View Full Version : forbidden thinking

01-27-2007, 01:13 PM
I was reading this article somewhere and I just wanted to share.

We all have dark impulses. None of us wants them. Yet attempts to suppress them can turn them into agents of harm. Be forewarned: Forces at work in our culture's value system may be making us more vulnerable to forbidden thoughts--and less able to cope with them.
Have you ever thought of cheating on your spouse? What about slapping an obnoxious colleague? Or ramming some jerk on the freeway? Have you ever had thoughts about taboo or wild sex? Or divorce? Or leaving home? What about harming someone close? Or even harming yourself? Then there are the tamer varieties: Do you not fantasize about food, for example, when you are on a diet? Who has not gloated over someone else's misfortune or coveted a neighbor's house, car, or flashy lifestyle when we want to picture ourselves as perfectly content?
Few of us would dispute the notion that humans spend a great deal of time thinking thoughts we'd rather not have.
Most of us will never act out our forbidden impulses. Yet just the fact that we can think such thoughts may be so disturbing that we make Herculean efforts to repress them, to keep them secret. "I couldn't even tell my husband," recalls Beth, a gentle West Coast mother of three, after experiencing vivid thoughts about hurting her own children. "I spent a lot of time asking myself, 'What does this mean? Am I sick?'"
For as long as humankind has celebrated the creative powers of the mind, we've been forced to confront the darker side of the imagination: thoughts so mortifying, so frightening, so contrary to social custom and our own principles that we recoil in disgust or fear. In 1852, nearly three decades before the rounding of modern psychology, author Herman Melville offered one of the more poignant observations on the life of the mind. "One trembles to think," he wrote, "of that mysterious thing in the soul, which...in spite of the individual's own innocent self, will still dream horrid dreams, and mutter unmentionable thoughts."
In times past, we blamed these dark impulses on the Devil, or on our own weak moral character. We regarded thoughts as but a step away from deeds, and admonished ourselves--or were admonished by others--to squelch the inappropriate notions at every turn. (No coincidence, surely, that five of the seven deadly sins--anger, avarice, envy, greed, and lust--refer specifically to states of mind.)
Even today, after more than a century of scientific exploration of the mind, Melville's "unmentionable thoughts" still raise vexing questions. What causes them? Do they reflect the "real" us? Should they be read as warning signs? Are some thoughts truly off-limits? If so, when does a thought cross the line, and how should it be dealt with?
We know the dangers of denial, and we understand the importance of accepting even the less-than-perfect parts of ourselves. Yet in a culture obsessed with, and increasingly defined by, stories of psychological dysfunction, and in a century punctuated with premeditated atrocity, some of what our own brains conjure up still has the power to terrify us. "For a lot of people, it's like discovering they have an animal inside them," says University of Washington sociologist Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., who studies sexuality and sexual fantasies. "Oftentimes the feeling is 'My God! Am I one of those weirdos you read about in the paper?'"
Debated for centuries as a moral or philosophical question, the dilemma of forbidden thoughts has since become a compelling psychological subject, and research is yielding some intriguing, if not altogether reassuring, data. Forbidden thoughts--thoughts we feel we shouldn't have because they violate unwritten, yet ingrained, cultural codes--are universal, although the specific content varies across cultures, populations, and historical periods. Unwanted sexual fantasies, for example, typically involve behaviors our culture tells us are inappropriate, such as adultery, homosexuality, incest, and rape. Forbidden thoughts we might have about other people often involve stereotypes, which society frowns upon. Forbidden thoughts have an intuitive quality to them: It's the things we're not supposed to think about that often seem most alluring.
They're clearly linked to our decision-making mechanisms, our ability to distinguish "right" from "wrong," and our capacity to avoid dangerous, unfavorable outcomes.

Now after reading this what are you thinking that you know you are not supposed to do? share