The Difference Between Passion and Addiction

Believe it or not, addiction is often mistaken for passion. This is because both can make a person feel energized, excited, and powerful, but it's important to decipher between the two so you can make sure that you're pursuing a passion, not an addiction.

Kenny Weiss
Kenny Weiss

Believe it or not, addiction is often mistaken for passion. This is because both can make a person feel energized, excited, and powerful, but it's important to decipher between the two so you can make sure that you're pursuing a passion, not an addiction.

What's the difference?

One of the most fantastic explanations for the difference between passion and addiction comes from Dr. Gabor Maté's In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction in which he writes:

"The difference between passion and addiction is that between a divine spark and a flame that incinerates. Passion is divine fire: it enlivens and makes holy; 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. You're more alive when you are passionate, and you triumph whether or not you attain your goal. But an 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'll do so with freedom, joy, and a full assertion of your truest self and values. In addiction, there's no joy, freedom, or assertion. The addict lurks shamefaced in the shadowy corners of her own existence. Addiction is passion's darksome outcome and, to the naïve observer, its perfect mimic. It resembles passion in its urgency and in the promise of fulfillment, but its gifts are illusory; it's a black hole. The more you offer it, the more it demands. Unlike passion, its outcome does not create new elements from old. It only degrades what it touches and turns it into something less, something cheaper. The question to ask yourself is, 'am I happier after pursuing my addiction?' Addiction is centrifugal. It sucks energy from you, creating a vacuum of inertia. A passion energizes you and enriches your relationships. It empowers you and gives strength to others. Passion creates, addiction consumes, first the self and then the others within its orbit."

In essence:

  • Passion needs truth; addiction needs deception
  • Passion pursues the process; addiction pursues the outcome
  • Passion illuminates the spirit; addiction kills the spirit
  • Passion can be stopped; addiction must be maintained
  • Passion has balance; addiction is all-consuming
  • Passion creates connection and community; addiction creates disconnection and isolation
  • Passionate people are enriched by others; addicted people are consumed with themselves
  • Passionate people accept responsibility and criticism; addicted people refuse responsibility and deny criticism


The process vs. the outcome

If you listen to people who have achieved a lot, you'll find them insisting that what they have achieved is based on passion. Often, it's not. The outcome, not the process, consumes them. That becomes evident because there is no balance, joy, or fulfillment outside of their pursuit.

Therefore, the process leading up to the outcome is filled with stress and anxiety, not enjoyment. And it will only be in the outcome where they'll experience a few moments of joy and delight; it's this feeling that they'll chase. It's a high and addiction because they're putting themselves through turmoil to get to that point.

Finally, when successful people eventually get to their end goal, they will start to feel a sense of emptiness where that high no longer exists.

That's not to say you can't pursue your passion and be successful. You can. The difference is that sense of joy. As soon as the process becomes burdensome and creates a sense of loathing within, you are headed towards addiction. It's essential to be self-aware enough to realize where you stand. You must have balance.

Whether it's your relationship, career, or hobby, think about the differences between passion and addiction. Take honest stock of your life. Is your pursuit robbing your soul or fulfilling your soul? And most importantly, how is it affecting the people in your life? If you are abandoning your spouse or friends or children for your' passion," it most likely is an addiction hiding intolerable pain?

Enjoy The Journey🕺🏼

To learn more, watch the video here:

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