The Concept of Passion
Their focus, however, was more on the emotional aspect of passion than on its motivational dimension as is the case with the present approach on passion. Two perspectives have emerged (see Rony 1990). The first posits that passion entails a loss of reason and control as exemplified in the writings of Plato (429-347 BC) and Spinoza (1632-1677). In line with the etymology of the word passion (from the latin “passio” for suffering) people afflicted with passion are seen as experiencing a kind of suffering, as if they were slaves to their passion, because it comes to control them. The second perspective portrays passion in a more positive light. For instance, Descartes (1596-1650) sees passions as strong emotions with inherent behavioral tendencies that can be positive as long as reason underlies the behavior. Finally, Hegel (1770-1831) argues that passions are necessary to reach the highest levels of achievement. Thus, this second view portrays passion in a more positive light as some favorable outcomes may be experienced when individuals are in control of their passion.
Very little has been written on the psychology of passion for activities until recently. The few psychologists who have looked at the concept have underscored its motivational aspect. For instance, some authors have proposed that people will spend large amounts of time and effort in order to reach their passionate goals (see Frijda et al. 1991) or working on the activity that they love (Baum & Locke 2004). Nearly all empirical work on passion has been conducted in the area of close relationships under the rubric of passionate love (e.g., Hatfield & Walster 1978). Although such research is important, it does not deal with the main topic at hand, namely passion toward activities. Finally, while several theories have been proposed wherein loving an activity is hypothesized to lead to some positive benefits, no psychological theory makes the case that your love for a given activity can have either adaptive or deleterious effects on your life; that something you love can be “good” or “bad” for you (see Vallerand 2010 for conceptual comparisons between passion and these other concepts). The duality of passion needs to be accounted for.
The Dualistic Model of Passion (DMP)
Vallerand and his colleagues (Vallerand 2008, 2010; Vallerand et al. 2003; Vallerand & Houlfort 2003) have recently developed a model of passion that addresses the dualism inherent in passion. In line with Self-Determination Theory (), the DMP posits that individuals are motivated to explore their environment in order to grow as individuals. In so doing, they engage in a variety of activities. Of these, only a few will be perceived as particularly enjoyable, important, and to have some resonance with how people see themselves. From these few activities one or two will eventually be preferred and engaged in on a regular basis and turn out to be passionate. Thus, Vallerand et al. (2003) define passion as a strong inclination toward a self-defining activity that one likes (or even loves), finds important, and in which one invests time and energy on a regular basis. The issue of identity is important. In fact, passionate activities come to be so self-defining that they represent central features of one’s identity. For instance, those who have a passion for playing basketball or songwriting do not merely engage in these activities. They see themselves as “basketball players” or “songwriters”. In sum, a passionate activity is not simply an activity that one loves dearly, values highly, and engages in on a regular basis. It is also something that comes to define oneself. The activity becomes an inherent part of who the person is.