The definition of temptation is to induce a person to committing an act by manipulation, seduction, curiosity, strong desire, or out of the fear of loss. Something that coaxes us to engage in short-term urges of enjoyment that threatens long-term goals. We seem to decide between two things, both of which are desirable and compelling in some way, which means we have to give up one of them in order to have or create the other, and a form of internal conflict ensues as a result. We still have a strong desire for what we’re “giving up” while simultaneously knowing that if we engage in it we’ll regret it in the long run, we’ll sabotage ourselves somehow, or we’ll feel disappointed in ourselves.
The feeling of loss we experience when giving up something we find pleasurable or emotionally gratifying in some manner, or that fulfills a need of some kind, in pursuit of something we feel is even more desirable or beneficial, can set into motion a form of internal conflict and constant negotiation that produces an experience of suffering in regards to our choices. It creates a kind of catch twenty-two as a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” type scenario. This is why “will” is an inherent part of choice as the necessary means for actualizing it and bringing about the desired change by exercising our ability to consciously self-create in a deliberate and purposeful manner.
What we tend to experience is that the minute we decide to give something up that we find pleasurable and have established a habit around, we feel an immediate sense of loss, and experience an intensified and heightened desire for it. We crave it and develop a hankering for it. As we abstain from it, our desire for it seems to become even more pronounced and stronger. Not because it actually is, but because we’re going through change as a withdrawal where we’re very aware of the absence and we miss it and have a longing for it. Because we miss it we have a heightened awareness around it, and think about it in a compulsory manner.
This craving as missing what we’re giving up is the most basic form of temptation that begins a greater process. Once we make it past the initial thrust of exercising sheer willpower and we get a few days into it, we feel we have a handle on it, we become more relaxed in regards to it, and another form of temptation comes into play. This is the coercive, gently seductive part of us that starts talking to us in a way that totally makes sense and makes it okay to relapse, give up our desire to change, and go back to business as usual. This voice plays on our weakness, portraying it in a way that makes it seem like we’re not giving in, just deciding we can do it while still pursuing our other goal in spite of it. We tell ourselves we can somehow manage or control it or not let it affect us. This aspect of us is very persuasive and convinces us to go back to our old ways and forfeit the idea of changing.
This kind of abstinence brings a sense of suffering, internal conflict and emotional anguish, as well as a form of constant emotional negotiation where we begin arguing with ourselves as one aspect outright manipulating and trying to gain power over another aspect. We always have multiple aspects of ourselves that look at everything from different perspectives, with different attitudes, ideas, and motives. In purely psychological terms these are called archetypes or sub-personalities, but we can also think of them as different aspects of our own personality as being of a “multiple” nature and therefore exist in a primary state of constant inner turmoil that’s often arbitrary and capricious.
We are not singular beings with a concentrated focus, but rather composed of a dynamic multifaceted nature that often exists in a primary state of opposing itself. We also have subconscious tendencies, which are emotionally motivated and experientially driven that often directly oppose our rational and objective thinking. The subconscious mind is the part of us that’s ritualistic, habitual, and automated in nature and forms habits around emotionally gratifying activities, then defends the right to preserve those activities. Anytime the subconscious mind is in conflict with the self-conscious, thought-oriented mind of objective reasoning, it nearly always wins out because it uses emotions as the means to seduce, coax, and manipulate the rational mind. Emotions, when left unguarded and allowed to play out without containment, tend to completely run our thought and engage us in compulsive urges and pleasure driven behaviors that have no regard or concern for consequences. This is what we call the lower, animal mind that’s instinctively driven through compulsive sensuous urges and thoughtless behaviors.
When we make a decision to change somehow, our path divides as a kind of fragmentation and sets into motion the need to debate the validity of our choice based on a sense of loss. Whatever we give up, we miss, even if we realize it was bad for us. As we miss it we form an intense longing for it by only thinking about what was good about it, forgetting all the bad. A form of seductive enticement takes place within our own mind. We literally battle with ourselves, first weakening ourselves through thoughts of desire and enhanced sensory imagination that amplifies and concentrates the feelings of pleasure around the activity of it, then struggle with a form of mental anguish at being strong enough to resist it.
This whole process takes place because we haven’t learned how to operate our own mind in terms of realizing how we form an internal representation of ideas that make them either compelling or repulsive. Anytime we’re talking about the “will”, we’re referring to the imagination. It’s through the imagination that we work directly on our own subconscious mind, which doesn’t “think” in terms of verbal thoughts, but rather takes verbal thoughts and turns them into sensory realities in the imagination that invoke a strong emotional component that either make them pleasurable and compelling, or painful and repulsive. Pleasure and pain are the motivating forces of our lower nature as a form of primal drive. Subconsciously we’re always moving towards pleasure and away from pain.
To “will something” is to create the reality of it in the imagination “as if” it’s already happening, creating an experience of it that’s very desirable and has positive emotions associated with it. The language of the subconscious mind is “strong sensory experiences” that elicit an equally strong emotional response. Emotions are the language of the material plane and come as a natural response to our thoughts and experiences. We have to make whatever it is we want to create (our choice) very appealing in sensory terms, while making what we want to quit doing very disgusting and repulsive in sensory terms. Ideas as a sensory reality that mimics an actual experience invokes emotions that not only become the formative motivating factor, but also act to connect us to that same idea all around us. Emotion is the language as a frequency of the material plane and runs in currents that are being transmitted and received all the time. Whatever our emotional state, we’re engaged in the reality of that state and act as a magnet for its fulfillment by organizing and interacting with that same emotion in everyone and everything around us.
One of the primary functions of the imagination is to form “internal representations” of thought as ideas that we use in place of the actual reality of it. When we think about an activity as an experience, we make it either compelling or repulsive based on “how we think about it” it terms of what we associate with it and use to give it meaning. When we associate positive ideas and feeling with it, we create a very pleasurable, joyful, and fulfilling experience of it. Likewise, when we associate negative ideas with it, we make it painful, ugly, and disgusting somehow. This internal representation as an imagined experience of it provides us with a preview that either makes it tempting and hard to resist, or uninteresting and easy to forget. In order to make an idea compelling we have to infuse it with very pleasurable and desirable associations, while making the idea we’re moving away from seem disgusting, repulsive or awful somehow.
If we pay close attention, we’ll further realize that the internal images or scenarios we form in our imagination of the idea has certain sensory attributes and qualities that work at the purely subconscious level to make it seem either distant and dissociated or up-close and intensely real. These sensory features are called sub-modalities and are the method we use to further develop how we represent an idea to ourselves. Anything that we watch and run through our mind’s eye that seems small, off in the distance, and either black and white or monotone in color, lacks intensity and isn’t provocative. It seems far off and unattainable, more like a distant memory that produces very little emotional impact. However when we form images and imagined scenario’s that seem up-close, in vivid color, and intense where we see, hear, feel, smell, touch, and are talking to ourselves about the experience we’re having in very positive terms, they become immediate and act to produce very compelling emotions.
Likewise, whatever we associate an idea with not only shapes the meaning it has but how we “feel about it” when thinking of it. As a general rule the mind is always in the process of forming a chain-of-association that links ideas together as a way of making them mean something and classifying them accordingly. Whatever ideas we associate with an idea shapes that idea in terms of what it means, and them meaning it has shapes how we experience it and what it means about us in relationship with it. We develop ideas to give them meaning by how they exist in relationship with other ideas of a similar nature. When we make positive associations it intensifies the love and desire for the idea, whereas when we associate very negative and disgusting ideas with it, it makes it very repulsive and we form a kind of disdain for it. In whatever way we shape the idea in our mind as an experience that’s associated to other ideas of the same nature, that makes them either desirable or repulsive, shapes our tendency towards or away from them simultaneously.
By learning how to work with our own imagination to form an internal representation of an idea that we use to let go of ideas or break habitual tendencies, or move towards more beneficial ideas with a sense of eagerness and enthusiasm is the secret to using your will to transform habits and behaviors that we’ve outgrown or realize are not in the best interest of our growth and development. When we make a decision to quit one thing and begin doing something new, and we use our “will” to actualize the reality of our choice, doesn’t mean to suffer and struggle through the agony of constant temptation to eventually tire, relapse and give up, but comes rather as our ability to change how we’ve polarized an idea to move it from a desirable to an undesirable state, while transferring the feeling of desire from the old idea onto the new idea. By taking what we once deemed pleasurable and rendering it painful by how we re-present the idea to ourselves internally by “remaking the experience”, makes it easy to resist. As we form our new idea with intense sensory details, positive and compelling emotions, and associate it with ideas whose meaning makes us feel the way we want to feel, we naturally move towards them with a sense of love, devotion, and excitement. It’s all about how an experience makes us feel and what it means about us as we engage in it.
All ideas as realities or potential for creating realities through choice and will, exist in a polarized state as complementary opposites that are extremes of the same idea and form a range or scale between them as degrees of the same thing. All change in the ultimate sense comes as a change in degrees of the same thing, rather than a change in kind. Whenever we “quit” one thing in favor of another, it usually comes as moving from the negative aspect of the idea to what we could think of as the positive aspect. We don’t ever really quit habits, but rather transform them into new habits that are more desirable in terms of their benefits. Whenever we decide to change a behavior, we have to decide what behavior we’re going to replace it with or what we’re going to do instead. If we leave an empty void by deciding to quit something without replacing it, we’ll tend to draw something else in unconsciously and simply begin doing something else that’s not thought out and deliberate. So the minute we decide what we’re no longer going to be, we have to immediately decide what we’re going to be instead, and make a transition from one mindset to another.
Association also has another component in behavioral changes and that comes through the process of “anchoring” an idea as a means of designing a natural “trigger” for it as an activating mechanism. We form a series of associations to an idea that act as the means of activating a whole behavioral pattern as a kind of memory. Throughout our daily life, as we go about our normal activities, we are constantly forming an association in the present with memories of the past as a way of being able to assign “instant meaning” to things as our natural perception of them. Certain behaviors, characteristics, words, tone of voice, touching us somewhere on our body, smells, and so on, act as triggering mechanisms that cause us to reference old memories and bring them forward into the present, associating the present with the past as a form of “this means the same thing as that”, and we subconsciously play out the same pattern as a set of automated behaviors. By realizing this, we can either associate the new behavior to the same thing that served as a trigger for the old behavior, or we can create a new one that we use intentionally to instantly change our state and “activate the pattern” we’re replacing it with. In this way, the old behaviors are no longer capable of being activated in us unconsciously by the same triggers.
Once we realize how to use our imagination to transform old ideas and form new enticing and compelling ones, we realize that we’re no longer “tempted” by the old, and have no trouble whatsoever refraining from it. Just the fact that we’re still tempted by an idea shows us that we either haven’t really made a true decision against it and for something else, and we’re still therefore debating it, or we haven’t used our mind in the appropriate way to change how we perceive, present, and relate to the idea. The decision to quit one thing in favor of another comes through realizations that we form around what we’re doing and the results it produces as natural consequences to our actions. Once we make a decision towards something new that facilitates our growth in a positive manner, and we “willfully bring that choice into fruition”, means to use the natural power of our imagination to re-orientate ourselves in relation to both, what we’re letting pass away, and what we’re creating in its place. Anytime we use our will as our imagination in this manner, change becomes easy and natural and undertaken with a sense of enthusiasm and anticipation, and temptation of the old doesn’t even exist as a part of our experience. We simply forget about the old and move fully into the new filled with a sense of anticipation and awe at our own ability to create our reality and become self-determined as a result.
Integrative Mind-Body Health Consultant and Spiritual Mentor