Rising Above Psychological Defenses: Exploring The Roots Of Passive Behavior

Updated March 15, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Passive behavior might be an all-too-common response when faced with difficult situations or uncomfortable emotions. At its core, passive behavior might be a form of psychological defense that might lead to feelings of helplessness, low self-esteem, and even depression. To break free from the cycle of passive behavior, try to understand the deeper roots and underlying causes. With the proper support, it might be possible to rise above passive behavior and live life to its fullest potential.

What Is The Definition Of Passive Behavior?

Passive behavior may be defined as any type of behavior characterized by a lack of assertiveness, complaisance, or refusal. Individuals might consequently allow others to control or dictate their behavior and decisions.

Some Ways Passive Behavior Might Manifest:

  • Avoiding confrontation or conflict

  • Not setting boundaries

  • Not speaking up for yourself

  • Not asserting to yourself

  • Putting the needs of your colleagues or partners first

  • Having difficulty making decisions

  • Feeling powerless or helpless in some situations

What Are The Root Causes Of Passive Behavior?

Passive behaviors might have negative effects on your social, economic, and relationship with the family. With these consequences, it might be ideal to understand the root cause of passive behavior and develop strategies to address it.

Some Things That Might Be Contributing To Passive Behaviors:

Explore Your Passive Behavior And Develop Better Coping Strategies

Family Upbringing

Some studies show that passive behavior may stem from being raised or growing up in an environment where guardians disallowed or discouraged the direct expression of emotions. In such an environment, you may find it hard to express your feelings openly, which may trigger frustration or anger.

Mental Health Status

Your mental status remains an ideal component of your life that determines how you react to situations or behavior. Studies have found a connection between passive behaviors and depression. It might be essential to get the necessary help when facing mental health problems to prevent passive behavior from taking a toll on your life.

Situational Circumstances

Your situational awareness may be another root cause of passive behavior. There may be some situation you're in that might be triggering your passive behavior. For instance, you might become more inclined to treat people differently or react differently when you're in a situation that's not socially acceptable. Also, facing challenging circumstances, you might be more likely to take a passive approach.

Discomfort With Confrontation

When faced with a situation that might require confrontation, you may instead opt for the passive approach to avoid potential conflict. It could also stem from being uncomfortable speaking up in front of others or addressing situations that might be uncomfortable.

Using Your Own Opinion

In most relationships, anger doesn't bring out the reactions that satisfy both parties. When in a relationship or with individuals, you don't want to express your anger, with may result in passive behavior. You may not like to express your anger appropriately to avoid causing a scene or conflict. Thus, you might portray passive behavior to avoid the bad feeling that anger portrays to other individuals.

Strategies To Help You Rise Above Passive Behavior

Do you sometimes wonder why you cannot seem to get what you want in life? Does it seem like others do not recognize your needs? Do others have an advantage over you because you don't know how to stand up for yourself? With the negative effects of passive behavior in your life, you should adopt appropriate strategies to address the issue.

Some Strategies That Might Help You Rise Above Passive Behavior

Trusting your gut

What does trusting your gut involve? It might be a process that involves trusting your perceptions, emotions, and senses. While you may rely on other things to make decisions, it might be good to trust your gut to avert passive behavior. You could use this strategy to develop an identity and achieve a healthy relationship with your colleagues.

Confronting Your Issues

Unresolved issues might be a root cause of passive behavior. Having the courage to confront them could help you move forward and make decisions that suit you. Facing your issues could also help you break away from toxic relationships and move on to healthier ones.

Picture The Other Individual In A Vulnerable State

Viewing the other individual as vulnerable might help you with passive behavior. When seeing others as vulnerable, you may be able to understand why they acted a certain way and come up with an appropriate reaction or response.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence could help you better understand your emotions and reactions to situations. With emotional intelligence, you'll be able to understand other people's emotional responses and come up with appropriate solutions to problems.

Explore Your Passive Behavior And Develop Better Coping Strategies

Talking With Friends And Family

Talking to someone about your feelings could help devise a solution for passive behavior. If a friend or family is available, you could express how you feel about a particular situation and come up with solutions. This could also help you gain new perspectives on life in general.

Assert Your Expectations And Needs To Resolve Conflict.

You might be tempted to go the passive-aggressive behavior route when in a conflict. However, expressing your needs and expectations could help resolve issues or disagreements without being too passive. It might also help you build better relationships, allowing others to understand your needs and expectations better.

Accept That You Don't Have To Elicit A Positive Response To Be Effective

Sometimes the goal of passive behavior might be to get a positive response. However, this doesn't always have to be the case. You could still be effective and assertive without getting recognition from the other party.

Avoid Relying On Others To Resolve Your Abandonment Fears

Almost everybody has a primal existential fear of being abandoned. Nevertheless, you might feel fearful more than others when having a passive behavior trait. You may require the ability to tolerate your partner's emotional withdrawal and your abandonment fears to deal with passive aggression or behaviors.

Overall, passive behavior could be a difficult pattern to break free from. It might take a lot of self-awareness and understanding of the root causes behind it to break free from this pattern and start living life more assertively. With the right support from family, friends, and professionals, it might be possible to break free from this pattern and live life to its fullest potential. With the right support and self-awareness, individuals could learn to break free from passive behavior and live more assertively. Remember that seeking the right help could be key to overcoming passive behavior. With that, the individual may find the resources and support needed to move forward in life with confidence and strength.

The Benefit Of Online Therapy

The feeling that you don't have control over your passive behavior and the environment can be overwhelming. Online therapy can provide the necessary education and insight to help you overcome the issue by exploring the root cause. A therapist can help you identify the cause of your passive behavior and work with you to develop better coping strategies. It is a process that enables you to address any unresolved issues and develop a better understanding of yourself. Additionally, it could equip you with the skills to deal with your emotions assertively and healthily.

Sometimes it takes more courage to be assertive than to stay passive.

Effectiveness Of Online Therapy

The effectiveness of online therapy in exploring causes of passive behavior and rising above psychological defenses varies between individuals. According to a study by J. Montgomery, therapists might be able to help people with passive behavior in many different ways, which includes therapeutic interventions and pharmacological treatments, as well as provide an overview of their effectiveness. Knowing that there's help available could be the first step towards a better life.


Passive behavior arises when you feel powerless and lack a dominating voice in your surroundings. You may tend always to feel inferior when having passive behavior. With this behavior, you might find life challenging and always have negative outcomes. Understanding the root causes might be key to helping you get effective strategies to help you rise above these psychological defenses. Online therapy can enhance the process of identifying the root causes and addressing passive behavior.

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