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  • Writer's pictureHelen Dempsey-Henofer

Pliance in The Good Place: A Dialogue on Balancing Social Rules and Authenticity

As a therapist working with LGBTQIA+ individuals, neurodivergent people, those grappling with religious trauma, and people who struggle with shame and anxiety, I've noticed a common thread in our lives: pliance. Pliance is the concept of internalizing social rules. In and of itself, this isn't inherently bad or good. However, it's essential for us to recognize and evaluate how this process impacts our well-being. So, let's embark on a journey to explore the concept of pliance through a dialogue between characters from the TV show, "The Good Place," illustrating the concept's relevance to our lives.

A Conversation with Chidi and Tahani

Chidi Anagonye, an ethics professor, often wrestles with the concept of pliance. One day,

Tahani Al-Jamil, a fellow resident of The Good Place, approaches Chidi for a conversation:

Tahani: "Chidi, I've been thinking about the ways we conform to societal expectations. Do you think it's possible to strike a balance between adhering to social rules and remaining true to ourselves?"

Chidi: "That's an interesting question, Tahani. I believe it's important to recognize that pliance isn't inherently bad or good. It's a part of our lives that we need to evaluate and understand."

Tahani: "You're right, but how do we know when our pliance is hindering our well-being?"

Chidi: "Well, consider our work with LGBTQIA+ and neurodivergent individuals. They often face societal pressure to suppress or hide their identities. By internalizing these societal norms, they might experience shame, low self-esteem, and anxiety."

Tahani: "Oh, that's true. And it's not just limited to them, is it? I mean, people healing from religious trauma or navigating shame and anxiety might also struggle with pliance."

Chidi: "Exactly. It's crucial for us to recognize when pliance is preventing us from living authentically and causing distress. If that's the case, we need to explore alternative ways to express ourselves and relate to the world around us."

Tahani: "So, how do we strike that balance, Chidi?"

Chidi: "It starts with self-reflection and recognizing the ways in which we've internalized societal rules and expectations. By understanding our motivations and fears, we can begin to assess whether our pliance is serving us or hindering our well-being."

Tahani: "That makes sense. And if we find that our pliance is holding us back, we can seek support from a therapist, connect with like-minded individuals, or engage in self-care activities that promote self-acceptance and growth. It doesn't have to be our own personal chainsaw bear!"

Chidi: "Yes, Tahani. Ultimately, the goal isn't to completely reject or fully embrace pliance. Instead, it's about finding balance and understanding how internalizing social rules impacts our well-being."


Through this conversation, Chidi and Tahani illustrate the importance of recognizing the role pliance plays in our lives. As we navigate the world, we need to make informed decisions that allow us to stay true to ourselves and foster personal growth.

Just like the characters in "The Good Place," we can learn to challenge the rules and expectations that hold us back. By doing so, we can create our own version of The Good Place – one that embraces our authentic selves and promotes emotional well-being, especially for those in the LGBTQIA+ community, neurodivergent individuals, and people healing from religious trauma or navigating shame and anxiety.

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