Sunday, May 4, 2008

In The Name Of Love: Enslaved by the possible—"Ready for the times to get better" | Psychology Today Blogs

By Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D. in In the Name of Love:

"Pretty women ought to be left to men without imagination". (Marcel Proust)

"Take my hand, I'm a stranger in paradise, all lost in a wonderland". (Tony Bennett)

Imagination may be broadly characterized as a capacity to consider possibilities that are not actually present to the senses. The imaginative capacity forces us to be concerned not only with the present circumstances, but also with past and future circumstances. Indeed, people think about the future more than about the past or the present, and many potential events are more pleasurable to imagine than to experience.

One of our greatest advantages over animals is our capacity to imagine complex circumstances that significantly differ from our present ones. However, the capacity to imagine, which unchains us from the present, chains us to the prospect of the possible.

The great human blessing—that is, our capacity to be aware of possible scenarios—is also our fundamental curse, as it affords us realization of our profound limitations as well as our imminent death. When Engelbert Humperdinck asks, "Please release me and let me go, for I don't love you anymore," he refers to the chains of the present. Granting his request is easy these days, as there are fewer formal, social, and practical bonds to impede desertion.

A more profound difficulty lies in the chains of the possible: We have become slaves to many tempting romantic options available in modern life—the Internet, business trips, and cell phones all facilitate various romantic and sexual possibilities. The chains of potential possibilities prevent us from enjoying or even being comfortable with our present lot and are often harder to escape from the chains of the present.

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