Almost everyone feels alarmed by certain “forbidden” thoughts that come to their mind, unbidden. If a person dreams they killed their own mother or sibling, they might wake up in such agony and disbelief, feeling so guilty and ashamed, they won’t even be able to gather the courage to tell anyone about the dream, not even those closest to them. It gets even worse when it comes to wild sexual fantasies; people can feel hugely embarrassed by their interests in BDSM or promiscuous sex.
The truth is that not many people can deal with the emotions that wander through their mind uninvited; they’d like to be in control of their thoughts. However, they will still have desires that are not in accordance to the moral order, so they feel compelled to fight these impulses, try to adjust and repress these thoughts. By following this path, the unconscious mind becomes a basement packed with all the feelings they’re trying to hide.
People like to believe they are good, for instance, yet they are still flawed. They’ll bottle up aggressive tendencies and envious feelings, which will then only show up in an indirect way, to outmaneuver their mind’s vigilance. Those rejected feelings are still inside; when they are not accepted, they get out of control, and people fall prey to their most primitive impulses.
There’s no way a person’s thoughts and desires can maintain their ethical standards. People are, at once, rational beings, capable of subtle and complex thought, and animals (still somewhat undomesticated.) The mammal that lives in human beings reacts viciously to aggression, even when they otherwise believe in kindness and forgiveness.
People have sexual desires that go past the limits set by love and the rules established by society. It’s impossible, as we all know, to create a stable social life without rules for sexuality. These rules separate acceptable partners from those who must be avoided or who are forbidden. However, desire does not disappear just because there is an external barrier; it might even grow. And what happens then? People lose their peace of mind and start to live in permanent conflict between their desire and the impossibility of doing anything about it.
If someone wants something that does not belong to them, they’ll quash the natural impulse to take it, out of respect for the moral code created by reason. According to the code, it would be stealing, a punishable transgression; it doesn’t stop anyone from wanting to have what doesn’t belong to them, though.
It’s not permissible to take home the sports car parked across the street. But it would be cool to have one! For just a second, one might be tempted to just take it. Is it a crime to even contemplate stealing the car? I don’t think so. There are no “thought crimes,” and even if there were, it would be useless to try to prevent them, as many come up unbidden and it’s impossible to undo what has already happened.
It’s not helpful to believe that only we, terrible people we think we are, have unacceptable thoughts. If these thoughts invaded our mind, it’s because they’re typically human. When it comes to fantasies and desires, everyone is the same, moral or immoral. It’s a pity people can’t be more honest and admit that even the most charitable men and women might have homicidal impulses, thirst for revenge and have erotic fantasies of all kinds.
When these unbidden desires appear, they should be used as a tool for self-knowledge. Envy, for instance, can teach a person what they want to have; then, they have a choice: harm whoever caused the negative feeling, or work hard and get what they want. Envy can, thus, help a person find their aspirations.
That does not mean, however, that everything is allowed. When moving from thought to action, the conscience must intervene; these are completely discrete issues. One can dream about killing a sibling but, obviously, can’t do it in real life. A person is entitled to have sexual fantasies, but when it comes to acting them out, they must consult their own conscience and their partner.
Freedom of the mind is one of our greatest psychological acquisitions. People can and should know everything that goes on inside of them. Actions, however, must always be limited by moral values, and take in account other people’s rights.
Tradução: Amanda Morris