By David Joel Miller.
You create the world you live in.
The question of whether the world is inherently a good place seems like a simple question on the surface, but how you answer the question and why you chose the answer you do has a profound effect on your life. How would we go about finding out the answer to this question? Should you look for evidence or trust your gut? Is this something you “just know” or do your beliefs dictate that answer.
The evidence for a bad world.
There is certainly a huge amount of evidence that the world is, in fact, an awful place. Each night on the evening news we see a number of stories about crimes and killings, disasters and suffering.
Our history books are a litany of examples of how terrible a place the world can be. From the Holocaust to the killing fields from what was Yugoslavia to the invasion of Chad, everything bears witness that man is capable of constant unabated cruelty to his fellow man.
Each night the stories from the Middle East bring us yet another example of ways in which this world is a horrific place. Are there no limits to how bad our world can be? Is the story of our world a horror filled nightmare?
On rare occasions, we get good news.
Most newscasts try to wrap up their parade of suffering, with a “feel good story.” Mother Teresa feeds the poor and the fireman rescued a trapped puppy or kitten. There are stories of people opening their homes to the victims of tragedies and those who try to do good in the world.
This episodic dose of good news seems like a dash of salt on the wounds of all the terrible things in the world. Are there so few good things happening in the world or is there a systematic basis in our media to present the bad in preference to the good?
Bad news sells the paper or the broadcast. A sprinkling of good news may keep us from throwing away the paper and turning off the broadcast. Is good news really such a rarity or is it that we have an insatiable appetite for the dark and evil side of mankind?
Forgive at this point the gender basis of the term mankind. While males seem to stand in the spotlight of bad behavior. I have little doubt that some women are capable of equivalent misdeeds.
When we add up all the evidence for good and bad we don’t get a total.
Every person on earth may be having a different experience of the goodness and the badness of this world. Even collecting all those scores and adding them or subtracting them won’t give us the result we are looking for. Times change, things get worse and then better and then worse again. We can’t ever be sure we have the final tabulation of the worth of the experience of life here on earth. How else may we determine the goodness or badness of this planet?
Some people just can’t help believing in the good of their fellow human.
There are those people, disgustingly happy people, who despite the evidence see this world as a good and happy place. They chose to see things in a rosy glow despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Psychology tells us, at least one of classes I took did, that realistic people are depressed and happy people live in an unrealistic world. So are happy people really delusional? And if so should we medicate them to make them more realistically depressed? Possibly continuing to believe in a good and beneficial world in some ways makes the world a tad better.
Some people staunchly believe that all people are essentially bad.
This point of view appears to be a widely held one, particularly by parents of small children who report they are convinced that unless supervised every moment from birth to death these children will, at the first opportunity, do all manner of nasty things.
There are those religious groups who will insist that being sinfully evil is the inherent nature of man and that only a large doses of following rituals and self-punishment to the tune they are playing will suffice to make these people less than totally unacceptable to some religious body and presumably their specific higher power.
You get to choose your world view.
All the evidence notwithstanding, you can decide that you will like and enjoy the trip we call life. Or you can insist on thinking the worse about what will happen.
Jeff Bell in his book about overcoming OCD “When in Doubt Make Belief.” Talks about the helpfulness of creating beliefs that reduce your doubt. My view is that belief creates hope, and hope makes recovery and a happy life possible.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy along with positive psychology recommend picking beliefs that are helpful. For me, that would be believing those things that result in having a happy life regardless of the evidence to the contrary. If the belief is helpful it may be useful.
This also means that you may need to be aware that there will always be exceptions. You can insist that people are basically good and a few people will do evil things or you can insist that most people are evil and a few occasionally do good deeds. The choice is yours.
Personally, I go for having a happy life even though that means I may miss seeing some of the bad in the world. You can do either. The choice is up to you. Which belief do you want?
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books