The Dualistic Model of Passion

Passion is a powerful thing. It supplies the attraction and excitement that you feel at the beginning of a romantic relationship or even the exhilaration and eagerness that you experience while engaging in an activity. Being passionate promotes psychological health and makes life meaningful and fulfilling. So, it is extremely necessary because we often feel aimless and worthless without it. However, extreme degrees of passion can be equally lethal as it can translate into an irrational and overwhelming obsession and a source of stress and frustration that leads to self-punishment.

Robert Vallerand, a social psychologist at the Université du Québec à Montréal, is one of the researchers who is passionate about studying people’s passion for activities.  Vallerand and his colleagues identified two kinds of passion.  Harmonious passion is the good kind. Harmonious passion means that you engage in activities that you enjoy, that you have find important, and on which you spend considerable amounts of time.

The defining feature of harmonious passion is that you have complete control over your choices – everything you do is out of your own free will.  You can start and stop what you’re doing whenever you choose to stop. For instance, I enjoy writing blog posts, and I believe that I’m passionate about it. I peruse through other bloggers’ websites to get inspiration or for entertainment purposes. Apart from that, I read magazines and newspapers to find interesting stories that I can discuss on my website. I often read books to improve my vocabulary, so that my posts are more concise and succinct because I know that people don’t have time to read drawn-out, monotonous, and arduous posts. I try to post Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. Occasionally, I’ll skip a day if I’m too busy, and so there is room for flexibility.

Image result for passion vs obsession

Then, there is obsessive passion. The dark side of passion. There are many similarities between obsessive and harmonious passion: You spend considerable amounts of time doing something that you enjoy and you find important.

But there is one difference – you no longer have control over it. Your behavior is compelled, it’s outside of your conscious control. You become addicted to the excitement you get from it, and so you start prioritizing your passion above other activities and commitments.  When you can’t engage in it, you become restless and frustrated.  Continuing the blog example, if I had an obsessive passion, I would be in a foul mood all day if I didn’t follow my writing schedule and post accordingly. When I skip a day, I might feel like a wimp or a slacker, I might worry about its impact on my views. I might be frustrated and devasted if I had fewer views or likes than usually. I might even write more posts in the hopes of rectifying the situation. These are only some ways to know that your passion has crossed the thin line.

These other symptoms are rarer, but they can help you identify if you have crossed the line between being passionate to being obsessive:

  1. You feel jealous when somebody gets ahead of you
    When you are obsessed, you no longer feel secure in who you are, and you often start comparing ourselves with others. You want your goal so much that you don’t want others to get it.
  2. Your relationships suffer
    Because of your obsession, you may no longer have time to maintain good relationships with your family, friends, or colleagues. Perhaps you still have time, but the quantity or quality of the time may suffer.
  3. You are mentally drained
    Obsession takes a lot of our mental energy. We need life balance to renew our mental energy but being obsessed clearly put our life off balance.

Now that you know the dangers of harboring an obsessive passion, I highly recommend that you reflect on your hobbies and passions to identify whether you have crossed the line. If you have, the question begs to be asked: How do you make sure that your passion remains on the bright side and doesn’t cross over to the dark side? Find the answer here.



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