Many people who appear to be functioning completely normally are actually suffering from a debilitating disorder which causes them to not recognize what is happening while it happens. It is called GGS, Good Guy Syndrome. There is a simple but hard way to stop the behaviors that make up the disorder, in short: stop pretending.
We all know quitting isn’t easy. Anything familiar that brings comfort causes withdrawal for which there is no shortcut. I once said that longing isn’t worth the pain it causes, but we cannot stop longing just because we think we should. Pain is a great teacher. The question is whether we choose to suffer hangovers or withdrawals more often.
On a material level, urges to reproduce familiar thoughts and behaviors are receptors craving neurotransmitters that return the system to homeostasis, feeling good. Who doesn’t want to be the good guy all the time? But could this be a symptom of GGS, pretending to be the good guy to avoid discomfort? Telling myself I’m “the good guy” has the immediate comfort of a quick fix. The problem is, it’s not true. Feelings aren’t just physical. We attach stories and images to them, and images are spirits. Psychological withdrawal means disbelieving the story. Quitting GGS doesn’t sound like much fun does it? Thankfully, a greater kind of goodness exists more enjoyable than satisfying patterned cravings: doing the right thing. (And guess what? You’ll still get to be the good guy sometimes!)
One could say, “that’s just replacing one addiction with another.” But doing the right thing is not addictive, because it changes depending on the situation, unless we get lazy and construct fixed blanket judgements about right and wrong. If we assume to know the right thing in advance, try and fast-forward to the chemical hit of self-justification, that’s how GGS is fueled. Being hypocrites it a very pesky habit to kick. Quitting GGS doesn’t sound like much fun does it? Assessing the moment cures the blindness caused by GGS. The non-addictive approach to doing the right thing is a practice of asking, again and again, “what is needed in this context?” Discerning each situation as unique can indeed get rid of GGS for good.
There is good news when overcoming addiction is concerned. Reality is so much better than any story we tell about it. It is true, and the truth is positive. Besides, being wrong isn’t all that bad. Learning how to perceive the present clearly, rather than obscuring it with prior associations, is more rewarding than being a know-it-all too. Dethroning this arrogant imposter, who carelessly casts others as “bad” to play the good guy, requires tapping into a new energy source. Being on the path of wisdom does mean connecting with goodness, but there are other ways of doing this than identifying the good as one’s persona.
The brain has evolved to rely on prior associations unconsciously so we are not frozen and overwhelmed by the newness of it all. This energy-saving tendency, powering the mind with memories, requires training to overcome. Seeing the moment with fresh eyes makes it hard to function, especially for beginners, so creating a story about the world is a natural way of resting the mind. Free from GGS, one can create a story aligned with what is actually going on, rather than a story in which everything refers to how awesome I am, an exhausting plot to sustain. To be right and to do the right thing are two complete different things. One is the process of constructing a self. The other is a contemplative practice of intuitive inquiry.
GGS produces suffering because the good guy narrative labels much of life as our opponent. For example imagine being stuck in traffic with a loved one. With an inquiring mind, or if today were the last day of my life, I’d be very happy to be sitting close to a loved one, no matter where we were. It’s the GGS agenda of needing to get ahead which make perfectly pleasant experiences seem disagreeable.
GGS is curable, but it requires embracing the feeling life. It takes time for perceptions to travel from the senses to our brain. In the meantime, the perception has been colored by our emotional state. Thus what is encoded in the short term memory is heavily tinted by our expectations. Objectively speaking, all experiences is subjective. That is not a bad thing. That is how our organism works. We are subjective creatures. That just means that we need to be aware of our emotions. Emotions and feelings are not the same. Emotions are chemical sensations produced by patterned behavior. Feelings are intuitions about the only thing that really exists, the here and now. Ideas are relics of past and future fantasies which create the reality we experience. Perceptions mirror this. The present moment is a felt experience only tangible through inner asking. The more suffering we experience, the more incentive we have to rise above emotions and get a feeling for the mystery.
Purifying the feeling life is hard, so look in your local area for a GGS support group today. There are a lot of people who aren’t competing.