What if mindfulness is a form of passion?
It actually is, did you know that? But it needs some explanation and also is not ALWAYS the case. Let me start with two definitions to explain it better.
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Passion is when you put more energy into something than is required to do it. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement, passion is ambition that is materialised into action to put as much heart, mind body and soul into something as is possible.
There are two forms of passion we should look at now. There is the so called ‘Harmonious Passion’ (HP) and ‘Obsessive Passion’ (OP). The easiest way to explain the difference is with an example. Imagine you develop a passion about for instance a sport. Especially when also having a certain talent for it you can feel like wanting to take it a bit further than just watch it or play it once a week in your local community. The moment you realise you want to largely improve skills on your passion, two things can happen. You can stay passionate without your skills having to be improved every single moment (sacrificing all other things in your life) or you can make it the ultimate goal of your life to become the best and spend every minute on it. Often it is something in between of course, but it also happens people slowly but securely go a level deeper every time, with eventually also spending every moment of their day on their passion. That still can be ok . . . . but the risks on becoming too competitive and obsessive will increase. If that happens, when a passion starts to rule you instead of you ruling your passion, you are starting to lose a free and happy state of mind. Harmony and pleasure will be exchanged for obsession and stress. Some types of passion cause more rigid control than others. Take being high up into the ballet world for example. The anorectic lifestyle and high demands in performance easily will drive you into a form of obsession when not able to resist to it so well. Maybe because not even aware of it happening, or only when it is too late already or after you or someone else collapses after several years of trying to improve. A passion pushing you into suffering is an extremely tragic process of losing yourself.
How is that possible?
When people develop a passion, the passionate activity becomes part of who they are and how they see themselves. This centrality of the activity in one’s identity occurs because people are naturally inclined to internalise components of the environment into their identity that are meaningful to them. That in itself is normal and ok. It is more about HOW this internalising process takes place. The difference between an autonomous way or controlled way matters a great deal. An autonomous form of internalisation arises when a person freely accepts the activity as valuable for itself. A controlled form of internalisation emanates from a forced involvement in an activity. The controlled form messes with your sense of self because you start to do it more for others than for yourself and your feeling ok becomes influenced by external factors like social acceptance, popularity and expectations. An autonomous internalisation of an activity will lead to harmonious passion (HP), whereas a controlled internalisation will result in obsessive passion (OP).
This difference in passion for activities has been researched and described by the Canadian Professor Robert Vallerand, a leading scholar in motivational processes and optimal functioning. He calls it the DMP, The Dualistic Model of Passion. Vallerand also published a book on his research: The Psychology of Passion: A Dualistic Model. This DMP also explains why mindfulness (if done in the right way . . ) is a form of Harmonious Passion. I quote from: ‘Passion and mindfulness: Accessing adaptive self-processes‘, a research done by Ariane C. St-Louis, Jeremie Verner-Filion, Catherine M. Bergeron, and Robert J. Vallerand.
With HP, people engage in their activity freely and they remain in control. The passionate activity occupies a significant place in their identity while still being in accord with other important self-elements and life domains. Importantly, the authentic integrating self (Deci & Ryan, 2000) is at play with HP. This process allows individuals to engage in the passionate activity with a secure sense of self-esteem and in a flexible, open, non-defensive (Hodgins & Knee, 2002), and mindful way (Brown & Ryan, 2003). Thus, this type of passion allows access to adaptive self-processes and leads to positive benefits.
With OP, individuals feel an uncontrollable urge to partake in the activity in which they often lose control over. The passionate activity has an overwhelming place in their identity and conflict is present with other significant self-components and life aspects. Internally controlling and non-authentic self-processes are at play with this type of passion and thus, people engage in the passionate activity with a contingent sense of self-esteem and in a defensive, closed, and unmindful manner. Thus, this type of passion limits access to adaptive self-processes and, even if OP can sometimes lead to positive outcomes (e.g. performance and positive emotions), it is mainly conducive to negative consequences.
To summarise, the DMP (Vallerand, 2015) posits that HP derives from an autonomous form of internalisation of the activity in one’s identity, allowing full access to adaptive self-processes and thus, permitting a flexible, open, and mindful form of involvement. Engaging in the activity in such manner leads to positive outcomes. Conversely, OP originates from a controlled form of internalisation that blocks full access to adaptive self-processes and thus, the engagement in the activity is rigid, closed, and unmindful. Such involvement is conducive to negative consequences.
Want to know more? Listen to a podcast with Robert Vallerand on the psychology of passion from Dr. Michelle McQuaid.
And ermm . . . those eyes you see . . . I guess she is passionate on something that needs a special way of observing? ^^
Erasmus and Descartes
A few weeks ago Willem Koba posted an image on Facebook with a quote by Erasmus as can be seen on Rotterdam Central Station. It made me think on it and read on it. It lead me to a nice article on how Harmonious Passion battles with another form of control as well. The one of reason and rationality. The article is written by an author of the Erasmus School of Philosophy, with Covid-19 and lockdowns in mind as our present reality. It basically tells about the importance of both reason (Erasmus) and passion (Descartes), with passion having the author’s preference more. I think for me it differs per situation and mood I am in, but solely passion or solely reason never will work is what I agree on. And I think having a physical experience also exists without having an actual physical meet in RL. I think everyone using Second Life or another form of extended virtual connections, knows what I mean. It is not the same kind of physical experience as we know it in an offline world, it is not the same skin to skin connection we have when we hug or kiss, but it does come very close to it in our mind. You actually are affected and will show physical responses when you are very intimate with someone you like, or even love, in Second Life. I don’t underestimate or deny the importance of also having the ‘offline’ physical experience, of course I do not, but there is also no reason to deny the impact and effect of virtual physical connections. They are as real as how we feel them to be real. An avatar skin can become your own skin so to speak. And like we all know, sex and love are connected heavily to chemical processes in our brains. It therefore is only logical we activate the same processes in virtual connections.
Maybe a virtual world is the perfect example as place where reason and passion, mind and body, thinking and feeling, stoic and emotional, can be present in the way they should be. Not as separated entities, but as one entity. I know of no other place where we so easily attach to another human and I think it is because of this full presence of the other, even if there is no physical body as we know it in our offline existence. A mind can go everywhere. If it does so in a free way, passion will be free of being an effort. It just will be there because you want it yourself and feel it yourself. That can be done with and without social distancing, with and without a screen in between. Like you can immerse in music, a movie or a book, you also can immerse in other ways as if you are at the scene. That to me is a full body and mind experience. A rational talk can be done with passion you know. In my experience passion and reason always play with each other. That’s highly exciting even. A brain needs incentives. Intellectual and emotional intelligence both matter. They make someone speak to you on a level of getting touched without actual touching. If that happens, passion has arrived and makes all glow and burn inside. They are smart forces that won’t allow rationality to be the only visitor in the room. They know rationality never ever will reach the kind of depth like passion will. Persons being able to block all passion inside I find truly sad and a bit scary, if they would exist. Maybe they do, or play they do for some reason. Though I tend to think every human feels passion and reason both. Just I also know how minds can be very good in suppressing or hiding what’s inside.
I quote from the article now:
Space separates bodies, not minds, is what is written in capital letters over the entrance to the underground at Rotterdam Central Station. The saying is an example of texts by Erasmus put on public display by the Erasmus Icon of Rotterdam-foundation that aims to bring the ideas of our university’s namesake to the general public.
[…] human mental life cannot be solely devoted to reason. […] we have meanwhile become accustomed to a concept of reasonability that not only includes individual traits and personal preferences in our concept of well-being, but according to which our dedication to our ‘passions’ has even become a benchmark for personal development. […]
Yet we still need to discipline ourselves. Staying safe as civilised persons, especially in an “intelligent” – which is to say: a self-chosen – lockdown, still requires a formidable amount of mental training. No wonder that we see Erasmus’s Stoic-Platonic message popping up everywhere in social and old-fashioned media today. Even Foucault, who always spoke rather cynically on the subject of discipline, has meanwhile become a thoroughbred Stoic in philosophical reflections on the virus.
[…] what our lockdown brings me to Descartes rather than Erasmus, is the idea that civilisation does not have to go hand in hand with the exorcism of the body. Descartes’s turn to the notion of conscious, embodied experience is much more in line with what I, for one, crave for in times of Corona […]
Full article: Stay in touch!
Screw finding your passion
In case you still don’t get it.
Searching for or full time dedication to one passion is not wise.
It is a matter of passion being your buddy and not a goal.
Listen to Susanna Halonen on ‘Screw finding your passion’.
- Be the Authentic You
- Find your Why
- Master the Art of Learning
- Connect with your Tribe
- Play with your Strengths