Excerpt: 'Why Good People Do Bad Things: How To Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy'

Author Debbie Ford discusses the forces that drive us in her new book.

ByABC News via logo
March 9, 2008, 1:48 PM

March 10, 2008 — -- In her new book, best-selling author Debbie Ford tries to explain "Why Good People Do Bad Things: How To Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy." The book delves into the forces that compel people to live by their values and the ones that hold people back while sabotaging their dreams. Ford specifically talks about the beach-ball effect, which she says is the way suppressed emotions eventually rise to the surface and reveal the the origins of self-destructive behavior.

Find out more information by reading the excerpt below.

"Why Good People Do Bad Things" is a powerful inquiry into the hidden forces that drive us to commit unbelievableacts of self-sabotage and self-destruction. We've all heard the stories; they show up on the evening news, on the front pageof newspapers, and as headlines in the weekly tabloids: the Olympic sports hero who falls from grace after being accused ofinjecting steroids; the TV evangelist who gets arrested for soliciting prostitutes; the schoolteacher who carries on an affair withone of her students; or the baseball star who gambles on his own games. These are the public demonstrations of good people whohave gone astray, and they have become our national obsession. But countless other acts of self-destruction and unthinkableacts of cruelty take place, unbeknownst to us, in our own backyards: the successful eye surgeon who gambles his kids' college tuition away; the public official who takes a bribe; the PTA mom who is having an affair with her best friend's husband; the hospitaladministrator who commits insurance fraud; or the financial manager who embezzles money from his clients. These arepeople whom most of their peers would consider good people, not common criminals, psychopaths, or sociopaths whose historiesmight predict their unscrupulous behavior. These are people like you and me, people who started out with big dreams fortheir future. But despite their good intentions, these so-called good people did some very bad things, most often without evenunderstanding why.

Our society is rampant with acts of self-destruction that leave most of us perplexed and asking, "Why did he or she do that?Why did I do this? How could this happen?" Self-sabotage is the proverbial hammer over the head that finally wakes us up,demanding that we pay attention. For most of us, it takes something devastating to crack us open, to get us out of our mindsand into our hearts. It takes the pain of a broken heart and shattered dreams to push us beyond the limited realities we havecreated for ourselves.

We are spiritual beings whether we want to admit it or not, and inherent in our DNA is a design to return us home -- hometo our true essence, our greatest self, our limitless self. One of the ways we unconsciously ensure our return is through pain.Pain is the greatest motivator for change. It is the spiritual crowbar that pries open the door to new realities. Would we look intoour deeper selves, dwell in them, grapple with them, inquire into them, and initiate change in our lives if everything was perfect?More than likely we would just continue living day by day in the comfort of our familiar worlds.

Self-sabotage is a catalyst that can change our world in an instant. We can go from arrogant and blind to humble and open -- in just a matter of seconds. The pain we cause ourselves is a tremendous spiritual gift. When explored and understood for itstrue purpose, the pain of our own self-sabotage reveals new and uncharted territories that can change the course of our lives.

The underbelly of the human psyche, what is often referred to as our dark side, is the origin of every act of self-sabotage.Birthed out of shame, fear, and denial, it misdirects our good intentions and drives us to unthinkable acts of self-destruction and not-so-unbelievable acts of self-sabotage.

Shame and denial feed our dark side for one simple reason. If we accepted our weaknesses, flaws, and shortcomings as a naturalpart of our humanity, we would have the ability to ask for help when we are confronted with an impulse that we don't know howto deal with. We would recognize that these dark impulses -- such as the urge to have sex with people other than our spouse, to takemoney that doesn't belong to us, or to lie in order to better position ourselves -- are a natural part of our humanity that needs tobe understood and embraced. But because these urges are left unexplored and unexamined, they get wrapped in shame and denialand kept hidden in the dark. And it is there that our shadow self, the unwanted and denied aspects of ourselves, gathers more power until a blowup is inevitable.

Every aspect of ourselves that we've denied, every thought and feeling that we've deemed unacceptable and wrong, eventually makes itself known in our lives. When we are busy building a business, creating a family, or taking care of those we love, whenwe are too busy to pay attention to our emotions, we have to hide our dark impulses and shame-filled qualities, which leaves us atrisk for an external explosion. In a matter of minutes, when we least expect it, a rejected or unwanted aspect of ourselves canpop up and destroy our lives, our reputations, and all of our hard work. This is what I call the Beach-Ball Effect.

Think of the amount of energy it takes to hold an inflated beach ball underwater for an extended period of time. Themoment you relax or take your attention away from keeping it submerged, the ball will bounce back up and splash waterin your face. The Beach-Ball Effect is at work when you have suppressed something deep within your psyche, stored it in therecesses of your subconscious, and then, just when you think everything is going your way, something happens: You send aslanderous e-mail to the wrong colleague. You get lured into betraying someone you love for a night of meaningless passion.

You get behind the wheel of a car after having three drinks and get arrested for drunk driving. You get caught dipping into yourfamily's trust fund. You fly off into a rage in front of your new lover. You make an inappropriate comment that costs you yourjob. You blow an important deadline right before your big review. You haul off and hit your child in a moment of frustration. . . .In other words, the beach ball -- your repressed urges and your unprocessed pain -- pops up and hits you in the face, sabotagingyour dreams, robbing you of your dignity, and leaving you drenched in shame.

How many more blatant acts of self-sabotage do we have to witness to understand the devastating effects of denying and suppressing our unprocessed emotional garbage? Don Imus is a perfect example. Here is a man who worked hard to becomeone of biggest radio and TV celebrities in the country over the course of thirty-five years -- his entire career was based on communication.And in less than one minute the reputation he had spent years building was destroyed. The beach ball bounced up and hit him in the face.