Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Is there a dark side of altruism?

Doing something for someone else
isn't really for someone else.
It does twice as much for you
as something you do
just for yourself.

Those lyrics from Reflections sung by Sally Kellerman in the campy remake of Lost Horizon pose the question: is there such a thing as true altruism or is altruism nothing more than a means for us to feel better about ourselves?

The fascinating PJTV interview by Dr. Helen linked here (can't seem to embed it) raises additional disturbing questions about altruism. Empathy is viewed as a right brained trait on the spectrum between emotion and logic as drivers of social interaction. A proper balance between the two poles is necessary. The extreme to the right is codependency. On the other extreme are Asperger traits. Altruism can have a dark side if not tempered by logic, and vice versa. Just what is the dark side of Altruism? Do physicians have to “tamp down” their empathy to be effective?

I haven't read Dr. Oakley's books but I'm adding them to my list.

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