Why Forbidden Things Are Attractive
Since as long ago as the story of Adam and Eve in paradise, throughout human evolution, what is forbidden has always been attractive. Contrary to the goal of their prohibition, they always end up being attractive.
“He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.”
To understand the psychology of attraction to the forbidden, one must understand the psychology of development from childhood, and from there, learn more effective strategies to avoid the temptation of what’s prohibited.
The curiosity instinct in children
Since we were children, our curiosity has led us to discover the world, to be interested by our surroundings, and to experiment with new things. This forms a part of how we learn, right from early childhood.
It’s a basic instinct to learn, grow, mature, and overall, to survive. Nothing and no one can take that away from childhood; we like to explore, experience things firsthand, and discover new things.
In this stage, prohibition results in very strong curiosity, a desire to know more about what’s forbidden, and so it becomes more attractive and irresistible.
To children, what is not talked about does not exist, or at least is not interesting. If you want a child to stay away from somewhere specific, don’t insist that they don’t go there. Instead, show them alternative places they can go, which will generate curiosity and attraction towards something that is not problematic.
Adolescence: a time of self-affirmation
Teenagers need to affirm who they are, but they’re still getting to know and discovering themselves. A necessity for them during this stage is to distance themselves from their parents’ behavior, distinguish their own ideas, and define their own path.
During this process, their budding characters and personalities mature, and so they need their own space to make decisions so they can feel like there’s a clear difference between them and their parents.
In this stage, prohibition is just another reason to differentiate themselves from the doctrines that were ingrained in them since they were little. So what’s forbidden becomes more attractive, as it differentiates them and reaffirms them as a distinct and unique person.
When we tell an adolescent they can’t do something, it’s better to explain and clearly define the reasons why this is the wrong choice. Always show respect for their individuality, their opinions, and their decision. Since in most cases, they’ll inevitably learn from their own mistakes.
If that’s the case, you can try to reach an agreement, negotiating both positions to find something that benefits both the adult and the teenager.
And in any case, it’s important to keep in mind that as much as you forbid an adolescent to do something, if they want to do it, they’ll find a way. So an agreement is always better than a fight that will result in them distancing themselves physically and emotionally.
The freedom of being an adult
Adulthood is the age of freedom, maturity, responsibility, and commitment. It’s when you can freely choose where you want your life to go, be independent from your parents, and make your own decisions that will leave marks on your life.
From this point forward, no one else has the right to decide the trajectory of your life; that’s only for you to do. And you’ll also respect the right of people around you to make their own decisions.
In this stage, prohibition causes us to reject the person who tried to impose it on us, which makes the forbidden thing attractive. We want to show the world that we are the masters of our own lives, and that nothing and no one can decide for us.
Every adult has the right to make their own decisions, even if they choose the wrong one. So you just have to respect other people’s decisions. You can express your opinion about it, as long as you don’t prohibit, judge, threaten, or reproach them.
Prohibition, an attractive option
Since prohibition generates all different types of feelings, attitudes, and reactions contrary to what it tries to do, it’s obvious that we have to learn how to express ourselves in a different way, respecting the developmental process in which the other person finds themselves.