Why Are We Taught That It’s Bad to Feel Good?

In a way it’s a strange concept, and one we might not think about consciously, all of the time. But in nearly every government system, there’s some kind of thought that we’re taught, that it’s bad to feel good. While this idea is unfortunately tied to many parts of life, it can be seen very prominently when dealing with drug policy.

*This article is the opinion of the writer, and has no bearing on the views held by the rest of the publication.

We’re taught it’s bad to feel good

I wish this was something I was making up, but it’s most certainly not. And it’s also not the exact same attitude in every country, although there is a suspicious similarity in a lot of drug law. In fact, if you take a look around globally, you’d think every non-government approved substance is the cause of major death. It’s almost hard to believe that no death toll drugs like cannabis are the concentration of such extreme laws, given that such drugs aren’t known to hurt people.

Think about it… We’re told what we can take, and what we can’t; with nearly anything that produces a high getting eliminated. Alcohol is actually one of the sole exceptions, and its not like there haven’t been initiatives to get rid of it before in America, (while it is illegal in some parts of the world). For America, it just wasn’t a feasible move. We are, however, told that drugs like opioids are technically okay. And even as governments outwardly lament their damage, they also keep them legal, which subconsciously tells us a different story. One that allows things that feel good so long as a government profits.

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Want a similar comparison? Think of money. We’re also told how we can and can’t spend money. Money is our source of independence. It’s what allows us to make decisions about lifestyle, family matters, hobbies, and everything else. That a government would or should have the right to tax people, and then tell them how to use the rest of their money, is kind of insane.

Gambling is a great example of governments wanting to control how you spend. This isn’t about a deadly substance, or fear for people. Governments don’t have a problem taking money from struggling people, and we know this, so we know its not for our protection either.

Did we learn it from the puritans?

First and foremost, before getting into this, puritanism only relates to a certain part of history in a certain part of the world. This idea is not meant to offer a direct answer to this overarching idea, but it can shed light on how these belief structures get into place, and continue on. It’s good to remember that when it comes to American history, it was built on puritanical beliefs.

The word ‘puritan’ doesn’t relate to a specific denomination of Christianity outside of ‘Protestantism.’ The Puritans were a group of English Protestants from the 16th and 17th centuries. The group had the goal of purifying the Church of England from anything related to Roman Catholicism. Overall, the group wanted to run a tighter ship. They wanted things to be more strict, even to the point of some wanting to separate from the church entirely. They became a strong political power during the 1600’s by connecting with other similarly-minded religious groups of the time.

In the end, though, Puritans lost out. When the 1662 Act of Uniformity went through in England, and the English church was restored to previous standards, Puritans were essentially invalidated. At that time, many of these puritans were called ‘dissenters’ for going against the 1662 changes, and many left the church at that time. Their presence began to serve as general agitation for the English church and government.

So where did they go? Many went on to the newly established colonies of the New World, particularly New England. And while this large immigration ended within decades of starting, the end result was around 21,000 puritans in the New England colonies by the middle of the 1600’s. That’s a large percentage of the overall crowd for the time, making it unsurprising that puritan beliefs took over the New World. Consider that by mid-1600, the largest colony – Massachusetts Bay Colony, had about 20,000 people. It was originally settled by 1,000 puritans.

Technically, if we’re to be realistic about it, Puritanism isn’t that different from any other form of Christianity, or any other religion. It offers the same basic ideas, and doesn’t wander far from the original doctrines. Part of what came with puritanism, however, was the attitude of it all. They wanted stronger adherence to rules, and a stricter culture. While I could go into some of the tenants of the grouping, they’re less important than the sheer idea of the anxiety that drove the whole thing, and the severe way it was implemented.

Drugs and religion
Drugs and religion

Is it that weird that the country that grew out of this still holds onto some of these beliefs, even if at the same time its pulled in a different directions? While America is home to much bad behavior and free thought, it also has a base of puritan-like beliefs that often win out, even as opinions change. Its also good to remember that religious beliefs dominate many governments, which make puritan influence on America, a pretty standard thing. Perhaps the puritans are just a great way of showing how the progression of religious thought on other structures of belief, comes into play.

Shouldn’t we want to feel good?

The reality of life is that we can sit and argue anything. So long as a person can have an opinion, that opinion is valid, as that’s all it is, opinion. You could ask this question to a lot of different people, and get a lot of different answers. Maybe the logic answer is that we should want to feel good, but that idea is often drowned out in favor of other factors like religious belief. Religion is a motivating factor in behaviors like self-flagellation, wherein people actually beat themselves in an act of self-punishment. What stands more for the idea of going against your own personal happiness?

Much religious belief has to do with being chosen in some way, versus being left out. It’s about winning the favor of a god, and making sure to check the boxes that will lead to whatever promise there is of a great eternal life. It can come with huge amounts of anxiety and fear. After all, what happens if you can’t keep your kids in line? Where will they end up? And it seems that for some, there’s an accepted link between self-punishment and/or unhappiness, and this ability to be a good person who gets the right religious benefits.

Think of the restrictive lives of some of the people considered most holy, like priests or monks. Even those of us who are religious, generally don’t want to go to such repressive and limiting extremes. Because its hard, and it lacks fun or freedom. Puritan ideas are like an in-between. Not requiring those full commitments, but still applying the same harsh sentiments about life and how it should be lived. People who get behind such ideas are likely more willing to support super harsh penalties, like the death sentence for drugs that don’t actually kill.

While logically we should want to feel good, feeling good doesn’t always seem to jive with strict adherence to religious belief. And in a world where 75%+ claim some sort of religious affiliation, it means a world of people who are influenced by these religious values. I make absolutely no judgement on that part, and speak of this as a matter of a group thought process over individual belief or logic.

Why are we taught its better to not feel good?

I don’t believe we’re taught this directly. I don’t know of any religion that specifically teaches that a person should move away from good things to bad things. Even promoting strict adherence doesn’t usually come with this as a direct statement. It seems to be in trying to think of ourselves as holy or in-line that causes this as a possible belief. It’s also quite possible these sentiments are taken advantage of by governments as a way to keep people in line, regardless of what that line is.

Faith, and the idea its bad to feel good
Faith, and the idea its bad to feel good

As far as why this would be so widely adopted? Hard for me to say, apart from simply the fear of non-inclusion. The world is a scary place with tons of question marks, and its easier to have answers. People seem to gravitate to something that gives answers, and then do what they have to, to keep in line.

And certainly not without irony. Think of a mob boss getting done killing people, just to get to church on time, and sit in a confessional booth. How many people consider themselves good patrons of their religion, while also breaking tenants of the religion, like cheating on a spouse, or robbing another person in some way. A contradiction we seem pretty used to in life.

No, I don’t believe we’re directly taught that its bad to feel good. But we are subconsciously taught it. And it reverberates in so many parts of life, like how we’re taught to view drugs. And while it’s probably best not to have your population addicted to awful substances, it gets crazy to think of the extremes put into place to keep populations away from drugs like weed and psychedelics. When it comes to such drugs, and the realities within, why can’t we just accept that it’s okay to feel good?


I’m not blaming anything on any specific group, or fingering any thought process or related religion, for this. But there does seem to be a general thinking that it’s not good to feel good, and I think this is something that we should be ready to finally do away with. Let’s all feel good from here on out! And let’s feel okay about using substances that help us do it, so long as no one is getting hurt.

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