The Catastrophe of Hyperagreeableness

Roman King | U.S.

In the previous essay, I briefly outlined what the Jungian shadow is, its role in determining if a person is capable of being morally sound, and its place in the overall personality of any given person. In short, the ability to confront yourself and come to grips with the self-selected negative traits your unconscious ego holds, and the ability to use it to build and reinforce your value system, is one of the biggest things that determines whether or not a person is truly “good”. To incredibly oversimplify the thesis, you must be aware of your shadow and you must be capable of controlling it in order to find some semblance of self-control or self-awareness in the incredibly disorienting and catastrophic phenomenon that is life on this planet. This is simply a vast oversimplification of the vast studies of Carl Jung, who believed that “…the less embodied [the shadow] is in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” (Psychology and Religion: West and East). There is almost infinitely more to discuss in regards to this fascinating topic, but one of the things I previously mention is the phenomena of people ignoring their shadows for one reason or another (I will mention these reasons in the piece below), and how it causes you to be left wide open for a catastrophic event to take place and potentially do some serious mental damage. It is truly tragic, and there is a symptom of not coming to grips with your shadow — hyper-agreeableness.

Jordan Peterson mentioned in one of his university lectures the difference between conscientious people and agreeable people. The conscientious person expects the work to get done and doesn’t give half a damn about the life behind the task at hand, whereas the agreeable person will be more likely to sympathize with the plights of the worker in regards to their personal work. In Peterson’s words, “…not one of these belief systems is more correct than the other; that’s why both exist.” Compassion is an incredibly important emotion, and it is a massive component to our concept of human empathy. The problem is when it is disingenuous, rooted in insecurity and an unhealthy dependence on gratifying the emotional needs of other people. There comes a time where agreeableness becomes hyper-agreeableness, and this is a problem in many ways.

Well, for one, you become incredibly easy to take advantage of. When you become so structurally weak, and when you grow so accustomed to living your life with the sole purpose of making other people feel gratified, you begin to lose touch with your own needs and your own wishes. If you ask a hyper-agreeable person what they want, they’ll usually have an incredibly hard time giving you a straight answer, and that’s because they are so accustomed to living for other people that they don’t even have a solid base to stand on anymore. It’s an incredibly sad phenomenon because the utility of their compassion is lost. On the inverse, doing this same experiment with a very grounded and conscientious person will generally yield the opposite result; they know exactly what they want and they will tell you exactly how they plan on getting it, whether it be a goal or a tangible object or whatnot. Hyper-agreeable people are not assertive whatsoever. They are invalids when it comes to the art of negotiation. Almost always, they will yield too much and end up in a position where they are set to gain zero benefits — and they will often have no problem with this whatsoever, not realizing that there could have been a higher amount of utility distributed if they had stood a bit more firm! Tyrants and master manipulators (of which there are many of in this wicked world) will, beyond any doubts, exploit the hyper-agreeable person for everything they can. This is not a good situation to be in.

Another, perhaps more wicked effect of hyper-agreeableness, is that in your baseless quest to try and make people happy, if you do so without a sense of yourself, you begin to lose the very positive traits you begin to espouse. The Carl Jung quote referenced in the expository paragraph of this essay fits perfectly here. It is very possible for the hyper-agreeable person to begin to develop a low self-esteem (due to their seemingly only redeeming quality being the ability to live for other people) and lose their very real positive aspects to their unconscious shadow. That’s a catastrophic problem, too, because as the shadow becomes darker, and the more it consumes, the scarier it is to confront. It is exponentially more morbid to confront a shadow that has already come away with your positive conscious traits (empathy, compassion, what have you) than to do so with a full arsenal, so to speak. The more the hyper-agreeable person continues on the path of baseless selflessness, the bigger chance they risk of losing themselves to other people, quite literally giving up themselves for the chance of making somebody else’s day a bit better. A noble goal, but a goal that in the end benefits nobody and decimates the hyper-agreeable person. There comes a point where you become less of an individual and more of a caricature that people have constructed you as; you become something less than a personality. You yourself become a strawman, built up of the weak epithets of gratitude you receive in return.

This can spiral into full-scale neuroticism and depression in the snap of a finger. After all, if you become nothing, and you begin to ask yourself the question of what you are, what can you answer with? The hyper-agreeable person might begin to realize the emptiness they have left themselves with. They have quite literally given up their entire soul to the world, and have received nothing meaningful in return. There is now nothing left but that damn shadow. At this point, you can’t even continue to try and keep up the pretense that you’re a good person because you’re so emotionally and psychologically drained that there’s no way you could fathom continuing to be empathetic and compassionate on the massive scale you were.

All of this is assuming that, again, you hadn’t done the responsible thing and confronted your shadow beforehand. Selflessness, genuine selflessness, must be done with a foundation. If you have a grip on yourself — that is, you’ve confronted yourself, you’ve begun the road to self-realization, you can then stand on two feet without being knocked over by the slightest gust of wind. You can outpour your compassion, your empathy, and your love for humanity, and you will still always know who you are. You can stand up for yourself in negotiations and ensure your own benefit so that you might live to love another day. If you can be a sturdy pillar, you can survive when people try to take you down and take advantage of your goodness. One of the ultimate quests of humanity is to try and mitigate the suffering of life, and a truly good person who knows who they are, what they are capable of, and where they stand, might stand somewhat of a chance to make a dent in the eternal cycle of existential crisis. A hyper-agreeable person might be able to do a good impression of a truly noble man, but it is temporary and bound to fail. Happiness is not like matter, of which there is a finite amount of it. Happiness is not something distributed from one person to another. The truly good person is able to grow positives out of positives and distribute their yields of good faith however they so desire. This is not the case with the hyper-agreeable person, who gives themselves up and doesn’t take care of themselves. You can only change the world to your liking if you yourself are mentally sound. Take care of yourself before you try and give yourself up to people who might not appreciate it.