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What are the psychoanalytic approaches to the subject of passion? What are the three states of passion described by Clerembault and Freud's three types of passion, and to what extent is the psychoanalytic approach to this topic true?

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When the ego is abandoned to either a person, an object, or even an abstract idea, this is deemed “passion.” The object of desire becomes a need, and the person’s relationship to it one of alienation.

In his work, Sigmund Freud makes many references to the passion, both in regard to an individual an as a collective whole. Freud makes no distinction between passion and being love. For Freud, love’s most extreme manifestation was to be found in the passionate state. Following Freud, many other psychologists and other brain scientists have studied and written about passion; many of these authors make a connection between the state of passion and the problem of addiction.

There are both philosophical and psychiatric elements in passion, according to psychoanalysts. This idea of duality can be traced back to Plato, who, in the Phaedrus, describes the state of passion as being akin to burning the soul from the body, separating the two. Masilio Ficino, a prominent philosopher during the Italian Renaissance, called passion the “divine fury.” Giordano Bruno, a sixteenth century Italian philosopher, also describes passion as a “fury” (a “heroic fury.” Bruno postulated that during passion, the alienation of being self-conscious vanishes. German philosopher of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Georg Wilheim Friendrich Hegel, asserted that “nothing great is accomplished without passion.”

Freud makes a distinction between three different types of passion: 1) passion that results from being in love 2) Passion that corresponds to the cathexis (“cathexis” is the amount of effort put into thinking about or otherwise dealing with, a person, object or idea) and 3) Passion known as “erotomania,” that is, passion that more closely resembles hate than love.

The first type of passion, that which comes from falling and/or being in love, weakens the ego and makes a person generally more submissive to the other person, object, or idea. One of Freud’s compelling examples concerns the power a leader may have over a crowd. The crowd subjects itself, collectively and individually, to the will of that leader. Freud writes, “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."

It is argued by cathexis is caused by a redirection of passion. For example, Leonardo Da Vinci, "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.” In his work of 1914, Freud observed that patients transfer their passion to their analyst, a love, he argues, that has “no basis in reality.” In “Observations on Transference Love,” Freud observes that these patients "would like, with their passion disconnected from any social bond, to keep the doctor at their mercy."

In the1930s, Sándor Ferenczi differentiated the “language of passion” from the “language of tenderness.” He focused on confusion between communication between children and adults, and also the language used in cases of violent sexual acts, from rape to erotic punishment. In the 1940s, Daniel Lagache began treating patients for states of dangerous passion, including jealousy and erotomania.

In the late 1970s, Piera Aulagnier came up with a new approach to studying passion. She defined passion 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." She finds there are three prototypes: 1) drug addict to drug 2) gambler to game and 3) “amorous passion,” which is not very different from being in love. In this type of passion, the object (person) of desire seems unattainable, and the “passion instigator” appears to use the “suffering of the other to control emotions.”

Source: International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, ©2005 Gale Cengage

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