ON PASSION: and the feeling of intensity.

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on August 12, 2014

Most people think that passion is something that we feel when we fall in love or lust – and while that is true, there is much more to passion. Passion runs the gamut of emotions. Passion adds intensity and a particular kind of alchemy to any feeling that we experience, highlighting its emotional reverberation in us. Passion is felt, the experience unfurls through our senses and bypasses our thinking mind. Passion can lead us to experience great pleasure and also, great pain. It can create a turbulence that augments and escalates all of our emotions, from love to hate to ecstasy to violence to desperation and despair. Indeed passionate states can threaten to overwhelm us with a feeling that enraptures us. Sometimes this is a good thing. It can lead to deep attachments and powerful relationships, as well as the creation of a novel, a painting, a sculpture, a song, a dance. Art, in all of its forms, understands passion well as it speaks the same language- emotional and based on inner experience. Yet passion can also lead us astray, into the territory of overexcitement, of excess, of feeling too much, of pain and suffering. Emotional intensity is the hallmark of passion, and its expression is known implicitly and felt corporeally. It is only after we have felt it that we can revisit it in our thoughts.

So what does it mean to be passionate? To have a passionate nature? To be passionate about things? And why only certain things?

Traditionally, psychoanalysis has viewed passion as the realm of the hysteric, that poor soul that suffered from ‘reminiscences’ which reverberated physically and could not be captured in words. Thus evolved the talking cure: helping to put words to experience that was so powerful it spoke through the body and its symptomatology. And while words do help us to understand and name our experiences and feelings, I think there are times when they cannot capture what is felt, particularly when that feeling is a passionate one.
Because passion involves an unconscious communication that transgresses spoken language and arrives at implicit experience directly, engaging relational patterns that are unthought but known through feeling.

Yes, passionate emotions can bring on emotional disequilibrium because they highlight the space between fusion and separation, and break down the boundaries between our private and our public life, between the thing and what we imagine it to be, and between the felt/experienced/lived event and the one that is narrated. Passion as an implicit, sensual and sensorial communication has to be experienced and felt, in order to be recognized, known and understood. Passion carries an early relational dialogue within it, which comes alive in the context of relationships to people and objects that evoke that early sensual echo.

How can this be?

Remember falling in love? How absolutely captivated by the other, how enraptured in sensation, imagination, possibility? When life itself seemed dull without the promise of that particular loved one? Passion.
And if that relationship broke your heart, remember the pain of that? Intense, never ending, haunting you through the day and rousing you at night? Passion.
Or perhaps you can recollect a time when you found yourself transported into another land by a novel, or enchanted by a piece of music -lost in the playing of it for hours at a time.
Or when you found yourself in the lines of a particular poem, which seemed to capture the most private parts of you, and speak only to you.

Passion has preferences and they are most personal. We do not choose our passions, they find us, often surprising us in the process.
I think this is because passion involves an ongoing relational exchange in which we feel implicitly recognized and known; in communion with an other through felt experience that is so strong that words are not enough to capture it. The passionate exchange has a logic of its own, embedded in us and unearthed by a particular object or person. So perhaps this is why passion is often defined as love or Eros – both need relationship to come about, and it turns out that passion and its evocation require a relationship as well.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Luca Caldironi August 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Great and exciting writing !
The driving force is then that internal tension that is generated by the encounter with the Other that remains unyielding. Both in the therapy room and in the artistic operation, we are confronted with the unspeakable, there is and always remains a discard, a reject, that we cannot represent, but that, with its affective investment, pushes us to inhabit it. A nameless territory, as it is ‘unmentionable’, although characterizing at the same time, makes us ‘exiles’ and citizens at the same time. It is the land of exile which contains the intrinsic promise of a return. This dimension is a feature, despite the obvious differences, both of the artistic and the analytic expression. It is a process of ‘Self-becoming’ that constantly oscillates between ‘identity’ and ‘dis-identity’, down to the possibility to achieve a relationship with oneself that, by borrowing an apt expression by F. Corrao, we could define of ‘multiple itself-ness’. As in the psychic process, the artistic activity involves a transforming process, as it happens in dreams and in moments in which mourning is overcome, when the inanimate and shapeless world is turn into life and communication. It must be added that transformation also means not to stop in front of the manifestation, but get into it, test it. Binding emotional deep dimensions with new transforming possibilities is already a therapeutic and containing function. This also requires the possibility to tolerate feelings of not-knowing, of confusion and helplessness, only supported by what Bion used to call the “need for Truth”.


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