly said, “How’s that working for you?” Then I offered a suggestion. “Try sitting on the living room couch next to her; gently lifting her legs and placing them on your lap while you massage her feet, instead of shaming, criticizing, demeaning, and judging her. Then simply ask her what’s on that you two can watch together.”
He looked at me like I was speaking in a foreign tongue; in a way it was an unfamiliar language because it was the language of compassion and assertiveness. James looked a little dumbfounded before saying, “No, I have never even thought of it. It sounds so simple. I can see me doing that but I never would have thought to do so. I wonder why?” he said very seriously.
It was because of his passivity and his fears of rejection, abandonment and intimacy.
By the way, he tried my suggestion the very next week. “We got up off the couch ten minutes after doing what you suggested. She looked at me and said ‘Who are you?’ Before I could answer she laughed and said, ‘Never mind, I like this,’ and we got up and got in bed and made love for the first time in a year.”
This same man devoted an exorbitant amount of time to reading about relationships and marital counseling. He said he worked all the time on his marriage. But in reality, he thought his wife had the problem and not him.
Passivity is difficult to identify because one of the greatest tricks a passive man plays on themselves goes something like this, “Look how hard I work. I work eighty hours a week and am the CEO of a large company. How can anyone label me as passive?” or “Look how much I work on myself, how can I be passive?” “Can’t you see I’m suffering? Isn’t that proof that I’m not attached to passivity?”
One of the main symptoms of passivity (we’ll go into many more later) is being out of balance in our personal and professional lives. The passive man’s creed is, “I’m bored,” or “I’m feeling overwhelmed”, and they think the world acts on them and moves them rather than being actors and movers.
It is important to note that passivity causes you to react rather than act, control rather than respond, manipulate rather than make, or self-destruct instead of create. The passivity I am discussing is NOT to be confused with passive/aggressive behaviors, timidity, shyness, apathy, or laziness. It is also not to be misconstrued as “surrendering” or “letting go,” “turning it over,” or “passive resistance.” All of these are very active processes that actually energize the ones doing so. The passivity that is being discussed here is more closely akin to “giving up,” “feeling defeated,” “settling for,” or feeling “unsatisfied.”
Passivity is a learned behavior; a reaction to life that can be unlearned. In part II of this article I will provide readers with concrete solutions to the passivity problem.
Blurb about today’s Guest Blogger:
John Lee has been a leader and author in men’s health issues for over a decade. Lee began his career as a professor at Austin Community College, the University of Alabama, and the University of Texas. He has written 18 self-help, psychology, recovery, creativity, or relationship non-fiction books that explore men’s health issues, like alcoholism and co-dependency. In addition to literature, Lee has advocated for the maintenance and improvement of men’s health in magazines, like Newsweek and on shows such as Oprah and 20/20. In 1986, Lee co-founded Primary, Emotional, Energy, Recovery (P.E.E.R.), a training program for counselors, social workers, and psychotherapists. Two years later, he founded and directed Austin’s Men’s Center, a counseling center that specializes in men’s issues. In the late 1980’s, he opened his own private practice in Austin, Texas specializing in men’s issues, relationships, adult children of alcoholics, and co-dependency. His latest two books, The Anger Solution and When the Buddha Met Bubba, are on sale now on Amazon.com. More information about John Lee can be found on his web site www.johnleebooks.com and on his daily blog at http://openingtheheartnow.blogspot.com.
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