Article by Shawn Dwyer and DrL.Michael Hall  ~

As we all know, and know all too well-things often go wrong. Whether in business, career development, relationships, parenting, in all areas things can go awry from our plans, desires, and expectations.  Sometimes when things go wrong, things become muddled and confused. At other times, things become damaged even destroyed, toxified, traumatized, and distorted.

Good and Evil

Now when things go wrong-one thing that potentially can undermine resilience is your philosophy of good and evil. And you can count on your “good-and-evil” philosophy being activated when things go wrong. It comes with the territory of being human. We all have some understanding about good and evil, but until something goes wrong and you have a set-back, it is just a philosophy. Then it becomes real, it becomes life. And then, as a meaning-maker who has to identify what a thing is, what it means, how it operates, it’s significance, etc., now you have to do that with the set-back. What do you think? Is it good and supportive? Is it evil and hurtful? What is its source and significance?


Whether the set-back occurs to you as an individual, a manager, leader, entrepreneur, business owner, parent, a friend, etc., you have assumptions in the back of your mind about what it means when things go wrong. You ask the why question:

“Why did this happen to me?”

“Why is there pain, hurt, unfairness, injustice, challenges, problems?”

“and why do evil things happen in the world?”

Wrong Philosophy

At this point your answer to these so-called philosophical questions enables your resilience or it disables your resilience. Which direction does your philosophy lead you? How do you explain the source of evil? Does the cause of the thing that goes wrong come upon you because there’s something wrong with you? Just happen chance? Is evil personal or is it impersonal?

Does “evil” even exist as a thing?

If it does not, how do you understand the presence of evil in the world?

Prior to the twentieth century, people mostly thought of evil as a thing, something that existed externally and apart from human activity. They even invented personifications of evil in terms of demons, devil, satan, etc.

Twentieth Century Psychology did no better.  It also took the negative view of things going wrong. Following Freud and Watson, both Psychoanalysis and Behaviorism assumed that “human nature” was the problem. The source of evil goes to the basic human drives which are hostile, antagonistic, aggressive, totally selfish, anti-social, etc.  The problem is inside. Applied to business or social contexts, and people don’t really want to work, they are lazy, irresponsible, selfish, greedy, etc. McGregory called this Theory X.

Basic Human Needs

Maslow changed all of that as he explained “evil” differently, it is not grounded in human nature, but arises from failing to fulfill the basic needs required for health and growth. For Self-Actualization Psychology, deficiency is the problem. Things do not go wrong because people are bad (evil) at their core. It is because their basic needs have not been taken care of in a satisfactory way. Pathology arises because of the lack of gratification of needs. Hence people become sick due to not satisfying the requirements for health and growth. The problem is outside. It is in how you cope with your driving needs.

The first needs are those for oxygen, food, water, and sleep. However deprive a person of one of these and stand back. Watch the person become desperate.

Perpetuate that state-then out of that desperate need to survive will come aggression, hostility, competition, greed, fear, grief, sadness, shame, etc.

More over the same happens when you deprive a person of the safety and security needs, the social needs for love, affection, connection, relationship, and support.

And it happens with deficiency of self-value, self-respect, and self-dignity.

When people are deprived of these basic human requirements, they become aggressive, hostile, competitive, desperate, fearful, angry, etc. and will do harm (evil). They become reactive which then leads to doing evil to oneself and to others.


Deficiency even occurs at the highest of needs, the self-actualizing needs of knowledge, beauty, justice, order, love, etc. Therefore when deprived of these, meta-pathologies arise- meaninglessness, hopelessness, futility, desperate, depression, alienation, cynicism, etc. What is called “evil” arises due to the failure of human beings to live and be fully human. “Evil” describes the failure to be human, it misses the mark of what’s required to be fully alive, fully human- knowledge, understanding, self-development, personal growth, meaning, significance, beauty, order, discipline, excellence, etc.-the being-values.

So what do we need when things go wrong, when bad things happen to us or to our world? And what do we need when questions of good and evil arise? One thing we need is a philosophy that enables us to understand the source of the problem which, in turn, gives us a way to respond creatively. And that’s precisely what Self-Actualization Psychology and Theory Y provides.

When things go wrong-something is off-track.

We are missing a key variable that’s required for things to go right.  When we evaluate that something is “evil,” we are saying that instead of fulfilling the criteria for health, growth, success, etc., we are instead experiencing something preventing that or something destroying it. It is “evil” to what we are attempting to achieve. The solution is now at hand- let’s find out what’s missing or what’s interfering. If something is deficient, let’s fulfill it. If something in interfering, let’s identify it and replace it.


So when things go wrong, you need a practical philosophy or understanding that can guide you into taking smart corrective actions. Hence Maslow suggested the understanding that human nature is neutral or good, and not bad or evil, and that it is designed with certain requirements for health and wholeness.

Therefore believing that leads us to get curious, “So what’s going wrong?”  “Going wrong in terms of what goal or objective? “What’s needed so it goes right?” And now you’re thinking resiliently!

Resilience Mastery

  • Download Your Free Resilience Brochure

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.