Is being “too good” crazy?


#1

Fifty years ago when I was about 20 years old I was sent to a psychiatrist who used to tell me not to feel guilty about it every time I was not meeting expectations I had for myself. It is my understanding that was done with everybody who saw a psychiatrist back then and I was not diagnosed with a problem in that regard.

Keeping me ashamed of my limitations and doubting myself and worried I was not good enough was part of my up bringing and I have been told it’s purpose was to keep me humble so I could be controlled. Because of this my being sent to a psychiatrist caused the kinds of folks who go in for doing that to people to believe in getting worse about it.

I was told that such shaming does not cause mental illness because mental illness is something a person is born with.

The shaming I experienced was an exaggeration in one direction and the non directive therapy seemed to be an exaggeration in the opposite direction. My understanding of the non directive therapy was they were just getting me to think about the problem but not allowed to tell me what to think.

I did not have in my life anyone willing to take responsibility for giving me honest unbiased direction about the matter. Efforts to get that kind of direction from those who knew I was in psychotherapy seemed to result in the bias that being “too good” was a symptom of my mental illness. It was not.

This resulted in everbody around me making a point of not being “too good” because they were scared of being accused of the same problem.

The last therapist I saw told me that he was trained not to say anything when patients reported they were being shamed they were “too good.” His reasons made a lot of sense. The shaming was something being done to control me and if my psychiatrists disputed anything the folks who believed in keeping me ashamed of myself, either for being “too good” or not good enough, I would find myself under pressure to stop seeing that stupid psychiatrist.

It is my understanding that being “too good” is not crazy. It does not cause mental illness and is not a symptom of mental illness. While shaming may not cause problems, I was diagnosed to not have enough support in my life. I think that include not having support that I know what is being too good and what is not being good enough.

I do now and it makes me feel a lot better. It is like the cure for what ailed me for a lot of years.


#2

First of all we need some clarification here.

How on earth is it possible to be ‘too good’? The phrase is a contradiction in terms. By its very definition that which is ‘good’ is not excessive in any way. Any thing which is excessive - ‘too too’ - is by very definition NOT good, but the opposite of good.

Secondly - you start by saying you were ashamed of not meeting your OWN expectations, then you say instead that the shame was something others brought you up to. So which was it, self-caused or other-caused? Or are you trying to say that you were made to feel ashamed of BEING ashamed of yourself?

In any event, when you were being ‘shamed’ it was NOT for being ‘too good’ but rather ‘too something else’. Maybe too prideful. Too arrogant. Too self-critical, and thus apparently (because people tend to think we hold them to the same standards we hold ourselves to) too critical of others.

And these are quite possibly legitimate concerns. One can indeed behave in a ‘good’ way but for the ‘bad’ reasons, such as pride, arrogance, excessive self-criticism and so on. They don’t amount to mental illness, except in the case of scrupulosity which is closely related to obsessive-compulsive disorder. And the remedy is certainly not to deliberately ‘shame’ the sufferer, simply to remind them that everything they are and have comes from God, and to acknowledge Him in everything.

By the way, who was the idiot who told you mental illness was something you are born with? They ought to have been drummed out of the profession. They clearly were woefully ignorant of things like post-traumatic stress disorder, which even back then was well-known (they called it, possibly, other things like ‘shell-shock’, but it was a well-recognised phenomenon - and definitely NOT a mental illness one is born with, but rather caused by some traumatic event in one’s later life!)


#3

If being “too good” were a bad thing, I doubt that Jesus would have told us to “…be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”


#4

Dear Lily
You have given me some insights into the problems I have had with folks who think I was diagnosed to be “too good”

They had it in their imagination like you say that I was “Maybe too prideful. Too arrogant. Too self-critical, and thus apparently (because people tend to think we hold them to the same standards we hold ourselves to) too critical of others.”

I recognize now that they thought all that but I would like to say that no matter how hard I tried I could not solve the problem of redeeming myself in their eyes once they got that opinion about me in their heads.

There is a theory I have a speech impediment. The reason it was suggested years ago is I am quiet and my husband stutters. We now have a grandson with a stuttering problem. Sometimes when I would try to talk to people to defend myself I was not able to speak.

I did not have the ability to reassure folks I was not a worse case senario of what they decided my psychiatrist thought.

People imagine one is a worse case scenario of any criticism by a psychiatrist. I will never be smooth talking enough to calm down such opinions.

It is part of our fallen nature that we all can be accused of being too good for the kinds of bad reasons you mentioned.

You say who is the idiot who told you mental illness is something you were born with. A former psychiatrist of mine is on the committee that puts out the DSM manual and the DSM manual is based on the medical model of mental illness. That was his opinion 45 years ago.

I have his email address and he say he did not see me as being too good back then.


#5

You said “Secondly - you start by saying you were ashamed of not meeting your OWN expectations, then you say instead that the shame was something others brought you up to. So which was it, self-caused or other-caused? Or are you trying to say that you were made to feel ashamed of BEING ashamed of yourself?”

You have some of the different aspects of the problem sort of pinned down. All were a part of the picture. There were my expectations of myself and then there was shaming my expectations were too low and then there were individuals who thought I was supposed to be kept ashamed of being ashamed.

It is okay for me to have expectations of myself and the fact that I do is nothing to be ashamed of so long as I accept my limitations and accept when I cannot meet those expectations. It is false pride to be ashamed of what you are. I am really not that important and my limitations are not either but causing me unnecessary mental pain is an important matter because what folks do to the least among them “they do to me” Jesus said. . I am not important enough to be made to suffer for stuff that is not sinful such as forgetting things and not being interested in doing things I don’t have to do and don’t to get to because I don’t have too. I got shamed a lot for never getting around to planting a vegetable garden I once talked about planting. When I did try my husband said I spent more on seeds and fertilizer and the water bill than the four tiny beets I managed to grow. I also learned from a neighbor nothing will grow in my soil. Onions maybe if I remember to water them.

There was also a problem of that the folks who imagined I was supposed to be shamed a lot lived so far away I was not able to visit them very often and there was no way of straightening out the problem that their amateur psychology was not in agreement with my therapy or with the folks that I needed to try to please in my immediate life who imagined I was supposed to be shamed for such things as trying to plant that garden I mentioned above. .

Some folks imagined that the psychiatrist meant I was not supposed to try to do the kind of stuff I was told me to not feel guilty about.

When I say such folks made me suffer, I am not just talking about the guilt trips they sometimes succeeded in sending me on. I suffered from grief about my relationships with folks I loved being like that and fear something about me caused it that I did not know the solution to. That made me afraid to get to know people. As a result I suffered from loneliness. The situation was depressing and I suffered from that.


#6

My thought is that, although in this self-absorbed world what you experienced - verbal/emotional abuse? - is now that you’re fully adult something that you can use to grow in true humility.All creatures are His Creation and for that reason (and only because of Him) to be loved, however anything we do that is positive is only because of Him and not from ourselves.


#7

As I understand it being too good is not on the list of symptoms that are used to come up with a diagnosis. Depression might be something where trying to do well at what you do helps. Some of the Anxiety disorders might include some kind of a thing like that. But the trait in and of itself should not cause any one who has it to be considered to have mental health problems.

Also, the types of problems it might go with are not caused by efforts to be good. I think trying to do well might be a part of the solution to those problems rather than either a cause or a symptom.

Another thing that might be the cause of pop psychology having the notion that being good is a symptom is that to suggest it is to alude to the idea someone is extreme. It has been a way of getting accross the idea I have a mental health problem to, when introducing me, wink at who they are introducing me to while declaring me to be outstanding in some extreme way. Usually some way they assume I am going to think of as praise.


#8

First, let’s not confuse being “good” with being “self-righteous” or being “scrupulous.”

Second, a psychologist, most of the time, is going to see things very differently than a devout Catholic, so a psychologist may interpret things as mental health problems. For example, if one receives a private revelation, the psychologist would take no consideration of the factors that a Catholic uses to discern validity of private revelatoin. The psychologist would just say, ‘Seeing things that arent’ there. Therefore, hallucinating."

Now, with those points laid out, I would say, “Yes, but is crazy a bad thing?”

If you really look at the Saints, most of them had symptoms of some kind of mental diversity that we might call a “disorder”, whether it was bipolar, Asperger’s, Autism, schizophrenia, OCD, or something else. But, unlike the people who have these traits and are truly “mentally ill,” the Saints use their neurodiversity (a term I’m borrowing from the autistic community) in the way God intended. They care so much for holiness and justice precisely because their brains are wired differently than “neurotypicals.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that sanctity is a bad thing. It just means that having a “mental health” issue isn’t always a “problem.”

Fr. Groeschel is a very good person to read in this regard.


#9

I’m no psychiatrist but I do think you may have been “over-shamed” in your upbringing. Children need to be taught right and wrong, scolded for when they do wrong - and I mean “WRONGS” - not small things. Sounds like you may have been taught negatively, not given much encouragement or praise if you did something good or right - and that made you think you were a shameful person for whatever you’d do that wasn’t successful.

I don’t think anyone can be “too good” - but I don’t think you’re crazy either. And the psychiatrist - well, from little I’ve heard - it sounds you were somewhat derailed in a negative upbringing - and that’s what brought you to the psychiatrist’s office. Unless you already had some physical / psychological ailment to cause this, stop blaming yourself for trying too hard…And maybe, just keep trying - not as hard - and don’t beat yourself up in the process.
Oh, how I wish I had words of wisdom to make you feel better.


#10

I must have visited the same nutty psychiatrist as you did. I was told that my Catholic upbringing was making me want to do too much to help others. That I was too uptight and did I ever do anything to “just have fun”… not sure what he meant by that…

Maybe he wanted me go out and get wasted or go hog wild or something. Given my introverted nature, no - I have never just gone out and had a wild and crazy time. I have no desire to get high, get wild and crazy or get anything other than what I already am. I love ushering at mass and I love helping other folks out. That’s about as crazy as I care to get. What a nerd ! I do enjoy having an orange juice milk shake or a chili hot dog once in a while…


#11

I think a point I am trying to make is that modern psychology does not think that “being good” or a Catholic upbringing are a cause of mental health problems.

But it is misunderstood that way. My therapists did not think so but they were misunderstood in that way. By me at first and by my non Catholic husband and because the matter was handled indiscretely by others who know about it.

Officially there is not conflict between psychololgy and religion. On the other hand I knew psychology students who went to Catholic highschool with me who understood psychology in that way. One of them who left the church was sharing with me that her education was causing her to diagnose all the saints as schizophenic. She shared that it was also causing her to diagnose everybody she knew as having a problem.

Another thing that seemed to be going on in the late 1950s with her was she was believing in the sexual revolution and shacking up with this other student. Our Catholic upbringing about sex was supposed to be unhealthy.

I seem to have educated myself where don’t see things in that way. I blame any unhealthyness on ordianary folks who belonged to the church and don’t find it a reason to reject the not so exagerated in a negative way real church teachings on the subject. Also modern psychology seems to have gotten away from ideas that sexual shame was a cause of mental health problems. I beleive I used to read it was the cause of mental illness in magazines and encylocpedias in the 1950s. It is my understanding that was pop psychology and public misunderstanding of the thinking in psychology that caused it.


#12

Let me see if I can explain something. When the psychiatrist told you all that stuff about having more fun he was sort of in a way trying to impress you and intimidate you with pop psychology that he knew you might be familiar with but that her probably was aware was not part of the branch of that science having to do with abnormal psychology.

In other words what he accused you of maybe stuff members of the public he believes in keeping ignorant think of as symptoms of mental illness. Or he maybe schooled in abnormal psychology and has never separated the pop psychology he learned from unreliable sources from what he learned in school.

On the other hand I am forgetting that in a previous post I mentioned them not suggesting ordinary things that might help. He was, only he was suggesting that not having enough fun was what was wrong with you or you understood him that way. If that is all that is wrong with you that is not a mental problem.


#13

well some thought jesus was crazy and john the baptist was accused of being possesed. is being too good crazy? well the world thinks it is normal to commit sin so I say give me a straight jacket cuse I’m a total jesus nut who wants to be a saint


#14

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