Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for the ‘altruism’ Category

Enlightened Self-Interest

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 20, 2013

When do we take care of others for the sake of ourselves? Jolie, fifty-four was about to lose battery power on her iphone5. Her husband, Shawn started to get anxious on Jolie’s behalf? “Why do you care about my battery?” Jolie asks Shawn. “Because I don’t want to deal with your tantrum when you can’t use your cell phone,” Shawn answers, startling Jolie. One could say it is sweet that Shawn is looking after Jolie, but one could also say that Shawn is looking after Shawn. In fact, Shawn could say he is caring for his wife, and/or he could say that he is protecting himself from future harm. Of course, Shawn is doing both, such that to say that Shawn is being selfish is not completely true, nor is it true that he is being altruistic. One could argue that enlightened self-interest is the best kind of love, since Shawn is caring for himself and Jolie at the same time. Too much selfishness, like too much altruism is a set-up for an unbalanced, and hence an unstable relationship. Having said that, should Shawn be honest about his consciousness that he is acting in his own self-interest, or should he emphasize the caring nature of his behavior? Perhaps Shawn could learn to say both parts to initiate a deeper understanding of their relationship. The most enduring kind of caring involves self-care, as well as care for others. As in my previous post about volunteering, one gives of oneself, as a way of getting back self-esteem-another form of enlightened self-interest. The narrow path resumes. Like the diagram above, the challenge in life is that very narrow, middle path.

Posted in altruism, Narcissism | 6 Comments »

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