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The Ideal Way Is Sublimation Of Libido Not Repression

Yoga psychology recommends conscious suppression followed by sublimation of the sexual instinct, but never repression. Sublimation of the sexual instinct is largely a conscious and deliberate process involving ‘facing actual facts and dealing with them creatively’. Initially, this may lead to conflicts and troubles, but a sincere aspirant soon overcomes all these conflicts of the lower planes and ascends to higher planes of consciousness.

It is important to note the difference between these two processes: suppression and repression. Suppression is ‘the restraint of an idea, activity, or reaction by something more powerful’ or ‘the conscious inhibition of unacceptable memories, impulses, or desires.’ Repression, on the other hand, is a subconscious process involving ‘the action of forcing, desires and urges, especially those in conflict with the accepted standards of conduct, into the unconscious mind, often resulting in abnormal behavior’. Sublimation is a process of conscious suppression and canalization of libido and not subconscious repression. In this process the person involved knows that a particular impulse is being suppressed and why it is being suppressed. In addition, the person also exercises sublimation by directing the suppressed energy into higher channels of consciousness with a definite purpose in view.

When all the suppressed energy is sublimated, there is no energy left to draw the person down to lower levels of consciousness. Therefore, it is absolutely harmless. Sublimation can also take place spontaneously without much of suppression, even without one being conscious of it, if one’s psychic energies are fully focused on higher intellectual or spiritual ideals. Repression, on the contrary, is a harmful process. It pushes the impulses to the unconscious where they remain hidden, though the behavior of the person continues to be under their influence.

The sexual instinct is a form of energy, and energy can never be destroyed; we can only change its form. All those who have sublimated the sexual impulse ask us to direct our efforts more to the attempt at holding on to higher ideals than to the mere struggle with base instincts. When the hold of the higher ideals is stronger than the pull exerted by base instincts, the latter fall off in a natural way.

What is required for sublimating our energies into higher channels is the purification of our samskaras and the neutralization of negative samskaras. The major portion of our minds is unconscious, the storehouse of samskaras. The purification of the unconscious mind releases great energy because the unconscious mind is also the storehouse of psychic energy. The problem with every fresh spiritual aspirant is that the higher ideal is accepted only in the conscious mind while the unconscious mind continues functioning in its old way. If the unconscious mind can be purified and integrated with the conscious mind, intra-psychic conflict is reduced and brahmacharya greatly facilitated.

Great spiritual personalities have put stress on certain means for effective sublimation: earnest desire for God, japa, prayer, discernment, meditation, among others. Aids to sublimation can be physical or mental.

Source excerpts from article titled 'Brahmacharya and Its Practice' by Swami Yukteshananda published in the Prabuddha Bharata Magazine January 2010 issue.