Passion and Attitude

Passion and Attitude

Written by Alfonso Elizondo


From the perspective of psychology, passion is defined as a strong inclination towards an activity that someone likes and on which he invests time and energy. There are two types of passion and each of them is associated with different results and experiences. Harmonious passion stems from autonomous introspection of activity to identify and guide people to engage in the activity they love most.


On the other hand there is obsessive passion that also comes from an introspective process and leads people to experience an uncontrollable urge to engage in a certain activity. As a result of various studies with a wide variety of participants, activities and outcomes, experts were finally found in this area of ​​knowledge.

The study of passion was conducted through scientific research that clearly supports the important role of passion in human life. Robert J. Vallerand, cognitive psychologist at the University of Quebec in Montreal and head of the Research Laboratory on Social Behavior, proposes that the concept of ‘passion’ be considered a psychological factor. One type of passion is for the activity that someone performs, and it can have different consequences for cognition, affect, the conduct of relationships and behavior. When Vallerand began his research in the late 1990s, almost no one viewed passion from a psychological perspective, while it was drawing considerable attention from philosophers but receiving only empirical attention from psychologists.


Another view of passion that is as important as Vallerand’s are studies by Barry Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist whose work can be found in publications such as Psychology Today, Harvard Business Review online and Scientific American, as well as on the Creativity Post. com website. In his writings, Kaufman discusses the role of passion in any kind of creative activity, whether starting a family or completing doctoral work. Kaufman, who holds a doctorate in psychology from Yale and teaches in New York, is not only interested in the healthy kind  of creativity and passion, but is not afraid to discuss how an intense desire to achieve a goal may be harmful to the health of someone who is in a highly competitive environment which produces extreme tension called ‘obsessive passion’.


For Kaufman there is a significant difference between harmful passion and productive passion, but it is possible to divert the negative type and channel it to the harmonious type. Kaufman states that passion is the energy that can drive a project or a task and it has a role similar to inspiration. When we commit to something we are passionate about it and feel dedicated to it. Research shows that the flow of activity is directly related to passion.


Psychologists have been studying passion for years, but only recently have they managed to conceptualize it. The human being embodies very different forms of passion and sometimes they include negative elements known as obsession. Vallerand has done most of his research to distinguish between obsessive and harmonious passion.

So there are two different types of passion, but people do not distinguish the difference; they only feel passionate. In the case of both obsessive and harmonious passion, the individual feels intensely immersed in his work. But the feeling of being able to concentrate on work is more related to harmonious than to obsessive passion, since someone who experiences harmonious passion feels more motivated from within.


Kaufman says that some people with obsessive passion believe that the only way to be productive is to always go to the extreme. They tend to think that they are very hard-working and that they always give the best of themselves. And there are many business managers who think they are the working class they should hire.

They conducted this research by asking employees to think about the number of hours they spend working and how they feel about it. It is likely that both obsessive and harmonious people may believe that they work for the same amount of time, but those who are harmoniously passionate are better at what they do.


Sometimes people need help to find their passions because it involves a paradox; the more you try to pin down passion the less likely you are to find it. There is no magic for living with passion, although many people believe they do not have the time for self-reflection and for thinking about their reasons for trying to find passion, and only occasionally do they engage in an internal monologue.


It may also be useful to think of finding a suitable environment for someone to find their most genuine tendencies, but it’s necessary to realize that inside the passion nothing can be controlled, so when someone thinks he is controlling his passion process it is because he is already engaged in harmonious passion.


Addendum: I have approached this very abstract subject of people’s passion and attitude because the entire human society is now changing its myths and its paradigms. So it is useful to have the scientific analysis of what happens inside our minds as objectively as possible to enable us to choose our new paradigms wisely.