When I think of passion as portrayed in culture today, it often has a dramatic tone to it. There’s “finding your passion” – the one, true career that will fulfill your life’s purpose. There’s “living with passion” – which seems to involve “never settling” and “not putting up with mediocrity.” There’s “bringing passion back” to a stale relationship, which almost always seems to focus on either reclaiming the euphoria of “being in love” or adding in elements to spice up your fading sex life.
With all of this intensity around passion, it’s easy to feel a little bit nervous about exploring it in your own life. Passion can have a whole minefield of meanings surrounding it, and it can help to look at them more closely.
When I first announced to a group of former coworkers that my first e-class, Rekindle Your Passion , was nearly ready, my 29-year-old male colleague immediately leered at me and asked exactly what I was teaching.
“Passion is not just about sex,” I argued, “Look it up.” So I did, to prove it to him.
A quick check of Merriam-Webster online defines passion as, “
: a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something
: a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way
: a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone”
These are three very different definitions, and I wish each of these meanings rated its own word. As it is, it seems to me that these three definitions get rolled into one, and all of the negative associations with each element gets attached to the others.
If you find that you would like to live more passionately but something is holding you back, see if one of these statements resonates with you:
“If I were more passionate, people would be turned off by my enthusiasm and think I’m weird.”
This one cracks me up, because so many of us feel this way even though it is the dead opposite of the truth. I’ve felt it myself and heard it expressed by others many times – a dear friend of mine even vowed to let out her enthusiasm as her New Year’s resolution. So often we have a fear that if we’re not blasé, people will find us unsophisticated or childish in some way.
In reality, passion is contagious. Whenever I encounter someone discussing their passion, I’m enthralled even if I’m not interested in the topic – their own enthusiasm brings out mine. Even if you become very passionate about something, you are still you, with full social awareness. I could talk for hours about different personal growth methods or the delights of video game character leveling and specifications…and I still recognize when the people around me don’t share my passion and only minimally mention it. You’ll still be you!
“If I were to open up to my passion, I might quit my job/leave my spouse/move to Tibet!”
I think we fear losing ourselves to passion because of phrases like “she was swept away with passion” or “it was a crime of passion.” As the second definition states, “a strong feeling that causes you to act in a dangerous way.” It’s understandable with that type of cultural message to be hesitant about opening up to something that might cause you to lose control.
Before I did my own healing work, it’s 100% possible that I would get swept away by emotion and make decisions that might be considered dangerous. (In fact, it happened several times!) If you have experienced an emotional wound that has not been addressed, opening up to your passion might actually prompt you to do something rash because passion is emotional and your emotions are still volatile.
Once you’ve been through therapy or recovery, you’re equipped to handle very strong emotions and process them without acting on them. It’s safe to open up to passion, as you can use it as a guide, as trail signs along a path instead of a potential minefield.
You might discover that you want to quit your job, leave your spouse, or move to Tibet – but you’re not going to act on that discovery without fully unpacking it, understanding what’s behind it, and deciding if it’s the right decision for you. Again, you’ll still be you!
“Living passionately means I’ll have to be more sexual than I’m comfortable being.”
My coworker is not alone is his association of passion and sex. If you Google passion, there are of course tons of articles on increasing sexual passion. But that is not all passion is! And one definition of passion does not automatically indicate others.
Discovering a new song and listening to it on repeat is passionate, but not sexual at all. The vast majority of our passions are not sexual or romantic. In the United States, sexual passion and romantic love are sometimes packaged as a cure-all to life’s problems, and sold as the only type of passion that has any real value. (Unless it’s ‘finding your passion’ in a career sense – that is sold the same way!)
With this type of endless message, it’s easy to blur the lines between living with enthusiasm and being more sexual, but they are separate things. You can be wildly passionate about life and completely celibate, or completely bored and jaded with life and very sexually active. You can be anywhere in between. It’s completely up to you.
In all cases, the passionate you is just that – you, just the delighted, engaged, joyful version!
If you are looking to live more passionately, and want a gentle, guided way to do so, please check out my Rekindle Your Passion program. It’s a 30 day e-course that helps you bring passion into your existing, everyday life in very manageable, small, concrete ways – no moving to Tibet or studying the Kama Sutra required.