Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Seven Deadly Sins - Lust

I have to say, this was the sin I have dreading writing about most. I don't know why, other than the fact that my family reads this blog, and also my coworkers, and it's just kind of an awkward topic in that regard. But it's also an interesting one to write about, because it's one of the few of the sins that  people don't particularly dislike feeling, the way they would, say, envy or wrath. It's possibly the only one of the seven that people don't want to actually avoid per se, even though they know it can lead to trouble.

Like most of the sins, it isn't always bad. Lust, or at least the potential for it (aka attraction) is what initially introduces a lot of people who then go on to fall in love. If we're honest about it, it's often physical attraction that initially stirs our interest in people. It's rare, though I'm sure there are exceptions, that someone thinks, "I bet that horrendously unattractive person over there is really interesting, I think I'll go introduce myself."  This doesn't make us shallow. It makes us human. We are naturally wired this way and attraction isn't a choice, it's a feeling. I would, in fact, venture to say that virtually all love once started as lust. Indeed, this might be slightly less true in the days of online dating, where you may get to know the person and form an emotional and intellectual connection before you spend time in their physical presence. But even then, I think that the attraction is more or less what eventually differentiates a romantic partner from a very good friend.

I think we all know where lust goes wrong, and therefore, I'm not going to devote a lot of time to it. Anyone that's ever been cheated on or cheated themselves understand the damage it can do, and even if you haven't been on either side of the equation, I'm sure you can imagine.

Instead, I think I'll devote some time to how lust is misunderstood as it relates to mental health. After all, that's the theme of this blog. Most traditional descriptions and portrayals of cycling disorders, such as bipolar disorder, will include signs such as promiscuity. Movies portray women dressing in less than appropriate clothing with excessive makeup during manias or hypomanias. As a result, it sounds like those of us who cycle go running around scantily clad, lusting after everyone and anyone, and just generally causing trouble. Let me say, I know a lot of people with cycling disorders, and I've never noticed a change in their clothing or makeup, other than perhaps them not wanting to get out of their pajamas when depressed. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, as I'm sure there are reasons for these "signs" to have been listed, but I can say that it doesn't seem to be the norm. If I'm wearing less clothing or more makeup, it's because it's too warm, or because I'm going out for a fancy event and I'm actually trying to look presentable. Here's the thing: depression makes us exhausted; meds make us dizzy, nauseous, and disoriented, hypomania increases energy, but after it subsides, it completely drains us. If we're lusting after anything, it's probably a good night's sleep, and we're probably wearing oversized pajama pants and diving for our pillows.

I realize this is probably the most un-exciting post you've ever read on lust. No fifty shades here. But it's important, and as my purpose on this blog is to dispel myths and eliminate stigmas, well, I think it does it's job. I'm proud of myself that I wrote this post at all, for all that it made me uncomfortable. Three sins down, four to go.


  1. I think it is important to note that Lust need not be sexual. In addition to the more common sexual connotation, lust is also described as "passionate desire" or "ardent enthusiasm." Even more interesting is that the obsolete definition, relevant since the idea of the 7 deadly sins is not a modern notion, is "pleasure or delight." This makes sense to me when I reflect upon Puritan values. People were expected to focus on work and duty rather than pleasure. This is how people survived in a subsistence environment. Our modern western society has morphed into one that values rather than discourages pleasure. I find this very interesting when considered in light of the mental health focus of this blog. Those with depression often have trouble experiencing pleasure. In fact, mental health diagnostic questionnaires always ask if you are experiencing less pleasure in things you usually enjoy. If looked at in this way, then depression may actually be a virtue. Depressed people are unable to feel lust. Unfortunately, that may be canceled out by the increased level of sloth. I guess we just can't win!

    1. Ha yes, my friend and I were recently discussing the seven deadly sins and decided that both gluttony and lust could be applied to eating nachos haha. But in seriousness, I agree. I wrote this for exactly what you said above - people with depression often have trouble experiencing pleasure, and even those who are manic or hypomanic can, because their "energy" is sometimes much more of an anxiousness than a pleasurable experience. An interesting perspective on depression being a virtue, in terms of the deadly sins. I guess technically, as a cycler, I go between increased levels lust and sloth, which could count as a win-win or a lose-lose, depending on how you look at it - either I don't have much of either for long, or I have two deadly sins for the price of one.