Tag Archives: Altruism

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For most of us, mainly in our current social context and deeply imprinted within our conscience is the belief that to be a good person we must do the right thing. It is also assumed that society knows what that right thing is and is watching our performance at any given moment to see if we are measuring up. When we do the right thing, there arises a feeling of satisfaction within us in relation to how our society and peer group sees us. We feel supported and secure in that we are accepted and have a sense of belonging to our clan. Yet, there also arises within us an undercurrent that gives us a gnawing and indescribable feeling that something is missing. It is as if something has been ignored or omitted relative to our own preferences and wishes. If we take the time, we then we sit back and feel inside ourselves. In that moment we realize that we’ve sacrificed a part of our own needs and preferences to the benefit of others. We might even feel a little cheated. But, we tell ourselves, we’ve done the right thing.

There is nothing wrong with ministering to the needs and wants of others. If we’re going to interrelate within our culture, it’s important that we also have sensitivity to its needs and preferences. But, by the same token, we must also be sensitive and responsive to our own needs and preferences even in spite of feeling pressed into sacrificing those needs in favor of doing the right thing for others. We must also do the right thing for ourselves, even in the face of being labeled selfish by those who expect our service. Both objectives must be present in equal measure within us if we are to feel balanced and peaceful in our daily pursuits within our culture. However, our current cultural perspective has been changing such that its emphasis has been leaning more and more toward service to others taking precedence over our own personal welfare. This meaning of doing the right thing must be shifted back to a balanced perspective between public needs and personal needs. However, in light of the direction of our changing educational system, this is not likely to occur any time soon. With this in mind, let’s look at where the evolving meaning of do the right thing has been progressing toward.

We’ve all heard this expression time and again. But for each of us, it registers differently depending on how and by whom we were brought up. But what do we really mean when we say the right thing? To define this will seem crystal clear for some of us but nebulous at best for others.

Rather than getting involved in a whole plethora of definitions, suffice it to say that the majority of us perceive the word right as meaning what is considered to be proper, moral and socially acceptable. That being said, there are many perspectives to be taken depending on our culture, religion, beliefs and past experience. This will make our expectations for ourselves and those we hold dear extremely diversified. However, any of our reasonings will fall into one of two categories; what we’ve been taught and what we personally feel internally.

In our modern-day world our concentration on life through the internet has encouraged us to be much more interactive as opposed to if we were left to our own devices without it. That is, we’re being groomed into putting much more stock in what the world outside of us believes and espouses to be true and proper rather than what our own heart may dictate. And although we’d also like to think that our children have been raised by us to think for themselves, the reality of the message they’ve received is if I am acknowledged at all, I must do as I’m told and what I feel or think comes second to world beliefs. The parental perspective of this message, usually held unconsciously, is do as I say not as I do.

Our culturally promoted world view, whether we are conscious of it or not, has evolved into the belief, or maybe just an accepted assumption, that a good person is to be altruistic or sacrificial to others by nature. A bad person is someone who is assumed to be selfish, self-absorbed and not considered to be a contributing part of his clan. In other words, altruism is defined as "having regard for the interest and well-being of others (1853)” and selfishness is defined as “self-seeking, self-ended and self-ful (1620s).” Unfortunately, our current society has been morphing into seeing any perspective in terms of only black or white. For many, the blending of the two is virtually impossible. We’re left with being judged as either good or bad.

Giving back to our society has become the gold standard for what is expected of us when we deal with the outside world. What we do in private, for all intents and purposes, is ignored by our culture unless it directly affects someone in public. Then, it receives judgments and consequences. This “manifesto” has been drilled into our psyches by the prevailing religious organizations who have their own control oriented agendas under the guise of the morality peddled throughout the centuries. The belief that God, Jesus, Buddha, Mohamed or Krishna are to be followed flawlessly as the only way to insure a rewarding afterlife and that there are special people and books who “know” the secrets held by these people. The expected public belief is to accept that there is an absolute universal perspective that dictates the behavior and perspectives that we all must abide by…with the exception of those who supposedly “know” the truth and administer rewards and punishments, of course. Bottom line, we’re trained into believing that the authority for how we run our lives is dictated by others who “know” how the world should be. Still, they were brought up as we were; following and doing what they we told. However, at some point they became aware of the manipulative dynamic in force, jumped on the bandwagon and assumed a position among the “knowledgeably elite.”

So, what is the right thing to do socially? It is whatever the elite dictates that allows them to maintain control over the masses (us). This funnels favor, opportunity, advantage and finance in their direction at our expense. So, what is the right thing to do personally? This depends on where we take our authority from. For each person it will be different. Do we subscribe to the absolute universal perspective peddled by the elite which almost always channels benefit in their direction or do we follow what our inner self or heart tells us is the best response for maintaining self-respect and domain over our own life circumstances? The former insures our safety and belonging in the clan. The latter often leaves us banished and without support as punishment for not ministering to the needs of everyone else before ourselves. To choose the former is easy but squelches our own preferences and creativity while promising safety and security through believing that others will support us if we fail. The latter activates our preferences and catalyzes our creativity but provides no social safety net if we fail. Oddly enough, these same scenarios resonate with socialism and capitalism, respectively. Think about it. The more we allow group principles to take precedence over whatever our own heart tells us, the more we move into becoming a socialist culture. One only has to look at other socialist cultures to understand the direction and circumstances that this migrating belief system will present us with.

To the extreme, doing the right thing has socially almost become synonymous with being politically correct. This has been cleverly developed into a weapon for coercion by many special interest groups also climbing on the bandwagon and looking for advantage through engendering guilt and emotional blackmail with our deprecating labeling and “excommunication” as its price for non-acquiescence.

So, what to do? We must each make a choice. Are belonging and social support the most important commodities in our lives? If so, we must align with what our culture demands of us as the right thing to do. We may gain belonging and support but there’s a price. We must forego our own personal preferences and individual creativity in favor of the needs and preferences of others.

Are being self-directing and individually creative the most important commodities in our lives? If so, we must align with what our heart tells us is the right thing to do. We will gain our independence and ability to express our creativity as we please but there is also a price. There will be no belonging, support or social safety net available to us if we fail.

One last point. Of the two choices, the latter requires more courage.  Who do you know who has been successful and has done everything they were supposed to do or were told to do? Odds are…no one. People like Thomas Edison, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nicolai Tesla, Queen Elizabeth I, Albert Einstein, Joan of Arc, Jesus, Marie Curie, John Lennon, Janis Joplin and Nelson Mandela, to name just a few, have all followed their own path listening to their own heart and inner calling. Do you want to be successful? All we have to do is listen to that small voice inside us, muster up our courage and do the right thing.

compassion-1Seems like every day we find someone saying this to us or “feeling” it at us. What’s very interesting to note is that those who actually might need our compassion or assistance are usually those people who are so absorbed by the difficulties that they are encountering that our participation is almost never considered let alone recognized that we might be able to help by easing their challenges.

Before we get into what compassion actually is it would be prudent to first expose the two perspectives that most of us might have pertaining to its implementation. These two perspectives exist at either extreme of how it’s identified and used. At the first extreme we have those of us who were raised permeated with an altruistic outlook on life. That is, we were raised believing that it is our responsibility to make up for what others, who appear less fortunate or more challenged than we, might require in order to simply make it through their lives with a Go kicking & screamingminimum of potential damage to their well-being. The more deeply this outlook has been implanted and incorporated into our value system, the more likely and more easily we will be convinced to offer our assistance, even to the extent that the welfare of others will take precedence over our own needs or interests. In those of us having this disposition, the empathy we were born with has been well activated and “farmed” by those attempting to teach us compassion. This may sound a bit derogatory or even mercenary but we must realize that we are still part animal and that a lot of this type of training is accomplished on a subliminal or instinctual level, that is, below our usual threshold of conscious awareness. At this point, many of you are now asking, “But aren’t empathy and compassion the same thing?” In a word, no. Empathy is innate, involuntary and always in gear but moves mostly below our threshold of awareness. Compassion is learned, voluntary and intermittent depending on where our current thoughts are focusing. Let me explain how and why.

in-utero-babyIn Utero or even before, we have no perceived need of anything. Lack or absence of anything is non-existent. We have no lack of food, we have no need of closeness or nurturance. We have no awareness of the existence of anything but what we feel. Our senses, which tell us what we have or not has not yet been formed or activated nor is it needed as we haven’t a physical body yet to require or build them. We exist in an ocean of feeling with no beginning and no end, no borders, no points of reference. In this feeling “soup,” whatever we feel is felt by anyone else in this same existence. Call it being in spirit, being etheric, being un-incarnated, discorporate or whatever in your mind would be considered as being unattached, undefined and not yet incarnated. When we feel a rush of happy, everyone else in the “soup” feels the same happy we do at the same time. When we feel a rush sadness, everyone else feels the same also. What we feel, everyone else also does simultaneously and vice versa. This is empathy; feeling what another soul feels. It is innate, involuntary, uncontrollable and always in motion.

Traumatic birthThen, we pop out of the womb, our bottom is slapped, we take our first breath and we feel the traumatic difference between being in a warm, safe nurturing place requiring nothing to a cold, loud, sense assaulting place making us painfully aware of having lost something and now feeling separated from. It’s possible to reduce the trauma associated with birth but the separation from a completely self-contained existence cannot be eased. We still have our empathy but it is completely overwhelmed by the pain of our separation. As we grow, our thoughts and language are formed enabling us to negotiate between what we have and feel and what we don’t. Our feelings become slowly overwhelmed and submerged beneath our thinking and the stark differences in our loud and voluminous newly polarized physical world. The subtle energies of our empathy no longer have the power to pierce the volume and intensity of our rapidly expanding materialistic and physical world. Yet, it still exists, almost dormant and moving well beneath the surface of our conscious awareness. Our only evidence of it is experienced through instinctively “knowing” and reacting to what our mother feels. For the majority of our childhood it remains existing well below our threshold of awareness.

Childhood TrainingThen, one day if we’re lucky, our parents assist us in recalling our attention to the feelings moving well beneath the surface and awareness of our daily lives. If they have learned to access and identify their own, they slowly help us to access and identify ours. Slowly they draw our attention to the fact that everyone else also has those same feelings and at the same time teaching us to recognize that what we feel are what others may be feeling and perhaps not recognizing. Over a long period of time they teach us how to recognize what others are feeling and teach us that there are things we might be able to do or say to assist others in easing some of the pain they’re feeling through what they’re dealing with. They teach us that we can decide to assist or not. It’s our choice. In experiencing this, compassion is born. It’s learned, voluntary, controllable and in motion only when we set it as such.

Compassion is a separate entity from altruism but they are mutually influential. The more altruism we have ingested, the more compassion we feel compelled to administer. The less we have ingested, the more choice we feel we have in whether to involve ourselves with others and the pain they might be feeling that we might be able to ease.

But now we move on to our second or alternate extreme of how compassion is identified and used. These are the people that have not been taught compassion nor have they been able to reach or sense the empathy that was buried while they were growing up. They are only aware of their own immediate or surface feelings and when they do empathize they are convinced that what they are feeling is either their own, self-generated or caused by others. These are also children whose inner feelings were neither acknowledged nor allowed expression when they Ignored childwere growing up. The parental neglect or prohibition of their feelings and expression has produced an undercurrent of unworthiness that has translated into becoming exploitative and manipulative in order to get whatever they desire. With that has also been produced a profound sense of shame but very deeply buried. As they practice physical and emotional acquisition their abilities to sense those who respond to altruism and perception of those who appear to be less aware are honed to a razor sharp sensitivity. They can almost literally “smell out” those who are easily manipulatable through their perceived obligations and training. They then utilize either guilt or helplessness to extort “assistance” from those who feel empathy and act on their compassion. Sometimes these Poor-me-2manipulators and those manipulated establish long term relationships built on codependency and perceived obligation. They become what we commonly refer to as givers and takers. Because this dynamic most often resides beneath the threshold of awareness for most people, both the manipulators and those manipulated “feel” at times that there is something “off” in their relationship but can’t quite put a finger on what’s wrong. Eventually, the feeling fades with the progression into daily circumstances and they just continue on thinking it was just a “phase” and is “normal.”

Nursing Home-1With the slow and progressive dissolution of the family, or more specifically, extended families, let alone nuclear, no longer living together, the ability for children to observe empathy, compassion and intimacy first hand is slowly being lost. The teaching of how to recognize our empathy and the implementation of compassion by way of enforced intimacy through close family cohabitation has been shrinking dramatically as even the nuclear family disintegrates. Many of us find ourselves in a world where we feel lost, deserted, unloved, undeserving and unimportant without ever learning or understanding why.

So back to our theme of requested compassion. We’ve seen the two extremes that we all work between and based on our child rearing we find ourselves compelled to be compassionate, believe that it is strictly our choice or have never been taught and see it as an avenue for exploiting others. I think the most difficult part for those of us who have learned to recognize our empathy and apply our compassion is to sense or gauge who actually needs it. That ability Three card montycan only come from continued practice and experience. There are times where we will be successful and feel good about what we’ve done and there will be times that we feel badly because we realized that we’ve been played. We must accept both and grown in experience. We know that most of those who actually don’t need assistance are those who most often ask for it with their outer edges being populated by those who would use it to exploit us. They both are usually people who are either too lazy to handle accountability for their own creations or perhaps are too afraid to risk exposing their perceived lack of ability or deservedness by failing at any attempt to do it themselves. We also know that those who honestly need the assistance are usually those who are so involved in handling their stress and pain that they feel overwhelmed and infrequently observe who around them might be of assistance.

We have to judge for ourselves where to apply what we’ve learned and feel compelled to offer. But we must also recognize when that compulsion is a one sided product of our upbringing and runs contrary to what our heart tells us. Those who feel compelled to judge us on where we apply compassion or not have no right or place to administer “punishment” for what we do that might not fit their values, what they’ve learned or what is proper or necessary for our own heart. Our emotional and spiritual maturity is our own concern and cannot be assessed by others who haven’t walked in our shoes. Administer compassion when it feels “right” and comfortable for you to do so and when it answers your heart…not your learned requirements. Your exploration of life and experience is what you are here for. Following your own path is enough to serve and New Ideasshare with others by your personal example and personal benefit. Serving others intentionally is a choice not a necessity, unless you put an inordinate amount of stock exclusively in political, parental or religious training. Then it becomes required in order for you to belong. There is only earthly security and your personal path. You must choose.

Shapeshifters-Tiger PantherSo much has been written about why we are here in these bodies in this time. Since most of us cannot remember not being here, the only thing we can do is proffer assumptions, suppositions and theories as to why we are here. And since the why is so prevalent, how we make the shift and its consequences is rarely addressed. The larger part of our contemporary Western civilization works from a perspective of altruism (to serve others or a deity at the expense of personal benefit or expectation) which is at the root of most Judaeo-Christian beliefs. The fact that the Western world inundates us with an altruistic belief system at an age where our ability to reason or make personal choices has not yet been developed accounts for the fact that it is so prevalent in our culture and so difficult to think past or recognize any alternate perspectives. In view of this altruistic saturation of our culture’s perspectives, considerations of any other belief systems offered as alternatives are few and far between at best. Please understand that there is nothing wrong with having an altruistic perspective, however, more of a balance that allows for an individual’s pursuit of an enjoyable personal life and livelihood without our current subliminal and implied application of guilt based on selfishness is sorely needed. The bottom line to this type of thinking is that we have been trained into believing that any value we hold about who we are and what our worth might be is determined, not our own assessment, but by others and their perceptions of “what” we’re worth and to whom. So, in a nutshell, the world determines first, who we are, what we must aspire to become and how we must act while “getting there.” Once we realize this we end up asking ourselves, “Doesn’t my opinion matter?” What’s ironic is that our opinion does matter but only in reference to valuing others. It’s almost like we’re forbidden to apply value to ourselves except in view of how we relate to others and they to us.

The need to be able to take care of our own needs is certainly of paramount importance; however, to focus on ourselves within the purview of others almost always gains a label that somehow infers selfishness which, in recent years and is most visibly apparent in almost all of the contemporary “spiritual” disciplines. It has gained tremendous momentum in equating any selfishness to having a “negative” or undesirable connotation. This often subliminal undercurrent coupled with our Judaeo-Christian perspective makes it seem that if we don’t have a dedication to the cause of those who are “less fortunate” than us that we are somehow deficient, immoral or insensitive. This has grown into a subtle and subliminal oppression making it very difficult for us to gather and maintain motivation for formulating and adhering to a life path that benefits us and those similar to us without applying an underlying guilt that by doing so we are depriving others who might be in “need” of our assistance. This dynamic operates well beneath our threshold of awareness for most of us in our Western culture. Our financial and political systems have geared themselves exceedingly well to this subtle dynamic and have played us mercilessly. So much so that the dynamics of altruism and its effects have become so deeply ingrained in our psyches that it has become almost impossible for most of us to recognize its deprecating effects on our own personal happiness. When we feel that we have no space, let alone allowance, for us to have a way to express our own individualism and creativity, a pervading wave of depression steeps us in helplessness permeating our general consciousness.

The Fountainhead-2There have been pioneers who have put forth literary examples of how to free ourselves from the constricting effects inherent in living within an extreme altruistic envelop but they have met with the same accusation of selfishness, immorality and insensitivity toward the “needs” of others. Among them are literary works such as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand who has gained some attraction among a small following but has not done enough to raise our consciousness enough for us to be able to perceive and remedy the oppressive stronghold that altruism has invisibly held over our culture. However, where anything is oppressed always has a resulting resistance and acts much like a bubble in the wallpaper simply moving under the pressure until it can find a point of release. Another approach has been slowly growing momentum in the “spiritual” field producing a method for release and slipping past the moral “watchdogs” of altruism potentially freeing us from our unconsciously nagging waves of depression and occasional hopelessness. One such approach is the growing momentum in those who learn and use the “Law of Attraction.”

Atlas ShruggedMy first encounter with LOA was in 2006. During that time I was still wrapped in the mindset of “poverty consciousness” which was well connected to the followers of any metaphysical or contemporary spiritual practice. Altruism was, and still is in many cases, well ingrained in these and like disciplines. So my perspective then was that this was just a new gimmick and a group of people geared up toward “acquiring stuff.” So, I simply passed over it as a fad much the same way I did for the shaman wave in the 05’s and the angels fad in the 09’s. Little did I know…

The VortexIn 2013 I came across a CD about LOA called “The Vortex.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. Once I listened through I was hooked. Something in it resonated strongly within me but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I listened to it a number of times and the underlying meaning penetrated to my core giving me a self-clarity I had never had before. Not about whom I should be. Not about how good or bad I was. Not about rules, regulations, dogma or discipline but about recognizing the inner urges that were my indicators and directionals about where I should look to find the validation I needed to allow and empower my Self-Trust and to fuel and maintain my motivation to express, create and enjoy life in spite of the endlessly perceived outer moral and cultural directives replaying within me like a tape caught in a repetitive mental loop. I found my childhood programming challenged with a perspective that allowed for more of a balance between my inner and outer worlds. Personal expression and acknowledgment of its value had become more of an option. I was psyched.

law-of-attraction-1For the next two years I downloaded and played all I could from YouTube.com. I saturated myself with the teachings. Slowly, a subtle but very strong shift grew in my understanding about the altruistic path I had been following and a different approach which included what was needed for the people in my circle of friends and acquaintances but still allowed me to pursue what I wanted guilt free. However, implementing it would involve excommunication from many of my friends and connections until a shift toward those more aligned with my personal path could take place. The basic premise behind the whole approach is that what I think about and focus on will be what comes back to me. So, if I resist something that I’m afraid of, I will attract more of what I’m afraid of. If I think about what I don’t have, I will attract more of the emptiness. If I complain about what I don’t like, I will attract more of what I don’t like. The Law of Attraction is very simple. Energy and manifestation simply follows thought. So the bible was right after all. “As a man thinketh, so he is!”

So now you’re probably asking, “How can focusing on what I have an urge to do or be answer what my new neighbors, friends and connections might need?” The answer is very simple but it’s an explanation that takes a ride around the corner from what might be expected.

At Your ServiceWhen I align my thoughts and energies with what I feel the urge to do and be, not what my culture deems is appropriate and “proper” for me according to its rules and traditions; I attract people to me who resonate with the new path I have chosen. The people already in my space and who expect me to provide them with what our culture tells them they should get from me will not receive what they expect. This will disappoint them severely and I will receive subtle accusations of being selfish or insensitive to their needs. They will wait a short time for me to “come around” and perhaps pressure me a bit more strongly to realign with providing their needs. Eventually, they will seek the support they think and have been told they should get from me, elsewhere. The new people who resonate and are aligned with the path I have chosen for myself will get what they need through their aligning with the same path that I have chosen. We will then serve as models and examples of refining our growth and alignment with the path for each other. In this way, doing what I love and have an inner urge to do will benefit the new people who are attracted to my preferred life paths and life styles as me.

The most difficult part of the above process has been losing the perceived security and acceptance I thought I had gained through attempting to provide my family, friends and acquaintances with what they were culturally trained to expect from me and that I was trained to provide to them before I began to follow my own path of growth following my own inner urges rather than acquiescing to what was traditionally expected of me. The gap between losing my family and friends’ acceptance and support and connecting with new people who resonated with my newly chosen path developed a void which left me feeling very lonely and disconnected. I could say that this was part and parcel to my journey through the abyss or my “dark night of the soul.” Simply put, I had moved from wanting to belong, be accepted and validated by those who weren’t aligned with my inner urges to attending my own dharma and personal growth in spite of the tremendous external cultural pressure. But the rewards of aligning with others who have common interests, goals and beliefs as my own has freed me from the guilt of feeling that I must be my brother’s keeper as I was trained in my childhood. fork in the road-1Instead of being outer responsive, which represents the larger sampling of our western culture, I have allowed myself to become more inner directed and balanced with my own urges and intuition. It is my belief that in the end we will all have to come to terms with making a choice between the security of belonging and the uncertainty of our experience born of awareness.