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Very often, passivity is defined as a lack of energy, reflecting a certain inertia. Sometimes passivity takes the form of procrastination: those pangs of always putting off what you could do the same day. However, it is possible to remedy this! And, seen through the filter of a certain complexity, the attitude of passivity also reveals unsuspected assets …

What is passivity?

The writer Emile Zola thus described the passivity in Séverine, character of The Human Beast : while her husband “covered her with kisses»This one does not«níor fhill“. She was, ultimately, a “great passive child, of a filial affection, where the lover did not wake up“. Etymologically, the term passivity was coined with the Latin éighníomhach a thagann as lapa, meaning “to suffer, to undergo”; passivity is characterized by the fact of undergoing, of experiencing. In ordinary language, passivity is synonymous with not acting on one’s own, not performing an action, undergoing, or even lacking in energy. It can consist in not reacting, in a given situation. Passivity is also associated with the terms inertia or apathy.

The Dictionary of Psychiatry published by CILF (International Council of the French Language) describes passivity as “the absence of initiative, the activity being provoked only on suggestion, injunction, or by collective training“. It can be pathological, sometimes being observed in certain people with psychasthenes, certain schizophrenics or patients in depressive states; it can also appear in connection with certain long-term neuroleptic treatments, or in patients hospitalized for a long time. Sometimes the subject presents “automatic obedience to the injunctions of others and / or echoing his words, mimics and gestures".

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Changing passive behavior

The psychiatrist Christophe André estimated for the site psychologies.com that “inaction is a trap: the less we do, the more we feel incapable of doing“… And vice versa. It is therefore necessary, according to him, to put “in place of new automatisms“. Passivity can be caused by psychological traits such as perfectionism: we give up on acting because we would like to do it only in a perfect way. In addition, a lack of self-esteem or self-confidence, and even small depressive tendencies, when, for example, everything seems to weigh too much, can also be at the origin.

How to change passive behavior? For the website Cultivate your talents, in someone who shies away, constantly devalues ​​himself, or even in whom everything always seems lost in advance, very often a form of anxiety is present. A superior, a colleague, can, as soon as he is aware of the concern of his collaborator, be reassuring. Use “softness and suppleness“. Sometimes it is enough for a person “to hear its added value to truly believe in it“. Trainer, Anne Mangin therefore considers it essential, above all, to “bet on the link“. Foster balanced relationships. Gain self-confidence, be aware of your abilities as well as those of others.

Passivity or procrastination: how to get out of it?

«We put off life and meanwhile she goes“Seneca wrote in a letter to Lucilius. Procrastination is indeed a form that passivity can take. Doctor Bruno Koeltz defines it in this way, in his book How not to put everything off until tomorrow : the tendency to postpone until later what we could and would like to do the same day.

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He develops a few keys to getting out of it, starting by evaluating the time needed to complete a task, because “the natural tendency of procrastinators is to underestimate the time required to complete a task“, He writes. And if the postponement of a task is really due to a lack of time, Dr. Koeltz believes that “the first thing to do is manage priorities and realistically estimate the time you need".

Doctor Koeltz gives this example: “It is perfectionism that drives Estelle to procrastinate. However, not long ago, Estelle took risks and immediately confronted reality to see if her level of personal demand was not unrealistic. The first results were very positive. Estelle was able to see that her work could be appreciated and recognized even if it did not reach the extremely high level of perfection that she would have tried to set for herself.".

Act, therefore! In extreme cases, so-called cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) can help you get out of a form of passivity, or even exacerbated procrastination. To act. “Action is ultimately referred to as the real way to conquer death and loneliness – and, more than anything else, risky, adventurous action.“, Wrote Pierre-Henri Simon in his book The man on trial, by evoking Malraux and existentialism… Acting… And thus, feeling alive.

Seen in its complexity, passivity has advantages … such as the disposition to others

What if passivity finally had its advantages? At least that is the opinion of art critic Vanessa Desclaux. If she rejects passivity in specific situations, as for example in “forms of domination through which the passive individual is the one who is dominated, forced, constrained ”, she also considers that“ there are interesting, even important forms of passivities".

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An example is that of hypnosis; Vanessa Desclaux quotes in particular an artistic performance which she attended: the artist was in a hypnotic state, therefore by definition in a paradoxical state, neither asleep nor completely awake … thus questioning, as with the surrealists, the role of the reason, conscience and will at the heart of the artistic experience. Bernard Bourgeois, historian of philosophy, writes moreover that “the experience of creation is that of a contradiction»: Joy and suffering, but also activity and passivity, freedom and determinism.

Another quality that passivity would conceal: that of the relationship to the other, to others and to the world, as Vanessa Desclaux still believes. By being upset, by giving way to decentralization, one would thus be in a certain disposition. And ultimately, “passivity would not be the fact of undergoing, of not acting, of being dominated, but would offer the possibility of making oneself available to a relationship and to a transformation".

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