Yes — I think the way you put it (that people feel good when following the social norms and feel bad while going against them, all while believing themselves to be “in control” of their own actions) is a tighter way to wrap up what I was trying to get at.
I also agree that tolerance for discomfort is a necessity to reclaim a truer form of agency, but we can’t discount the influence of environment. It would be impossible for even the most strong willed person to counter a truly toxic environment. Part of any resistance would be not getting involved in amoral institutions. I used to think it might be good to enter such institutions to reform them, but I’ve come round to thinking that the individual would almost certainly be changed rather than the institution.
If you are a professor who gets your funding from the defense department, but you consider the defense department immoral, I think your actions are also violating your own morality. The ethical thing to do would be to not involve yourself in institutions that take funding from the defense department (if you think it’s immoral — many people may not.)
Anyway, thanks for your response, you made a useful connection I hadn’t seen.