Sometimes being good is very, very bad. In fact, trying to be "good" can often mean that we are self-sabotaging, self-negating, and may even be harming others.
That and more is what is being exposed in the book, being released on August 8th from Llewellyn Publishing, entitled, "Letting Go of Good: Dispel the Myth of Goodness to Find Your Genuine Self." With a Foreword by Thomas Moore, bestselling author of Care of the Soul, and endorsements from Caroline Myss, Dr. Larry Dossey and others, the book offers life-changing paradigm shifts to the spiritual community.
We've all been raised to be good. In fact, that was often the "Goodbye" we got from well-meaning parents when they sent us off to school, to camp, to the babysitter: "Be Good," they waved. And what they meant was that we were to be good in some form that matched their personal understanding of "goodness." For you see, goodness does not come in a standardized form. What is good to one culture may be bad to another. What is good to one family, one religion, one social strata may be bad to another. We make rules, like "Thou shalt not kill" to establish a line over which one should not go if one is to maintain some sense of worth and value--so attached we are to goodness as a measurement of our worth. But then there are so many instances in which we say that even killing might be acceptable. So, what is goodness, then? And should we even be measuring our worth?
What most of us do is try to live into the idea of goodness that was set forth before us by our parents, and then the social world. But there are some of us who identify with goodness in a way that is meant to compensate for deep feelings of unworthiness. They have introjected parental projections about how they should be, who they should be, and they have lived into those as identity. In other words, they are trying to become goodness itself. In the book, "Letting Go of Good" we call this the "good guy identity."
The good guy tends to feel that his job is to serve others--because that's part of the introjected definition of goodness projected onto him by parents. He is often quite empathetic and can therefore, pick up the feelings of others very easily. The problem is that not only does he pick these emotions up, but he begins to carry them, as if they are his. He then feels that it is his responsibility to fix, tend, heal or otherwise caretake the other person whose emotions he carries.
The good guy tends also to run her life by guilt. In other words, guilt has the final say in every decision. All guilt has to do is raise up and say, "If you don't do that (or if you do do that) you are going to feel really awful with guilt later." The good guy cannot abide those terrible feelings of guilt, and so she does what the guilt bids her do. Even when, for every practical reason known to man, doing the thing that guilt is trying to get her to do would be inappropriate, yet she must do it, for guilt is pushing her to do it. For example, she may continue to give large sums of money to an abusive partner who is only using her, because she cannot bring herself to say no, for that would make her feel guilty.
The good guy is often involved in abusive relationships, in which he takes responsibility for his abusers actions. He feels that it is his job to be so good that the abuser never gets mad. And so, he is guilty and responsible when the abuser gets mad and/or abuses. This makes his goodness into a very dangerous interactive mechanism. In fact, it could literally kill him.
But there is a way out of this terrible problem. We can begin to attend to, respond to and nurture ourselves through what many in the spiritual community would call "negative" emotion. Actually, there is no such thing as a negative emotion. They are all just neutral, though some are more difficult than others. We want to feel pleasant and blissful all the time, but when the unconscious has information to give us, it often comes up first in the form of a difficult emotion, such as anger, resentment, fear or sorrow. But we can learn how to utilize these emotions to get the message from them that is coming to us from the Authentic Self. Further, we can get in touch with personal powers such as desire, intuition and discernment, that allow us to begin to live into the Authentic Self. The book will teach readers how to do both.
It turns out that being good is not at all the answer we are looking for when it comes to living a spiritual life. Rather what we are looking for is peace. Living in the Authentic Self provides us that peace, while also initiating our compassionate and passionate actions toward others.
-Andrea Mathews is a psychotherapist, author, speaker and radio host, currently teaching workshops to clinicians on how to assess and treat spiritual problems. She is the author of four books, the latest, Letting Go of Good: Dispel the Myth of Goodness to Find Your Genuine Self, is coming out August 8, 2017. Learn more about her work at www.andreamathews.com.