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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Passion: Need More or Less?

Written by  Janan Broadbent, Ph.D.

Both in the relationship and in career / work-life contexts, passion is mentioned as a desirable characteristic and feeling. Merriam Webster defines passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.” There is much research on the desirability of passion towards one’s career and job and how it leads to a happier work situation. When it comes to passion in a relationship, what we are talking about? It’s intensity of feeling, and not only necessarily in a sexual state. The question is: How passionate do you want your partner to be, and how passionate are you?

There are people one meets that are bubbling with excitement and there are those who are more reserved and controlled. How do you see yourself? Emotions run on a continuum from really intense to really diminished. Our personalities encompass this dimension. At the ends of this scale, either high or low, we start to consider extremes as pathological. Most of us, however, fall somewhere in-between. The key to a compatible relationship is finding that sweet spot where both or all parties accept the others’ level of emotion. I have worked with couples where the discrepancy is at a level where the complaint is that one is too emotional or too unemotional. To form a connection, we have to be able to express ourselves freely, without the fear of being judged. Although less so these days, there are still many families where males are told: Boys don’t cry. That statement has the effect of damming up emotion, because what is crying but expressing a feeling. I have listened to people who never heard their parents say ”I love you” to them, let alone to one another. It is especially sad when that sentiment sometimes comes finally at a moment of death.

So here are some tips: First, know that expressing how you feel, and being able to label that state is healthy. It means you are in touch with yourself. Ask yourself: Am I hurt or angry? Sad or annoyed?

Realize that if you don’t express your emotions and bottle them up, sooner or later, you will have either some physical or psychological manifestation. We can internalize only so much before it gets to be too heavy a burden and then the body complains. Do something actively as in exercise to drain the energy emotions engender.

Recognize that feelings come and go. Holding on to an emotion such as anger will affect you internally and externally. Hostile people do not attract others, creating more issues. Let it go by either discussing it with the person involved, or if that is not an option, in a physical activity or in a conversation with a third party, a friend, or a therapist.

Finally, look to humor to unload and heal from life’s difficult moments. A passionate belly laugh can do wonders for your mental health!

Send comments/questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on Twitter @DrJananB.

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