ON PASSION: and the feeling of intensity.

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on August 12, 2014

PassionMost people think that passion is something that we feel when we fall in love or lust – and while that is true, there is much more to passion. Passion runs the gamut of emotions. Passion adds intensity and a particular kind of alchemy to any feeling that we experience, highlighting its emotional reverberation in us. Passion is felt, the experience unfurls through our senses and bypasses our thinking mind. Passion can lead us to experience great pleasure and also, great pain. It can create a turbulence that augments and escalates all of our emotions, from love to hate to ecstasy to violence to desperation and despair. Indeed passionate states can threaten to overwhelm us with a feeling that enraptures us. Sometimes this is a good thing. It can lead to deep attachments and powerful relationships, as well as the creation of a novel, a painting, a sculpture, a song, a dance. Art, in all of its forms, understands passion well as it speaks the same language- emotional and based on inner experience. Yet passion can also lead us astray, into the territory of overexcitement, of excess, of feeling too much, of pain and suffering. Emotional intensity is the hallmark of passion, and its expression is known implicitly and felt corporeally. It is only after we have felt it that we can revisit it in our thoughts.

So what does it mean to be passionate? To have a passionate nature? To be passionate about things? And why only certain things?

Traditionally, psychoanalysis has viewed passion as the realm of the hysteric, that poor soul that suffered from ‘reminiscences’ which reverberated physically and could not be captured in words. Thus evolved the talking cure: helping to put words to experience that was so powerful it spoke through the body and its symptomatology. And while words do help us to understand and name our experiences and feelings, I think there are times when they cannot capture what is felt, particularly when that feeling is a passionate one.
Because passion involves an unconscious communication that transgresses spoken language and arrives at implicit experience directly, engaging relational patterns that are unthought but known through feeling.

Yes, passionate emotions can bring on emotional disequilibrium because they highlight the space between fusion and separation, and break down the boundaries between our private and our public life, between the thing and what we imagine it to be, and between the felt/experienced/lived event and the one that is narrated. Passion as an implicit, sensual and sensorial communication has to be experienced and felt, in order to be recognized, known and understood. Passion carries an early relational dialogue within it, which comes alive in the context of relationships to people and objects that evoke that early sensual echo.

How can this be?

Remember falling in love? How absolutely captivated by the other, how enraptured in sensation, imagination, possibility? When life itself seemed dull without the promise of that particular loved one? Passion.
And if that relationship broke your heart, remember the pain of that? Intense, never ending, haunting you through the day and rousing you at night? Passion.
Or perhaps you can recollect a time when you found yourself transported into another land by a novel, or enchanted by a piece of music -lost in the playing of it for hours at a time.
Or when you found yourself in the lines of a particular poem, which seemed to capture the most private parts of you, and speak only to you.

Passion has preferences and they are most personal. We do not choose our passions, they find us, often surprising us in the process.
I think this is because passion involves an ongoing relational exchange in which we feel implicitly recognized and known; in communion with an other through felt experience that is so strong that words are not enough to capture it. The passionate exchange has a logic of its own, embedded in us and unearthed by a particular object or person. So perhaps this is why passion is often defined as love or Eros – both need relationship to come about, and it turns out that passion and its evocation require a relationship as well.

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ON IMAGINATION – and the power to make things right.

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on June 9, 2014

Logic will get you from A to Z; but imagination will get you everywhere.”

― Albert Einstein

Lake and Fog


I have always been partial to fairytales and science fiction because they helped me explore lands that I could only dream of, until, as a young child, I realized that I often dreamed of them while awake, and that I had the power to make entire worlds come alive in my head. So I have always been interested in imagination and the internal realms that it helps to bridge. To imagine is to see beyond the limits of what reality imposes. It is to move outside of the container of our world and play with possibilities of what could be. But being a psychoanalyst, what is most interesting to me about imagination is that it allows us to make things right, or as Walt Disney said, imagination restores order. I believe he was talking about restoring a personal order, taking what has happened in our lives and might continue to be present in our internal world, and making sense of it anew. Imagination helps us to make things right in the same way that fairy tales help us in the processing of trauma: it gives us a vehicle within which we can visualize and think of a different ending and other possibilities, as well as rehearse and invent ourselves in different ways. Fairytales do this through their narrative and story, when someone else’s imagination captures ours. But with the use of imagination it can all happen inside our head, putting us in charge of the narrative, the characters, the action. I think Walt Disney must have known this, as he believed that storytellers reconstruct personal narratives into stories that reach all of us, and in the process change us. Yes, imagination has the power to mend, repair, soothe, hold and contain our internal experience, including changing it into something we can live with and move beyond. This is how we build our internal world(s) and rehearse what our external one might look like.

The OED defines imagination as:

1) the mental faculty or action of forming mental images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.

2) scheming or devising a plot with fanciful thoughts.

3) the creative faculty of the mind, the faculty of fanciful thought, the ability to frame new and striking concepts.

This definition explains why psychological theories of imagination have to do with cognition and perception –of images- but have little to do with the dynamic use of imagination. I will not bore you with these, and instead,  ask you to consider how we use our imagination.  Take for instance, what we do when we direct our attention inward, when we begin to imagine our thoughts and give them shapes, colors, narratives, as we begin to animate our internal life. The same can be said when we choose to meditate, or follow a relaxation exercise, we focus on internal sensations and play with imagery that makes it more dimensional to us. Or think of what happens when we read a novel and begin to know the characters and their lives: They become our friends or enemies, we feel about them and what they think and do, we become involved with them and their story, as if we could step into the book – and we do!

True, imagination can also help us to escape. We can think of this particular use of imagination as one of the many protective mechanisms of our mind, like a form of dissociation that retains the ability to create and is generative rather than disruptive. Imagination requires us to be active in the animation of our internal world, look beyond it and return to it restored. Perhaps this is what writers and artists do when they are most productive.

Our imaginative abilities have been there right form the beginning of time. In fact, it is unlikely that we would have evolved as a species if it was not for the use of our imagination and the ability to play outside the proverbial box. Imagination involves the ability to form internal images and sensations that are not perceived through our senses but nevertheless utilize them. It often involves memories, emotions, feelings, as well as our present and past experience and the ability to play. Our innate ability to imagine allows us to invent partial or complete personal realms within our minds- to be used as we wish.  As such, imagination is involved in creativity, and is a major player in the arts: literature, dance, painting, and music. The use of imagination also helps in problem solving, and in integrating experience and processing what we learn. It is a key to engaging in the world in an open manner, helping us to look beyond the immediacy of our own experience and step into the others shoes. It turns out to be crucial in the making of personal meaning,  the development of empathy and compassion and the ability to form relationships (think about the experience of falling in love and its use and reliance on imagination). Imagination is a powerful agent of change – for what we imagine can help us to shape the realities of our lives.

 “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Albert Einstein


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ON MINDFULNESS – and minding your p’s and q’s.

March 31, 2014

Mindfulness is a term that gets used a lot these days, despite the fact that it has been around for centuries. Eastern thought, primarily Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, and meditative disciplines have always had the concept of mindfulness at their core. The idea of mindfulness has entered western ideas through the world of spirituality and […]

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February 10, 2014

Recently I posted a blog on the power of laughter and humor. I was writing about the  kind that makes your belly tremble and your chest heave. The kind that moves the neurobiology of your insides and translates into mood shifts on your outside. The REAL kind. Today’s post is about its opposite, what I […]

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ON LAUGHTER : And the power of humor.

January 20, 2014

A good belly laugh can change the mood, tone and connection to an other in an instant. Teasing or joking with someone can invite them into a space to play with something in a different way. I have noticed that in my clinical practice, the ability to tease or joke with my patients about a […]

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On Beginning Anew

December 31, 2013

It is the end of another year and beyond the celebrations and hoopla of the holiday season, it is a time to take stock of our lives, and for many, a time to think of what needs changing. The New Year often brings resolutions, and those resolutions are based on a reckoning with ones desires […]

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THE COMPANY OF MEN – And why it is important.

November 11, 2013

Having written about women, and how important it is for us to have other women in our lives (http://drceccoli.com/2010/06/its-a-girl-thing/ ), it is with great pleasure that I once again step outside my world to dive into the other dark continent- the world of men, and how important men are to each other. Men need other men- […]

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ON MEN: Shaken and stirred.

October 29, 2013

Ah men. That other dark continent that somehow is supposed to be clearer, simpler, more known. To whom? I wonder. Other men? As a woman writing about men, I find myself besieged with stereotyped notions of masculinity and what it means to be a man. Culturally and societally embedded ideas within the folds of my […]

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ON MASCULINITY: And What It Means To Be A Man.

October 14, 2013

I have been keen to write about masculinity and men for some time now, and am aware that in doing so I am traversing the great divide of difference between us. As a woman, I cannot avoid these differences, nor would I want to, rather I intend to speak from a position of difference. In […]

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The Shadow of the Thing: Remembering the Unthinkable.

September 10, 2013

Today marks an anniversary which I do not like, yet feel compelled to post on, since it is the “thing” that changed everything I knew up until the day that it happened. It is the one event in my privileged lifetime that reminded me of how fragile our sense of wellbeing, how frail our very […]

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