views updated Jun 08 2018


Passion is the abandonment of the ego to an object (a person or abstract idea) that has taken the place of the ego ideal. The relationship is one of alienation, wherein the object of desire has become an object of need.

Although Freud made frequent references to passionindividual or collectivethroughout his work, he did not distinguish it from the state of being in love, which for him found its extreme manifestation in passion. Subsequently, other authors examined the specific characteristics of this state, which resembles addiction in some respects.

In passion the psychoanalyst encounters both philosophical and psychiatric elements. Plato, in the Phaedrus, described the phenomenon as a burning condition, where the soul separates from the body. Marsilio Ficino saw the "divine fury" as an illumination of the soul, and Giordano Bruno saw in the "heroic fury" the alienation in which self-conscious vanished. Hegel claimed that "nothing great is accomplished without passion." Similarly, Freud referred to the passionate abandonment to an abstract idea or ideal, even to research, as he found in Leonardo da Vinci (1910c)and in himself.

The states of passion studied by psychiatry resemble paranoia more than love (Clérambault). Freud distinguished three types of passion: the passion that arises from being in love, the passion that corresponds to the cathexis of a sublimated activity, and the passion that has more in common with hate than with love (erotomania).

Concerning the passion associated with being in love (1921c), it is the degree of idealization of the object and the corresponding weakening of the ego that leads to the submissiveness of the subject. Freud used a model of the hypnotic relationship to describe the crowd's subjugation to its leader: "A primal horde is the sum of individuals who have put a single object in place of their ego ideal and consequently, in their ego, have identified with one another." Freud's study of the Gradiva is situated at the border between love cathexis and passionate investment in an abstraction (1907a). The "delusion" consisted precisely in substituting the latter (the archeological revivification) for the living young girl whom the hero no longer recognizes. From the repressed memory to fantasy and delusion, there is a sense of continuity, similar to what Freud had found between love and passion.

The passionate cathexis of a sublimated activity is caused by a transposition, a redirection of drive. Leonardo, "having transposed his passion into the thirst for knowledge, now abandoned himself to the investigation with the tenacity, continuity, and penetration that are associated with passion" (1910c). The origin of the disposition to passion may relate to the intensity of the erotic relationship between mother and child ("My mother crushed my mouth with countless kisses," wrote Leonardo). In "Observations on Transference Love" (1915a [1914]), Freud associated the tumultuous passion of the patient for the analyst with resistance. Aside from the technical issue, he goes on to point out that this apparent abandonment to love is in fact a demand without any basis in reality. Those patients "would like, with their passion disconnected from any social bond, to keep the doctor at their mercy." This relation of subjugation, compared by Freud to the dangerous manipulation of explosive substances, is closer, in spite of his claims, to an erotomaniacal form of paranoia than to the state of being in love, even when intense.

Sándor Ferenczi spoke of the "language of passion" as opposed to "tenderness" (1932), emphasizing the traumatic force of the confusion of tongues between adults and the child, ranging from sexual rape to erotic punishment. He emphasized the "premature graft of the varieties of erotic love loaded with feelings of guilt onto an individual who is still immature and innocent." Years later, Daniel Lagache (1947) examined from a psychoanalytic viewpoint the clinical treatment of states of passion (jealousy, erotomania).

Piera Aulagnier (1979) developed a new approach to the concept of passion, which she defined as "a relation in which an object has become, for the I, another exclusive source of all pleasure and has been displaced in the hierarchy of needs." There are three prototypes for this: the relation of the drug addict to the drug, the relation of the gambler to the game, the relation of an other to the I, that is, "amorous passion," which is qualitatively and not quantitatively different from being in love. Characterized by an asymmetry between the two partners, where one appears as unattainable, the personal relation assumes a desire for subjugation supported by an "inductor," or passion instigator, which uses the suffering of the other to control emotions.

Literature provides invaluable support for extending the psychoanalytic study of passion. In it can be found constant elements such as the fantasy of an opaque and explosive body, the negation of the natural rhythm of time, which is always present in its instantaneity, and the infinite extension of space in the representation of a fusion that is always situated in the future. The impassioned individual struggles to counter-cathect an impossible mourning and, more profoundly, to realize an absent narcissistic unity. The vital question embodied by passion is well illustrated in crimes of passion (Mijolla-Mellor, Sophie de, 1987).

Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor

See also: Alienation; "Confusion of Tongues between Adults and the Child, the Language of Tenderness and Passion"; Delusion; "Dostoevsky and Parricide"; Erotomania; Freud, the Secret Passion; Idealization; Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego; Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood ; Love; Narcissistic elation; Negative therapeutic reaction; Tenderness.


Aulagnier, Paula. (1979). Les Destins du plaisir. Aliénation, amour, passion. Paris, Presses Universitaires de France.

Freud, Sigmund. (1907a [1906]). Delusions and dreams in Jensen's "Gradiva." SE, 9: 1-95.

. (1910c). Leonardo da Vinci and a memory of his childhood. SE, 11: 57-137.

. (1915a [1914]). Observations on transference love (further recommendations on the technique of psychoanalysis III). SE, 12: 157-171.

. (1921c). Group psychology and the analysis of the ego.SE, 18: 65-143.

Lagache, Daniel. (1981). La Jalousie amoureuse: psychologie descriptive et psychanalyse. 2d. ed. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. (Original work published 1947)

Mijolla-Mellor, Sophie de. (1987). Le phénomène passionnel. Dialogue, 96.


views updated May 17 2018

Passion (Lat., passio, ‘suffering’). The events of Jesus' last days as recounted in the gospels, culminating in his crucifixion. From at least the 4th cent. the passion was recited with musical settings in churches during Holy Week; by the Middle Ages, the chant was plainsong, with motet choruses added in the 15th cent. The St John Passion (1723) and St Matthew Passion (1729) of J. S. Bach are among the most familiar of these Passions.

Passion Sunday is the 5th Sunday in Lent, a week before Palm Sunday, but Passion Sunday is now fused with Palm Sunday.

Passion plays are enactments of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus which served, originally, important didactic purposes. The best known of these is a late example, the play at Oberammergau in Bavaria. According to tradition, the village was spared from plague in 1633, and vowed, in gratitude, to perform a passion play once every ten years. The term ‘passion play’ is also used of dramatic reenactments, by Shīʿa Muslims, of the martyrdom of al-Husain (and al-Hasan): see TAʿZIYA. For a text, see L. Pelly, The Miracle Play of Hasan and Husain (1879).


views updated May 18 2018

passion strong and barely controllable emotion; the Passion, the suffering and death of Jesus, sometimes including his agony in Gethsemane. Recorded from Middle English, the word comes via Old French from late Latin passio(n-) (chiefly a term in Christian theology), from Latin pati ‘suffer’.
Instruments of the Passion objects associated with Christ's Passion, such as the Cross, the crown of thorns, and the nails.
passion flower an evergreen climbing plant of warm regions, which bears distinctive flowers with parts that supposedly resemble Instruments of the Passion. The three stigmas are said to correspond to the nails, the five stamens to the wounds, the corona to the crown of thorns, and the ten perianth segments to the apostles. The lobed leaves and tendrils of the plant were also said to represent the hands and scourges of Jesus' torturers.
passion play a dramatic performance representing Jesus's Passion from the Last Supper to the Crucifixion.
Passion Sunday the fifth Sunday in Lent, the beginning of Passiontide; the Sunday before Palm Sunday. In the Roman Catholic Church this was suppressed as a separate observance in the Second Vatican Council's revision of the Calendar in 1969; instead, the Passion is regarded as commemorated on Palm Sunday, now properly called Passion (Palm) Sunday.
Passion Week the week between Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday; formerly also, the week immediately before Easter, Holy Week.

See also tender passion.


views updated May 14 2018

pas·sion / ˈpashən/ • n. 1. strong and barely controllable emotion: a man of impetuous passion. ∎  a state or outburst of such emotion: oratory in which he gradually works himself up into a passion. ∎  intense sexual love: their all-consuming passion for each other | she nurses a passion for Thomas. ∎  an intense desire or enthusiasm for something: the English have a passion for gardens. ∎  a thing arousing enthusiasm: modern furniture is a particular passion of Bill's.2. (the Passion) the suffering and death of Jesus: meditations on the Passion of Christ. ∎  a narrative of this from any of the Gospels. ∎  a musical setting of any of these narratives: an aria from Bach's St. Matthew Passion.DERIVATIVES: pas·sion·less adj.


views updated May 21 2018


From the Latin passio (Gr. πάθος), meaning something suffered or undergone, has a variety of significations. In its etymological sense it refers to physical suffering, particularly that associated with the martyrdom of early Christians (see passio). In a broader philosophical meaning, as opposed to action it signifies the reception of the activity of some extrinsic agent or mover, and as such is enumerated among the categories of being (see action and passion). It is used also to designate the species of quality according to which there can be alteration (see motion), and, by extension, to signify any attribute, affection, or property of a subject. In psychology, Cartesian usage identifies passions with states of the soul resulting from the action of "animal spirits"; Aristotelian and scholastic usage, on the other hand, refers to all types of emotional activity as passions (see emotion). More commonly accepted usages refer to any violent or intense emotion, particularly an ardent affection for one of the opposite sex, as passion (see love; sex). Among Christians, the word is frequently used to indicate the sufferings of Christ.

[w. a. wallace]


views updated Jun 27 2018

passion suffering of pain (earliest, of the sufferings of Jesus Christ) XII; †being acted upon; powerful affection of the mind XIV; outburst of anger; amorous feeling XVI; sexual impulse; strong predilection XVII. — (O)F. — ChrL. passiō, -ōn-, f. pass-, pp. stem of patī suffer; see -ION.
So passionate prone to anger XV; marked by strong emotion XVI. — medL. passionātus. passion-flower genus Passiflora. XVII. tr. modL. flōs passiōnis; so named from the comparison of the corona to the Crown of Thorns.


views updated May 14 2018

passion In Christian theology, the suffering of Jesus Christ from the time of his praying in the garden of Gethsemane until his death on the cross. Passion Sunday is the fifth Sunday in Lent; Palm Sunday and Easter follow.