Your Better Self > Bring Goodness to Life > Altruism v Egotism

Effects of Altruism v Egotism

The Tension

There is a tension that immediately arises in situations where we experience a choice in relation to others, and therefore where goodness may be generated. This tension, well-known in philosophy and psychology is: altruism v egotism. As the dynamic duality, it asks whether your attention in the moment of choice is focused on:


In diagrams, by convention, the dominant Centre in a bipolar Level is placed on the right side; and balanced Centres are placed centrally.

Applying the Duality

RG"1: Use Ultimate Values

This is the practice of enlightened self-interest. When you activate an ultimate value, you benefit and care for yourself because it represents an experience that you seek. At the same time, ultimate values benefit others. Perhaps they release spiritual energy that diffuses widely in a way that is not understood. In any case, the specific value integrates relevant others and assists in sustaining unity: so the group and its members benefit.

Use Ultimate Values is a single balanced CentreRG"1B

RG"2: Find Inner Strength

Inner strength certainly provides egotistic benefits in numerous ways. However, others also benefit and so you automatically and altruistically develop their strength. This is most evident by considering what happens if you are ignore or reject the mantras. You would then advocate being unhappy at work, rejection of reality, breaking promises, avoidance of truth, giving distorted accounts and generally showing weakness. You would then cause harm, and suffer an impaired capacity to care.

Find Inner Strength is a single balanced CentreRG"2B

RG"3: Overcome Pain

Suffering is the human condition, but pain defines boundaries exquisitely. Either I am in pain or someone else is. Often we are both suffering, but somewhat differently. This suggests two distinct Centres. Do I give attention to my own pain or do I give attention to someone else's suffering? This choice makes the egotism-altruism issue stark and polarized. I have more control over my own pain e.g. I can often ignore it. However, ignoring is exactly what I must not do in regard to others. I must feel their pain despite the natural urge to withdraw, look the other way or put them out of their misery. Being noticed is comforting for the other, and it increases the likelihood of assistance.

Overcome Pain is dual with two different Centres named:

Handle Personal Pain-RG"3E
Feel Others' Suffering-RG"3A

RG"4: Build Character

Building character provides egotistic benefits or it would probably never happen. Personal gains include self-respect and self-esteem. Reputation may benefit, but it can also vanish under prejudice and envious attacks. Self-satisfaction from actively using my abilities to do what is right cannot be impaired. Whether it is through my heroism, talents, presence or integrity, others automatically and simultaneously benefit. All these components are altruistic to a degree because each includes the vehicle of helpfulness.

Build Character is a single balanced CentreRG"4B

RG"5: Attain Equanimity

Each of us egotistically seeks contentment, so equanimity is a sought after inner state. However, equanimity is closely linked to how others feel due to its basis in empathy. The option always exists to put one's own comfort to one side and seek equanimity altruistically. By exercising compassion, wisdom &/or cooperativeness, it is possible to approach difficult situations with a calmness that is beneficial for others. The radiation of serenity is therefore an altruistic effort.

Attain Equanimity is dual with two different Centres named:

Find Personal Contentment-RG"5E
Radiate Serenity-RG"5A

RG"6: Embrace Vitality

Embracing vitality through being receptive and being active also starkly polarizes the egotism-altruism issue. I can engage on my own account i.e. egotistically, or I can engage on behalf of another i.e. altruistically. When I pursue new experiences for myself, I rise to challenges and prove myself to myself and to others. I cannot do this so vigorously for others, unless they specifically desire my participation. What I can do, however, is put myself, my abilities and resources, at another's disposal.

Embrace Vitality is dual with two different Centres named:

Prove Yourself-RG"6E
Offer Yourself-RG"6A

RG"7: Entertain Great Dreams

Great dreams are developed for egotistic reasons and goodwill to all is inherently gratifying. Your great dream must emerge from your potentials and deepest interests. But such dreams are oriented to benefiting specific others, to the wider community, or to humanity as a whole. That makes them inherently altruistic. Especially when raised amidst a sea of despair and doubt, nourishing great dreams inspires and provides hope. It sustains the possibility that, against all the odds and even evidence, something can be done and good will ultimately triumph.

Entertain Great Dreams is a single balanced CentreRG"7B

Originally posted: 26-Jul-2013

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
All Rights Reserved.

comments powered by Disqus