In therapy, there is a lot of talk about being a good or bad person. Intellectually, we know that such shallow judgement calls do not apply to a majority of us. We are intricate and complicated in our conscious and unconscious drives. Our understanding of morality often feels internally objective and externally subjective. Scientific research continues to mirror the findings that reality shows us daily.
We can also be contradictory in what we believe for ourselves versus what we believe others should do. Yet, we still come back to an extreme dichotomy of expectation for good and bad. There is very little middle ground when we are proclaiming our ethics. However, when we begin to push upon these stark concepts in therapy, quickly it is discovered that what is really going on is a messy generalization of thoughts, feelings, and actions. This is normal for humans in current society. We take all the data and crunch it down into bite size pieces so we can actually live rather than be immobilized.
Still, I hear over and over again about the guilt, shame, fear, and tremendous hardship that person has placed upon themselves. True, many of these personal scripts are based on experiences that were extremely unpleasant. The brain wants to flag things that don’t fit into a generic mold and the exceptions become the highlight reel in our brain as the rules to live by. Again, this is normal so that we can determine things with the whole flight or fight. Let us not forget that choice plays a large role in forming us as well. That pesky little thing that allows us to move and shift depending on our own needs and desires.
Everything becomes so confusing when we measure who we are based on any one of these factors alone. Look, I’ll say this directly– researchers don’t fully understand what makes us who we are. Understanding humanity is in its earliest form. Basically we have no idea really what it going on in detail. However, we do have a crudely drawn sketch. This vague look at the hows and whys we do what we do is enough to push each one of us into contemplating some serious questions about ourselves.
A wonderful example of this is based on a documentary I just recently watched about Good and Evil. Without giving it all away, as truly it is fascinating. We might have a genes, background, and even tendencies towards things that make things hard on us. It is still each one of us as individuals that can make the choice to live differently. A person can be predisposed, have terrible experiences, and yet still make choices that will put them on a path towards positive growth. If one really must focus on a singular idea, that will make the largest impact, it is personal choice. What we tell ourselves on a daily basis and the actions we take matter in how we create the relationships around us. Nature and nurture both matter and even beyond those factors, for the majority of us, we can choose to live a healthier stronger life. The choice is really up to you.