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Turning passivity into strength: How to overcome self-doubt and self-sabotage (#73)

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Jean Latting
November 10, 2023
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Peter Michaelson explains how to throw off self-doubt and self-sabotage so you can realistically navigate a difficult world.

Highlights from this week’s interview

This week Jean interviews Peter Michaelson, a psychotherapist who specializes in depth psychology. 

Peter was a guest blogger for a past blog [#62 How to Engage in the Fight Against Autocracy: Tap Our Inner Strength]. 

Below are highlights of their talk. For the full interview, read the transcript.

Download Transcript

Jean asks Peter to discuss the concept of depth psychology.


Peter: You have to understand the meaning and impact of inner conflict. When you start to understand inner conflict, you'll see that, for instance, you might feel like you want to be a loving person and be loved by others, but at the same time, have a tendency to feel as if you're not loved or not really appreciated. And so, there's a conflict there.


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Jean: What is the advantage to discovering your inner conflict?


Peter: You make it conscious. When we feel attacked or controlled or rejected, we’re bringing in our own feelings. We have to recognize our own participation, so we don’t get tangled up in those feelings. Being controlled in reality doesn’t mean you have to be triggered, or to remain silent and resentful. A lot of passive-aggressive behavior is a reaction to the feeling of being controlled.


Jean: What does it mean to represent yourself?


Peter: If you’re too passive you might remain silent and end up being resentful later. Then it bothers you that you were passive. You might also move into anger, which is also self-defeating. Maybe the boss really is a jerk. You have to figure out how to navigate that system.

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Jean: You told us about your epiphany after finding the right therapist, the one who helped you find meaning in your life. Now you’re that kind of therapist. What does that feel like?


Peter: It’s wonderful work, but some therapists are triggered by the weight of their client’s passivity. It’s called countertransference, and the therapist has to clear it out of his or her system.


Jean: What’s your answer to the existence of objective reality? The ice caps really are melting, your boss really is a jerk.


Peter: Credit the reality, but take responsibility for your response.


Jean: Where does that passivity come from?


Peter: It comes from childhood. We were passive, depending on our parents for everything. Most people aren’t even aware of it as adults. The first objective reality is to connect with yourself. That’s where your strength will come from.


Jean: Then there’s the idea of being connected.


Peter: We want to be connected. That’s another polarity in life, connected vs disconnected.


Jean: With racial justice, we may not allow ourselves to feel good, because the people we care about aren’t feeling good. So instead we get angry.


Peter: Anger is a false way to try to feel strength. It's a desperate reaching out for strength, because anger can feel like strength. But it's really a third-rate kind of strength. And it's mostly a reaction to inner passivity. When we have too much inner passivity, we can be desperate for a feeling of strength. And sometimes the only strength we can feel is anger. It is the easiest sense of strength to access, but it's self-defeating. Anger poisons your own system


Jean: What does it mean to liberate ourselves from passivity?


Peter: We’re trying to liberate ourselves from negative emotions. We don’t have inner freedom because we get tangled up in this negativity.


Jean: So the antidote to the negativity is not to go positive, that would feel too unnatural, it is to achieve a balance.

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Jean: Now tell us how to get in touch with your work.


Peter: Go to my website, which is WhyWeSuffer.com: Transformative Insights from Depth Psychology.

Peter Michaelson


Psychotherapist Peter Michaelson is a former journalist and science writer who possesses a unique ability to render depth psychology into easily understood self-help information.

Peter spent the 1970s and early 1980s searching for answers to his own dissatisfaction and career setbacks. In 1985, he began doing weekly sessions with a psychotherapist who worked very deeply in the unconscious. In these sessions, he acquired the insight that resolved the inner conflicts that had been disrupting his life. In 1987, he obtained his Master’s degree in counseling from Antioch University in Ohio.

Since then, Peter has been using this unique psychotherapy with his own clients. He has now written eight books that discuss different aspects of this deep approach. These books examine the causes of low self-esteem, addictions, indecision, compulsions, loneliness, depression, failure, self-sabotage, and inner passivity. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Connect with Peter:

Website: WhyWeSuffer.com

Facebook: Peter Michaelson

Email: petermichaelson33@gmail.com


The views and opinions expressed in this or other blog posts at www.leadingconsciously.com are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Leading Consciously. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion, and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. Do any of these concepts resonate with you? Where do you see yourself?
  2. If you could free yourself from negative emotions, what do you imagine you could accomplish?

Leading Consciously skills and concepts
covered in this blog post:

    • Test negative assumptions
      • Move from the answer into the question
      • Consciously test negative assumptions
    • Clear emotions
      • Avoid emotional suppression
      • Clear negative emotions
      • Build positive emotions
    • Conscious use of self
      • Accept responsibility for own contribution
      • Focus on others’ strengths
      • Build resilience through self-affirmation

    #AngerIsAChoice #ChangeStartsWithMe  #ClearEmotions  #RepresentMyself

Leading Consciously

We are a leadership development firm that helps people and organizations create resilient, sustainable, multicultural, and inclusive settings. The ability to lead consciously can help you gain true awareness and earn the respect and trust of others.    

It’s the assumptions we have about people’s lives that are the biggest obstacles to growth, awareness, and success. We help you understand how those assumptions are preventing you from becoming the best you can be as an organization, an inclusive leader, and a person.

Let’s start a conversation. Email us at jeanLC@leadingconsciously.com