Passion vs. Addiction

How do you know you are pursuing a healthy passion or following an addictive drive?

In his book, The Realm of the Hungry Ghost, Gabor Maté looks at the elements of passion and addiction:

“Any passion can become an addiction.   How to distinguish between the two?
Fire_Seamless_tile_by_suicidecrew done(ask) Who’s in charge – The individual or the behavior?
Addiction is a repeated behavior even though it is harmful – How it looks externally is irrelevant.”  
Here Maté is pointing out that addiction can include overwork, success, power, religion, relationships, exercise, and other “socially acceptable” behavior.
He goes on to say….
“The key issue is the person’s internal relationship with the passion and their related behaviors.
If in doubt – ask yourself Given the harm,  am I willing to stop?  If not, you’re addicted”
Some people are in a denial or a precontemplative state and are resistant to asking the above question.
Maté makes the following suggestions to help determine whether you are acting from passion or addiction:
“Look around you.  Are you closer to the people you love after your passion is fulfilled, or more isolated?
Have you come closer to who you really are, or are you left feeling hollow?  The difference between a passion and addiction is that between a divine spark, and a flame that incinerates.  Passion is divine fire – it enlivens and makes holy (whole), it gives light and yields inspiration.
Passion is generous because it’s not ego-driven.  Addiction is self-centered.  Passion gives and enriches, addiction is a thief.  Passion is a source of truth and enlightenment, addictive behaviors lead you into darkness.  Your are more alive when your are passionate, and you triumph whether or not you obtain your goal.  Addiction requires a specific outcome that feeds the ego.  Without that outcome, the ego feels empty and deprived.  A consuming passion that you are helpless to resist, no matter what the consequences, is an addiction.  You may even devote your entire life to a passion, but if it’s truly a passion and not an addiction  you will do so with freedom, joy, and a full assertion of your truest self and values.


In addiction there is no joy, freedom, or assertion, the addict lurks shame-faced in the shadowy corners of her own existence  Addiction is passions dark simulacrum (imitation), and to the naive observer, its perfect mimic.  It resembles passion in it’s urgency and its promise of fulfillment but it’s gifts are illusory, It’s a black hole – the more you offer it the more it demands.  Unlike passion its alchemy does not create new elements from old, it only degrades what it touches and turns it into something less…..Passion creates, addiction consumes, first the self, and then the others within it’s orbit.”

Trying to find your right passion?  Listen in to The Foundations of Well-Being course this month as Rick Hansen helps us find right motivation.  Click on the banner below for more information.

We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!

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