The Dark Side Of Passion… And How To Transform It

In the wake of us wanting to live our best life and do our best work there is a desire we each hold within to do something that means something.

To contribute in our most valuable way.

Passion is an access point to being able to do that.

Heralded as one of the holy grails of the human experience, there is an abundance of opportunity that Passion offers us.

But like every good thing in nature, there always lurks a shadow side not too far behind that is very real.

In this article I will be moving through a few of Passions’ shadows to help us know what to look out for and more importantly, how to work through it.

A little about me and my Passion journey

When I first started my professional journey I had many things that interested me, but finding a way to turn them into a profession that wouldn’t leave me broke at the end of it all was something I struggled with.

I knew deep within that ‘one day’ I wanted to create a business that filled an important gap. And over the years many ideas started to form and percolated in my mind and in my heart.

For a while I entertained those ideas simultaneous to my full time jobs. All in the search for my meaning, expressed as work.

I have always had a desire to be what I do. Or do what I am.

But after trying on many things, I came to the eventual conclusion that maybe that just wasn’t in the cards that I got to play out in this life.

That was a really heart crushing place for me at the time.

But in the process I grew an eventual acceptance of it and decided to turn my focus on professional Sales as my career strategy.

I thought if I could channel my energy into one thing then success would follow.

And it did. Actually, it gave me more than that.

Little did I know, Sales was to become a vehicle that solved many of my internal debates. It helped my very innate entrepreneurial drive through working for and with some of the largest brands in the world in the goal of building their businesses through their revenues and growth opportunities. It supported my ability to work for companies that interested me while learning about other types of businesses that were up to some pretty cool things. I learned different kinds of business models and approaches. I learned what worked and all the nuanced challenges that some businesses faced, alongside the universal challenges both large and small. It also helped me learn to navigate highly complex business strategies and support partnership networks to obtain some lofty goals.

These things were all juicy for me and the learnings kept things novel and exciting.

I became what I thought at the time was passion healthy about sales. I studied the techniques of my craft, soaked up everything I could from the greats as well as the people around me. I read a thousand books and practiced my craft until I became quite skilled at it. In sales there was always something to learn and so many ways to grow. My love for personal and professional development finally had an outlet!

That put me on the fast track and I started to forget about my inner dream of owning my own business and what I used to think was my ‘calling’.

In the back of my mind I always just assumed that my success was grounded in and driven by my Passion.

Inserting what I know now; It wasn’t.

Well not the healthy kind, anyway.

And if I were to get radically honest, what it was, was my ambition. The flavor of my ambition became obsessive as I confused it with Passion and as such I focused only on my career and the climb to wherever it was I wanted to go. This was the driving factor that made me ‘successful’ (or rather my definition of what success meant to me at the time).

…That is until it didn’t.

My work ‘ethic’ was one of the major contributing factors of two challenging and dark burnout periods in my career path. And the behaviours that got me there were both praised and rewarded by many of the organizations I worked for.

The bare truth of it all is that the path to Passion is not all what it seems.

Furthermore, not everything we think is Passion, actually is.

Or, at least, not the healthy kind.

I know this because now I live, work and exist in what I call healthy Passion. Where for the first time in my career I feel like I am doing what I am, loving what I do and who I am while I am doing it. This is now combined with learning how to make money independent of a corporation while growing on the daily. I now get to incorporate (slowly) all the other passions I have held off while getting to explore new ones at will. But the best part is this: I am doing all of that while taking from the skillsets that I have picked up and learned along my greater life path (both personal and professional). I haven’t wasted a single skillset, lesson or circumstance that has contributed to me and my growth.

In that there is no real separation between me and my expression in the work that I do. And I am fully conscious and intentional with the design and shape that I take on.

This makes me happy, fulfilled at my core, with an uncapped amount of drive and energy to move my BIG mission forward.

My work is who I am at my core.

But to get here, I first needed to confront and work through my shadows.

Passions’ Shadows

What I learned on my journey taking the road back from burnout to emotional freedom is that there are other drivers that lurk within that look like Passion, but aren’t.

They are what I call Passions’ shadows.

And we must get better at calling them out of ourselves if we stand a chance at correcting our internal imbalances and ease much of our own professional (and personal) suffering.

If you feel like you are Passionate, or you have ever felt passionate, you may understand these darker sides more intimately. For those of you on the path to Passion discovery – these are areas not to shy away from, but to look out for, so that you enter this world with your eyes wide open and your heart, more aware.

There are dark nights and even darker days on the path to Passion and without the right lens to look at Passion through, we can become fooled into only thinking about it in one light.

The good side of Passion.

The more desirable side of Passion.

This is due to a fatal characteristic all humans walk around with. It’s known as the ‘Feel Good Effect’. It’s a bias.

And a dangerous one.

The danger here is when the darkness comes (which it will) – we never expect it, don’t plan for it, and as such, we are never fully prepared for it.

To understand Passion’s dark side we need to be reminded of what Passion is and where it comes from.

For those of you familiar with my teachings or have been students of my work, you know that I define Passion as Meaning x Investment.

It is by doing the things we find meaning in through our own investments of time, energy or other resources that we can turn on the internal switch of Passion.

But meaning is not a simple word.

Meaning is a complex blend of our life’s experiences that we build our perceptions and constructs of the world from.

Most of the things we deeply find meaningful comes from both conscious things (things we know, can put language to and can speak about) and unconscious things (things we don’t know, can’t put language to or can speak about).

The complexity grows when we consider that meaning comes from both the high points and low points in our lives. This gives our experience gravity and buoyancy. Together it is the balance that holds what we find meaningful together.

When Passion is expressed it can be expressed from a place of joy, or from a place of pain.

It’s when it’s expressed from a place of pain that can often get us in trouble.

There are quite a few areas to look out for when understanding how Passion is showing up for you. Understanding this and working through your own shadows will help you to ultimately have a relationship with your own Passions that can feel more free and elicit more joy in what you do.

To support your ability to start putting language around the dark sides of Passion, here are 3 common shadow’s of the Passion experience:

1. Passion Can Become An Obsession

We hear about obsession a lot in society and it has been turned into something to admire. From Athletes to Leaders the narrative is that if you want to be successful, get obsessed with something.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

While this is great for those who are put in situations where they have a whole team of psychologists, coaches, mentors and experts around them working with their psychology (Athletes, Executives, Celebrities, Influences, etc.) – it is not great for the mass majority (99%) of others that don’t.

Obsession is a very dangerous game that have ruined families, businesses, and individuals. And all in the name of success.

While I do believe it is important to feel connected to what you do, have it mean something to you and work towards it in a way that honors it. It is equally important to balance our Passions with other healthy structures in our lives. This includes spending time with the people we love. Taking care of our diet, bodies and mental health. And it also includes making time to get involved in other things that helps us to diversify our passions and add dimensions to our lives.

Having these structures in place helps us to be our best while working on our highest goals. I know this lesson first hand.

2.  The Possessive And Angry Quality Of Passion

When there is a great care for something that is connected to our sense of self and identity, we can become more vulnerable to being protective over it.

Therefore, similarly to Passion igniting emotions like Obsession, it can also bring on line more protective emotions like anger and Possession.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I am not angry, I am Passionate”?

Case in point.

The facts are, the person is actually angry. They might be also Passionate, but Passion does not replace anger, it couples with it.

Like anger, another trait Protection manifests as is possessiveness. Possessive over the position or the things we have a passion for.

Possession creates a feeling that this thing is ‘mine’.

And whenever the ‘mine effect’ gets turned on, our Ego’s take central command of our executive centres. Meaning – our Ego starts to run the show, not our highest self.

What is the difference between Ego and what I chose to call higher self?

Ego is protective. It is an instrument entirely designed from fear. It feels that things or other people should be ‘theirs’. It wants to control outcome and fate. It is driven to do whatever is necessary to get the thing it wants and desires.

Our higher self works a bit differently. It is the self that turns on when we feel safe to be who we truly are. It is the calm we carry within. It is the sensible, the curious, the compassionate, and the open minded feature we tap into. It doesn’t blame, it understands, and most of all, it trusts the process.

When we act from a place of possession – we are not coming from our highest self. We are coming from Ego.

Things to ask: What is creating the possessiveness in your behaviour? Pain usually is the culprit for this.

Look into different scenarios and experiences you have had in the past that makes this feeling feel familiar. Can you find patterns? What is the common denominator?

This is a journey of exploration. And the experience of possession is asking for you to take that journey, not to ignore it, or get defensive about it. But to listen within, see the pain you have experienced and where that might be influencing your desire or need to control the outcome. Chances are, you already have all the answers. But it’s hidden in a place you may not want to look.

To transform this is a practice of learning how to trust again.

Either trust yourself by getting back into integrity, or by trusting others. Possession is the need to hold something so tightly that it never leaves. But life does not work this way. Life is transient. Forever changing.

The good news is, you were born adaptable – and you are capable and able of handling whatever changes comes. You are wired for that. Find that strength within, and your Passion will be a much more enjoyable process.

3.  Obsessive Passion and Failure

Failure is a normal part of success.

No one that has made it to any successful destination will ever tell you that they didn’t make mistakes or failed along the path.

No one.

However if a person is obsessively Passionate it is easier to lose sight of that.

Failure can become 100000 times more painful to those that link their Passion to some external goal, dream, experience, ideology, etc.

This is why it is critical to create a healthy distance from your Passion and the external outcome.

A lot more tricky if you are an Entrepreneur, or someone who’s job is outcome based. Because in a way you are trained to get to the goal at hand.

And while that may be the case, peeling back this vantage point, there is strategy in ensuring your mindset is focused on the journey at hand to create a Passion for the conditions that support the external achievements. This will always be the better approach because the destination is and will always be a disappointingly short part of everybody’s success experience.

The truth about the Passion experience

Working through the shadow parts of my Passion is what enabled me to do the hard things. Make the difficult choices. Align back to me. And trust in who I am and where I am at every point and turn.

The fact is this, you will never be able to completely stay away from these darker parts.

Shadows are a necessary part of the journey and of life.

The deeper truth here is that whatever you are growing towards, achieving, or overcoming – there is a core part of you that is learning, unlearning and forever becoming. This is each of our personal and professional growth journeys and is an important aspect of the human experience.

We are layered. Our experiences are layered. And we are mulit-dimensions full of expression and potential.

Honoring ourselves and finding the great glory of Passion in our lives is a process of learning how to sit with the more painful and uncomfortable parts of our journey that produces the very shadows that must be confronted and overcome.

As I shared earlier in this article, the pain in our experience gives birth to the gravity within. The joy births the buoyancy. This is the great balance of what designs our deepest meaning.

Passion can be a path to enlightenment – if we can all learn how to lean into the darker places of ourselves and learn how to find our own sense of middle.

The middle is where healthy Passion emerges and can find us in states of harmony with ourselves and with life.

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