Tag Archives: passion

Dualistic model of Passion, Perseverance, Purpose and Persona

Some of you may be already familiar with the Dualistic Model of Passion as advocated by Robert Vallerand et al. To recap, passion is of two types: harmonious and obsessive. Both of them have different antecedents (autonomous vs controlled integration) and different consequents ( well-being vs Mal-adaptive).

I wont go deep into what an obsessive or harmonious passion is; suffice it to say that in harmonious passion you can be passionate about more than one activity, the activity is not all consuming; while in obsessive passion the activity has control over you than vice versa and you feel pressured to spend time in the activity at the cost to other important activities/ relationships.

Important to note is that both types of passions are indeed passions about activities as we value those activities, love to do them , they form a core of our identity and we spend an exorbitant amount of time and energy indulging in those activities: This is true for harmonious as well as obsessive passions.

Passions are nothing but motivations as they propel us to keep doing something.

Before we move ahead we will take a quick detour of Self Determination Theory (SDT). As per SDT there are 3 basic psychological needs all humans have: need for Autonomy, Mastery (competence) and Connectedness (relatedness) . To that, many, including myself, add a fourth need, the need to find Meaning.

SDT actually is many mini-theories: one of them concerns how people are intrinsically motivated to do some activities which they find pleasurable or fun to do. At other times people are motivated by extrinsic motivation like rewards, status etc and parents say motivate their child to do homework by using such extrinsic mechanisms when the activity by itself is not enjoyable or fun to do. Over time, the child may internalize such motivations and they become more and more autonomous in the sense they are driven by the child’s sense of identity (I am a student who likes to study) than say the child’s internalized guilt or pride (I have to study so that I can live upto my parents expectations) . The process of turning external motivation to more autonomous motivation is called internalization.

The process of internalization can be helped or hindered by satisfaction of basic psychological needs. Of these autonomy support by significant others is the most studied. When an autonomy supportive person is present , then the recipient (say the child) is more likely to internalize well and have more autonomous forms of motivation to indulge in the activity.

Now lets connect this back to dualistic model of passion (DMP). As per Vallernad, people may develop passion for an activity because they value it and start investing time and energy in it; however the type of passion they develop will depend on whether they choose it themselves and have autonomy supportive parents etc (in which case they develop harmonious passion) or whether they feel controlled and coerced in their choice due to overt or overt pressure by parents etc. (in which case they develop obsessive passion).

To sum up, we all need to get motivated to do things that are not fun and thus need to internalize and own up to various external motivations. Internalization of external motivation so that it approaches intrinsic motivation is thus an important part of growing up. Autonomy support aids this and leads to better and more harmonious outcomes, while controlling behaviors (by significant others) lead to maladaptive and discordant (obsessive) outcomes.

We can now extend the analogy to other domains. Consider the whole behavioral paradigm of reinforcement learning. When we encounter the world there are reward contingencies (which we should approach) and punishment contingencies (which we should avoid). While the rewards are goals that are desirable end states and hence finite; the punishments are anti-goals or undesirable end states and hence infinite. Learning is needed to make such anti-goals goals. Learning can be facilitated by either mastery experiences where tools like small wins, vicarious learning etc can be used to build self efficacy of the person; or it can be facilitated by failure experiences where you put a mouse in water to make it learn how to swim and thus by approaches like fail fast learning you make them learn. Now obviously both kinds of learning, whether building confidence using mastery experiences or building doggedness using repeated trial and error fail fast learning can result in Perseverance; the former would be harmonious perseverance while the latter obsessive perseverance. In the former you would pursue goals from a position of strength, while in latter you might be narrowly focused on one particular goal and not ready to give it up (think John Henryism). The fact that we all need to move towards and learn better form reward contingencies means we have a need for mastery/ competence.

Next let us consider relatedness/ connectedness need. Consider the fact that we can live in an other oriented environment or in a self-focused environment. We all have a desire to leave our imprint on the world or to put a ding in the universe, we can do that either by leaving a personal legacy or by having a generative impact. Self expansion where we include others in the self is a process whereby we move away from a focus on personal legacy towards generative impact. As you might have guessed other oriented / relatedness need driven environment leads to better self expansion leading to harmonious purpose; while self focused environment leads to obsessive purpose that is less fulfilling and inflexible. Our need for connectedness derives from our need to self expand.

Finally, consider need for meaning. We can either live our life such that it has a meaningful frame of reference or we can keep encountering the absurd. We all have a desire to make sense of our lives, and we can either use the narrative self to weave a story around our adventures or we can live in a stream of consciousness in-the-moment mindfulness sort of adventure. Living in the stream of consciousness mode is not feasible as it lacks coherence and we need to move that into the narrative self. Story editing, defense mechanisms of denial, dissociation etc may be operational here to move and remove materiel from the narrative self. And of course, having a meaningful frame of reference, be it religion or spirituality will aid in such story editing; while trying not to get deluded and living in the present, experiencing self will probably hinder that story editing mechanism. And the former will be associated with an integrated and harmonious persona/ personality/self; while the latter with a discordant/ obsessive one.

I know the extension of dualistic model of passion to perseverance, purpose and persona is all a conjecture as of now; but that is how science progresses. There are many a good testable hypothesis there. Hope someone actually goes ahead and tests these.