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Our Messy Mix of Aggression and Passivity

By       Message Peter Michaelson     Permalink
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Young soldiers in training go to boot camp where they're required to be submissive, to follow orders totally and explicitly. When thrust into combat, they can quickly identify with the ruthless aggression that, through enforced passivity, they absorbed during their training. The process, while it makes good soldiers, displays the close connection between violent aggression and unconscious passivity.  

Criminals and terrorists display violent or cunning aggression, yet their behavior is steeped in inner passivity. (Read, " The Overlooked Factor in Criminal Behavior " and " Terrorism and the Death Drive .") Cults are established when aggressive, charismatic leaders draw passive followers to themselves. Rabid sports fans display similar dynamics: The athletic aggressiveness they witness provides them, through identification with their teams and players, the opportunity to claim their affinity for power and strength over the ho-hum passivity with which they experience much of their lives.

Many politicians and corporate success-hunters lust after status and power because they feel so empty and weak without it. Psychopaths, who are acutely disconnected from self, are drawn to political power. Meanwhile, the Right Wing tends to represent, on an inner level, the aggressive element, while the Left Wing is associated emotionally with the passive instinct. When these two polarities come together with sincere intention, the unity creates a powerful force for good. (Read " The Psychological Roots of National Disunity .")

Individually, within our own psyche, we also operate according to inner dynamics associated with aggression and passivity. The primary conflict in our psyche, in my view, is between our inner critic (superego) which daily dukes it out with our subordinate ego or inner passivity. (Read, " The Futile Dialogue in Our Head .")

We want to try to catch ourselves in the act of being inappropriately aggressive or unwisely passive. When people understand the dynamics of the moment, they feel good about their attentiveness, knowledge, and ability to make better choices and decisions.
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Peter Michaelson is an author, blogger, and psychotherapist in Plymouth, MI. He believes that better understanding of depth psychology reduces the fear, passivity, and denial of citizens, making us more capable of maintaining and growing our (more...)

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