Good is the feeling that comes from successes and achievements that are perceived to benefit society. Although good is not typically thought of as an emotion per se, the feeling and intellectual notion of good are popular motivations for people. As emotions are highly specified motivations, good may evolve into a bundle of automated actions that are recognised as an emotion. In any case, because of its prolific use and how it influences motivational forces to other emotions, goodness deserves a mention. Although feeling good is probably an inexhaustible topic, here are a few key insights associated with its emotional connotations.
Anything that affects people’s morale is a moral issue, so good feelings are associated with fitting and helpful behaviours that contribute positively to people’s standards of living. Good is thought of as the opposite of bad. It represents a healthy mentality with a lack of detrimental effects on others. In general, if people think of themselves as good people, they think of themselves as helpful members of society who have principles and aspirations that are beneficial to the environment. In the sense of this paragraph, good represents a degree of improvement and a mentality that avoids guilt.
Feeling good revolves around detecting and avoiding guilt. This can lead to unforeseen problems.
People can feel guilt if their perceptions of a situation are inaccurate and misguided. If people believe a perception, they feel the associated emotion. People who see themselves as good are strongly motivated by guilt, so, inadvertently, they can become the target of people who will play on this consistent personality trait. If good people do or do not behave in a desired manner, they can be the target of persuasion tactics that induce them to feel guilt. As good people will avoid guilt at almost any cost, the manipulation works because they want to avoid any feelings of guilt. Being manipulated in such a way is more difficult to avoid for people who cannot accurately define what guilt is, yet, nonetheless, like to think of themselves as good people.
Thinking of one’s self (ego) as a good person can have several unintended consequences. One of the significant side-effects is the desire not to own thoughts and feelings they perceive as bad. Rather than experiencing them with the anxiety they create and wondering why, emotions and thoughts can cause people to psychologically run away from their uncomfortable nature. This process is referred to as ignorance, denial or cognitive-avoidance and is considered a defence-mechanism when its prompts are from a subconscious source.
The defence-mechanism’s role is to stop people feeling conscious anxiety by blocking impulses and thoughts out of conscious view. When people are continually dishonest with themselves in this way, it leads to an underdeveloped personality that cannot relate to the world in regard to the emotions and thoughts that are blocked off from conscious awareness. Only, the people don’t care because they believe they are good people. Such thoughts are highly associated with a naive type of optimism.
Over time the denial of experience leads people to develop an ill-fitting personality. This certainly is not good. What’s more, the ill-fittingness is not acknowledged as the reason for the emerging traits are not in conscious view. The perception that people hold of themselves as good is sometimes an ego-trip that concerns the maintenance of their self view in a distorted fashion to prolong the positive feelings they experience from perceiving their self as good, yet at the same time being blissfully unaware of the virtue-signalling they display and so too the broadcast which opportunistic people can exploit.
Behaviour based on reactivity of disownership leaves people susceptible to manipulation. If people have acted in a way that another dislikes, the other can focus on any theoretically possible negative result in an attempt to evoke guilt from misconduct. Similarly, if people have not acted in a way that another wants them to act, the other can focus on any theoretically possible negative result in an attempt to evoke guilt stemming from a perception of neglect. Anger can be used abusively in both of these scenarios to elicit guilt (see Anger).
When the imaginary guilt is perceived in the mind of the reactive good person, they may well backtrack on their behaviour. Thus, they are manipulated into changing their behaviour because they simply want to avoid feeling guilt. Even though to backtrack may be the worst decision to make, social pressure from the other effects a change. Only, the change is not adaptive but maladaptive, so the exploitation of a sympathic emotion, guilt, leads to what is known as virtue-signalling which is a type of acting-out. The adjustment is based on the other’s wants rather than an accurate perception of consequences.
If people want to be good rather than good intentioned, the ability to gauge whether actions or inactions will cause undue harm on others – offences that lead to guilt – is a valuable ability. Understanding exactly what guilt is enables people to make secure decisions. As people will have the knowledge they need to decide whether a person’s persuasive talk or angry mood is an appropriate expression or not, it will help them to avoid being manipulated by guilt-trips.
One other primary abuse of the good image exists. People represent themselves as good natured to onlookers, so they avert suspicion from their intentions. Because they are free of suspicion, they gain positions of trust. They are then free to act with a degree of impunity in areas where others are vulnerable to their decisions. Passive-aggressive people are especially prone to this masquerade.
Nevertheless, when individuals are perceived as good for prolonged periods, people find it difficult to accept insidious betrayals. It does not fit with the consistency of their perceptions, so the accusation is questioned repeatedly. Disbelief lingers. This is a normal process that could be considered a type of denial. The problem was believing in a perception of good that was inappropriately associated (see Trust).
Old English. God = fitting or suitable.
1. The most general adjective of commendation, implying the existence in a high, or at least satisfactory, degree of characteristic qualities which are either admirable in themselves or useful for some purpose.