Thursday, March 19, 2009

Does Passion Make us Crazy?

In so many areas of my life, I am the steady ship. No matter how stormy the seas, I plot my course with confidence and ride through the rough waters with skill. But in the arena that mattered most to me—the theatre—I was rudderless. Was it because I loved it so much? Does passion make us crazy?

I’ve seen it in work colleagues. When “Jamie” deeply cares about a project, she lashes out. She’s often angry at her staff for their lack of effort or concern about details. She tries to hide her anger but we all perceive it. Even Jamie’s most restrained communications are often underscored by her panic and resentment.

I can relate. When producing live theatre I was often upset with others. I concluded that my intense devotion was the problem. If only I didn’t care so much, I wouldn’t become so zealous and emotional. But it was impossible to turn off my enthusiasm or the strong feelings that came with it. Did my theatre colleagues see my fervor for the art or just a tyrant? (Probably both.)

The strength of my emotions overwhelmed and continually surprised me. I was “hijacked” by them. But now I see that they weren’t the problem. I didn’t need to deny or repress them; I needed to communicate them more skillfully. If only I had admitted my fears and asked for support. A vulnerable move. But even if I didn’t get what I wanted, the act of clarifying my emotions would have stopped them from intensifying and becoming destructive. Emotional Intelligence techniques can help me in this work.

I now know that the sooner I can identify and share my feelings, the sooner I can manage and even utilize them. If I accept my fear and anger (instead of projecting them onto another person), I can transform their power. I can use this energy in my work, instead of letting unconscious emotions dismantle and destroy what I most cherish.

What are your experiences of passion and your emotions?

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