The Problem With Passivity!

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates
Volume 13, Number 5

May is National Mental Health Awareness month. It was so designated for mental health organizations to bring awareness and education to our country about the ravages of mental illness and drug addiction. Sadly, gun violence and school shootings occur far too frequently and the role mental illness plays in these shootings has been given little attention.

Are we just too passive? Is that why there has been little change? Our E-Letter this month is about The Problem With Passivity.

We thank you for reading our E-Letters and for the suggestions and comments we have received. Downloads of handouts from our previous E-Letters can be found on our website, https://www.kimmelpsychology.com/e-letters/. We invite you to read and download them.

THE PROBLEM WITH PASSIVITY!

It is far too easy to let our machines do the work for us. It is far too easy to let others speak for us. It is far too easy to observe reality shows, media personalities, or social media stars and let them determine our values and how we should think. When we do this, we become passive and have no say over what happens to us or our country.

We applaud those who assert themselves and take action. We admire the students of Stoneman Douglas who have attracted national and international attention because they have not gone quietly into the dark night. They have chosen to make a change by speaking up and not letting go of the issues. They recognize that they cannot be passive. If they do, nothing will change.

However, being passive is historic. Throughout history, governments and dictators have flourished because of the passivity of people. The famous saying “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” was attributed to Edmund Burke and referenced by John F. Kennedy in a speech in 1961. When passivity pervades society, problems are sure to follow.

On an individual level, passivity can lead to depression, anxiety, addiction, and frustration. Passivity can lead to self-criticism, self-doubt, and a sense of emptiness. People who are passive do not think critically and will accept the thoughts and behaviors of others. Passive people have learned not to speak up for themselves and have been reinforced for being quiet. This allows one to be led, manipulated, or used by others. However, because it has been learned, it can be unlearned and one can take back control over their own lives.

We offer the following information on The Problem With Passivity. This information can be downloaded as a handout at www.kimmelpsychology.com/e-letters/.

THE PROBLEM WITH PASSIVITY!

Do not let your boss, your spouse, your kids, your neighbors, or anyone push you around or walk all over you. This does not mean you need to be a butt-hole – but you may need to draw some clear lines for the people in your life. Want to do it right? Communicate expectations clearly, and consistently. People cannot treat you the way you want them to treat you unless you tell them how to treat you……-Josh Hatcher

WHAT TO KNOW!

  • Passivity leads to half-hearted commitments and goals; it allows oneself to be led, manipulated, or used by others for their means
  • Being passive is being unassertive and not doing or saying what one needs to do or say
  • Passivity is learned; it is comfortable and avoids the stress of making decisions or expressing oneself
  • Being passive leads to self-criticism, indecisiveness, defensiveness, self-doubt, depression, addictive behavior, and a sense of emptiness
  • People who are passive often settle for less and survive rather than thrive in life
  • Passive people often wait for something to happen or for someone to rescue them rather than take action by themselves
  • In passivity, people do not act for themselves; they blame others, destiny, fate, or luck
  • Passive people put the needs of others before their own; they allow themselves to be mistreated and taken advantage of leading to frustration and anger
  • Passive people downplay their own thoughts while waiting for others to express their opinions
  • Passivity can be overcome by learning to become assertive and having the courage to express one’s own thoughts and feelings
  • WHAT TO DO TO OVERCOME PASSIVITY!

    • Recognize whether you are being passive by being quiet, not expressing your opinion, saying “yes” rather than saying “no”, and feeling guilty if you say “no”
    • Change the way you speak; use “I” more often than “you” so that you can express your own needs and wants: “I want”, “I think” “I need”, etc.
    • Allow yourself to say “no” to requests to do something that you really do not want to do even if it feels uncomfortable
    • Recognize that being assertive is self-care and will not only increase your self-esteem but will reduce anger, depression, and anxiety
    • Remember who you wanted to be and what dreams you had for yourself
    • Consider what stress you are trying to avoid by being passive; are you fearful of something specific or of the disapproval of others if you speak your mind?
    • Other people’s feelings are their responsibilities, not yours, so stick to your boundaries
    • Recognize that your thoughts and opinions are more important to you than another’s even if you are wrong
    • Express yourself assertively not aggressively so that you can speak up without hurting the feelings of others
    • Focus on the good feelings you have and what you have achieved by not being passive; reinforce yourself
    • Seek professional help if you are unable to overcome your passivity

    WE CAN HELP!
    Call us at 954 755-2885 or email us at DrKimmel@KimmelPsychology.com

    Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates
    5551 N University Drive, Suite 202
    Coral Springs FL 33067
    Copyright © 2018 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D.

    Dr. K’s Blog

    May 21, 2018
    Just as predicted, another school shooting happened. This time in Texas. Ten more lost their lives by an angry and probably mentally ill young man. Again parents, family, and a community grieve because there have been no significant changes. When the tragedies happen, we band together supporting each other and demanding change. Then everything quiets down and people become passive waiting for the elections, for the internal review reports, or for the notoriously slow legal system to take action. This passivity needs to be challenged and the marching must continue for there to be effective change.

    Years ago, I remember when there were the post office and workplace shootings that occurred because of disgruntled employees who believed they were harmed in some way. Today, it seems like there are disgruntled students who put such low value on human life, that they go into their schools to kill. When will this stop?

    The killing will stop not when there are changes in the gun laws. The killings will stop when politicians and society recognize that mental illness is a causative factor in these murders. Not all people who have a mental disorder are dangerous yet there are those who are just so angry, so disillusioned, so disenfranchised, so isolated that they somehow see killing others as acceptable.

    The signs are often there but ignored because mental illness is not taken seriously in our society. These people need to be identified early before they reach the point of rage and act out. They need to be understood and treated so that these tragedies can be prevented before they happen. These individuals need to be defused of their anger and connected to others so that they do not isolate.

    We need to march not only for a change in gun laws but also for a change in how we deal with mental illness before another tragedy occurs.

    April 20, 2018
    It has now been over two months since the terrible tragedy that happened at Stoneman Douglas. School and routines have resumed but people are not the same. A profound sadness is still upon the community and it will take a long time to overcome the anger and grief, if ever. But most people I have spoken to want to resume their lives.

    Town hall meetings and gun violence protests occur frequently and rightly so. Hopefully changes will be made to protect and ensure the safety of our society. However, it seems that little attention has been paid to those individuals who are mentally or characterologically ill. History has shown us that these types of individuals will continue to act out against society and will find the means to do so.

    We must as a society find ways to help these people and get them connected so that they are not isolated and angry. Early identification of behavioral or emotional problems can help these individuals before their anger and resentment grow into acting out behaviors against society. This is not just a suggestion; this is a necessity.

    We very well may be looking at a mental health epidemic. Combine this with the availability of weapons is a recipe for disaster. Just providing money to have more counselors at schools or to failed mental health clinics is not enough. Just as we would with a medical illness, we need to have mental health tools, quality training of therapists, and research-based screening programs to identify and help those individuals at risk before they escalate.

    The time has come. Mental illness needs to be recognized as an epidemic and treated and not hidden because of stigma or not being an exciting topic for the media. Guns do kill people but people pull the trigger.

    January 20, 2018
    During the past year, many of my patients have come to their sessions angry about politics. It doesn’t matter what party they belong to or whether they are right-leaning, left-leaning, or centrist, they are all angry and frustrated. They feel powerless and worry about the future of our country and of themselves. Perhaps, rightly so. Many hours have been spent in conversation attempting to reduce their anger and to focus on their daily lives.

    One of the suggestions that have come out of our discussions seems to work. That is, to reduce or eliminate the number of hours spent watching the news on television or listening to it on the radio. It doesn’t matter what network you watch or listen to. All of them seem intent on stirring up feelings of unfairness and anger but offer no solutions. I guess the ultimate goal is to get watchers or listeners glued to their stations. Perhaps this is a media addiction. Yet there is no high but only worry and anger.

    I recently read an article about a self-imposed news blackout by Christopher Hebert, an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee, in the January 18 edition of The Guardian.

    The following is an excerpt:
    Ignorance is far easier than I thought. I finish two or three audiobooks a week. I read novels instead of newspapers. Five months into my blackout, I’m happier than I ever was back in the days when I was informed. My fingernails are growing back. The sleeping pills remain in the bottle. I’m getting more work done. My family comes home at the end of the day to find me smiling, chopping things for dinner without my old vegicidal rage. And yet, part of me can’t stop feeling guilty about feeling good.

    Perhaps, this is one solution to the anger and frustration of a media news addiction.

    December 18, 2017
    Today, a patient of mine told me that his daughters were graduating from college in a few months. I was surprised to realize and remember how fast time passes. I know that it does but was nevertheless surprised. It seemed like it was just yesterday, that we were discussing their separating and leaving home for college. We spent many sessions discussing being an empty nester and the changes and opportunities it brings.

    Time is relative in that it seems like some moments go on forever and some go so quickly that if we blink we miss them. Life just seems to happen while we are waiting for whatever we are waiting for. While we are looking at what we don’t have and didn’t do, we miss out on what we did do and the wonderful experiences that we did have. I think the answer lies in living in the moment. Taking in as much as we can, both good and bad, is the best we can do.

    I recently saw a friend of mine who was depressed about turning 70. We talked and I tried to get him to see that age was just a number and how he viewed that number would determine his mood. I don’t think I got very far trying to convince him that he was not old and was still vital and helpful to so many people. Maybe it sunk in.

    For myself, I have been practicing mindfulness and trying to live in the moment. I am looking for stillness and sometimes am successful. I try to use all my senses in savoring the moment and some simple experiences defy description in their beauty. Yet reality and our society seem to have a way of intruding so that stress and worry are created. I look at mindfulness and appreciating natural beauty as the antidote to the constant troubling news and feeling of powerless generated by politicians, news people, and other media types.

    The past year has been difficult in some ways yet I have had some wonderful experiences with my family and friends. None of us knows what the new year brings for us but I am determined to enjoy as much of it as I can. It will take work and discipline and sacrifice and commitment. But what is the alternative?

    November 18. 2017
    On Thursday nights, I take a restorative yoga class. This class is not a typical yoga class. Rather, it is more of a meditation and relaxation class. Guided by the instructor while in postures of relaxation, I find myself letting go and truly relaxing from the business of the week. In fact, when the class is over, few yogis want to leave and “I needed that” is frequently heard.

    Although I have been trained in relaxation techniques and use them with some patients, it is hard for me to actually relax. Taking this class has allowed me to experience in some way what my patients experience. True relaxation necessitates the ability to let go; something most of us have a hard time doing. Whether we live hurried lives or we don’t have a sense of safety without our guards being up, relaxation takes practice. Letting one’s guard down takes trust. Letting go takes effort.

    In restorative yoga after a sense of stillness is achieved in a posture, the instructor uses guided imagery to describe peaceful and beautiful scenes to direct our attention towards relaxing. Following the teacher’s imagery, one can transcend the everyday world into the world of the imagery. Worries disappear, muscles loosen and smooth out, and the events of the day are forgotten for a few moments. Some people become so relaxed that they even fall asleep.

    Research has shown that relaxation has many psychological and physical benefits. In the hectic and stressful world in which we live, relaxation is not a luxury. It is a necessity. I have found my way to relax in restorative yoga. I hope you can find your way. Consider taking a yoga class.

    October 21, 2017
    Last night I watched the movie, “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace, Music, and Love”, and was visibly moved by how much our society has changed in the almost 50 years since this festival occurred. As I remembered and confirmed in the movie, the Woodstock community was peaceful and loving. Numerous comments were made about how nice the kids were, how courteous they were to each other, and how helpful they were to each other. This happened despite the quantity of drugs, the rain, the lack of food, the lack of accommodations, and the difficulties in transportation. Townspeople went out of their way to comment on how courteous the kids were saying “thank you” and “please” and asking permission. They greeted each other warmly and were well behaved not wanting to trespass on the property of others. They respected themselves and each other. When food ran out, they shared. When it rained, they shared whatever they had to cover themselves. When disagreements occurred, they settled them peacefully. When someone overdosed or had bad trips, there were others and medics to help them. They worked together to make this temporary society flourish. As Spock says in Star Trek, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.

    Contrast that with today’s society. It seems to me that disrespect has become the norm. The values of our society which has existed for generations seems to have become eroded. Language has deteriorated to the point that curse words are used commonly in language by both sexes in public and on television. Dress has become so casual that in some cases it borders on sloppy and unsanitary. Respect for institutions is not trendy nor important. Values seem to be only important when it serves the needs of the person. Verbal attacks upon others occur daily and fake news and innuendo have become okay to use as fact. People will trample others to get the sale item when in limited quantities. Often, we don’t hear thank you or please even when holding the door for others. Protests have replaced communication, problem solving, compromise, or even mutual discussion. Selfishness and materialism seem to have become the norm and are reinforced by our media. The needs of the one appears to be more important than the needs of the many.

    What has caused this in the past almost 50 years? We can point to many factors: fear, anger, the Vietnam War and others, the coming of age of the Internet, advertising, the pursuit of more money at the expense of others, the absence of appropriate role modeling by adults, drugs and alcohol, lies and deceit by politicians, celebrities, and broadcast news, serial abusers, Madoff type scandals, hidden agendas, and a silent society that allows these changes to occur. I am sure we can cite more causes.

    Can we ever regain respect for our society to function? I would like to be optimistic and think yes. We see it in the support our nation gives to others when there is a disaster. We see it when individuals volunteer their money and time to help those who are less fortunate. We see it in the dedicated teachers and first responders. We see it in many others who still honor our values.

    What can you do? Respect yourself. Follow the Golden Rule. Stick to your standards even though others may not. Say “thank you” and please. Smile at others. Be courteous. Let others get in front of you while driving. Just be concerned about the needs of the many rather than the needs of the one.

    As always, I am interested in your thoughts. If you would like to respond to this blog, email me your comments at DrKimmel@KimmelPsychology.com and I will publish them next month.

    Till June…

    The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

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    If you find this information interesting or helpful, please forward this E-Letter to your contacts and friends. Copyright © 2018 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates.