Is it possible to recover if you believe the world is inherently bad?

triptych

Learning
I have had this argument recently with a lot of people I'm close to. I guess I just have a lot of beliefs about the world being bad, people being generally self interested, and things not tending towards getting better.

Whilst there is evidence on both sides, I think I would find it impossible to have anything other than a pretty negative view of humanity based on my life experiences. If anything people telling me that the world is not as bad as I make it out to be just makes me feel like they don't empathise with me. I find it very difficult to take arguments for the world being a good place from people who have never experienced human cruelty and these conversations always leave me feeling massively alienated.

I would like to know if anyone has had any success in recovery without having to change their worldview to "people are normally kind" or "the world is generally a good place" because that, in my experience, is simply a lie. Any advice on how to square beliefs about the world with recovery would be appreciated.

(Philosophical answers and recommendations on art/novels/music that have helped you are welcome. I feel working this out is gonna be a long term project.)
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
My T says "visualise and create a bubble", to protect from the world. I think I believe both statements. The world is bad (wars, violence, politics, climate change, capitalism etc etc etc), but also people are generally kind (the people I let in to my bubble).
So for me: I try and make my world smaller so it feels kinder and I try and not think about the world and society as a whole, as that is beyond my control.
Not sure if that is helpful or what, but it's what I do.
I don't make my world too small, as I work and function (I go out, have friends etc). I think there is a risk of making my world too small.
 

Friday

Moderator
having to change their worldview to "people are normally kind" or "the world is generally a good place"
Preeeeeeetty sure that switching from one extreme view in all-or-nothing thinking to another? Is no kind of recovery at all. ;)

People? Are complicated.
The world? Is complicated.

To be fair? Usually & Generally are one step away from Everyone/Always. A giant leaping step or teeny tiny mousy step, depends on how locked in someone is to Everyone/Always NoOne/Never.

Case in point? Most of the people I’ve met (note that qualifier) who are locked into the world & people being shit? Are assholes with soooooooo little self confidence that they have to justify their own behavior by blaming the world and everyone else in it. People are dogshit to them, so they treat them like it; everyone is an asshole out to get them, so they’re justified in going after anyone they please, and treating the rest with scorn/derision/venom/disdain. For someone with that kind of attitude? Whose entire position on life, the universe, everything is dependent on the world & all the people in it being bad? It would be a giant moon-bounce kind of step to move from the absolutes of Is/Are Everyone/TheWorld ......to...... usually & generally. Because their hateful viciousness depends on that world view.

I’ve met (again, note the qualifier) a metric shit ton of people who simply HAVE either world view (generally good / generally bad); and for them, it would be a teeny tiny mousey step to start changing their black&white view of the world into something far more realistic. These people are usually either very young (it’s all they’ve ever known), or very ignorant (ditto). As they go out into the wide world? Their sheltered or bruised attitude starts to shift. They START to take people & situations on their own merits, rather than their preconceived notions of who people “should” be, and what they expect out of situations.

But people who simply swing from one extreme to the next? <low whistle> There’s a big big reason why both Pollyanna-style cults & the worst of the worst actively RECRUIT both damaged people & innocents. Innocents don’t know any better, and the damaged can turn on a dime (without ever really changing their world view; it’s just so much more pleasant to be amongst cruelty & pain with sweetness & smiles being the backdrop).

***
As for myself? I kick into black & white thinking between heartbeats whenever my stress rises high enough... I have to work reeeeeeally reeeeeally hard to be able to see the shades of grey & take people & situations on their merits even at the best of times. But as long as I CAN do it, no matter how hard, I know I’m basically alright. It’s when things get easy I have to yank myself up by my collar and give myself a good hard slap across the face ;) What set me on that path, though, was someone I trusted metaphorically doing the exact same thing one day. By telling me that trusting everyone? Is the exact same thing as trusting no one. Not only lazy a f*ck, but it also meant I was only looking at myself & inside my own heart and mind, not actually looking at anyone else. Seeing people for who I imagined them to be, rather than who they really were. Whoopsies.
 
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rusty_maestro

Confident
I have had this argument recently with a lot of people I'm close to. I guess I just have a lot of beliefs about the world being bad, people being generally self interested, and things not tending towards getting better.

Whilst there is evidence on both sides, I think I would find it impossible to have anything other than a pretty negative view of humanity based on my life experiences. If anything people telling me that the world is not as bad as I make it out to be just makes me feel like they don't empathise with me. I find it very difficult to take arguments for the world being a good place from people who have never experienced human cruelty and these conversations always leave me feeling massively alienated.

I would like to know if anyone has had any success in recovery without having to change their worldview to "people are normally kind" or "the world is generally a good place" because that, in my experience, is simply a lie. Any advice on how to square beliefs about the world with recovery would be appreciated.

(Philosophical answers and recommendations on art/novels/music that have helped you are welcome. I feel working this out is gonna be a long term project.)
It sounds like you have been hurt before. Normal reaction to paint the whole world as bad, makes it easier on the brain to protect yourself. Less work discerning what is good and bad. The way I deal with it is the world is not bad, the world is sick/suffering. Just like us. We are not bad, we are suffering and sometimes it produces behaviors other people don't like. Don't judge the man, judge the behavior. The world is not good or bad, it is good and bad. Go back to the behavior again, people do good things and people do bad things. People do bad things usually when someone did bad things to them or they don't feel well. I always make sure to make true statement or correct myself if i catch it. Example, The world is bad. Is it true that whole world is bad? Yes you might say. OKay can you prove it. Hmmm no I don't know the whole world so i can't say that for sure. What can you say for sure then. That person is bad. Is it the person or her behavior that is bad. That person did this and that and it hurt me. Some people are challenging, some people are nurturing. Before judging, it is always good to remind ourselves that everyone has story.

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what do you see above? A square? A dice? In fact its only 4 dots but our minds like to complete patterns that are familiar, so with these 4 our brain wants to connect the dot when it doesn't have to and says its a square or a dice. A quote that saved me numerous time "It is what it is, and nothing more" it's four dots and nothing more, don't make connections that don't exist.
 

shimmerz

MyPTSD Pro
I pretty much had similar beliefs to yourself with the non discriminate world/people are kind view. If they weren't kind, I would treat them kindly anyway. Oh boy. Didn't work out.

I am going to say I am in in the recovery portion of my healing and am dealing with people quite a bit now. At first it was freaking me out. I was so concerned I was going to fall back into the same trap again. I mean, with this COVID thing going on, it is hard not to see that things are getting very bad. There are lots of reasons to believe how horrible this world is. I think there is plenty of back up for that position.

Except for this...
They have closed down restaurants here again as of yesterday. It is sobering. I think many aren;t going to make it through this shutdown. But a restaurant I go to has a customer that literally went out and bought them a tent and a heater so they could keep their clients. Wow. What an incredible act of kindness. One that most likely wouldn't have happened if not for these times.

Another business owner I know was not charged by another business due to the situation these days. He sent him a hand written note stating 'You have helped me so much along the way, I wanted to pay you back in some small way. Take a couple of days off and spend them with your children on me' There are more examples I have, but you get the drift I think.

I have never seen such beautiful acts of kindness as these before. There is so much fear and doom and gloom on tv these days but I think in real life, some people are really seeing others pain and reacting with kindness and compassion towards others.

I hope you are able to see what an outpouring there is by some these days. It has really renewed my sense that humanity has a chance again in all of this just at a time that I really needed it.
 

scout86

MyPTSD Pro
I feel working this out is gonna be a long term project.
That's probably right. Wouldn't surprise me if you think about this for the rest of your life.

Personally, I don't think I KNOW if people are mostly good or bad. Like @Friday said, it's complicated. The absolute numbers on either side of the equation don't really matter to me. SOME people tend towards the good. That's enough. I've decided that I want to do my best to be on that "side". Doesn't matter to me if it's the majority side or not.
If anything people telling me that the world is not as bad as I make it out to be just makes me feel like they don't empathise with me.
You're probably right about that too. LOL I have to say, moving through the world, acting as if it's a "safe" place seems both misguided and a little dangerous. But, "potentially dangerous" and "bad" aren't the same thing, are they?

Seems to me that we tend to see what we look for. If we look for examples of people being "good", like those @shimmerz mentioned, we'll find them. If we look for examples of people being bad, we'll find those too, because they all exist. You can look for "the good", and/or chose to do your best to contribute to it, without being totally oblivious to the bad stuff. It's not a choice between trusting blindly or not trusting at all. I happen to think the world needs more philosophical discussions, so I already think you've done something good, by just opening this topic and being open to philosophy.
 

triptych

Learning
By telling me that trusting everyone? Is the exact same thing as trusting no one. Not only lazy a f*ck, but it also meant I was only looking at myself & inside my own heart and mind, not actually looking at anyone else. Seeing people for who I imagined them to be, rather than who they really were.
Thanks so much for your response. This is really helpful to me. I have definitely put myself in bad situations because I think every person is as trustworthy as the next, when that's not true and some people are definitely safer than others and you should work on putting safe people in your life. If everyone is as bad as each other there's no point running away when someone sends up red flags.

I think trust is a tricky one for me because I think in my head it implies trusting the person with EVERYTHING when in fact it comes in degrees, I trust my best friend to keep my house keys but not to cook anything more complicated than toast. I would rather just break it down into, this person is safe to talk to about this aspect of my life but not another one.

In fact its only 4 dots but our minds like to complete patterns that are familiar, so with these 4 our brain wants to connect the dot when it doesn't have to and says its a square or a dice. A quote that saved me numerous time "It is what it is, and nothing more" it's four dots and nothing more, don't make connections that don't exist.
Thank you for your response! I can definitely see how drawing connections that aren't there could impact you negatively, but I also don't know how people would structure their lives without drawing connections between things? For example, in order to learn how to have a healthy relationship you have to have a healthy relationship and then draw connections between that persons behaviour and those concepts right? But then I guess that backfires in terms of triggers, for example hearing someone raise their voice and thinking "this is therefore an unsafe situation and this person is going to harm me."

Wouldn't surprise me if you think about this for the rest of your life.
Thank you for your response! I guess in some ways I hope so. I think not being able to change my mind and come up with new views on the world and people in it would not be a way I'd want to live my life.

Personally, I don't think I KNOW if people are mostly good or bad. Like @Friday said, it's complicated. The absolute numbers on either side of the equation don't really matter to me. SOME people tend towards the good. That's enough. I've decided that I want to do my best to be on that "side". Doesn't matter to me if it's the majority side or not.
Yeah, that's also a good outlook. I guess like @Friday said people use their worldview to justify their own actions. How someone views the world is probably very wrapped up in how they view themselves.

I think I agree with you overall. I would also say I tend to think people's actions are more important than their thoughts, so doing "good actions" and working towards things being better, would probably align more with my worldview than simply saying "I believe the world is a mostly good place." I guess part of what probably frustrates me when people say that they hold a more positive view of the world than me is if I don't see it reflected in their actions towards others.
 

rusty_maestro

Confident
Thank you for your response! I can definitely see how drawing connections that aren't there could impact you negatively, but I also don't know how people would structure their lives without drawing connections between things? For example, in order to learn how to have a healthy relationship you have to have a healthy relationship and then draw connections between that persons behaviour and those concepts right? But then I guess that backfires in terms of triggers, for example hearing someone raise their voice and thinking "this is therefore an unsafe situation and this person is going to harm me."
The old adage if it walks like a duck, talks like duck then it is a duck. So yes pattern recognitions is important for our survival especially. The problem is when we fill in the blanks like in between the 4 dots to create a pattern like a square or a dice. There is no pattern, its only 4 dots, we create the pattern filling in the blank with what we are most familiar with.
 

RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
I would like to know if anyone has had any success in recovery without having to change their worldview to "people are normally kind" or "the world is generally a good place"

Success in my recovery I have had but do not ever misinterpret that to mean that I have reached some sort of well-adjusted state because that is also simply a lie.

The Bible says that people are basically evil. This means that somewhere there are Christians who believe this, I am sure. That's not to assume anyone here be religious but it is kind of ancient wisdom and I am completely unclear on why people like to assume that the opposite is true. Even among Christians, if you say that people are evil, you are highly likely to have an argument on your hands.

As a 40-year-old woman who was born with a severe facial deformity, I have no problem saying people are self-centered pricks -- most of them, most of the time, myself included. I have actually come a long way with that shitty attitude but you still won't find me working as a greeter at the front door - I lack enthusiasm for small talk and smiling for no reason.

It is hard. I isolate a lot and probably wouldn't if I could convince myself I wasn't going to get hurt anymore or see other people get hurt but I can't. On the other hand, I am able to do real adult stuff like hang out with my husband and his teacher friends on bad movie night and even enjoy everyone's company. I just don't look for much and don't expect much. That seems to work in a lot of scenarios.

However, I do find myself deeply touched when I do believe people are trying to do good and I make an effort to foster that sense of bewildered joy. For instance, I was living in Portland, Oregon when the protests started and a local photographer got drone photos of thousands of protesters face-down on the Burnside Bridge during a protest. I bought a print where you can hardly see pavement from one end of that bridge to the next. It's overwhelming. I look at it when I really think people suck and it helps to remind me that there are people out there trying to do better, to improve things and to be better humans. They/we might fail at every turn but honest effort is made.
 

rusty_maestro

Confident
Success in my recovery I have had but do not ever misinterpret that to mean that I have reached some sort of well-adjusted state because that is also simply a lie.

The Bible says that people are basically evil. This means that somewhere there are Christians who believe this, I am sure. That's not to assume anyone here be religious but it is kind of ancient wisdom and I am completely unclear on why people like to assume that the opposite is true. Even among Christians, if you say that people are evil, you are highly likely to have an argument on your hands.

As a 40-year-old woman who was born with a severe facial deformity, I have no problem saying people are self-centered pricks -- most of them, most of the time, myself included. I have actually come a long way with that shitty attitude but you still won't find me working as a greeter at the front door - I lack enthusiasm for small talk and smiling for no reason.

It is hard. I isolate a lot and probably wouldn't if I could convince myself I wasn't going to get hurt anymore or see other people get hurt but I can't. On the other hand, I am able to do real adult stuff like hang out with my husband and his teacher friends on bad movie night and even enjoy everyone's company. I just don't look for much and don't expect much. That seems to work in a lot of scenarios.

However, I do find myself deeply touched when I do believe people are trying to do good and I make an effort to foster that sense of bewildered joy. For instance, I was living in Portland, Oregon when the protests started and a local photographer got drone photos of thousands of protesters face-down on the Burnside Bridge during a protest. I bought a print where you can hardly see pavement from one end of that bridge to the next. It's overwhelming. I look at it when I really think people suck and it helps to remind me that there are people out there trying to do better, to improve things and to be better humans. They/we might fail at every turn but honest effort is made.
what you see is what you get. Seek positive, you will get positive, seek negative, you will find negative. What if the world was all blue and you wear glasses with red lenses, you see the world as purple, change your glasses to yellow lenses and you will see the world as all green. The world is the same, but your lenses can change and it will change how you see the world. The choice is yours.
 

mumstheword

MyPTSD Pro
I would rather see things as they are and they are complex; there is good, evil, and every shade and facet between.

Good exists, and it is a treat to experience, and our birthright, I believe, but it is not a given, until we realize that it is our's to cultivate and bring out of ourselves, to give and to experience, within ourselves.

To seek and thus, to find, however long that takes.

To commit to taking "a path with Heart" which involves cultivating some generosity of spirit and thus we find other's with the same, along the way.

To celebrate and not take for granted, such goodness, to acknowledge it and not ignore it, because it's EVERWHERE!!! Mixed in with hurt and cowardice and selfishness and ignorance and pridefulness and immaturity and lack of awareness, there is opportunity for courage and kindness, understanding, personal development and increasing self awareness, forgiveness, compassion, patience, humility and the cessation of judgementalness, but that NEVER means you have to give up your discernment, in fact the opposite, in order to develop discernment, one needs to develop understanding of what's what and to choose good over evil, because make no mistake, I believe, full well, that evil exists, and as we evolve, on our personal path to enlightenment, which, I believe, is simply, seeing reality clearly and without the blinkers of delusion, which is a process and an inner journey to a place, inside ourselves, much like climbing a mountain, so we can see a vaster and grander vista and developing much endurance and strength and awareness while doing so, to seeing what IS.

And what IS is far more beautiful and awesome than delusions and blinkered false ideas that mislead and lead astray. If you choose to embark on a truly wondrous path toward "enlightenment", never a fixed state, always a journey of self-and- other-and-what IS discovery, you will be increasingly grateful and in awe of goodness and beauty when you come across it, you will no longer be looking through the eyes of preconception, of pre-judice, which is pre-judgement and not reality itself, that ignores what is staring you in the face.

Enlightenment is the opposite of ignorance and we need more of it to make the world a kinder, more just, more enjoyable and compassionate place.

But it also means having the courage to see evil where it exists and it is certainly alive and well in the world and truly terrible and horrifying to witness.

So, take heart, my friend, you are seeing things more and more clearly, no doubt, you will see yourself past this awareness of the horror, the predation, the lies, the manipulation, the cruelty, the dishonesty, the fake, the false, the consuming and deluding and entrapping and conniving and into an awareness of YOUR OWN GOODNESS and of those who embody it around you, in varying degrees as they progress and mature along their own paths of self discovery.

I believe "God (which is Good) wins, in the end, so our journey returns us to Love and Light and awareness and wisdom and discernment and the courage to face the darkness and false and bust it wide open with the light of self awareness, self realization if you will, God awareness, not dogma, but the light of the Living God Itself; the I AM THAT I AM.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
I would like to know if anyone has had any success in recovery without having to change their worldview to "people are normally kind" or "the world is generally a good place" because that, in my experience, is simply a lie. Any advice on how to square beliefs about the world with recovery would be appreciated.
I believe that the world is made up of two things: the planet/natural world (earth, air, water, ecosystem); and us (people).

The ecosystem itself - including microscopic to giant critters - can definitely be considered inherently neutral, truly neutral - it exists, and functions. Personally, I find it to be more inherently good than bad.

People? I believe human beings are inherently blank. Our nature is shaped by our perception and experience. This is the philosophical concept of tabula rasa - "blank slate". We start out - literally - with nothing. From there, we begin the life-long process of creating who we are. John Locke (philosopher) wrote about the process of 'authoring the soul' - we create ourselves.

And so, people are not inherently good or bad - we start out blank, and become more good than bad, or more bad than good. It's a spectrum. There's a big chunk of early life where we don't usually have a lot of autonomy over ourselves - infants are in the process of learning to move their bodies, manage their bladders, put food in their mouths....time goes by, and children start to develop thought, and reasoning, and skills...but children are also experiencing things beyond their immediate control, and observing things beyond their understanding. It's not long at all before a person has begun to take shape, and that shape can be made out of terrible things. Or, of good things. Or, a combination.

The older we get, the more independent we become, and we do start making our own choices. Even someone who comes from a horrifying set of childhood experiences - I believe that they remain capable of choice. We aren't molded and then just remain that way forever. We are capable of moving through and beyond our own horrors.

(You asked about books - might be good to read Man's Search For Meaning, written by Viktor Frankl. There aren't many horrors more terrible than what he lived through. The book is an examination of survival, and he conceived of most of the ideas in it while he was a prisoner at Auschwitz).

Conversely, we are capable of making choices that turn our lives bleak and black. A person causes harm, and that experience changes them. And on, and on.

When I look at the world - ecosystem plus humans - I see a tremendous amount of pain and suffering. I'm also completely in awe of how people survive existing. Not survive existing alongside/against the elements or the natural world. The elements aren't really out to hurt anyone; they do sometimes, but that's just the way nature is.

But how people survive other people - that's an extremely impressive thing. How people can choose to be kind, when they could just as easily choose to be hard. It blows my mind. I'm not often capable of that. I spend a lot of time striving for neutral. Sometimes I am too tired and I become shitty. I'm aware that I'm as capable of doing evil as the person next to me; that is to say, quite capable. And, I'm as capable of doing good. I just try to be somewhere in the middle.

You might be able to tell - I have a hard time with belief, generally. I couldn't tell you what I believe in, except maybe an inherent goodness within nature (minus the humans). But as far as people are concerned - I don't really understand faith or hope or trust or anything that would go into believing that "people are inherently good". We're inherently nothing - blank - and then, we form ourselves.
 
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