A thin line between passion and obsession

Who isn’t excited about spending time with their favorite person?
We all feel a sense of jollity and also likely feel empowered when we are with our favorite someone. There is also a sense of belongingness that connects us with them that makes us feel important and valued. That is when we develop passion in giving our love to our favorite someone.

In more recent years, psychologists started wondering, what if the object of your passion is not another person, but instead an activity.

But when do you know you have crossed this line of passion and obsession

Our passions can cross the line into obsessions, and instead of becoming a source of joy can turn into a source of misery. But when do you know you have crossed this line?

Understanding the boundaries

A basic dictionary defines passion as “a strong and barely controllable emotion.” Meanwhile obsession is defined as “an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.”

So now the difference gets quite evident.
It all lies in Control and Discipline. It is a fine line indeed. Passion is barely controllable, and obsession is uncontrollable. But how is it considered uncontrollable? Well, it causes us to place our identity in the object of our obsession. This eventually leads us to lose control. However, passion allows us to be excited about our goals while still maintaining a deep rooted sense of self.

It all lies in Control and Discipline.

“Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.” – Paul Carvel, author

Researchers have found there are two kinds of passion: Harmonious passion and Obsessive passion. Harmonious means that we partake in activities that we enjoy, that we find important, and that we spend considerable amounts of time on. The most important aspect is that we are doing it out of our free will. Meanwhile, obsessive passion transpires when an overwhelming desire to participate in the endeavour triggers pressure. Instead of us having control over such activities around, these activities begin to control us. That’s when we feel compelled to continue to participate in this activity and can’t seem to pull ourselves away from it.

Couples that excel and love to spend time together tend to be more harmoniously passionate and last longer, if not forever. The couples that tend to be more obsessively passionate, don’t appreciate the process nor the product of their relationship. Rather than enjoying the time they spend together; these couples feel that their relationship is more of an obligation.

Walk along the line

 When we cross the line and step into obsession, we tend to lose control and the lack of the subject robs us of joy. While having passions can be very fulfilling, give meaning to our life, and become a source of joy, it’s good to be mindful of not letting them turn into an obsession.

But how do we not let passion turn into obsession? Here are a few ways I felt could be effective in walking on the line between passion and obsession, when in check.

  • Not letting everyday essential activities be affected: We are meant to find fulfillment by realizing our passion but our happiness should not suffer as a result of it. When our daily tasks suffer in search of our passion it begins to affect our lives in negative ways.
  • Assess the passion: The most important thing is to know that what we purse is really our passion and not just what we think will impress someone else.
  • Analyze what chasing our passion, is giving us back: We need to ask ourselves about why we are pursuing the particular path – are we really passionate about it or are we just searching for money or status?
are we really passionate about it or are we just searching for money or status?
  • Take baby steps: Taking action is key but its’ important we begin by making these changes in life gradually so we don’t become overwhelmed.

Passion vs. Obsession

Cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman says, “Passion is the energy that can fuel a project, or a task. It has a similar role to inspiration. When we engage in something we are passionate about, we feel free from external constraints and in control. Time recedes into the background, and we feel allowed to engage in flow. Research has shown that flow correlates directly with passion.”

Obsession comes from a place of anxiety and fear. Even if someone doesn’t realize it, that fear will show through their actions. While passion sets you free. It makes you want to go an extra mile and put your full in and still feel contended about it.

It’s always best to take some time to self reflect on our motives in pursuing our passion. Ask these question to yourself…
Does it make you feel enthusiastic and excited about your goals? Are your energy levels high as you follow your dreams? Do you feel joy when you engage with your work or do you feel negative and overwhelmed? Do you feel anxious when you think about your goals and your path to achieve your goal?

It is always good to have a check if we are just being passionate or if we are slowly crossing the line into obsession.


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