What does Passive mean?

A Perfect Circle: Passive Meaning

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Album cover for Passive album cover

Song Released: 2005

Passive Lyrics

“Dead as dead can be,” my doctor tells me
But I just can’t believe him, ever the optimistic one
I’m sure of your ability to become my perfect enemy
Wake up and face me, don’t play dead cause maybe
Someday I will walk away and say, “You...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Oct 10th 2007 !⃝

    I think the two above me are right, but it can also be looked at another way. This song was written by Maynard and trent reznor and is actually a cover of their own song written a long time ago. This would have been before maynard's mother passed away, and it could possibly be about maynard's upbringing.

    Various APC and tool songs point towards that Maynard was abused by his step father. His mother was paralyzed since Maynard was 11 "Dead as dead can be, the doctor tells me... Leaning over you here, cold and catatonic I catch a brief reflection of what you could and might have been" and therefore could not physically help him, but may have been in denial about the situation altogether and he wants her to acknowledge this and wants to know why it happened "Wake up and face me, don't play dead" and when he doesn't get an answer his resentment gets the better of him. "You fucking disappoint me! Maybe you're better off this way".

    Just a thought.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Jul 12th 2007 !⃝

    I wanted to share how I interpret this song. To me, Passive reminds me of a failed relationship where I put every last ounce of effort to make things work and the woman I broke up with just acted dead and didn't wake up to what was happening...

    "Dead as dead can be the doctor tells me but I just can't believe him, never the optimistic one"

    This is how I felt right before things ended. I couldn't believe the girl I love acted so dead towards me and the doctor (my family) was all knowing and knew the truth.

    "Wake up and face me don't play dead"

    I wanted to scream this when I heard these words in this song. The woman I loved would not wake up to the problems in our relationship, she wouldn't face me.

    "Some day I will walk away and say you disappoint me"

    When I realized my significant other didn't care like I did I kept telling myself this but she still had control over me and she still used me and leeched off me to feel better about our breakup.

    "go ahead and play dead, I know that you can hear this, you fucking disappoint me"

    Two months later I can finally distance myself from this woman and not care. She fucking hates it and she's pissed that I finally moved on. I love this song because it made me realize how fucking disappointed I was and how I knew she could hear me and she was playing dead and now I'm gone.

    This is an extremely personal song to me and this interpretation might not be what Maynard was writing about but that's what I hear and this song means a lot to me


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    Feb 5th 2008 !⃝

    My interpretation might be a bit different than others. But here goes ...

    It's about alienation. I think that this song is about the singer standing over someone that they once knew. The person lying in front of them is now a stranger to them, despite the fact that the speaker has known this person his entire life.

    He knows that this person was one never to give up and is asking what happened to make this person dead to the world. The lyric 'but I just can't believe him, ever the optimistic one ... I'm sure of your ability to become my perfect enemy,' is saying that the speaker once knew this person to be very competitive with him. He is asking this person to come back and face him, otherwise he will walk away very disappointed in the descent of this person's spirit.

    He knows that the person is still in there and is trying to tell him/her. (As in, 'I catch a brief reflection what you could and might have been ... It's your right and your ability to become my perfect enemy.') He is telling the person that he is there and that if the person would stop being 'catatonic' and lifeless, he would help them. But you can't help the helpless ... So 'maybe you're better off this way.'

  4. anonymous
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    Apr 6th 2022 !⃝

    IMO this song is about creation and the passive nature of our creator(s). God is what we call it. Song begins with much optimism and bliss. “Dead as dead can be” starting life with a blank slate and no knowledge. “The doctor tells me” The certain truths others hold about life told by our trusted authorities on why we are created. “I’m sure of your ability” the believe systems we create surrounding what we are certain to hold true about creation. “To become my perfect enemy”when we start to doubt these authorities and turn on them. “Why can’t you turn and face me?” The crumbling realization nobody has this knowledge and the inability to obtain certainty in any direction. “You fucking disappoint me.” The anger bubbling out of these feelings from a passive and unintentional creation that we seem to be.

  5. anonymous
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    Jul 3rd 2020 !⃝

    The key phrase in the song is, “I catch a brief reflection of what could and might have been”. This is an internal struggle with the ego and superego that every human faces with age. The suppression of the ego in modern society and the price we’ll pay for killing it...But maybe we’re better off this way.

  6. anonymous
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    Aug 24th 2018 !⃝

    I think hes blaming himself
    The guilt... why cant you turn a face me.... he cant see mom in this state... hes perfect enemy
    Him.... he had to let go of evething he blamed himself for...dissapoint me..is what he might of thought she say. He wasnt a good enough son....

  7. anonymous
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    Jan 31st 2013 !⃝

    I like the first three choices very much.. But i also think it could be a reflection of one's personal life spiraling into oblivion..

    A deep dark hole of depression. A person's life goes from great to horrible over an extended period of time, and that person becomes someone that the old self (Motivated, ambitious, smart, caring) no longer recognize.

    "As dead as dead can be, my doctor tells me but i just can't believe him never the optimistic one, I'm sure of your ability to become my own worst enemy."

    A person who has lost all motivation in their life that no longer cares about the things they once did, family and friends worry and try to help the person return to his or her normal self. One's self 'absolutely could be one's own worst enemy.

    "Wake up, and face me, Don't play dead, Cause maybe, someday, i will walk away, and say you disappoint me, maybe your better off this way."

    Deep down that persons sub conscious, is screaming, "Wake up! Face me! Don't play dead! One day you will snap out of this and you will soar again with ambition and if you or when you do, you will look back at the piece of shit you were for that period of time and use it as motivation."... or perhaps that person disappoints themselves and fails to find the person they once were and spiral into an abyssal dark hole of depression full of drugs and despair until they kill themselves or other horrible things.

    "passive aggressive bullshit."

    The person is angry because they did this to themselves, however they do nothing to improve their life or when and if they do. they are confronted with bullshit that limits or blocks them entirely from achieving their goal.

    This can be with anything really... in my case.. It started with my Girlfriend cheating on me.. then us breaking up.. (July, 2012) Shortly after i relapsed on opiates after being clean for nearly a year.. My drug addiction got out of hand and led to the loss of my job,... stealing, fighting, locked up, and i alienated myself from pretty much all my friends. Vehicles broke down, house caught fire, and flooded Failed my fall semester (sophomore) year of college and nearly lost my scholarships due to low GPA... spend much of my time asleep when i don't have drugs and when i do i don't sleep for days.. This is how i derived my meaning from the song and its relation to me in my recent past.

    As with the turn of the new year, I am working to better myself with the help of true friends and loved ones.. I have gotten off of the serious drugs and rely only on what my Doctor prescribes me to fill normally and we are tapering off of that as well. I am looking for a job again, passing my classes, sleeping and eating normally and somewhat happier than before... No matter how much i thought the drugs would help numb my pain from all the hardships life has thrown at me recently.. They only increased my depression and ruined the skills required for coping with such problems. I was truly more happy when i was in love and sober.. Sobriety is achievable on one's own... love.. True love.. seems a thing of the past these days.

  8. anonymous
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    May 3rd 2012 !⃝

    I can see how this could be about someone whose parent died and left them in denial of their death, possibly at a young age. Also, it could, quite possibly be about someone whose parent ignored them as a child or ignored the fact that someone was abusing them (abusive father?) Both of these could explain why the song is entitled "Passive" and contains the quiet "passive aggressive" part at the end.

  9. anonymous
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    May 1st 2011 !⃝

    I personally think you are all over thinking this a bit.

    To me this represents a disgust with ones self and the ridiculous and self destructive things that we do.
    I know that my only "perfect enemy" is me. No one else knows what it would take to totally destroy me.
    I take this to be moral inventory of sorts.
    As an admittedly passive-aggressive person, I interpret this as an indictment of my own useless inner tantrum, and a call to leave that destructive part of me behind.

  10. anonymous
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    Apr 19th 2011 !⃝

    I believe it does have something to do with his mother but I also take it as a struggle with addiction, as you spend more and more of your life spiraling down from a substance you have the part of you thats screaming for you to make the right decision to better your life, the longer it goes on you hate who youve become after everyday being a chance to make it right. "maybe youre better off this way" is a prominent thought.

  11. Sarim Zia
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    Feb 17th 2011 !⃝

    Well, first off, I think Purplesarah has a very accurate view of the whole thing, and she puts out a view that is perfectly plausible as a theme for maynard's music. His mother is a recurring theme in his lyrics and the song is more about watching her in the vegetable state, being optimistic and hopeful in beginning but getting tired and frustrated eventually.

    The opinion that the song may be about relationships is a little off because thats something maynard never speaks of and never probably will.

    However, as there are always multiple connotations and interpretations, I respect these. I have one of my own, which is something I am able to relate to the song almost perfectly. Knowing Maynard's history with substances, the song can also be about a person battling with his addiction and trying to fight himself out of the person he would eventually become if he continues down the spiral of drug destruction. I dont mean drugs only but other such substances. As he says, "you have the ability to become my perfect enemy". In that he may be referring to his own "dark" side.
    You could say that a person, or maynard, is looking over himself in a passed out or pathetic state and trying to make himself, and everyone see how pathetic it is, pathetic and demeaning. And so he is asking himself to wake up and not disappoint himself and so on.

  12. anonymous
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    Feb 11th 2011 !⃝

    I believe this song is highly up to the individual listener to interpretate. It seems as if the lyrics pertain to a view of himself from outside looking in. Feeling dead inside may be due to a diagnosis of depression. The enemy could represent the other side of his all too human duality. He, quite possibly, has great dissapointment in himself for lack of inner strength and believes he deserves to be in such a frame of mind. Perhaps he's trying to awaken himself from an emotional state similar to death itself. Recognizing his behavior as passive aggressive; he struggles with the fear and lack of esteem within....

  13. anonymous
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    Jan 23rd 2011 !⃝

    I'm 120% sure that this song is NOT about a relationship. To the person who said that stinkfist was about a relationship, you're 100% wrong. I'm sorry, but Maynard himself said that it was about being caught-up in someone else's issues, and not a blatantly obvious song about fisting.

    I personally believe that this song is about the death of a loved one, and considering some other A Perfect Circle songs, it was probably a suicide, hence the disapointment. His disbelief at first (Wake up And face me) his realisation of the truth (Why cant you?) his anger (YOU FUCKING DISSAPOINT ME!) all lead me to believe its a death. I went through the same emotions when my older brother killed himself. This song was actually what got me through it. Anyway thats my interpretation, take it any way you'd like, Music is different for everyone, and if it wasn't, we wouldn't have the song to enjoy in the first place :)

  14. hbic702
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    Oct 12th 2010 !⃝

    this song is him talking to himself. "i catch a brief reflection of what you could and might have been..." he (his aggressive self) is seeing a reflection of what he could and might have been looking into the catatonic eyes of his passive self. pretty self-explanatory.

  15. anonymous
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    Aug 29th 2010 !⃝

    Right, here is my interpretation of the song.

    I think it's about a person, who is or was the perfect enemy of the singer (Maynard?) . I don't think it's about how this person is acting dead and hurting the singer with this behaviour.

    I believe it's about the singer, who wants this person to become his perfect enemy (again). In other words the singer says "Don't play dead, come on and face me". Don't deny yourself by swallowing all your hate ("passive agressive bullshit") but face me and hate me. I know you can do it (see "brief reflection"). The singer is even provoking this behaviour ("you disappoint me").
    But if you don't I can't help you and I'll "walk away".

    Ok, sorry for my English. I hope you understand what I mean ;)


  16. anonymous
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    Feb 8th 2010 !⃝

    Maybe he's talking about residual feelings of his own.... ?

  17. ribby76
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    Feb 5th 2010 !⃝

    To me this song is widdled down to one thing.Women attempting to "fix" the man they love.Maynerd is writing from the womens perspective.Men never talk about their feelings hence "wake up and face me" "don't play dead"...."maybe your better off this way",possibly hinting to the fact that she's giving up trying to heal him.also...he sings a couple of lines "you're better off this!"...perhaps alluding to the fact that the man has an addiction problem of some sort.The doctor in the beginning of the song could be a relationship counselor or physocologist.I think "a perfect enemy" sums it up for me.when people get caught in unhealthy,co-dependant relationships,their partner can feel like a friend and a foe at the same time.They become addicted to the chaos.Perhaps when she gets better,and is able to deal with the relationship in a healthier way,maybe that someday will come when she walks away and says "you disappoint me." and you had to catch the maybe there...maybe,someday.If there was some kind of lyricist Mt. Rushmore...Maynerd's face should be the first one carved in granite.

  18. anonymous
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    Nov 24th 2009 !⃝

    I think the song could be about his mother, who was left paralyzed and ended up in a coma.
    "Dead as dead can be, my doctor tells me"- She was in a coma and unlikely to get out of it
    "I just can't believe it, ever the optimistic one"- Denial- First stage of greif
    "Cold and catatonic"-Again,she was in a coma
    "Catch a brief reflection" looking back, still in denial
    "Go ahead and play dead/ I know that you can hear this"- Still in denial about what's happening
    "You disappoint me/ Maybe you're better off this way"-Anger- third stage of greif
    "Why can't you turn and face me?/Why can't you turn against me?" Bargaining-third stage of greif, he just wants her back, no matter the circumstances
    "Maybe you're better off this way" Not too sure about this, could be that she's better off like this than being in the pain she was in before?
    "Passive-aggressive bullshit" -Maybe an examination of himself?

    This is all just ideas,I don't know the circumstances of what happened to his mother, it may have even been after this album that she was in a coma (if I'm right and she was)

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