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The Power of Passivity: The Essay — 6 Comments

  1. Al, your writings have been very helpful in opening my eyes to many of the ways I communicate and exist in relationship. I have felt and caused much pain, and your work seems to point to a brighter future. Thank you. In this piece you mentioned briefly that marijuana can cause “the same effect”, but I wasn’t entirely sure what you meant? Reduced awareness of self? While many of the issues that have plagued my life I can easily tie back to childhood experiences, easier still with your help, I do see a correlation between increased marijuana use and damaging relationships in my life. Thoughts?

    • Hi Dustin,  Great question and this one is a bit tricky.  I have no proof of it, but still tend to believe it.  The use of THC, I believe, has the same effect as raising the “unknown layer” level.  This refers to iceberg metaphor in my paper on PreValidation and Validation.  The idea came to me as I was working with clients and pondering why that unknown layer was higher in some people and lower in others.  The tendency, over time in a healthy couple, is that the layer will get lower and lower as more “unknown” becomes “known.”  But what moves the other way?  The issue is something called self-rumination, the ability to reflect on oneself.  

      I think this is important for Safety and Validation.  To Feel Safe you Must Share seems to be a major process in the University of Life.  AND also to be safe you must be able to share your sense so that someone, a partner, can see your sense (understand) and prove it (by Validation).  You can understand anyone if… if a) they’ll share and b) you will listen. Because “all people make sense all the time”, i.e. they act congruently with the factors inside of them (known and unknown).

      If you have a high unknown layer it just implies some digging is ahead of you. 

      The “THC link” is that it appeared to me that the effect (good/bad/who knows) of THC is to do some “walling off” of important parts of oneself.  My experience of users included that almost ubiquitous phrase, “I don’t know.”  used over and over.   But, for their partner’s safety they needed “to know and be able to share” – not so much about “childhood,” but about the factors that leads to any behavior that seems “normal” for the actor and “odd” to the observer.  I experienced users as doing stuff that unnerved their partners (woke their lizards up).but that they themselves could not explain.  “I don’t know why I do that” — end of story. And would not explain.

      And so I began to believe that Vintage Love, deep intimate partnership, was probably prevented by THC use.  Alcohol abuse has lots of problems and might kill a person, but seemed to often open up doors to self-reflection.   THC, not so much.  I could be wrong.  Hope this is helpful.

  2. Dear Johnny,
    Yup tis my experience that many people move into permanently active Lizard lives. And as such they defend themselves against change or learning anything new. This is common in the couples who move into Door #2 (the vast majority). Now your note triggers three thoughts.
    The state of permanently active Lizard (Fight, Flee, Freeze, Submit ==> Resentment) produces much sickness, disease and distress. Stress induced stuff is manifested at the cell level. Weakened immune systems, flu, fibromyalgia, Chron's disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and even cancer. Along the way lots of other things show up like obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, ohhh everything. Now this stuff is real and very very distressing.
    Secondly, couple all this distress with the buried and building up Resentment, and add the normal need to have a sense of control in one's environment and you have the push toward either Master (Bully) behavior or Passive Master (Passive Bully) behavior. The former is characterized by out and out fighting while the latter is the drip-drip-drip of passive aggressive behavior. Not much fun.
    Now, since you've read so far, I'll just remind you that both Master and Passive Master behavior require the presence of a Slave/Caretaker to exist. And so children are carefully brainwashed (unconsciously) into taking care of these people – and grow to become Codependent. Part of this training is that the Masters and Passive Masters learn to provide cues to the Slaves, cues that trigger the habit of jumping to care-taking. These cues often involve exaggerating symptoms (think dog on front porch – yowling).
    The solution is to firmly/reliably be Friend-Friend. You are not responsible for these people. They cannot sap you of your empathy except by your permission. Boundaries!! Take a 5 and 5 and see how things work out – five years, five hundred miles away, no contact.
    Both Masters and Passive Masters need the incentive to change their behavior. Like the Dog on the front porch you can either bring the food to them, and they will stay that way forever, or get off your porch, go under it, find the nails, and drive them in deeper. That's incentive! And loving.
    Just my thought.

  3. Dear Al,
    I was wondering about your thoughts on fibromyalgia and how I can apply Turtle Logic to my relationships with people I know who have been diagnosed (family members) Do you see it as pyschosomatic? It's been a most frustrating experience, and I would really like to improve our relations, but I have found it almost impossible. After being influenced by your work, I think that fybromyalgia patients have learned from an early age to posture as passive-masters. Their learned behaviors indicate that at an early age their reptilian-reaction were conditioned to preserve safety by feigning illness or discomfort when threatened. So minor illnesses or discomforts are amplified to the highest degree as a way to defend themselves. Then they become depressed because they are like the dog in your story who wont get off the nail. I'm afraid that my mom and my brother would almost rather die than try to learn new behaviors. I think that they are addicted to their illnesses and disorders because they see them as validation for all the resentments they harbor against those that have done wrong to them. They have completely sapped me of my empathy to the point that I cant be near them. If they weren't family, I would have ditched them long ago. I am close to ditching them now, and I really don't want to.
    Any advice would be appreciated, thanks!

  4. fascinating. absolutely fascinating. I too cannot wait for the rest of it. I also would love to see specific advice on helping a slave develop a sense of self.

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