Is Passive The New Passionate?
I understand this title could be interpreted a bunch of ways. Is it a subtle dig at Kiwis and their famously laid-back approach to pursuing partners? Because, to be honest, I did just get back from Europe where people were certainly forthcoming - at least with their wine pours. But no, today I want to dig a little deeper into when we replaced passion, with passivity.
If you’re a long-time listener, you’ll know our fondness for self-psychoanalysis is no secret. And when it comes to relational modalities, attachment theory gets my vote. Dr Ruth McConnell, one of the leading attachment counsellors in the country, suggests that this and interpersonal neurobiology can offer insight into human relationality unlike anything else. So it should be no surprise that your personal attachment style plays an integral role in who, and how, you are attracted to people, particularly for those who grew up believing “I’ve got to manage myself, if I rely on myself I don’t get so anxious” (avoidant-attachment) or similarly “I feel anxious but I’m not sure how to get you” (ambivalent). If you’re accustomed to this line of thinking, it (unfortunately) doesn't magically dissipate in the presence of attraction. If anything, it is aggravated by the possibility of romance, the signs of intent from a potential suitor triggering a primal response from within. And, at least in the circles I find myself in, both women and men with non-secure attachment styles have voiced that they struggle with legitimate signs of interest, finding it safer (and more attractive) to chase people who seem apathetic towards them, or ultimately uninterested.
Which leads me to this fantastic quote from Heather Havrilesky;
“You have pure intentions, but they’re clouded by the fact that you’re emotionally immature. The woman you’re obsessed with might be similar. She wants someone who’s always disappearing around the next corner. She prefers fantasy to reality. I would argue that you’re the same way. You’re very hesitant to make your true needs, opinions, and feelings known. You don’t really want to be seen or heard. You want to get swept away in a fantasy without ever having to show up.”
Sound familiar? Somewhere along the way passive became a poor-man's passion, because nothing gets us fired up faster than someone playing hard to get right? It presses all of those familiar insecure-attachment buttons but ultimately negates the need for actual commitment, because on a base level we know this won’t work out, so we’ll never actually have to show up.
But aside from relationally, how many other areas of life does this spill into? How many weeks, months, years do we spend swept up in a fantasy world while passively letting our lives pass by? At what point did we start coasting, letting our desires dissolve and remain hidden behind a nonchalant façade? Because to pursue them means things would have to be sacrificed - you can’t keep every dream alive. You have to pick, some values have to suffer at the hands of others, and if you don’t consciously make that choice then all of a sudden it’s September 2019 and you are yet to settle-down. I’m going to throw it out there that attraction to passivity is possibly just a nice way of saying I’m committed to being uncommitted. The dream gets to stay alive and intact because it never collides with reality. Your head stays in the clouds. It requires no active response, no resistance and the moment something is required of you, and you can run under the guise of being turned off. But the issue with passivity: chasing it leads to nowhere and remaining in a state of it prevents real connection.
Ok yeah that’s all rad, but how do we change this? As a starting point, go back to basics and embrace Newton’s Law. Every object will remain at rest unless compelled to change its state - so it’s time to get active. Whether that means learning to tolerate interest, giving air-time to your deepest dreams, or stepping away from apathy (in both suitors and state). But more urgently than that, it’s probably time to find a litttttle bit of self-respect. To stop hiding, get some counselling and face up to the feelings of self-loathing, worthlessness and whatever else it is that lead you to a place where you grapple with the idea that someone thinks you’re worth investing in. Or where you became so apathetic about your own life, that you’ve passively allowed it to be directed by anyone or anything whose opinion you held higher than your own.
But above all, it’s embracing that all-encompassing connection is worth stepping out of the fantasy and touching down here in the world of letting yourself be really known and loved. I’m going to leave you with the wise words of Margery Williams and The Velveteen Rabbit. Because I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing more moving and slightly uncomfortable than watching a class of fully-grown adults all blink back tears as their lecturer reads from a children’s book: