People have various ways of dealing with emotions and thoughts that are described as sinful and risky by religion. The article “Religion, the Forbidden, and Sublimation,” discusses sublimation and the various perspectives adopted by different religions. According to the authors, sublimation refers to a process through which forbidden thoughts and emotions are directed toward the achievement of productive and creative objectives by individuals.
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The concept of sublimation has been supported by the findings of various research studies, which have also shown the existence of several variations. Catholics, Jews, and Protestants embrace different views with regard to the concept of sublimation. For instance, Protestant participants in the analyzed studies were more likely to channel forbidden thoughts and emotions into creative work when compared to Catholics and Jews.
The important aspect of sublimation was not the emotion itself but its forbidden nature. The authors conclude that the critical evaluation of religious and cultural dimensions of thought is important in the comprehension of responses to prohibited thoughts and emotions.
The problem of how to deal with unwanted thoughts and emotions has been a topic of discussion among philosophers, religious figures, and scholars. The issue is an important component of studies in modern psychology. Defense mechanisms are one of the ways that people use to cope with troubling thoughts and emotions (Cohen, Kim, and Hudson 208). These mechanisms comprise a wide range of cognitive and emotional processes. Denial, inhibition, transformation, and redirection of troubling impulses are examples of defense mechanisms. Sublimation is a defense mechanism that involves the transformation of troubling thoughts and emotions into creative and productive energy. Studies have shown that Protestants are more likely to engage in sublimation than Catholics and Jews.
Protestant teachings are conducive to sublimation for several reasons. First, protestant theology considers taboo thoughts and desires as sinful because thoughts and feelings carry great moral weight (Cohen, Kim, and Hudson 209). During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that anyone who commits murder will be subjected to judgment. He also taught that any person who is angry with another will also be judged. Secondly, people are saved as a result of their faith and not actions. This belief contradicts Judaism’s teachings, which hold that people are judged for their actions and not faith. People who think about murder are sinful according to Protestants.
However, Catholics only consider as sinful people who commit murder and not those who think about it. Third, productive work is a core component of Protestantism (Cohen, Kim, and Hudson 208). Incessant devotion to one’s work is considered the best way to avoid temptation. In that regard, doing productive work rather than going for confession is a more efficacious way of dealing with the issue of salvation. Freud and Webber had different opinions regarding sublimation. Freud believed that sexual and aggressive desires can provide energy to be used to do creative work. In contemporary society, information-processing theories and dual-process models are widely used to explain sublimation.
Recent studies have been conducted to support the argument that Protestantism is conducive to sublimation of unwanted thoughts and emotions. In two studies, Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant participants were induced to have erotic thoughts and afterwards, they were asked to outline their career goals and workplace values. In another study, participants were asked to engage in the process of creation by writing a short poem.
The results of the studies showed that Protestants in the erotic-thoughts experiments drifted towards creative careers and wrote better poems than the Catholic and Jewish participants (Cohen, Kim, and Hudson 211). The findings extended to experiments involving other emotions such as anger and aggression. The results of the studies showed that suppression and displacement are common mechanisms involved in the process of sublimation. Many participants channeled their forbidden impulses into the production of creative work.
In order to validate the findings, researchers conducted additional studies through surveys. In one study, the authors analyzed data from the Terman Life-Cycle Study of Children with High Ability in California and the general US population. The findings of the surveys showed that Protestants with anxiety associated with taboo thoughts were attracted toward creative careers (Cohen, Kim, and Hudson 213).
The findings showed that Catholics and Jews gravitated toward less-creative careers. In another study, researchers analyzed data collected from a study involving American participants of different origins and mental capabilities. Protestants who pursued creative careers had taboo desires but tried to control them using their religious beliefs. The conflict that originated from the taboo desires was the main motivating factor for sublimation. Participants who separated their desires from their beliefs were the most creative. This defense mechanism was not observed among Jews and Catholics.
In conclusion, religious and cultural dimensions can be used to determine the probability of a certain group of people practicing sublimation as a defense mechanism against forbidden thoughts and feelings. Religions differ on what they consider sinful and the moral state of mental processes such as feeling sand thoughts. They also differ in the recommendations they give their followers for responding to mental processes. Sublimation is one of the most common defense mechanism that people use to address their unwanted mental processes. The authors of the article recommend further studies in order to fully understand how religious and cultural factors influence the process of sublimation.
Cohen, Dov, Kim Emily, and Nathan Hudson. “Religion, the Forbidden, and Sublimation.” Current Directories in Psychological Science, vol. 23, no. 3, 2014, 208-214.