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Understanding Your Bad

By Debbie Mandel

While growing up, I often heard the familiar phrase, “Now, don’t be a bad little girl,” especially whenever I asked a provocative question, decided to do it my way, refused to do it, or wandered away to explore on my own. As my world expanded with more street smarts and formal education, it became apparent that bad and good were fluid terms relating to cultural and religious belief systems. If I had been born in the Southern hemisphere versus the Northern hemisphere, my comprehension of bad and good could have been turned upside down.

Here are some possible contradictions:
  • Truth is beauty and beauty is truth. Some beautiful people lie and harm others. Just look at Casey Anthony and possibly Amanda Knox. Observe the prejudice against unattractive, obese or elderly people.
  • Creation and destruction are intertwined: In our bodies cells are dying and new cells are being born.
  • Obedience is taught both at home and in school to most every child. Obedience to Hitler caused a holocaust.
  • Sex can be naughty or is it nice and healthy? Many of us are raised with a sort of sexual schizophrenia, causing us to censor/repress our feelings and fantasies.
  • Many cultures blame the rape victim for triggering the abuse.
  • Food is something we both bless as spiritual and shun as an enemy.
  • Technology is empowering helping us to connect with others quickly, yet diminishing our natural rhythms and ability to communicate face to face.
  • There are subtle differences between manipulation and influence. Do you know them?
Clearly, these few examples highlight that life is peppered with contradictions. Bad and good are terms which can be used to describe an event or a person depending on the angle of perception – they coexist. What seems bad today could potentially be good tomorrow and vice versa. So, is your cup half full or half empty?

You should periodically tweak your bad and good value system because:
  • Every bad day has something good in it – look for this hidden treasure.
  • Your stern inner critic, telling you how bad you are, could inhibit you from flowering.
  • You have to be bad, even awful, when you start learning something new until you become proficient.
  • You need to sense who you hang around with because you do absorb either their goodness or toxicity. This principle can be extended to art, movies, books and music.
  • The next time you vehemently defend your rightness, know that everyone self-justifies and sees things from their own perspective.
  • Accept the many selves of your personality to embrace your whole human experience. For example, jealousy can spur you to accomplish.
  • Always helping others and being of service can have a dark side – you need to prove that you are a superior person. Give others a chance to reciprocate.
  • If you feel ashamed and guilty about your life, rewrite your story this minute with an awareness of how all this bad led you to the good, exposing a fresh, new growth.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: