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Why Good People Do Bad Things: How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy

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Why Good People Do Bad Things exposes the pervasive and often hidden impulses that influence our everyday decisions. The headlines are full of stories of good people gone astray. They show up on the evening news and are splashed across the weekly tabloids. In many ways, these sad stories have become a national obsession. Yet countless other acts of self-destruction and sabo Why Good People Do Bad Things exposes the pervasive and often hidden impulses that influence our everyday decisions. The headlines are full of stories of good people gone astray. They show up on the evening news and are splashed across the weekly tabloids. In many ways, these sad stories have become a national obsession. Yet countless other acts of self-destruction and sabotage take place in our families, in our communities, in our circle of friends. Despite good intentions, “good people” do very bad things—often without understanding why. New York Times bestselling author Debbie Ford guides us into the heart of the duality that unknowingly operates within each one of us: the force that compels us to live by our values, give and receive love, and be a contributing member of the community; and the force that holds us back, sabotages our efforts, and repeatedly steers us toward bad choices. Ford begins with an examination of what she calls the Beach-Ball Effect—the way in which suppressed emotions eventually rise to the surface—revealing the origins of self-destructive behavior. By describing the never-ending battle between our light and dark sides and then identifying the signposts for potential disaster, Ford helps us understand how we end up damaging the lives we've worked so hard to create. She then breaks new ground by helping us recognize the masks we wear to protect ourselves, including the People Pleaser, the Victim, the Bully, Mister Cool, and the Jokester. Understanding these masks and what they cover up allows us to go beneath the surface, wake up from denial, and become the person we always intended to be. With Why Good People Do Bad Things Ford has created her most enduring, expansive, and powerful work to date. Providing the tools to unlock the patterns of self-sabotage, Ford ultimately knocks down the façade of the false self and shows us how to heal the split between light and dark and live the authentic life within our reach.


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Why Good People Do Bad Things exposes the pervasive and often hidden impulses that influence our everyday decisions. The headlines are full of stories of good people gone astray. They show up on the evening news and are splashed across the weekly tabloids. In many ways, these sad stories have become a national obsession. Yet countless other acts of self-destruction and sabo Why Good People Do Bad Things exposes the pervasive and often hidden impulses that influence our everyday decisions. The headlines are full of stories of good people gone astray. They show up on the evening news and are splashed across the weekly tabloids. In many ways, these sad stories have become a national obsession. Yet countless other acts of self-destruction and sabotage take place in our families, in our communities, in our circle of friends. Despite good intentions, “good people” do very bad things—often without understanding why. New York Times bestselling author Debbie Ford guides us into the heart of the duality that unknowingly operates within each one of us: the force that compels us to live by our values, give and receive love, and be a contributing member of the community; and the force that holds us back, sabotages our efforts, and repeatedly steers us toward bad choices. Ford begins with an examination of what she calls the Beach-Ball Effect—the way in which suppressed emotions eventually rise to the surface—revealing the origins of self-destructive behavior. By describing the never-ending battle between our light and dark sides and then identifying the signposts for potential disaster, Ford helps us understand how we end up damaging the lives we've worked so hard to create. She then breaks new ground by helping us recognize the masks we wear to protect ourselves, including the People Pleaser, the Victim, the Bully, Mister Cool, and the Jokester. Understanding these masks and what they cover up allows us to go beneath the surface, wake up from denial, and become the person we always intended to be. With Why Good People Do Bad Things Ford has created her most enduring, expansive, and powerful work to date. Providing the tools to unlock the patterns of self-sabotage, Ford ultimately knocks down the façade of the false self and shows us how to heal the split between light and dark and live the authentic life within our reach.

30 review for Why Good People Do Bad Things: How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kim Olver

    This is a book that generated mixed feelings in me. I definitely appreciate Ms. Ford's attention to the subject of self-sabotage but I don't agree with her assessment of our shadow sides. (Perhaps I am more in denial than I think.) Ms. Ford does an eloquent job writing about the multiple ways we sabotage ourselves in our best attempts to do good and be good. I particularly enjoyed the chapter entitled, "The Masks." In it, she chronicles the various masks our wounded ego wears to show the world wh This is a book that generated mixed feelings in me. I definitely appreciate Ms. Ford's attention to the subject of self-sabotage but I don't agree with her assessment of our shadow sides. (Perhaps I am more in denial than I think.) Ms. Ford does an eloquent job writing about the multiple ways we sabotage ourselves in our best attempts to do good and be good. I particularly enjoyed the chapter entitled, "The Masks." In it, she chronicles the various masks our wounded ego wears to show the world who we want them to see. It will be difficult to read that chapter and not see the mask or masks of your personal preference. What I didn't agree with was her statement that we have to embrace our shadow side and proudly proclaim how those qualites we or society has deemed negative actual serve us. Take nastiness for example. I may not want to admit any part of me is nasty. I want to always be nice, kind and good. So, when any nastiness surfaces, I attempt to keep it buried because I've decided it isn't good. Ms. Ford suggests that we are equal part positive and negative traits. In order to fully integrate ourselves, we must embrace both sides. She suggests that nastiness might serve me well if I've hired a contractor to fix something in my home and he is repeatedly not doing the job he was hired to do in a competent manner. Here is where I diverge from her thinking. Certainly, the majority of people, wouldn't fault anyone for getting nasty in a situation like that. However, I am personally on a spiritual quest. I have embraced the idea of transcending my ego, as Eckhart Tolle, David Hawkins and others discuss. This is my past. So, while I recognize that my ego has all personality traits associated with it, my preference is moving beyond ego to my spiritual self where there is only love and acceptance. So, depending where you are at in your journey, I think you could find this book useful. If you are challenged by feelings of unworthiness and find you can't be authentically who you are, or you are involved in a lot of self-sabotage, then you may want to pick up this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    drowningmermaid

    So far... this is sounding like a bunch of pseudo-psychological pablum. Starts off raising my hackles with statements like: "this is why I am the perfect person to help you" and other 'behold, the hundreds of thousands I have healed' type stuff, accompanied by a bunch of obscure pop-culture references that are now out of date and which I wouldn't know anyway because I, unlike her intended audience, do not keep tabs on the doings of celebrities. I am waiting for her to acknowledge that her "embraci So far... this is sounding like a bunch of pseudo-psychological pablum. Starts off raising my hackles with statements like: "this is why I am the perfect person to help you" and other 'behold, the hundreds of thousands I have healed' type stuff, accompanied by a bunch of obscure pop-culture references that are now out of date and which I wouldn't know anyway because I, unlike her intended audience, do not keep tabs on the doings of celebrities. I am waiting for her to acknowledge that her "embracing the shadow self" idea is a basic Buddhist tenet that has been around for thousands of years, and was not invented her. Also: if her whole point is accepting weakness and refraining from judgement, why does she spend so much time pointing out the times when various celebrities have made fools of themselves?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Appreciated the perspective that our shadow sides are part of the whole of our humanity. The dualism discussion offers antidotes to shame as well as permission and strategies to get unstuck and move forward. That this is a best seller for so long suggests we all could offer ourselves a little more kindness and grace.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Darin

    Critical for a complete understanding of the human condition. Ford illustrates that the root causes by which sabotage our relationships, our finances, our families, and our careers are rooted in our unknown and unconscious programing. This programming results in an unhealthy belief concerning our dark sides. The pain and shame we feel "drives us to use food, alcohol, sex, drugs, excitement, collecting, gossiping and philandering as ways to distract ourselves from seeing that which we deem unaccep Critical for a complete understanding of the human condition. Ford illustrates that the root causes by which sabotage our relationships, our finances, our families, and our careers are rooted in our unknown and unconscious programing. This programming results in an unhealthy belief concerning our dark sides. The pain and shame we feel "drives us to use food, alcohol, sex, drugs, excitement, collecting, gossiping and philandering as ways to distract ourselves from seeing that which we deem unacceptable or unflattering." The scary thing is that we ALL do this to some extent or other. Some self-sabotage to the extent of criminal. In the end, it is important to recognize the lies we sell ourselves as the root cause of our short comings. For more on Personal Freedom see http://www.The4Freedoms.net

  5. 4 out of 5

    American Business Institute

    A critical read for a complete understanding of the human condition. Ford illustrates that the root causes by which sabotage our relationships, our finances, our families, and our careers are rooted in our unknown and unconscious programing. This programming results in an unhealthy belief concerning our dark sides. The pain and shame we feel "drives us to use food, alcohol, sex, drugs, excitement, collecting, gossiping and philandering as ways to distract ourselves from seeing that which we deem u A critical read for a complete understanding of the human condition. Ford illustrates that the root causes by which sabotage our relationships, our finances, our families, and our careers are rooted in our unknown and unconscious programing. This programming results in an unhealthy belief concerning our dark sides. The pain and shame we feel "drives us to use food, alcohol, sex, drugs, excitement, collecting, gossiping and philandering as ways to distract ourselves from seeing that which we deem unacceptable or unflattering." The scary thing is that we ALL do this to some extent or other. Some self-sabotage to the extent of the criminal. In the end, it is important to recognize the lies we sell ourselves as the root cause of our short comings.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brandon

    it's quite a shocker to be confronted with a detailed description of the type of persona I used to put on just to hide my true self. not that I'm saying I don't wear a mask these days, but like what Ford intelligently illustrated in the book, life is about taking from where we failed/ were failed and starting to flourish. what the book seems to contain beneath the words is a wisdom far greater than a simple psychoanalytical writing, a wisdom that embraces what life always is. love never fails, for it's quite a shocker to be confronted with a detailed description of the type of persona I used to put on just to hide my true self. not that I'm saying I don't wear a mask these days, but like what Ford intelligently illustrated in the book, life is about taking from where we failed/ were failed and starting to flourish. what the book seems to contain beneath the words is a wisdom far greater than a simple psychoanalytical writing, a wisdom that embraces what life always is. love never fails, for that is what life is. we are bound to run into the exact troubles we a avoid, until we let out what has been stored and buried deep inside us long long ago. brilliant! just brilliant!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    You need to be 'ready' to read this book. Be prepared to truly be open and honest with yourself and to explore your inner world with no prejudices. This book is making me realize who I really am and how I have been fooling the world around me, out of fear, shame and wanting to fit in. I was dumped by my girlfriend after a 6-month rocky relationship, so I was ready to learn from it. I dont want to keep repeating the same unsuccessful patterns I've been following for most of my life. You need to be 'ready' to read this book. Be prepared to truly be open and honest with yourself and to explore your inner world with no prejudices. This book is making me realize who I really am and how I have been fooling the world around me, out of fear, shame and wanting to fit in. I was dumped by my girlfriend after a 6-month rocky relationship, so I was ready to learn from it. I dont want to keep repeating the same unsuccessful patterns I've been following for most of my life.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Doneen

    For me, the writing was muddled, and the author kept saying the same things over and over and over. Everything helpful (and there were a few helpful, thought-provoking things) could have been said in a clearer and much more concise way.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    This book is really good to understand why you are doing bad things and sabotaging your life.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lucynelsonloveslife

    This book is really good for exposing all personality flaws, escape methods, denial attempts, toxic traits etc and provides the solution to healing our wounds and self criticism. It gives a clear scaffolding to see yourself if you are open to seeing and acknowledging. I found the personality profiles a little lengthy and challenging to retain as there were so many but I’m sure the end goal is to make sure all possible dysfunctions are exposed and clearly able to be seen. I took a long time to ge This book is really good for exposing all personality flaws, escape methods, denial attempts, toxic traits etc and provides the solution to healing our wounds and self criticism. It gives a clear scaffolding to see yourself if you are open to seeing and acknowledging. I found the personality profiles a little lengthy and challenging to retain as there were so many but I’m sure the end goal is to make sure all possible dysfunctions are exposed and clearly able to be seen. I took a long time to get through this but I think it’s a book I will read again.

  11. 5 out of 5

    John

    An insightful book. The gist I got was that you need to be able to accept yourself and let go of your past deeds. Actually forgive yourself and move on. Beating yourself up over things you have done or that have been done to you tear you down from being the awesome person you have the potential to be. So, let go.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Abracadebra

    So many pearls of wisdom here. If you want to stop self-sabotaging behavior and forgive yourself and others, this book could really help you see the bigger picture and accept all aspects and emotions of the human experience.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kristy

    Whoa! This book will smack you in your head. Such a MUST READ when you are ready to face your truth and understand others. I loved it!!!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    The Guest House This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, The Guest House This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. —Rumi; translation by Coleman Bark "Forgiveness challenges us to find the gold in the dark, the wisdom in our wounds, and the possibility hidden within our pain." This is an excellent, excellent book. I highly recommend it. Debbie Ford's writing eminently readable, conversational, logical, easy to follow. She's written a lot of books on The Shadow, our darker self we'd like to pretend isn't there but keeps showing up in our lives to lead us astray and avert our path from the best of life. From the different descriptions I just picked this one to start with and, without having read any others yet, I feel like I made a good choice. This is in perhaps the best self-help book, especially for those of us who're so used to bad situations that The Law of Attraction works against us and, like me, can't figure out how to get it going the other way, to work for us. This book is that instruction manual. It tells us how to embrace our past, forgive ourselves, embrace the strength and lessons of our darker selves, and move forward. I highlighted about 10% of the book and made notes to many of those. I really like that she closes with examples from her own shortcomings and how those are also her strengths. Don't bother reading Deepak Chopra on The Shadow and definitely stay away from Marianne Williamson on the subject. "My fear of being called lazy gives me my drive. It is my vanity that dresses me in the morning and gets me to work out even when I’m tired. My fear of being a negligent mother makes sure that I go to all the flag football games (even when I’m busy) and drive my son to school (even when I’m tired and he could take the bus). It is my greed and love for fine things that drive me to work when others are out partying, and it is my denial of the evil and angry judgments of others that allows me to stand up in front of group after group and tout my message—to heal the split between the two forces that exist within each of us."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alan Annand

    As a consulting astrologer with an active practice, I have a vested interest in knowing what (aside from Mars and other angry planets) makes people tick from a psychological perspective. And because I also try to be of use in a coaching role, I tend to read quite a lot of "self-help" books to understand why so many people ignore good advice and just do what they want anyway. This book was quite useful in many respects. Its major thesis is that we all have a Shadow Self. For the most part, we run As a consulting astrologer with an active practice, I have a vested interest in knowing what (aside from Mars and other angry planets) makes people tick from a psychological perspective. And because I also try to be of use in a coaching role, I tend to read quite a lot of "self-help" books to understand why so many people ignore good advice and just do what they want anyway. This book was quite useful in many respects. Its major thesis is that we all have a Shadow Self. For the most part, we run away from it, but occasionally we embrace it, after which all manner of chaos may erupt. Ms Ford outlines the various archetypes of the shadow self that we may encounter, both in ourselves, and in those significant others we meet. She also offers a number of strategies in how to accommodate these "demons", transmute them, and co-exist with them. In the end, she gets a little too "born again" for my taste, but her overall delivery is very instructive. If you think you or someone you know is possessed by demons, check it out.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The book is really interesting especially if you are into psychology. It really looks at past emotional experiences as an affect on current behavior. The comparison is like a volcano or a beach ball being held under water. Also, I don't think the book is as intimidating as the title. Bad things are necessarily killing people, they can be as simple as actions outside of who you are as a person. The book is really interesting especially if you are into psychology. It really looks at past emotional experiences as an affect on current behavior. The comparison is like a volcano or a beach ball being held under water. Also, I don't think the book is as intimidating as the title. Bad things are necessarily killing people, they can be as simple as actions outside of who you are as a person.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anita Jacob

    Sometimes I feel too much of explanations can confuse or get a reader lost. The concept of the book and what Debbie Ford shares is great. She introduces you to your wounded ego and explains why we end up doing things that destroy our lives...she also touches on how to heal ourselves. However, I felt that each section dragged on and on...with a lot of repetition, so much so that when I finished one section of the chapter I felt a little giddy, as if I'd been on a merry go round. Sometimes I feel too much of explanations can confuse or get a reader lost. The concept of the book and what Debbie Ford shares is great. She introduces you to your wounded ego and explains why we end up doing things that destroy our lives...she also touches on how to heal ourselves. However, I felt that each section dragged on and on...with a lot of repetition, so much so that when I finished one section of the chapter I felt a little giddy, as if I'd been on a merry go round.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    Great book for people who want to learn more about themselves and understand why others do what they do. She talks about different types of people, masks we wear, how what we like/hate tells us about ourselves, etc. Good for taking ownership/responsibility for one's life, choices, actions, and emotions - so we can find our true selves and be as effective as we can be. Great book for people who want to learn more about themselves and understand why others do what they do. She talks about different types of people, masks we wear, how what we like/hate tells us about ourselves, etc. Good for taking ownership/responsibility for one's life, choices, actions, and emotions - so we can find our true selves and be as effective as we can be.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Anna French

    Interesting concept, and somewhat true I'm sure. But attributing all our negative behavior to shame-bodies seems a bit of an oversimplification. I read through some of the different personality types (both predator and prey) and could see characteristics of at least a few in myself, if not to the degree described. I was left thinking, "so what does that mean for me?" Interesting concept, and somewhat true I'm sure. But attributing all our negative behavior to shame-bodies seems a bit of an oversimplification. I read through some of the different personality types (both predator and prey) and could see characteristics of at least a few in myself, if not to the degree described. I was left thinking, "so what does that mean for me?"

  20. 5 out of 5

    M2

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. As much as this book changed a lot of my perception in life, it could have been way shorter. Sometimes I felt like she was repeating the same thing over and over and it made me more disappointed about it than anything else... the best part of the book for me was when she describes all the different masks we wear. That was very helpful and insightful.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Donia

    I didn't find the style of writing engaging nor clear. The book seems to lack depth or personality. It would refer to people that the reader apparently should know as it would site a well known person's failings but it didn't say what those failings were. All in all, I appreciate the attempt to shed light on this subject but the illumination just didn't happen for me. I didn't find the style of writing engaging nor clear. The book seems to lack depth or personality. It would refer to people that the reader apparently should know as it would site a well known person's failings but it didn't say what those failings were. All in all, I appreciate the attempt to shed light on this subject but the illumination just didn't happen for me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Steve Boyko

    I picked this up at the library on a whim. I think the premise is good and she makes some good points. However, the book suffers from what 90% of self-help books suffer from - length. She takes a long time to get to each point, and spends way too many words to hammer home each point. This book could be 40 pages long and would be a great read, but as it is, the temptation to skim is overwhelming.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Welsh

    Another great piece of work by Debbie Ford. I love her understanding of the human condition and I trust in her work because she has been there. We cannot teach or take anyone where we have never been ourselves. You don't know what you don't know. Thanks for another contribution of great work. Another great piece of work by Debbie Ford. I love her understanding of the human condition and I trust in her work because she has been there. We cannot teach or take anyone where we have never been ourselves. You don't know what you don't know. Thanks for another contribution of great work.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Great introduction to shadow work, for a pathway of solid self improvement. This goes beyond personality types for identification and healing of hidden truths that hinder progress and keep us trapped in cycles of thought.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tami

    I love shadow work and Debbie Ford is amazing with it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    ~:epiphany:~

    I found this book said alot of the same things I read in A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle. It is almost as if those two compared notes.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Ferry

    Straight-forward writing made this book easier to digest. Hard subject.

  28. 5 out of 5

    E. Williams

    Interesting book, I feel there are things in it we could learn from.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    Reading about the "masks" that people wear in their public and private persona was pretty fascinating. Reading about the "masks" that people wear in their public and private persona was pretty fascinating.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Insightful book that very cleverly and clearly explains issues of the psyche that are relevant to all. And does so even better than the psychological community.

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