We human beings are intrinsically motivated to adapt to the reality in which we live. This means that we are programmed to survive, to overcome difficulties, to feel good and to live happily. To do this, we are committed from the first days of life to know the environment in which we live to understand how it works and to know the people around us to understand what to expect from them.
This commitment to know the reality, largely unconscious, leads to the formation of a series of beliefs useful to protect us from dangers and to guarantee safety. For example, based on their own experiences, a child may develop the belief that „if he was sick and called mom, she would come soon“ or that „if he took a disciplinary note at school, dad would get angry“.
In case of early traumatic experiences, this process of knowledge of reality can lead to the formation of a particular type of belief called pathogenic because they associate the achievement of a healthy goal with a danger for oneself, for others and / or for important relationships.
For example, on the basis of his own experiences, a child can develop the pathogenic belief that „if he were sick and called his mother, she would be weighed down and disheartened“. These repeated experiences over time would lead the child to limit his requests for care and care of the mother (healthy goal) to avoid weighing her down and degrading her (danger).
Originally, pathogenic beliefs are adaptive because they are useful to prevent the trauma from which they originated from re-occurring, but they become maladaptive because they tend to generalize, that is to guide our way of feeling, of interpreting reality, of thinking and of behave even when the environment and relationships we change.
Continuing with the example above, that little one from great will avoid making requests for care to others because he will worry about weighing them down and disheartening them, as happened with his mother, depriving himself of the possibility of receiving care, help and support when he needs it.
A psychologist or psychotherapist can help you become aware of the pathogenic beliefs that underlie the symptoms, inhibitions and dysfunctional behaviors that compromise your well-being. Learn to master your pathogenic beliefs, ask for help to those who can give it to you!
Jerome Kagan is a well-known Harvard psychology professor who supports the idea that our brains are programmed to practice goodness. It would therefore be a biological predisposition, the same of which Charles Darwin treated in his time, according to which love, compassion or attention take on a concrete purpose: to allow us to survive as a species.
However, although our brain has a similar inclination by nature, it does not mean that man tends by nature or above all towards goodness. Our brain includes many other equally important biological tendencies, each of which has the ability to influence our behavior – just like anger, jealousy and, of course, violence.
No act of kindness, however small it may be, will never be a waste of time. These gestures full of affection and gratitude enclose the most authentic wisdom, the one that is good for our brain and allows us to connect with others with integrity and nobility.
Goodness occupies a very specific space in the brain: its neuronal mechanisms coincide with those of empathy. If the latter serves to identify a need, goodness serves to translate this sensation into a spontaneous and profound act aimed at doing good, to give well-being and help.
It is a wonderful thing that is worth putting into practice.