Why Passion is such a Bad Thing

Photo by Denis Collette

I have been annoyed for some time now about the frequent misuse of the term ‘Passion’ in the personal development arena. I must admit beforehand that I was also guilty of the same mistake in one or two of my past articles.

The thing is that passion is most frequently used to mean a positive quality that is essential for personal development, Happiness, goal setting and finding one’s true purpose.

Even the laymen use of the word falls into this misconception. People talk about passion almost with reverence. “He is very passionate about his team” or “He loved her passionately“. It seems as though passion is a very respected quality of a person or of a culture.

I know something about this being born in a southern Mediterranean culture.Southern European people will openly boast about being passionate, hot-headed and warm-blooded people. In Sicily, for example, there were many cases, in the not so distant past, of murders in which people were acquitted or their sentence heavily reduced because their crime was not just any crime but  ‘a crime of passion’. That means that a man (it’s almost always a man who is absolved with a crime of passion) gets away with killing his wife because he caught her having sex with another man and in a moment of blind fury he followed his irrational but ‘justified’ rage.

This of course is a case of a society whose legal and moral system condones an act of passion – or in other words a blind,irrational and short-sighted outburst of emotion.But passion has been glorified in other cultures too perhaps with less drastic implications than the example above.

If you look at the definition of passion, it is obvious that its meaning is far from positive as people tend to attribute:

“a strong feeling or emotion

heat: the trait of being intensely emotional

rage: something that is desired intensely; “his rage for fame destroyed him”

mania: an irrational but irresistible motive for a belief or action

a feeling of strong sexual desire

the suffering of Jesus at the Crucifixion ”

(wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)

The above are obviously all undesirable and negative traits. Its definition is associated with fanaticism, suffering, rage, strong emotions and irrational or compulsive thinking.

Passion is also the favorite game of the ego. It’s all about the ego’s shortsightedness to arduously attach itself to an object  (be that a person,  an idea,religion, a team or anything ) and over-react when they perceive that something or someone is playing down that object of attachment.

Not being a football fan (Soccer in the U.S), I often ask people who are fanatic of a particular team why is it that they take it so badly when their team loses. I mean why do grown up man, for example, cry desperately when their team loses the Sunday match, spend the rest of the week in a dark mood, carefully avoiding to meet colleagues who support a rival team? Trust me this and worse is true. I even know people who do not even watch their favorite team play because it’s too risky for their heart.

And when I ask these question the answer I get in bright eyes is “You don’t understand…it’s passion!!”

When personal development writers talk about Passion, it’s definitely not the passion as explained above that they mean. What I think they mean is ‘Enthusiasm’ and this is the right word that should be used instead.

Here are some definitions of Enthusiasm from the web:

a feeling of excitement

exuberance: overflowing with eager enjoyment or approval

a lively interest; “enthusiasm for his program is growing”

(wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)

Enthusiasm (enthousiasmos) originally meant inspiration or possession by a divine afflatus or by the presence of a god. …

(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enthusiasm)

enthusiastic – having or showing great excitement and interest; “enthusiastic crowds filled the streets”; “an enthusiastic response”; “was enthusiastic about …

(wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)

Hence when bloggers write about passion, what they really mean is Enthusiasm. Passion is a negative trait of ego-driven behavior. On the other hand enthusiasm is not driven by the ego. It transcends the ego shortsighted whims and urge for instant gratification. It comes from embracing our authentic selves and being in alignment with a higher purpose. It is the joy of being that arises when we are doing something that has meaning and resonates with our genuine inspirations.

Category: Heart MattersPhilosophy

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10 comments

  1. I am really glad I “stumbled” on this article. I never realized that there could be another angle from which to perceive passion. Very interesting and very thought provoking for me, thanks for writing this!

  2. Hi Evita!

    Thanks for dropping by. Yes I think you said perfectly: As with anything else it depends on whether it comes from conscious awareness or unconscious habits. I completely agree and I think that should be the focal point of a very good discussion. Thanks again 😉

  3. Hi Gilbert

    Great article. The title captured me so much that I read this one without skipping a word!

    And I loved what you pointed out! It is amazing how much we tend to personalize everything, right away I thought…hmmmm how do I use the word…. but as I read your piece, I realized it was as you described in the end.

    I for example follow my “passions” in life and yes those are things I am very enthusiastic about. I however do not condone behavior that is unconsciously passionate. If we lose ourselves, not even passion can save us.

    And thus, I guess it is as with everything else, does your state, whatever it may be come from a place of conscious awareness, or unconscious habits – that one can ponder on.
    .-= Evita´s last blog ..Essential Energy With Cyndi Dale: The Shopping List of Opposite Sexes – Significance versus Security =-.

  4. Thanks Kaushik! I will always agree with you on the point that awareness is the key that opens up many locks. Thanks for popping in.

  5. Hi Gilbert,
    Thanks, a very clarifying article. The chase for passion/enthusiasm is the same as the chase for purpose and motivation and positive thinking and really all of self-improvement–it’s the ego’s chase for beliefs which will trump all the other beliefs and give it a unified direction. I’ve found there is much simpler way to flow in a unified direction. Releasing all of this and being aware, brings about peace, and in peace, there is abundant positivity, and enthusiasm is sometime invited.

    k
    .-= Kaushik´s last blog ..A Handbook of Awakening =-.

  6. Hey Miche,

    Great article. I should have read it before I wrote mine!! I would have definitely picked up some points. Thanks

  7. Hey Gilbert, great job clarifying the difference between passion, in its many forms, and enthusiasm. I agree here, when people in self-development are talking about finding your passion, or rediscovering it, they usually mean enthusiasm or zest for life. Of course, there are some who swear that passion, (the obsessive, consuming type) is what’s necessary for success, happiness, and a meaningful life. I asked the question:

    “Is Passion Necessary for a Meaningful Life?” and wrote about my inquiry here: http://bit.ly/8eMNyl

    Like you, I was tiring of the emphasis on the term, its appeal, and its slippery definitions.

    Cheers,
    Miche 🙂
    .-= Miche | Serenity Hacker´s last blog ..Making Big Changes: Energy and Resistance =-.

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Article by: Gilbert Ross