The “forbidden fruit” is used today to refer to the guilty pleasure, the immoral indulgence, but also to the disobedience of the rules despite their serious consequences. According to the biblical story, the forbidden fruit was the name given to the fruit growing in the Garden of Eden which God commanded mankind not to eat. From all the fruits in the garden, God prohibited Adam and Eve from eating only that fruit because he knew it would destroy their innocence and purity, introduce shame and guilt, and bring “death” into their lives (Gibson, 2007). However, despite his command, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and therefore were exiled from Eden.
So, Why Do We Want To Have What We Can’t Have?
As Mark Twain said, “There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable”. Indeed, although you might have more than what other people would crave, still, you want this extra thing, that one you cannot have or you are not allowed to have and that is what makes it perhaps even more attractive to you. There is a mysterious seduction in achieving the unachievable, in breaking the rules and unsettling the bonds of our fairly regulated, somewhat ordinary lives.
The Taste of Freedom and Self-Control
The moment we start with our lives we learn what is “right” and “wrong”, what we “should” and we “should not” do. Thus, when most of our life is filled with all the strict rules that we have to follow to be good, accepted or desirable, breaking these rules might be the way for us to feel that we are in charge of ourselves, that we have self-control and we are free to choose what we really want (Nangia, 2020). Freedom has always been an essential driving force in human (and not only) history and this explains well why breaking the rules and achieving what society, family, friends or school might have told you that you should NOT, is what makes you feel free and in control of yourself and needs.
The Validation of our Ego
Besides achieving a sense of freedom and power, chasing the “forbidden fruit” has also another purpose; validating the sense of our self, our Ego (Trinh, 2017). According to the Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the Ego represents our true identity, while it works as a mediator between our intrinsic motives and desires in one hand and what society actually expects us to do on the other. Through the Ego, the person attempts to create a somewhat stable image of who they are and what are their purposes and goals in life (Freud & Strachey, 2001). However, the Ego is also filled with insecurity and doubts and that is when the “forbidden fruit” comes into effect. By chasing the challenges and facing the uncertainty humans attempt to safeguard their intrinsic need for certainty. Eating the forbidden fruit might be the way for the person to explore their limits and see what they are capable to do and finally face their dread for the unknown by getting to know it.
However, while we strive to achieve the unattainable, we fail to enjoy what is in our grasp, and our thirst to understand to the unknowable might leave no space to understand the knowable. Although the “forbidden” might give us a deeper understanding of ourselves and what we want or are able to do, at the same time, the forbidden can become a crushing disappointment and everlasting confusion or regret. There is always a choice. What do you choose?
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Kleopatra Chousou is working as an intern psychologist at the Willingness. She obtained her BSc in Psychology in Greece and completed her Master’s in Clinical Psychology at the University of Leiden. Kleopatra’s main research interests focus on the field of psychopathology and psychoanalytic theory and therapy.
Freud, S., & Strachey, J. (2001). The complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud Vol. 1: Pre- psycho-Analytic publications and unpublished drafts. Random House.
Gibson, J. (2007). The book of Genesis. Thomas Nelson.
Nangia, V. D. (2020, September 27). Why are we fascinated by the forbidden? Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/O-zone/why-are-we-fascinated-by-the-forbidden/
Trinh, S. B. (2017, October 20). The lure of forbidden fruit: 3 ways to overcome wanting what you can’t have. Medium. https://storiesbytrinh.medium.com/the-lure-of-forbidden-fruit-3-ways-to-overcome- wanting-what-you-cant-have-d10603157e6f