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Abstinence can have a number of meanings in psychology:
Abstinence in relation to the appetites
The term Abstinence refers to a voluntary forbearance from indulging a desire or appetite for certain bodily activities that are widely experienced as giving pleasure. Most frequently, the term refers to abstention from sexual intercourse, alcohol, or food. The practice can arise from religious prohibitions or practical considerations.
Abstinence has diverse forms. In its oldest sense it is sexual, as in the practice of continence, chastity, and celibacy. Commonly it refers to a temporary or partial abstinence from food, as in fasting. Because the regimen is intended to be a conscious act, freely chosen to enhance life, abstinence is sometimes distinguished from the psychological mechanism of repression. The latter is an unconscious state, having unhealthy consequences. Freud termed the channelling of sexual energies into other more culturally or socially acceptable activities "sublimation".
Abstinence in psychodynamic therapy
Abstinence in religion
It may arise from an ascetic element present in most religions, or from a subjective need for spiritual discipline. In its religious context, abstinence is meant to elevate the believer beyond the normal life of desire, to a chosen ideal, by following a path of renunciation.
For Jews, the principal fast day is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. For Muslims, the period of fasting lasts during the whole month of Ramadan, from dawn to dusk. Both Jews and Muslims abstain from pork in their regular diet. Among Christians, Roman Catholics have traditionally abstained from food and drink prior to taking Holy Communion. They distinguish between fasting and abstinence; the former referring to the discipline of taking one full meal a day, and the latter signifying a meatless meal on fast days, such as Fridays during Lent. Many Protestants have preferred to abstain from imbibing alcohol and the use of tobacco. Mormons and many members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church abstain from certain foods and drinks by combining spiritual discipline with health concerns.
In India, Buddhists and Jains, and a number of Hindus abstain from eating meat on the grounds both of health and of reverence for all sentient forms of life. Total abstinence from feeding on the flesh of cows is a hallmark of Hinduism.
The environmental movement does not necessarily advocate abstinence from bodily pleasures such as sex, but it does promote a lifestyle in harmony with the simplicity of nature, due to the limitations of non-renewable resources. Echoes of the temperance movement, organized by women such as Susan B. Anthony to persuade people to abstain--fully or partially--from alcoholic drink, can be seen in some organizations today.
Types of abstinence
- Further information: Fasting
Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. A fast may be total or partial concerning that from which one fasts, and may be prolonged or intermittent as to the period of fasting. Fasting practices may preclude sexual activity as well as food, in addition to refraining from eating certain types or groups of foods; for example, one might refrain from eating meat. A complete fast in its traditional definition is abstinence of all food and liquids except for water.
Vegetarianism is the practice of a diet that excludes meat (including game, marine mammals and slaughter by-products), poultry, fowl, fish, shellfish and other sea creatures. There are several variants of the diet, some of which also exclude eggs and/or some products produced from animal labour such as dairy products and honey.
- Further information: Smoking cessation
Smoking cessation is the action leading towards the discontinuation of the consumption of a smoked substance, mainly tobacco, but it may encompass cannabis and other substances as well.
- Further information: Teetotalism
Teetotalism is the practice and promotion of complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages.
Some common reasons for choosing teetotalism are religious, health, family, philosophical and/or social reasons, and, sometimes, as simply a matter of taste preference. When at drinking establishments, they either abstain from drinking or consume non-alcoholic beverages such as tea, coffee, water, juice, and soft drinks.
Contemporary and colloquial usage has somewhat expanded teetotalism to include strict abstinence from most "recreational" intoxicants (legal and illegal, see controlled substances). Most teetotaller organizations also demand from their members that they do not promote or produce alcoholic intoxicants.
- Further information: Work-life balance
A general abstinence from pleasures or leisures, either partial or full, may be motivated by ambition, career or general self-respect (excluding the point of view that even the latter examples may be regarded as sources of pleasure).
It is widely accepted that abstinence from addictive drugs gives successful outcome . However, it is not certain whether a general abstinence from pleasures of leisure yields higher productivity. Too much work generates stress and its potential adverse effects. Furthermore, the effort itself to achieve abstinence may consume willpower from its ultimate purpose. Total abstinence from pleasure or leisure is practically impossible and instead an individual work-life balance is necessary.
- Main article: Sexual abstinence
- Chastity ring
- Rhythm method
- Withdrawal symptoms
References & Bibliography
- The Vegetarian Society - Definitions Information Sheet. The Vegetarian Society. URL accessed on 2008-09-03.
- Vegetaria. Compact Oxford English Dictionary. URL accessed on 2008-06-15.
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