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The Dynamics of Bad Moral Habits

By Dr. Brian Allison

  1. The awakening or bestirring of carnal desire/passion carries with it the potential seed of a bad moral habit (e.g. gluttony, masturbation, alcoholism, prostitution, drug abuse, etc.).
  2. Satisfying and feeding (i.e., conditioning) a carnal desire/passion creates a bad moral habit. Desire/passion provides the driving power behind a moral habit; personal needs (e.g. the need for security, self-worth, etc.) provide the impetus. The essence of a bad moral habit simply consists of the inner constraint, through practice or training, to satisfy a carnal desire/passion. The experience of pleasure satisfies the desire/passion. The experience of pleasure is the ‘pay off’, and thus the self-justifying motivation, of the bad moral habit.
  3. Fantasizing, imaginative, and repetitive thinking which centres on the objects, and their related aspects, of the carnal desire/passion naturally provoke, instigate, or aggravate that desire/passion.
  4. The strength of carnal desire/passion determines the strength and stubbornness of a bad moral habit. A habit, of course, may vary in intensity: a) practice; b) preoccupation; c) obsession; d) addiction. The more one engages in the habit, the more intense the desire/passion becomes. With a carnal desire/passion giving rise to a habit, the habit, in turn, fuels the desire/passion; and, the desire/passion, in turn, strengthens the habit; and the vicious cycle continues.
  5. The earlier in life that a person has formed a bad moral habit, the more difficult it is to uproot and displace it. Entrenchment and persistence are products of time and practice/conditioning.
  6. As a bad moral habit becomes more entrenched and persistent because of a more intense desire/passion driving it, a greater experience of pleasure is required in order to satisfy the desire/ passion. The carnal desire/passion, in effect, may become insatiable (now involving physiological determinants and compulsions); at which point, the indulgent’s behaviour may become uncontrollable, extreme, and destructive. With the development and growth of a bad moral habit, and thus the need for greater pleasure in order to satisfy the underlying desire/passion, the variables of pain and violence may become the objects of the carnal desire/passion, and thus necessary aspects of the pleasure experience. Pain and violence apparently intensify the character of the pleasure experience in a perverse sort of way (e.g. sexual asphyxiation). Admittedly, at a certain point, there is a fine line between pain and pleasure.
  7. The development and growth of a bad moral habit typically results in the numbing or desensitization of the (moral) conscience. Carnal desire/passion naturally dulls, and even deadens, moral sensibilities–they are psycho-spiritual antagonists; but further, in order to quiet the guilt and minimize the shame, one must self-justify or become morally hardened or insensitive. The growth of a bad moral habit typically results in callous, reckless, unscrupulous and deviant behaviour because the power of passion demands the satisfaction of pleasure at any cost. In obsessional and addictive behaviour, carnal desire/passion is, practically speaking, in the ‘driver’s seat’. Desire/passion becomes the controlling and determinative dynamic of behaviour (which often has resulted in physiological compulsions), to the exclusion of propriety and decency. Intense carnal desire/passion enervates and mitigates the strength of will power, as well as curtails and stifles the tenacity of moral conscience.

© Brian Allison, 2010