Humanity: Our Self-Destructive Dilemma

“The Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all — the trouble is, humans do have a knack for choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone


According to the humanistic perspective of psychology, we are all leaning toward self-growth. As we form relationships and undergo new experiences, we gain knowledge and wisdom about the world around us, and we naturally change for the better. Nevertheless, we still manage to find ourselves making poor decisions — decisions we know are bad for us — as if we haven’t learned from the past.

I’d like to throw this question out to my readers: why do we tend to choose this self-destructive path?

You guys know what I’m talking about. Different people personify it in different ways, but we see it everywhere: in the college student who overeats; in the boy who likes to try various drugs; in the girl who keeps going back to the same guy who ripped her heart out (and then stomped on it a few times for good measure). The actions themselves may differ, but I feel like the sentiments behind them often remain the same.

Point is, people aren’t stupid. Much of the time, they know the exact ramifications of what they are getting themselves into, and yet they still make those harmful choices.

I often wonder why we make those bad decisions on purpose. Do we use them as an escape from other, more underlying problems? Do we use them more abstractly to figure out what we can survive? Are we in total denial about them? Or do we use them to see who will reach out to us in the long run?

Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is, but I do think that when you see a friend who seems to be struggling, it is important to try and help in the best way you can. Just as Audrey Hepburn once said, “As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself and one for helping others.” Of course we aim to learn and grow from our mistakes (and so maybe this does fit in with humanism in the sense that those self-destructive mistakes lead us toward positive change), but having that extra shoulder to lean on certainly doesn’t hurt.

What are your views on this?

6 Replies to “Humanity: Our Self-Destructive Dilemma”

  1. Great post, Valerie! Always the eloquent writer. =)

    I read your post a few days back. But I couldn’t make a response, because — to be completely honest — I still don’t know the answer to the question of why we do things that are wrong for us, when we know what we are doing and what the consequences down the road will be.

    It’s a scary situation, isn’t it? After all, the final decision always rests with yourself, but if you’re repeatedly going back to the wrong way (time after time) even after you know EXACTLY what is going to happen to you, then what can stop you if not that knowledge? It seems like nothing can.

    I myself have been down (I think!) a similar road myself. Ironically, it is especially because I have been down that road — and because I have seen what lies in that direction — that it makes even less sense to me why I, or anybody else, would choose it. But for some of us out there, we do/did choose it at one point or another. And it sucks. If you reach the so-called “end of the line,” you may eventually get back on your feet someday, but the scars never really completely go away. And that is why it is so important to snap out of it.

    I took an ethics course that explained how you must first ask yourself what the function of human beings is, before you can differentiate between right and wrong, between good and bad, etc. as far as those things concern people. This is because we cannot make distinctions between them, unless it is in consideration of the ultimate goal for which people do things.

    And what is the fundamental goal that unites everything we do in life? The goal of happiness. Survival, health, food, money, etc. are only goals as far as they can lead to happiness. According to the philosophy of ethics, happiness is the ultimate function human beings strive for.

    However, the function of human beings — logically speaking — is to do good human traits as well as possible, just like the function of shipbuilding is to build ships as well as possible. What are the good traits that humans have, then? In the case of human beings, it is the ability to reason, and the possession of the so-called human virtues. Therefore, ethics uses the concept of synonyms to say that if happiness is the ultimate goal, and if the ultimate function of people is to live according to reason and virtue, then achieving happiness IS living according to reason and virtue : living according to what we know are the right things to do. If we are doing wrong and/or bad things, then we are losing true happiness and are failing our fundamental duty as human beings.

    “But try! Of little worth as life is when we misuse it, it is worth that effort. It would cost nothing to lay down if it were not.” — Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities

    1. I love hearing what your ethics course taught about the subject! That’s a very interesting point of view — and I definitely agree. Doing what’s wrong for us repeatedly isn’t helping us to better ourselves, regardless of whatever comfortable patterns we’ve fallen into. Your quote really fits the subject well. We’re better off looking for positive ways to spend our lives. 🙂

  2. ^ Yick! Looking back on my post, that was kind of a mess lol. I hope it made some sense; I just kind of blurted it all out. =P

    By the way, did you ever get around to seeing “Rapunzel,” Val? And if so, what did you think of it?

    In any case, Merry (upcoming) Christmas!!!

    1. Your post was not at all a mess — it was a pleasure to read, and I could tell you put a lot of thought into it, which I appreciate 🙂

      I did see it! I absolutely loved it… Rapunzel was adorable and by the end of the movie I was basically in love with Flynn. The story as a whole was beautiful – much more fairy tale than the trailers let on, which I was very happy about. I thought they did a great job, and I’m sad that Disney won’t be making more princess movies anytime soon. I guess young girls today are now aspiring to be “sexy,” which isn’t something Disney can really advocate, but while I’m sure a lot of the new movies will be great, I feel like they shouldn’t abandon a good fairy tale if it comes up. I definitely want to see Tangled again!

      Merry Christmas to you too! 🙂 Have a wonderful holiday!

      1. >>>>>>”Your post was not at all a mess — it was a pleasure to read, and I could tell you put a lot of thought into it, which I appreciate”

        That’s really sweet of you. If only a keyboard could type a kiss, I would type one right now! =P

        And I’m glad you liked the movie. I agree with you about Flynn and Rapunzel being great characters. Also, remember that part at the end with the line “You were my new dream” ? When I saw that, I was like : “Whoah, dude! That was epic! What a way to go out!” =D

  3. “You were my new dream” was so sweet! Their love story was great — better than some of the others, where they fall in love in the first scene. I liked that they took the time to get to know each other (even if it was only a day or two) and I especially loved the lantern scene. I also loved how they portrayed the dynamic of “mother” and daughter throughout the movie — I think this witch had more dimensions than a lot of the other Disney villains because of all that. Still, Flynn/Rapunzel was probably my favorite — so sweet! 🙂 I’m glad he didn’t die.

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