Good or bad isn’t as clear as black or white

Words by Benjamin Pabla

Unfortunately, my mind likes to make me feel bad. I’m prone to strong neurotic thoughts more often than I’d like. I’m pleased to say, not as much as I used to, thanks to hard work and therapy. But I obviously still get them. Thoughts are like emails: You get them every day. Some are nice, some are bad. And then some are Junk and Spam.

Intrusive thoughts; Overthinking; Neurotic beliefs; these are all spam. And most of the time; you see they’re crap and delete them, don’t pay any attention to them. But it only takes one to get through to mess everything up.

Thoughts aren’t the worst thing though. The worst is when I feel it in my gut; when I physically contort. A twist of jealousy, a draining sense of shame, a spike of inferiority…I can’t help but feel sad and disappointed when I get a physical feeling. I don’t need to, I know better not to cause it’s an illness and not real. But it’s toxic and effects aspects of my life and I worry. One strong neurotic feeling that really takes the cake is guilt. (Yes, sometimes guilt isn’t real and just. You can feel it as a sign of self-punishment and worry).

I have a voice that goes off like a bomb that says, “You’re a bad person. You’re wrong”. I haven’t done anything bad. My mind twists something light or innocuous into something that it isn’t. But logic doesn’t work against mental illness. If it did a lot of people wouldn’t have it. Anxiety will use whatever it can to come out and play. Whatever thought is bothering you, it’s not really the thought that’s the problem. It’s like anxiety is a demon playing with that thought. It will use anything as a scapegoat to come out and play. And you panic and compulsively seek to rectify it without seeing that that compulsion will just enable more shitty thoughts.

Anyway, I digress.

I wanted to share with you, what I thought, was an interesting trial of thought whilst in the midst of an uncomfortable guilt episode: The idea of what is a good or bad person and how we ridiculously under think that concept, the terms and think of this concept in a black and white manner. I should say, when I’m having an episode, I’m not at my sensible. I waffle, state the obvious, say things that seem meagre when I’m well. But the point of this article to just to share what can happen in my mind when I’m not 100%. Despite feeling alone when I’m like this, I know there’s many who think the same. So this is for you if you feel the same. Feel free to stick around though, even if you don’t.

Before I go any further, I’m not providing excuses or rationalising bad behaviour. I have made mistakes and done bad things I genuinely feel guilty about and know the difference between when something is wrong, and when something isn’t but my anxiety leaps upon it to make me feel awful. I’m talking about the latter. So, I get this trigger: “I’m a bad person. This thing you did was bad; therefore you are bad in total”. That’s where it oversteps the mark.

But then I thought this…

Just because you don’t do anything bad doesn’t make you good by default. No one is blandly good or bad: we are both. Some people certainly have tendencies. But no one is just good or bad. It’s not black-and-white. Good people can do bad things and bad people can do good things. Annoyingly so, we seem to be more attracted to the bad people who do good things once in a while then vice versa. Cruel joke.

I myself tend to pendulum swing between good and bad tendencies. I can certainly lean more to the side of being good and enjoy being good, I like to do nice things, and I try to be a solid person. But sometimes I swing back to the bad intentions and I’m a little bit sadistic, overly selfish, and my own interest up at first sight of any others. Sometimes you can go and do something with good intentions that are actually bad. The funny thing for me is that when I’m leaning slightly more to my good side and living well I can glance back over who I am on the bad side and think to myself, “Jesus Christ I did that? Did I think that? That’s really bad”. But when I’m over the bad side, I think, “Ah it’s not so bad. I’m alright”. So I’m never just one or the other.

Maybe what I’m saying is stating the bleeding obvious. But it was good to state the obvious when it wasn’t clear to me and thought how everyone must misinterpret the idea of good and bad at their convenience or misfortune. People aren’t so black-and-white when it comes to being good or bad. I’m saying is mainly for the people who have a fear of being bad. I fear not being a good person. Maybe you feel like a decision you did wasn’t right or you should have known better. Maybe you shouldn’t have been so selfish or had better foresight. But there is no such thing as good and bad. These terms are stupid. Every good intention can have a selfish motive and a greedy selfish choice might actually be the right thing in the big picture. Who’s to know at the time? We are both at the same time. You are capable of doing good and bad things, and that’s completely normal, and as it should be.

The same applies to everybody else you know. That person you love and care for, they can be bad. And that person who you don’t like or are you little upon, they can be good. (Better yet, they can be what you deem to be good or bad). And you are the same. That might be a scary notion. And you are right. It is incredibly anxious when you become aware of what you are capable of. But rather than overthink this, and qualify those thoughts and try to rationalise them, simply be aware of it. How are you use it and apply it is up to you. You may not need to. It’s just an interesting thought. That we are good and bad at the same time. So you take it easy on yourself sometimes. Forgive yourself, and be kind to yourself, cut yourself some slack. The more you can do that to yourself, the easier it is to do it to other people.

Take that with comfort, relief, and positivity. That there is no such thing as an essence, you have a choice.

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