Harness Your Passion Power!

In a previous post, we talked about what our passions are and the purpose they serve us, that they are truly powerful (for good or evil). Our passions are gifts from God and He intended them to be subject to reason, but because of sin and its effects, we must cooperate with God’s grace to discipline them and harness our passion power.

Harness Your Power! 

“A person who governs their passions is master of the world. We must either command them or be enslaved by them.” - Saint Dominic

“A person who governs their passions is master of the world. We must either command them or be enslaved by them.” - Saint Dominic

All our passions begin with love, even hate (for example: we hate sickness only because we love health).  Our passions are informed by what we’ve taken in with our senses, including our sense of imagination, our environment, our natural temperament and biology, our upbringing and past experiences, and so on.  This is easy to see with food examples: we generally like the foods we grew up with and dislike the foods that are foreign to our palate.  But what other things trigger our emotions?  What buttons or sensitive spots do we have as a result of our temperament or past experiences that trigger anger?  Sadness? Joy?  Why?  Each of these attitudes or way of seeing and perceiving the world around us is unique to each person.

When passions break away…

We each have one or two passions that cause us particular problems and, left undisciplined, will lead us into vice. Love and desire left unchecked can lead us into bad relationships, overeating, overspending, selfishness, and so on. Sadness can leave us depressed and immobile in life. Courage can disintegrate into recklessness. Fear can freeze us from taking risks with our talents so that we bury them. Anger can lead to harsh words or even violence. So how do we harness our power without squelching it? First, pray for God’s grace and guidance. Then, remember AIR.

  1. Assess - where is the heart? When you start to feel your passions rise, or even as you go about the day, pause and ask yourself, “where is my heart?” We can’t harness our passion power until we know which passion is driving us at the moment.

  2. Investigate - why? Once you’ve identified the passion of the moment, ask, Why am I experiencing this passion? What is my perception of the good and/or evil here? What is it that I really love which is at root of this passion I am experiencing at this moment? Remember our passions arise because we first perceive something as good or evil - that perception is inside us and we are ultimately responsible for it.

  3. Respond. Only after steps 1 and 2 are we in a place to respond to the passion. If our passion is reasonable (appropriate for the time and circumstances and in the right measure), we can give thanks! If it’s not, then we need to take measures to keep them disciplined. Our responses will depend on the passion and each person, but here are three alternatives we can try.

    1. Remind ourselves of some aspect of Jesus, Mary or the saints that shows the words, actions or virtue we want to imitate and grow.

    2. Meditate on a mystery of the Rosary or a story from Scriptures that corresponds with the passion. Saint Teresa of Avila used to advise her sisters that if they were sad, particularly for selfish or worldly reasons, and couldn’t shake it, to meditate on Jesus’ agony in the garden and His sadness. The idea is that by giving your passion “new and better food”, it will lose it’s taste for any worldly food and will become more disciplined over time.

    3. Use the passions against one another. This is where the passion of anger is particularly useful, because it is often not compatible with the other passions and can easily summon courage for action. If the passion we are experiencing is leading us to the point of yielding to temptation (perhaps we desire something that would not be healthy or even sinful, or we desire to do nothing when we should do something) or the passion is keeping us from peace and joy in truly good things (for example, we are weighed down by sadness or despair), then we can rouse anger to help dispel the “unruly passion” and spur us on to take any action we may need to take.

The struggle to discipline the passions is hard work, especially at first. But with grace, time and consistent practice, they begin to pull together and in line with reason. Passion Power!