Emotional Debt

Vicente M. Simón

University of Valencia


I. Definition of emotional debt.

II. Human characteristics permitting the genesis of
emotional debt.

1. Real and imaginary emotional objects.
2. Real emotions referring to illusory objects.
3. The ideal self as a commitment for the future.
4. The tension existing between the ideal self and the present self.

III. Forms in which debt is originated.

1. Debt originating in the past
2. Debt directed towards the future

IV. Evolution of debt over time and its consequences.

V. How to pay the debt and avoid its renewal.



Emotional Debt

Vicente M. Simón

University of Valencia


An earlier paper (Simón, 2002) discussed the relationship between the emotions and the world of fantasy in human beings. Mention was made of the contrast between the enormous philogenetic antiquity of the emotional mechanisms, and the comparatively more recent origin of the potent imaginative function of our species, which is capable of creating virtual models of both the past and the future. The emotional mechanisms reach their efficiency limits when applied not to stimuli of present reality but to virtual worlds created by the subject’s own fantasy. The hypothesis underlying these considerations was that the emotional mechanisms function well when facing events of the present, but problems arise when they are applied to stimuli distant in time and only existing in the fantasy of the individual who has conceived them.

The basic fact stressed in the present article is that, for most of the time, human beings feel emotion and act in response to non-existent events, and that this form of behaviour is the principal cause of the suffering that afflicts us. The importance of this opinion increases if we realise that such suffering is avoidable, though its avoidance may be no simple matter.

The existence of emotions with their origin not in the tangible present but in a future imagined (or in a past recreated) by the mind, is a constant factor in human life. Indeed, most of us live more attentive to the future that to events occurring at the present moment. Even when we are not thinking specifically about any specific aspect of the future, the phantom of the future haunts us in a more or less diffuse, unconscious way. The emotional impact of such a future can adopt many forms, the most frequent manifestations being desire and fear. The desire to attain a goal or to become something that we find attractive, and alternatively, the fear of losing something that we possess or of being annihilated (the fear of death), crouch behind that phantom of the future with which normally we live.

One of the forms in which imaginary representations of the future have a direct incidence on the psychic life of the present is by originating what in this paper is called “emotional debt”. This could be defined provisionally as a commitment acquired by the individual with him- or herself on the basis of an emotion originating from an object existing only in his or her imagination.

Emotional debt is a good exponent of the peculiar relationship existing between human beings and time, in relation not to real time, which is very simple (as we live exclusively in the present), but to imagined time, with the mental representation of time that we ourselves have constructed.

The phenomenon being described, and the premises on which the following arguments are based, are of interest for many reasons:

- It is a process forming part of what at present is considered the “normal” functioning of the human mind.
- In time, emotional debt is at the root of most of the frustrations and non-physical sufferings of our species.
- There exists a real (though not easily achievable) possibility of modifying this functioning and of “paying” or liquidating this debt, or better still, of not contracting such a debt, so achieving the disappearance of most of the suffering.

In this paper these matters will be examined, covering the following

I. Definition of emotional debt.
II. Human characteristics permitting the genesis of emotional debt.
III. Forms in which debt is originated.
IV. Evolution of debt over time and its consequences.
V. How to pay the debt and avoid its renewal.


I. Emotional Debt

The notion of emotional debt, as the name itself suggests, reflects a phenomenon closely related to the passage of time. Monetary debts are contracted at a specific moment, are maintained for a certain time and finally are paid, or alternatively remain unpaid. So it is with emotional debt. We might define this as the affective state resulting in a subject on acquiring a commitment with him- or herself relating to the future after having established an emotional link with objects of his or her imagination, objects which do not exist in present reality. Emotion is produced because the subject reacts as though the object did exist, but also as though he or she, the self, also existed within those coordinates of imaginary time. Thus, a binding commitment occurs between an object (which is imagined) and a subject (the future self) which, in reality, do not exist.

For emotional debt to be generated, at least the three following circumstances must occur:

1. An image without a real object. In the mind of the subject is originated the image of an object which does not exist in the present, which he conceives as possible and situates habitually in the future or in an indeterminate temporal moment. Though the future (or at least the implicit existence of a future) is always implied, images of the past can also be at the origin of the debt. In this case, it is the wish to redeem the past that is projected towards the future. As a simple example of an image capable of originating an emotional debt, we could offer an adolescent’s fantasy of becoming a famous actor or actress.
2. An emotional link with this image. The image originating in the mind becomes an emotional object for the subject. However, we might ask how this is possible if, at that point of time, neither the imagined object nor the subject imagining it exist. Their existence involves an absolute impossibility with respect to the past, and a great uncertainty with regard to the future. Despite everything, what the subject normally does is to establish an emotional link between the image of a non-existent object and his or her future ‘self’, which is also non-existent. What is real and current is the emotional excitement taking place in the organism of the imagining subject. Therefore, the link is established between a subject and an object which are ‘imagined’, not real. Nevertheless, the place in which this fantastic encounter is set is the real, physical brain of the subject, and the time is the present. Therefore, the emotional reaction originated is real, tangible and capable of producing physiological changes, responses of behavior and cognitions appropriate to the imagined situation. In the example of the aspiring adolescent actress, the emotions unleashed would be those implying the desire to be famous and admired, and to obtain the material and psychological advantages derived from all of this. It must be stressed that, though the imagined world is fantastic, the emotions felt are not.
3. Furthermore, the subject establishes a voluntary commitment to that image charged with emotional content. The subject, so to speak, ratifies or sanctions the idea that his or her ideal future ‘self’ should appropriate the recently-created image to itself, thus assuming an obligation for the future. A commitment is made with the self that, insofar as possible, reality should approach that future scene imagined in the present. The process by which the subject incorporates the image to his or her ideal self is habitually called ‘identification’. This third link is crucial in the production of debt. Though hardly evident, it involves an intervention of the subject’s will, which decides or resolves to commit himself or herself to that imagined future. It is the moment when the subject ‘bites the hook’ and is caught, tied to the image produced by the subject’s own fantasy. The subject is dazzled or blinded, prevented from valuing correctly the extent of the commitment assumed, and it may even be the case that there is no awareness at all of entering into any commitment. In our previous example, the young persons are hooked when they accept becoming famous actors. They then see themselves at the pinnacle of fame. They identify the fantasy with their own self and undertake to pursue the dreamed goal. This step is also crucial because it is precisely here that we can ‘deactivate’ the debt, as we shall see later.

It is important to stress that if this third condition is lacking, even though the other two may exist, the emotional debt is not established. Thus, it is possible for an image to be generated and for an emotion to appear in response to the image, but if the subject does not enter into a commitment with it, incorporating it in some way into the repertory of his or her future plans, the debt will not be contracted. Desire alone is insufficient to cause the debt. It is necessary for the subject to maintain the self-commitment that this desire be fulfilled. When desire is added to the commitment, the result is attachment, a tie, a debt. This commitment is often unconscious or semi-unconscious. Or simply, the subject does not wish to recognise it. However, it is unmasked in time if the desire is not fulfilled and the subject feels frustration. There is no true frustration if, in the first place, an emotional debt has not been originated. An example that can illustrate the lack of this third condition is the manner in which most of us relate to the possibility of winning the lottery. We can imagine very well what we would do if luck were to favour us, we might desire it fervently, but scarcely anyone adopts a ‘commitment’ with themselves, to ‘oblige themselves’ to win the lottery. The reason is perfectly simple. Nobody comes to believe that they have control over the result of the draw. However, we often do think (frequently, erroneously) that we can control many other events which are equally beyond the power of our will. Thus, in the case of the adolescents of the example, it could be realistic for them to commit themselves to the plan to become actors, though the fact itself of turning it into reality escapes their possibilities of control.


II. Human characteristics which make the debt possible

Emotional debt can only be generated in beings such as humans, who have sufficient capacity of imagination to create in their fantasy the chimera of a future world of a virtual nature, and to imagine themselves interacting with that non-existent mental world. Therefore, we shall go on to examine briefly the main characteristics permitting the production of emotional debt, which I have grouped together under the following four headings:
1. Real and imaginary emotional objects.
2. Real emotions referring to illusory objects.
3. The ideal self as a commitment for the future.
4. The tension existing between the ideal self and the present self.

Before examining these four points, the following comments apply to the geometrical elements in Figure 1, which is intended to provide a symbolic representation of the different factors involved in the genesis of debt.

This figure contains two segments of a circumference facing each other, and at their closest point they are intersected by a circle. One of the curves, the right-hand one for example, represents the external world and its evolution in time, each point on the curve signifying a different instant in time. The other curve, the one on the left, represents the same evolution over time, but in this case of the subject’s self (or, in other words, of the image the subject has of himself). The central circle circumscribes the region of the present. Only what is within the circle is real, both in the external world and in the reality of the subject (which he perceives as his own present self). One could add a second smaller concentric circle (not shown in the figure given here), representing consciousness of the present, i.e. that portion of present reality which is lived consciously by the subject. Thus, the space between the two circles would belong to the real present, but would be an unconscious area.


1. Real and imaginary emotional objects

In this section we shall examine the curve on the right-hand part of the figure, i.e. the one representing the external world as this is constructed by the subject and insofar as he is the supplier of the emotional objects, whether these be real or imaginary.

As stated by Frijda (1993), “the emotions, according to an almost universal consensus, have an object”. They are ‘about’ something. Any object represented in the mind, whether real or imaginary, can be the origin of an emotion (and, insofar as it is, it is called an emotional object). Bearing this in mind, for our purposes it is useful to distinguish between real external objects (to be found in the real world of the present) and virtual objects (which only exist in the field of the imagination).

The real objects of the external world are the only ones which directly stimulate the organs of the senses, and the mental representation we construct of them at every moment is a product of direct sensorial stimulation. Their time frame is, by definition, situated in the present, and therefore, in Figure 1 they would be represented by the portion of the right-hand curve within the circle of reality. If we go forward or backwards along the curve and go beyond the limits of the circle, we abandon reality and enter the realm of virtual objects.

Virtual objects are produced exclusively by our mind, and are constructed on the basis of material stored in the memory. This material is elaborated and modified appropriately by the mental capacity we call imagination or fantasy. To advance in our examination it is interesting to ask what is the temporal situation we ascribe to our fantasies. In some cases, we do not assign them a defined temporal situation. They are there, floating in an atemporal limbo, and we do not decide to relate them to the rest of our life. As an example of these atemporal fantasies we could mention the fantastic creations of a novelist, who does not situate them in his own past or future. They are simply in the virtual space of his mind (in this case waiting to be used for a specific purpose). However, there are many other fantasies which are born situated in our lifetime and related either to our past or to our future. These are the ones of the greatest interest to us in this context. Why? The reason is that usually they do not remain there, in that indeterminate limbo, since they aspire in one way or another to become incorporated into our real life and to transform it. We might classify them as ‘pretentious’ fantasies, since as soon as they are ‘born’ they aim to become reality. And it is precisely these fantasies which originate emotional debt. The fantasy of becoming a famous actor or actress is one of these pretentious fantasies.

Apart from what has already been described, there are other aspects differentiating real from virtual emotional objects. The former are, by definition, true-to-life and certain. They are an indisputable reality. However, nobody responds for the plausibility of our plans for the future. It is perfectly possible that what was born in our imagination is totally unrealistic (betraying our ignorance) or perhaps, even if it is true-to-life, it never becomes a reality. In both cases, the result is the same. Those imaginary objects which become emotional objects will never form part of reality, and therefore the emotions arising from them will, when the moment arrives, be disappointed and our self frustrated, since though the object producing them was never a reality, the emotions were real.


2. Real emotions as opposed to illusory objects

An essential characteristic, without which the phenomenon we are calling emotional debt could never arise, is the property of our nervous system by virtue of which objects created by the imagination can act as emotional objects. Thus, a situation occurs in which the images originating the emotion are not real (do not correspond to real objects), but the emotion itself is real. In the hypothetical case of our not reacting emotionally to the products of our imagination, emotional debt could not be generated. Both the events of the past and the images inhabiting the scenery of our future would leave us cold, we would feel no remorse and we would feel ourselves free from many fears. Reality, undoubtedly, is not like that. In fact, emotional mechanisms are activated to excess by the images of the unreal world we create in our brain and, frequently, the result of this activation is a clear interference with what occurs in the real world. As obvious examples of these emotionally-originated disfunctions, we could mention posttraumatic stress disorder, in which images representing the past interfere with the behavior of the present. Equally, numerous anxiety disorders are clear exponents of the alternative alteration, in which images representing the future generate strong emotional turbulences which impede us from applying a behavior appropriate to the situation really being lived.

The problem of distinguishing adequately between these real and imaginary stimuli has, in general terms, been solved in quite a satisfactory manner by evolution. In an earlier paper (Simón, 2001) we proposed the experience of the qualia and the consciousness of one’s own mental activity as mechanisms which, in most cases, ensure that we do not confuse fantasy with reality. However, in respect of emotional reactions, normally these mechanisms do not prove sufficient, and disfunctions appear which are what occupy us here. A typical one consists of what we might call an ‘emotional over-valuation’ of the imagined reality. What has been imagined acquires too much importance over what is real, and hence behaviour is derived which might have very serious consequences, not only for the welfare of the individual involved, but also for the survival of humanity.

Nevertheless, it should be stressed that in the present state of evolution of our species, this capacity for reacting emotionally to virtual images plays a major role in the way in which most human beings organise their lives for most of the time. One might say that up to the present time, emotional debt has been involved in the attainment of most of the achievements of which the human race can feel proud. And also, it must be recognised, in a goodly part of its sufferings.

Other aspects are less evident, but they can also be considered positive. In this respect, we may recall Damasio’s hypothesis (1995) of the somatic marker. He proposed that the emotional reaction unleashed by the imaginary representations of different possible scenarios could play a very important role in decision-taking. And, specifically, this emotional reaction would be projected onto the various organs and viscera of the body, producing slight modifications in them which would ‘mark’ the scenarios emotionally, indicating which of them would be favourable and which unfavourable. In this way the task of decision-taking would be facilitated enormously (see also Simón, 1997).


3. The ideal self as a future commitment

As expressed already in an earlier publication (Simón, 2001), by self I understand the image of oneself formed by each of us, both of bodily form and of psychological and social profile.

To a great extent, the self is a product of the imagination and is, naturally, impossible to be grasped by any means that could make it directly apprehended by others. Another feature of this image is that of its continual mutability. As the quite arbitrary creation it is, we can and indeed over time we do change the image we have formed of ourselves. What remains is the conviction of the existence of a basic nucleus with which we can identify and which we believe will endure, at least, until the moment of death – this basic nucleus is what Damasio (1999) calls the ‘core self’. The image which we attribute to our self at the present could, using the terminology of Karen Horney (1950, 1991), be called the ‘present self’. It may be a more or less mistaken image, but it does reflect what we believe ourselves to be at a given moment, and it is also what we attempt to discover when we talk of knowing oneself.

Furthermore, we also have an image of how our self ‘should be’ (of what we ought to be like) in the future. Most human beings who have grown up within western culture have created the psychological need to be in a manner different from how we already are. We are obsessed by ‘becoming something’, and a considerable part of our energy is devoted to transforming these desires into reality. This imagined self portraying the characteristics we should like to possess in the future is what I call (also following Karen Horney, 1950, 1991) ‘ideal self’. The ideal self is comprised of the various possible events which the subject would like to happen and the absence of which in the future would cause a feeling of frustration or a reduction in self-esteem. For Carl Rogers also, the ideal self denoted the concept of self which an individual would like to possess (Rogers, 1959). It is within this context of tending permanently towards an ideal (whatever this may be), that the phenomenon of emotional debt has meaning, belonging as it does to our habitual form of facing up to life. Thus, it often happens that any new situation arising is interpreted by us from the perspective of the ideal self, and in this way the subject’s behavior is redirected from moment to moment in an attempt to make the ideal self a reality.

If we return to Figure 1, we can interpret the curve on the left as the representation of the self over time. The upper half of the curve, the part representing the future, is evidently the ideal self, a product of the imagination. The lower half of the curve, which represents the self in the past, is the basis of our identity and is also considerably contaminated by the ideal self, since we always contemplate the past from the vantage point of our desires. Normally, we have an opinion on how things should have happened, and the fact that in many cases this did not occur is, precisely, the origin of the emotional debt we carry forward from the past.

The present self is represented in the figure only by the small segment of the left-hand curve situated within the circle signifying the real present. What is beyond this circle does not correspond to the reality of the present, but is, by definition, a product of the imagination. The existence of a dissonance between the ideal self and the present self is what originates the tension contained in the origin of emotional debt.

On most occasions, the subject does not measure himself with reality, but with a ‘history’, a narrative which is his self interacting with reality in time (see, for example, Ramos, 2002). Hence the need to force the history, for things to happen in a certain manner, for the story to end well. This is why it is easy for drama to occur in human life, for things often turn out differently and then the collapse of the imagined self is experienced. The subject usually lives for an imaginary world the dimensions of which greatly exceed those of the real world and the real possibilities which, as the limited being he is, he has within his reach.


4. The tension between the ideal self and the present self

The existence of tension between the ideal self and the present self is the generator producing the energy which feeds emotional debt. If the subject does not feel a desire, an ambition, an aspiration that his self should possess certain characteristics in the future, then debt will not occur. It is this tension of achievement – this being here and wanting to be there, or being one thing and wanting to be another – which makes possible the appearance of debt and the subsequent consequences arising therefrom.

One of the consequences of this tension is the uncertainty as to whether the desired (or feared) effect will be produced, or not, an uncertainty which may be prolonged for considerable periods of time. In species in which the imagination plays a smaller role, the life of the emotions is necessarily short. Emotional episodes are soon resolved. But in the case of human beings it is possible for this uncertainty, this suspense as to the result of the emotional commitment, to expand over time, thus opening up the possibility of emotional stress occurring over a long period. The subject lives pending on the result of his desire, seeing whether the investment made will be successful or not. On the result of this uncertainty will depend not only the subject’s material destiny, but also the value he gives to his self-esteem.


III. The two forms of debt

Though the basis of all emotional debt is always the same – an emotional projection onto illusory objects which do not belong to the reality of the present – it is easy to distinguish between two types of debt, depending on whether the emotional link is more anchored in the past or more projected towards the future. In the first case, the debt was created at some moment of the past and has been maintained alive, continuously renewing itself, in such a way that it remains active at the present. In the second case, the future debt, the debt does not have a great deal of past (at least, apparently) and it is created in the present, on the basis of imagining future worlds which excite us and to which, subsequently, we make a commitment. We shall go on to make a brief examination of each type of debt.

1. Debt originating in the past

This class of debt is what keeps us emotionally shackled to events of the past. Its origin is usually to be found in some adverse event that triggered a disagreeable emotion, one which remains unresolved. Thus, there is a characteristic sequence of event, emotion and maintenance of the emotion. Table I enumerates some of the events, emotions and forms of maintaining these which habitually are repeated in these debts from the past (see Table I).

Events Physical aggressions: blows, beatings, tortures,
abuses, rapes…
Verbal aggressions: insults, threats
Emotional aggressions: being abandoned,
despised, “mobbing”, grievances
Emotions Guilt, shame, resentment, hatred, rancour,
bitterness, sadness …
Maintenance of the debt Self-accusation, negation, dwelling on something, feeling oneself to be a victim

Table I
Debt originating in the past

The debt is maintained over time because the subject continues to resist the past, not accepting it as it was, and desiring to change it in one way or another. On this basis of resistance, two things can happen: that images from the past related to the episode are repeated regularly, so reviving the entire emotional constellation again and again; or that the wound is maintained latent in the unconscious from whence it produces its negative effects on the real life of the subject.

In this debt originating in the past, the future also plays an important role. Thus, implicit in the condemnation of the past is the desire for a better future, though typically the attainment of this future cannot be transformed into reality, precisely because the negative consequences of the emotional debt prevent the behaviour necessary to achieve it.

2. Debt directed towards the future

In this type of debt the influence of the past, though it also exists, is less apparent. What is most noticeable is the projection towards the future. The subject plans his future as a personal elaboration attempting to express those aspects of his self which have not been manifested hitherto. The future is conceived as an overall response of this self to life. Thus, the subject creates personal aims and objectives for himself, in which he invests emotionally. However, in this anticipation of the future, apart from the desire there also arises a fear that the desires will not be attained and the goals cannot be met. Therefore, in debt directed towards the future we can observe two different aspects: the facet of desire and the facet of fear which generates anxiety, tension and worry in us.

Here also the past is present, though not in so evident a form as in the case of debt originating in the past. It is in this past in which are generated all the fantasies about the future which have made the debt possible.

In both cases, that of debt from the past and that of debt of the future, emotional debt is produced because real emotions have been produced as a result of imaginary stimuli. Let us now go on to see what happens with the debt which has been contracted.


IV. Evolution of the debt over time and its consequences

Once an emotional response has been initiated, how does it end? In other words, what is the future of emotional debt over time?

Let us first see what happens with the emotions when there is no emotional debt, i.e. when imaginary emotional objects are not involved in the process. This is the case of most emotions in the animal world. An object appears in the animal’s sensorial field, and awakens an emotion leading the creature to approach or retreat from the object. The emotion provokes the behavior, which might or might not attain its objective, completing the episode with a reward or with a frustration. The emotion is resolved positively or negatively, but it ceases to gravitate on the individual’s physiology. Everything occurs in relatively short periods of time.

As the life of living creatures (including human beings) becomes more complex, emotional objects can endure for longer over time and give rise to what Frijda (1993) calls ‘emotional episodes’, which are “sequences of affective processes corresponding to transactions between the person and the environment”. In these episodes, in which time starts to become important, emotional debts might already occur. However, it is over long periods of time that emotional debt appears in all its splendour. And this, as described above, is a typically human phenomenon.

Human beings establish emotional links with real and imaginary objects which are prolonged over many years. During this time the emotion is not resolved, but remains active, producing both behaviors (which may or may not be appropriate) and physiological changes in the organism. And these physiological changes may easily represent an overload for the adaptive mechanisms applied when facing stressful situations. McEwen (1998) has given the name ‘allostatic load’ to the wear suffered by the mechanisms of adaptation when submitted to an excess (or a defect) of chronic activity. This is precisely what happens on many occasions with emotional debt. Over a long time the organism is submitted to the physiological effects of emotions which finally exceed the limits of normal adjustments, so originating various pathologies. For example, prolonged anxiety can provoke the maintained secretion of corticoids and the hyper-activity of the adrenergic system, resulting in circumstances appropriate for the production of hypertension and/or alterations in the functioning of the immune system.

While the plans of the self relating to a specific debt are still maintained and considered a ‘demand’, the emotional debt is also maintained and with it the (more or less damaging) physiological modifications occasioned by the maintenance of the emotion.

Therefore, it is of interest to consider what possibilities we may have of terminating with this situation of debt and with its somatic repercussions. It is important to know whether it is possible to wipe the slate clean.


V. How to pay the debt and avoid its renewal

At the start of this article mention was made of the possibility of paying the debt, and of the practical importance of this eventuality. Let us recall that in point III we distinguished between debt originating in the past and debt directed towards the future. From the practical viewpoint it is appropriate to differentiate between the two situations, though in both cases payment of the debt is based on the same principle. As Marcus Aurelius (1999) observed, “… neither the past nor the future can be lost, for what we do not have, how can someone take it away?” On the true assimilation of this fact is based the cancellation of the debt.

In the case of debt originating in the past, usually on each occasion when we remember the event originating the debt (e.g. a disagreeable or frankly traumatic episode), a painful sentiment of condemnation and rejection arises within us. This first reaction is inevitable and belongs to the manner in which the recollection was stored in the memory. However, a second reaction occurs, belonging to the ambit of the present, and if this also is negative it is converted into the mental act which renews the debt. It is a reaction we could describe as intentional. In it we express an intention and, in relation to our concept of debt, it is as though we signed the contract again. And this, repeated time after time means that the debt, far from being cancelled, becomes ever more deeply rooted, even multiplying the amount.

It is precisely at this point, at which habitually we renew the debt, when the debt can be cancelled. Though the first reaction is automatic, and therefore we cannot modify it, there exists this second moment, now in the present, when it is possible to intervene. It is here that we can interpose a gesture of understanding attention and adopt a position of acceptance of reality (which means no more than corroborating the inevitable). If we are capable of introducing an attitude full of equanimous non-condemnatory attention towards our mental activity, which does not include committing ourselves to the negative reaction (which normally we are constrained to adopt), the renewal of the debt does not occur. In this case it is as though we had cancelled the contract and, therefore, found ourselves free from the whole string of obligations involved in fulfilling it. In this way we can begin to dispense with the negative emotions listed in Table I, guilt, rancour, bitterness, etc., so interrupting the self-generating negative cycle.

If we now examine the debt directed towards the future, the circumstances are very similar, except that here the influence exercised by the past is, apparently, lesser. Another difference is that the emotions linking us to the future are frequently positive (the desire to reach a goal), though fear is also one of the frequent emotions in all our negotiation with the future. In any case, the way of cancelling a debt directed towards the future is obvious: do not contract it, or in other words, reduce ambition and the thirst for achievement, and adopt an open and confident attitude towards what might occur in the future. Here I should like to recall something that I have already mentioned elsewhere. It is not a question of not making plans, or even of avoiding the emotions that the imagination of the future may provoke, but rather of renouncing the demands we tend to place on future events. Demands which lead us to condition our (supposedly future but, in fact, present) well-being on the fulfilment of certain conditions which we ourselves have self-imposed.

It is no simple matter to renounce (or not reach the point of contracting) commitments acquired with the debt, and in reality it requires a profound change in the system of mental functioning habitually employed by human beings. The basic nucleus resides in living each moment of the present with increased consciousness.

To conclude, I feel that it is necessary to stress that the transformation of the mind to which I allude is no more than one more phase, a new state in the life-long evolution of the individual, a state which it is possible to attain by using the neurological support we already possess. For this transmutation no novel biological acquisition is required, but simply a different utilisation of the present brain. Or if you wish, the recourse to unused capacities of the brain which lead us to a functional leap, to a change of level.


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