What is good and what is bad? The answer may vary from society to society or culture to culture or even person to person. However, most of us have a pretty fair idea of what is good and bad based on our instincts and experiences.
Yet, our species delivers the best and worst of all in the animal kingdom. It is remarkable how the same person can be exceedingly good for a moment and, in the next second, extremely bad. What causes Homo sapiens to flip flop between these extremes, sometimes without a transition?
One theory is that our emotions carry us back and forth from one extreme to the other. If we do not control these emotions or if we have mental issues, such as being bipolar, this can happen quite often. Most citizens attempt to moderate their emotions during good times, but this can change when times become difficult. This can also change when people give in to temptation. For example, a man who led a boring life with his wife found a more exciting woman at work. The man would do everything good that he could for his wife, and then he would run to his extramarital affair without breaking stride. How could the same man do good and bad?
There are cases of next-door neighbors, described as quiet and passive, who turn out to be serial killers. Even though these are the exceptions in society, we still find many people who are nice and generous, who turn into angry, hateful citizens with little warning. That is why it is very dangerous to rely on just dating for a few hours, several days a week to tell you all the need to know about a person. You have to live with that person 24/7 in order to find out if they have a good-to-bad switch. Alcohol, drugs, money, and sex are some of the typical triggers for the Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde complex.
Other animals do not appear to have these emotions that drive us to extreme positions. Fear, envy, love, lust, anger, and hate are just some of the far-flung emotions that drive us to doing things that we normally would not do. Let’s examine a man who becomes obsessed with a very attractive woman. He might initially have been afraid to talk to her, so he may have watched from a distance. Then he may have envied the gentleman who dated her for a week, but he might have loved her once they stopped dating. This love may have turned to lust as he thought about what he wanted to do to her. Then he might have become angry because he could not have her, which could have turned to hate when he decided to kill her.
So throw emotions on our free will to make choices and it is like throwing kerosene on a fire. Homo sapiens are different from other animals in that our decisions are clouded by emotions. Most animals act on instinct and primal needs to obtain food or procreate. People are all over the board, depending on which emotion is pushing the action.
Q. Why can’t we exercise more self-control? A. Probably, because emotions are similar to drugs. They take over your mind and body, pushing you into taking extreme actions, usually bad. The best approach is to “just say no to emotions” when they first pop up.