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The role of passion in sustainable psychological well-being

The role of passion in sustainable psychological well-being

Abstract

Using the Dualistic Model of Passion (DMP), the purpose of the present paper is to show the role of passion for activities in sustainable psychological well-being. Passion is defined as a strong inclination toward a self-defining activity that people like (or even love), find important, and in which they invest time and energy on a regular basis. The model proposes the existence of two types of passion: harmonious and obsessive. Harmonious passion originates from an autonomous internalization of the activity into one’s identity while obsessive passion emanates from a controlled internalization and comes to control the person. Through the experience of positive emotions during activity engagement that takes place on a regular and repeated basis, it is posited that harmonious passion contributes to sustained psychological well-being while preventing the experience of negative affect, psychological conflict, and ill-being. Obsessive passion is not expected to produce such positive effects and may even facilitate negative affect, conflict with other life activities, and psychological ill-being. Research supporting the proposed effects and processes is presented and directions for future research are proposed.

The role of passion in sustainable psychological well-being

Psychological well-being, broadly defined as happiness, life satisfaction, and self-growth, represents one of the most important aspects of efficient psychological functioning. Indeed, much research reveals that happy people experience a number of benefits ranging from physical health to better relationships to high-level performance (e.g., Huppert 2009; Lyubomirsky et al. 2005). Often overlooked is the fact that psychological well-being is not the absence of ill-being (Diener 2000; Keyes 2007). Just as not being poor is not tantamount to being rich, not experiencing any psychological problems is not equivalent to being psychologically flourishing (Huppert 2009; Seligman 2011). An important correlate of the above is that the determinants of psychological well-being should differ from those of ill-being (see Gable & Haidt 2005; Garland et al. 2010; Keyes 2007). For instance, the absence of psychological stressors does not ensure thriving in one’s life. It merely reduces the likelihood of suffering.

In recent years, some authors (e.g., Lyubomirsky et al. 2005) have suggested that engaging in “happiness-relevant activities” (especially intentional activities) represents one way to facilitate psychological well-being. I agree with this position and further posit that having a passion for an activity represents an important type of high involvement in activities that may lead to sustainable positive effects on psychological well-being. Indeed, because people who have a passion for a given activity typically engage in this activity several hours each week, they may be experiencing positive affective experiences that should facilitate well-being. However, not all intentional activites facilitate psychological well-being. As will be described below, two types of passion exist. Although one type called harmonious passion is expected to facilitate sustainable psychological well-being through the repeated experience of positive emotions during task engagement, a second type of passion, called obsessive, is not expected to produce such effects and may even arouse negative emotions and interfere with leading a balanced, happy life.

The purpose of this paper is to show how passion, and especially harmonious passion, plays a critical role in sustainable psychological well-being. The paper focuses exclusively on the passion-well-being relationship. The reader interested in other outcomes is referred to Vallerand (2010) for a review. In the first two sections, I present the Dualistic Model of Passion (DMP; Vallerand 2008, 2010; Vallerand et al. 2003) and research supporting the validity of the passion concept. Then, a review is provided of the studies on the role of passion in psychological well-being, including research on the mechanisms through which passion is hypothesized to contribute to sustainable psychological well-being. Finally, I conclude with suggestions for future research.

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