A Closer Look at Obsessive Passion and Its Impact on Mental Well-being
Posted by Improving Lives Counseling Services, Inc. | Uncategorized
Passion is a driving force, an intense enthusiasm, a strong motivation, and perpetual interest of which a person spends a lifetime pursuing – unless they don’t have the time, the money, the knowledge, or the skills. The much used quote, “It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together” is inspiring, yet unrealistic. Recent surveys found only 20% of people could cite their passion and less than 5% were following it. Julia Korn, a contributor to Forbes, says “Follow Your Passion Is the Worst Career Advice” – many in the psychiatric community agree. Fanatically following a passion can become obsessive. Obsessive Passion (OP) creates an internal pressure to work in a specific field, live in a certain community, have certain friends, or to excel financially. Though OP isn’t OCD, it can affect mental health and mental well-being. The counselors of Improving Lives Counseling Services treat the symptoms and side effects associated with obsessive disorders.
Passion can be a strong and barely controllable emotion. You’ve got to get into an ivy league college, meet and marry the perfect person, move into the biggest house, own the fastest car, and wear the most fashionable clothes. Your children have to attend the best schools, get the best grades, win first place trophies in sports, get the lead in the school play, and be first chair in the school orchestra. The highly passionate person is often willing to invest a significant amount of time, money, and effort into pursuing or nurturing personal and family goals driven by obsessive passions.
Passions are further defined as any strong and barely controllable emotion. Searching online you can find the six primary passions, the seven passions of sin, the eight passions of the church, and the list goes on. Common passions can include: a fear of germs, of animals, of environmental hazards, of getting lost, of being lied to, and of bad things happening to themselves or those they love. The passion to maintain employment can be driven by the fear of becoming homeless. Moral and religious passions can include the fear of making the wrong decision, of acting sexually inappropriate, or having an impure thought.
Passion and Moral Judgements
The eighth century philosopher David Hume states passions are the only way to understand morality, that the nature of moral values is to be discovered through a man’s passions. He continues by saying passions overrule reason and direct man’s moral actions and judgements; Hume believed passions motivate one to act. We can see this in criminality – committing crimes against people of specific ethnic, racial, sexual, or religious groups because they are “passionately” hated, hazing college students who passionately want membership in a fraternity or sorority, and crimes and wrongdoings by adolescents and teens whose passion for acceptance leads them to street gangs.
NEGATIVE EFFECT OF PASSION
An obsessive passion is often associated with negative emotions. Following an impossible passion instead of providing for a family or pursuing a career you’re not qualified for can lead to dysfunction within the family. Other negative effects include anxiety, stress, depression, self-doubt, loss of self-respect, and continuous failing. The inability to live (achieve) an obsessive passion can lead to promiscuity, alcoholism, substance abuse, homelessness, criminality, and suicidality.
No matter how motivated a person is, often having a passion just isn’t enough. Avoiding lessons learned and continuing to fail can impair further attempts at success. Stress associated with long-term failure can trigger shame and cause the brain to release cortisol – destroying brain cells. Feeling a failure or feeling unwanted affects how people react with co-workers, family, and friends.
Passions like goals can make life worth living, however, these intense emotions can be both positive and negative. Long-term commitment to something or someone which will or can never be affects physical health and mental wellbeing. Pushing a family member to relentlessly pursue an impossible passion is harmful and can lead to dysfunctional behavior and dysfunction within the family.
Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps said, “I thought of myself as just a swimmer and not a human being.” Katie Uhlaender, Skeleton Racer, said, “There were a couple of moments in my career where I felt I kind of lost my identity.” Improving Lives Counseling Services’ diverse team of licensed, professional counselors and therapists treat obsessive and harmonious passion – the symptoms, the disease, and the side-effects. You are more than your passions. We can help. Call us.