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Monday, July 6, 2009

The Perverse Moment of Your Life: Anatomy of the Imp

The visions seem to swirl up from the brain’s sewage system at the worst possible times — during a job interview, a meeting with the boss, an apprehensive first date, an important dinner party. What if I started a food fight with these hors d’oeuvres? Mocked the host’s stammer? Cut loose with a racial slur?

“That single thought is enough,” wrote Edgar Allan Poe in “The Imp of the Perverse,” an essay on unwanted impulses. “The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing.”

He added, “There is no passion in nature so demoniacally impatient, as that of him who, shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a plunge.”

Or meditates on the question: Am I sick?

In a few cases, the answer may be yes. But a vast majority of people rarely, if ever, act on such urges, and their susceptibility to rude fantasies in fact reflects the workings of a normally sensitive, social brain, argues a paper published last week in the journal Science.

link: Mind - Why the Imp in Your Brain Gets Out -


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