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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

US Sports Psyche: Passion and Addiction


  • Author Bruce Wilson
Passion and Addiction

Bruce Wilson, PhD

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”- C.G. Jung

How do passion and addiction differ? How are they similar? Could our passion escalate into an addiction? Is it possible to change an unhealthy addiction into a healthy passion?


An addiction is a chronic dysfunction of the brain system that involves reward, motivation, and memory. It's about the way your body craves a substance or behaviour. This definition demonstrates how the mind can take control of the body. Dysfunction implies that the control is really out of control. We don’t have an addiction, an addiction has us.

Our motivation and memory systems have been hijacked. We are no longer in charge. The reinforcement schedule of addictive behaviour creates its own reward scheme. We are being handed a counterfeit reward for a dysfunctional behaviour. Meanwhile, a co-dependency is being created each time we renew this reward. It is believed that the self-centred qualities of an addiction are mainly about the ego and not the task. Over time the co-dependency takes away our personal agency, our self-discipline, and our life. Disturbingly, we can become oblivious to this regression.

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“In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you.”- Andrea Dykstra


Passionate people are compelled, perhaps even called, to do something meaningful with their lives. There is a sense of achievement, pride and purpose in their pursuit of life.

Passionate people take charge. They are in control of their life and demonstrate this control through having personal agency, self-discipline, and autonomy in their life. Rewards are still important but not central to their drive and ambition. They are not ego driven. They are task driven. They are all in on accomplishing goals and creating purpose and value in their lives. Fortunately, they notice their progress.

“You don’t follow your passion. You take it with you.”- Mike Rowe

Personal Agency

Personal agency refers to “the sense that I am the one who is causing or generating an action” (Gallagher 2000, p. 15). A person with a sense of personal agency perceives himself/herself as the subject influencing his/her own actions and life circumstances (Bandura 2006; Gallagher 2000).

To develop personal agency takes time and effort. You will need to choose what you let into your mind. This would involve your physical environment as well as your social environment. This means choosing the people, experiences, and really all the stimuli that you are exposed to. You will need to learn to be very selective about who and what you let into your mind. Try to see yourself as a learner, and that includes paying attention to your self-observational skills as well.

Manage your emotions and your beliefs through introspection. Impulsive behaviour is a by-product of mismanaging your emotional being. This degree of self-discipline requires your being into reflection not reflex. Your intuition may at times need to be cross-referenced. Make an effort to be deliberate before you take any action. Realize that risk is not about being impulsive but being impulsive can be a risk.

“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.”- Malcom Forbes

When we take charge of our personal agency, we are able to dispense with our addictive behaviours in favour of our passion. Our needs are altered into our wants, which is a healthier place to be. Remember, both addiction and passion have power. However, they pull us in opposite directions. Addiction pulls us toward dysfunction and despair, while passion pulls us toward purpose and fulfillment. We have the power to decide what we want. Our personal agency, which we all have should we call upon it, will be our guide.


Dr. Bruce Wilson is a psychologist with 25 years of experience. He enjoys sharing his ramblings with friends and colleagues. He is currently in private practice at Mind Health Care in Geelong, Australia. This article is solely his work.

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