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The psychology of altruism

On why altruism is not completely altruistic and yet ultimately good for humanity…

In my discussion of ambition, I left out altruism, and in a way that exclusion was intentional. Personal ambition would arise directly from a personal need, while altruism, by definition, goes beyond oneself and goes beyond personal needs. Altruism, coined by the French philosopher Auguste Comte in the 19th century, literally means “for others.” Altruism is, therefore, putting the needs of others before one’s own needs and, therefore, characterized by selfless behavior, altruism in principle would not be a cause of ambition. If altruism comes before personal ambition, it would be something of an oxymoron. However, how much of this is true? This requires psychological scrutiny as well.

The needs of others can definitely drive us to do something and that would be more of a cause or a mission than an ambition. A mission is stronger than personal ambition and a person with a mission is often driven by the conviction that he or she has been chosen to do something and no one else can undertake the task. A mission is usually about a higher purpose, like helping a particular group of people or spreading a message or simply imparting knowledge or eradicating suffering. A mission in life is very similar to a psychological delusion and a person with a mission just like a deceived individual feels that they have been chosen or simply unique and have to fulfill their true purpose in life. However, the missions are real and cannot be fully explained by existing psychological theories. The mission is definitely the strongest psychological trait and a person with a mission cannot be changed in any way and that is why all leaders are very strong in their approach to what they simply have to do. Although evolutionary psychology, like evolutionary biology, has delved into the deepest secrets of altruistic behavior in humans, psychology has not adequately explained mission development.

Therefore, altruism can be of two types: general altruistic behavior that is manifested through simple philanthropy or helping others in daily life, and specific altruistic behavior that is manifested through having a specific cause or purpose. or a definite mission in life.

The first type of altruism is seen in almost all of us, we all believe in the philosophy of giving, in helping people in need and this is reflected in all spheres of life, from donating a small amount online or giving a substantial portion of your salary to charity or simply helping a frail old lady cross the road when you’re in a hurry.

The second type of altruism would be the mission or purpose that I have been talking about. It is specific and the individual is driven to fulfill his ultimate life purpose. The first type of altruism is found in all of us, the second type is found in only a few of us. It is possible to trace a psychology for both types of altruistic manifestations.

Biologically, altruism is the sacrifice of the reproductive capacity or genetic transmission of one species to help the growth of another. This would be completely against Darwinian evolution, since instead of helping one’s own species, biological altruism consists of helping the growth and survival of other species. So, this type of behavior puts the animals at a reproductive disadvantage and reduces the chances of producing a larger number of offspring. There are numerous examples of altruistic behavior among animals, such as vervet monkeys giving cries of alarm every time they detect the appearance of predators although in this way they risk their own lives, among birds there are numerous helper birds that protect the young of a different species and In the colonies of insects such as bees, the worker bees remain sterile to help the reproductive process of the queen bee. One way to rule out altruistic motives suggests that vervet monkeys are simply reflexive and display spontaneous fear behavior by emitting alarm calls or that birds and bees simply maintain their self-interest by displaying external altruistic behavior. This kind of explanation would be controversial at least when we try to extrapolate and suggest that humans are also philanthropic and altruistic in general because they internally want something in return and ultimately or ultimately serve their own interest. Is there such a thing as absolutely selfless behavior? Do parents care for their little ones in the hope that one day, when they are too old, their children will care for them too? Do people give their money away to charity in the hope that they will be honored? Of course, many people these days donate anonymously and many would follow a cause without ever revealing their identities, do they have a reason that would be akin to self-interest or is there such a thing as utterly selfless behavior? An anonymous donor would one day want people to know that he was the real donor. But then selfless behavior can be explained for the good of others and we all have in us apart that it is selfless and wants to go beyond the confines of our own existence. Why?

Selflessness therefore is just that, we want to be bigger than we are, we want to be philanthropic because we want to go beyond the trappings of material possessions. The same feeling of selflessness that is found in all of us to some degree is also found to a greater extent in missionaries, spiritual leaders, or even political leaders because selflessness is a defense against our own insignificance and our own mortality defined by material existence. . Of course, I won’t go into philosophy here, and sticking to psychology, altruism is about a desire to be loved by others and a stage where there is empathy. In strictly psychoanalytic terms, ‘transference’ and ‘countertransference’ are terms that define the relationship between the patient and the psychotherapist when one understands the feelings of the other. Although the psychoanalyst Jung focused on possible altruistic behavior in spirituality, he suggested that self-seeking may be present, however, according to Jung, we seek balance in energy systems. Considering this a bit more, altruism, philanthropy or benevolence can be our unconscious desire to seek balance in ourselves and in the world.

Psychoanalysis would generally regard altruism as self-fulfilling behavior, although motivational psychology, as discussed in the Psychology of Ambition, would suggest that altruism would be more compatible with the self-actualization stage of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory. . To briefly repeat, Abraham Maslow developed his hierarchy of needs theory in which he suggested that the highest needs of humans would be the self-actualization needs that are present in all of us and adequately explain altruism.

Yet, whether it is a mission-driven leader’s need to help society or a young person’s need to engage in volunteerism, altruism may still be rooted in our unconscious needs to live in a better world, to find and develop a balance. society, to extend and expand to something bigger than our small existence. Altruism is still defined by our own needs for a greater or higher purpose in life. Then all of this ultimately suggests that we help others for our own evolutionary advantage, so even if altruism seems altruistic on the surface, there may be deeper, unconscious selfish truths that we can’t ignore. When we help and protect others, we finally feel protected. There may be no such thing as absolute selflessness and even if such a thing exists, it would ultimately be no good for anyone.

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