When Being “Good” Is Actually Harmful

Hello and welcome back!

In case you haven’t yet, you can read

Part One

Part Two

Today, let’s dive deeper into how our sense of identity and safety is deeply tied to our attachments to a culture that causes collective harm, and how we can start to untangle ourselves from the mess.


Remembering from last post - we’re all living a life where we want to ‘do the right thing’ and ‘be good’, and generally speaking we’ve never deeply examined WHY we want to be good/do the right thing nor have we looked at where the ideas we have about WHAT the right/good thing to do/be is what it is.

We just know that we want to be good, because there’s a sense that being good will give us good things. That we will feel how we want to feel and we will have what we want to have, so long as we ‘do/are’ ‘good enough.’

A lot of the time we’re not even seeing that our desire to do things ‘right’ comes from this deep, often subconscious attachment to approval. We’re not actively sitting there saying ‘I want to be loved by others.’ 

We’re not seeing that to US again, being loved by others has a deep subconscious connection to having pleasure and avoiding pain - because that’s how life was to us in our childhoods.

We got what we wanted and needed through those around us understanding and approving of us. We were rescued from what hurt via that love and support of caregivers. Our very first program was ‘the way to get what I want and need is to be loved and understood by those around me’ and thus, we live the rest of our lives clamoring for approval with the subconscious belief that this is the KEY to all happiness and provision.

Again have these very strong FEELINGS of fear about NOT being what we think we should be and a very strong attachment to BEING what we think we should be - but most of the time we haven’t looked into our stories about WHY at all. 

If we do start to investigate our stories, we will often find that we think we have very logical reasons for doing what we do/trying to be what we’re trying to be - for instance we may have stories that if we don’t succeed in a certain field that this will mean we will end up homeless or that we won’t be able to make the money we need. When if we were to truly look at that assumption we could logically see that there are many ways of earning a living, and to fail at one wouldn’t actually be the end of the world. So why are we so afraid? Again if we keep investigating, most of the time we will find that the REAL reason we’re doing what we’re doing is because we don’t want to be alone. We deeply feel that we HAVE to do/be what we’re doing or being, because the consequences of rebellion are worse than death - they are to be isolated. We feel we MUST succeed in THIS field because that’s what we believe will give us the MOST approval. We will often have many, many stories about how other professions would be embarrassing, we wouldn’t be good at them, are’t possible for this or that reason - and again we’re working from a whole pile of conditioning that just seems ‘obvious’. To us.

In real reality, there will be multiple people living totally different lives from the ones we’re striving to live, who are happy and getting BETTER results than we’re getting doing what we think we need to do - and that will be obfuscated in our minds.

This is because when we form belief systems, this shifts how we PERCEIVE reality.

Cognitive Bias And How It Shapes Our Perception

As we are being given these rules for how to live, our minds are going to start doing what they do best - filtering incoming information to match what we believe. Our minds are EXPERTS at inflating certain evidence to support our belief systems while negating or even outright not even taking in information that contradicts what we believe.

This means that the longer we hold a belief system, the longer our minds are going to be collecting evidence for its validity, and the longer it’s going to be refuting, dissolving, coming up with defenses against and outright ignoring anything that would point to the fact that our perception isn’t crystal clear.

Our minds do this to give us a sense of continuity. To give us a sense of capacity to live in this very complex world without having to re-examine our entire belief system with every choice we make.

So as we are handed our blueprints, we’re also shaping our minds and shaping our way of taking IN information to match those blueprints.

Our minds will then ‘fight’ to maintain our world view, they will come up with all kinds of stories and excuses for why what we believe is true, is the most true, is the most right, is the only way - despite any and all evidence that would point to there being other options.

Again, our minds are doing their best to try to keep us in line with our conditioning, so that we will be SAFE. This cognitive bias serves many purposes - but we have to become aware that we have it in order to work with it.

Questioning what we’ve been trained to believe is TRUE is really, really hard. The mind is going to fight against it at every turn - even when what we believe to be true is super painful and leads to us living lives that feel terrible.

We also have to consider that we’re also likely being TOLD over and over again that to step outside the bounds of ‘normal’ will lead to something horrible. We’re being shown by the words and behaviors of those around us that to do something different IS to get rejected/be judged and there will always be an instinct in us to ‘point out’ the suffering of others who are doing things differently as a kind of insurance policy that what WE are doing is better - even if it’s also painful.

This also means that when we start to venture OUTSIDE of our conditioning - if we were to leave that career we hate to try to pursue something else - it’s not going to feel good right away. In fact, it will often feel WORSE than the struggle of trying to make something work that was never going to work. This is because the body is perceiving that we are walking off of a plank - it believes that to stray from the approved path IS to die - and thus, we feel like something horrible is happening when we go another way, we come up with stories about what’s happening/what will happen if we continue to do something different - all of which will be horrifying most likely - and then we convince ourselves to stay on track, to do what’s familiar even when it’s painful - in an attempt to reach happiness.

We get trapped in our conditioning via our minds and bodies reinforcing that to change = death because to change would = rejection AND having to reassess our foundations of what we believe.

We will stay in our painful patterns, continuing to try to make it work, even when there are other, better options available because our minds and bodies truly believe that what we have is IT, that what we have is the ONLY way to be safe, and that to do anything else is to doom ourselves. Our minds have been working our whole lives to collect evidence for how what we believe is true and everything else is false - and thus to try to change = nervous system panic AND cognitive dissonance that most of us aren’t given tools to overcome.

From there, we have to understand that in order to stay in these painful ways of life, we’re going to develop coping mechanisms to keep ourselves going.

We Cope To Try To Fit In - Even When Those Coping Mechanisms Seem To Get Us Rejected

When what we’ve been handed as ‘the right way’ feels bad to us, we’re going to have lots of shame and guilt, AND we’re going to develop ways of numbing and stimulating ourselves in order to deal with that pain.

This can become confusing, because oftentimes our ways of coping/trying to get ourselves to do/be what we feel we must do or be, or our ways of STIFLING our true selves so that we WON’T be what we shouldn’t be, will look like behaviors that get us rejected.

We may feel shame and guilt about the tools we use to numb and stimulate ourselves. We may have shame and guilt about the way we're attempting to gather control over our lives and how we feel within the context of a culture that feels terrible.

But at the end of the day, when we dig down hard enough, we’re going to find that ALL of our ‘harmful’ ways of being, everything we think is ‘wrong’ with us, is actually either simply a part of our being that is true to us and just seems bad because it goes against conditioning, or is a tool we are using to COPE with the pain of trying to live up to culture.

Even when our behavior seems to be the thing that’s actively getting us rejected - we’re going to find that this behavior is an adaptation. We’re going to find that as we trace back the thing we’re doing to its origins, we’re going to find that it either provides us with some form of pleasure/relief from pain that we don’t have access to in any other way - that the behavior is a kind of coping mechanism for all the places in our lives we’re attempting to mold ourselves to what’s expected/trying to manage whatever trauma/pain we’ve been through) or we’re going to find that our behavior is a kind of ‘work around’ in our attempt to get our needs met in some way, while ALSO trying to fit in. We will find that our behavior DOES offer us some form of capacity to be what we’re supposed to be, while also meeting needs for us that we have no other way of meeting within the confines of our conditioning. 

There’s always a positive intention behind what we’re doing - and usually that positive intention is to augment our behavior away from what’s natural to us so that we will fit in better, or it’s a way of soothing the pain of doing what we need to do to fit in.

Again, because so much of this is subconscious - things we learned not necessarily through being TOLD ‘this is how you should be’ but through being SHOWN that certain things led to us being accepted/provided for while others led to us being rejected/abandoned - and because we have such a subconscious attachment to approval = safety - most of the time we’re not actively considering why we’re doing what we are, why we think certain things are good or bad, why we feel like we must do this or that - all we know is that we deeply FEEL like we SHOULD/HAVE TO/CAN’T. 

From here, shame and guilt are there as guard rails to keep us in alignment with culture.

Shame and guilt come in again as protective mechanisms that help us avoid doing the things that naturally feel GOOD to us but that get us rejected in culture, and that help us continue to do the things that feel bad to us, but get us approval or at least promise approval one day.

Then most importantly, we have to realize here that *most* of us have one scapegoat area of ourselves/our lives that we continually blame/return to when we’re hurting or feeling rejected - as the area we need to ‘fix’. Believing that if we were to fix this one part of ourselves or to get this one area of our life ‘on track’ that THIS would be the SOLUTION to all of our pain. 

For some of us, that’s our body. When we feel big emotions or experience rejection - we automatically go into a spiral about our health/weight - leaning into well worn stories about how our bodies are the source of our pain and how we’re going to ‘fix it’ so that the pain will go away.

For others it’s our career. No matter what’s going on with our life we will always find a way to tie it to the fact that we aren’t doing the right thing/having the right success/approved of enough - and that THIS is the reason for our pain.

For still others it will be our finances, our relationships, that coping mechanism, that seeming self sabotaging behavior - no matter what we’re experiencing we will find evidence that if we could just fix THIS ONE PART - everything would be better.

We always have a place to direct the shame and guilt we’re feeling.

We always have an outlet for the pain we don’t know how to assess or work with.

We always have something to return to that we believe will set us free, if we can just ‘get on track.’

We use this one area of our lives as a place of distraction and as a place of trying to give ourselves power where we feel otherwise powerless.

We always have a part of self to blame when we’re in pain, and we know how to convince ourselves that THIS TIME we’re going to fix it and that THIS TIME we’re going to find happiness when we do.

This is what we do instead of finding what’s actually hurting, what we actually need, and finding true solutions - because doing THOSE things is again, all about questioning conditioning and learning about ourselves in an authentic way - which is often no ‘allowed’ if we’re going to fit into culture.

We stay stuck in our loops of self rejection, of trying to live up to expectation, of suffering, of seeing no other way, of feeling like if we did do something different it would be WORSE for us and ultimately for most of us, feeling shame, guilt and pain for the rest of our lives as we fail to live up to expectation and feel like it’s all our fault.

We continue to live lives where we’re not getting our ACTUAL needs met, where we hurt because we aren’t aware of what we actually want or need but rather are continually striving to ‘fix’ ourselves so that we will FIT IN - obfuscating what’s actually going on, where trying to live up to expectation hurts but it feels like NOT doing so would be WORSE - and we are continually TOLD to question ourselves rather than questioning the system.

Questioning society, questioning what we find ‘good and bad’ about ourselves, questioning the life path we’re on, looking at our coping strategies as good and finding the roots of what we actually want and need and doing the work to build lives around what’s true to us - it’s really, really hard. It goes against our bodies programming and the way our minds are set up to keep us safe.

So is it any wonder most of us never do anything other than what we’re trained to do by society?


Let’s take a break here, and come back for more next week.


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