Use imagination to reinforce resolution

We sometimes resolve to not do something, yet end up doing that very thing. For example, we may resolve to avoid binging on food, entertainment or social media; yet we may succumb when tempted. 

Why do we succumb? Because we often base our resolutions on reason, which is frequently undermined by emotion and imagination. 

Having sound reasons to back our resolutions is, of course, necessary. But it isn’t usually sufficient. Why? Because when temptation attacks, it usually triggers our emotions, thereby overpowering our reasoning. The Bhagavad-gita (02.62) outlines how temptation incites our emotion through imagination — it fills us with fantasies of immense pleasure, thereby arousing desire for the tempting object and anger against anything that obstructs the enjoyment, even if the obstructing force is our own resolution. By thus using the emotions of desire and anger, temptation undermines our resolution. 

Can’t reason subdue emotion? Yes, in theory; not always, in practice. It’s a battle among unequals — like the army of one country defending against the airforce of an invading country. To improve our odds, we need to deploy emotion on our side too; then we will have our own airforce to fight against any invading airforce. 

How can we use emotion to boost our resolutions? By drawing on imagination. We can visualize vividly both the positive result of sticking to our resolutions and the negative result of giving in to temptations. And we can note those visualizations or draw a picture of them, focusing not on grammatical accuracy or artistic quality but on creating accessible aids for jogging our memory. Then those recorded descriptions or depictions can be our concrete sources for emotional firepower against temptation-triggered emotions. When our resolutions are thus both rationally and emotionally powered, they are more likely to succeed. 

One-sentence summary:

To protect resolution from temptation, reinforce it not just with sound reason but also with vivid imagination. 

Think it over:

  • How does temptation undermine our resolutions?
  • How can we use emotion to reinforce our resolutions?
  • Consider any resolution that you struggle to keep. How can you reinforce it with vivid imagination? 

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02.62: While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.

Author: Chaitanya Charan

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