Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Seven Deadly Sins—but Sometimes a Little Bit is Good!

Originally posted on October 5, 2010

The seven deadly sins were enumerated by clerics in the Church in the 6th and 7th centuries. The point to be made here is to think of them and their sub-categories in the spirit of sin not as something to be punished, but rather as a recognition of that which is off the mark, harmartia, in the Greek. The problem with many of these is that they aren’t absolute. In small doses they are often life-affirming. As for gluttony, well, we need to eat. The question that was asked in previous notes is how much, and taking responsibility for determining how much.

So the point here is recognizing when, how much, in what context, and always the theme of taking responsibility. This contrasts with the illusion of “I can’t help it,” or “He made me.” The point here is that giving in to such seductions can seem plausible. This is a type of folly and one of the points to be made repeatedly.

Temptations to give in to low grades or more intense forms of “sin” can at the time often be surprisingly easily rationalized. The subconscious mind is so agile at serving the needs of the protective, childish, greedy parts of the psyche that it can do this without ever engaging that part of the mind that feels it needs to pause, make a decision, and choose. It can happen automatically.

If you know that this kind of thing does happen and is likely to happen with some frequency, you do have the chance to develop a skill in learning to watch for these currents of foolishness and interrupting them. You don’t have to think what you feel, feel what you think, believe what you think, believe what you feel, feel what you believe, and so forth: You can disconnect these sub-governing operations and look at them. Sometimes they make sense and sometimes they’re based on mistaken assumptions. Or they partake of irrational forms of logic or magical thinking.

You don’t need to undergo psychoanalysis to learn this skill. You can learn to do this as a teenager if you’re motivated. It has to do with not wanting to be pushed around by crazy or manipulative forces, not in politics, not in advertising, and—here’s the catch—not in your relationships with your own unconscious desires to stay immature. That’s as much of a scam artist as the manipulators in the “outside” world.

It’s not an easy set of skills to learn, but once you get the knack, it’s no more difficult—to begin with—than, say, learning to swim. Thereafter, like many skills, they can be developed and refined almost indefinitely.

More about these skills to follow.

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