“Self absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion.”
I think we are all born selfish. We have to be for our survival. We selfishly need food and warmth and touch and love to survive and flourish. I love the word, “flourish”. To me it sounds like its meaning; to grow well, to thrive, and to prosper. I want to write this with a flourish. We need everything, and to us, the world revolves around us. In the best of worlds, our parents and caretakers sense our needs and provide them in a timely manner and with care, and most hopefully, with love. We survive and grow.
There comes a time when just “taking” and just having the world revolve around us is not good enough. As we grow older, and walk and think for ourselves, and to go school, we begin to need to be aware of others and to begin to give back in some way. This giving back, or sharing, begins small and slowly grows. We start making our beds, helping pick up our toys, washing our dishes and bathroom sink after ourselves, etc. We hopefully become aware of us in connection with others. At first it is with our families then our fellow students and teachers, our community, and so on. If something interrupts our growth through adoption, through the death of someone important to us, through an early move away from an integral member and such, this pattern changes. The give back doesn’t happen.
It is not cute to watch older children become entitled and selfishly demanding. It is not cute to watch adults live and act only according to their needs; to be purely selfish. Are you selfish? We all are to some degree, and as well we need to be. The problems occur when we lose the perspective of seeing us as part of the whole and when we are not able to see ourselves, our words, and our actions as to how they affect others.
I have a nephew who I love deeply. He was adopted at the age of two days old. Even though he has known my sister almost his whole life and knows her as his mother, or adoptive mother, and knows she loves him and he her, he also knows, in his cells and bones that she is not his biological mother. He knows his mother and father chose to adopt him out and that for whatever reasons, he was not wanted. He knew his mother for 9 months and two days…..a very formative time. He was bonded with his mother and at two days old she was ripped away from him.
Although he is loved and has a family he knows and loves, there is a very real part of him that is angry and feels that he deserves more. He is demanding of my sister and gets very angry when something is not about him. He gets angry if he has to clean his room, if he has to do his home work, and even if they rent a movie for both of them to watch, it is not just for him. At two this was still cute. At ten this is not cute. Something is off and hasn’t been able to develop, grow, and flourish. Part of him is stuck at the age of two days. He is selfish.
I know about selfishness intimately. During our Sunday breakfasts for example, all conversation revolved around my father. He needed to be heard and seen and everyone’s savior…all for him. Growing up this way felt normal to us. There is a problem when even his wanting to help and save others is really for him, not for us. My father wanted to be the center of attention for him. He tells us many times that the reason he wanted to have so many children, he wanted eight, is so that he would have friends.
He too had very young traumas beginning with his birth when he was a c-section delivery and his mother became ill and was separated from her son for a few weeks. He knew his mother, and she was taken away from him. In a baby’s thinking, it was his fault as all has to be about him. Some selfishness is good and helpful and does help us to grow and flourish. When this care of the self becomes “all about me”, it morphs into something else entirely.
Are you selfish? Again, we all are to an extent. To see ourselves clearly and openly without shame or blame allows us to expand ourselves and to become more and more aware of us in connection with everyone…and to flourish.
To learn more about selfishness and our growth process and how to become unstuck and flourish, go to my web site, www.bodypresencing.com and click on working with Gail. Also click on BodyPresencing and Family Constellations to learn more.
In addition, a simple helpful exercise is this: one a sheet of paper write out ways you are only aware of yourself. Do you teach for you, or for others, or both? Are you aware of how your words or demeanor impact others? Why do you do the work you do? Is it just for you, to satisfy something in you, or it is also for others and how is it for others?
We are all a mixture of good and bad, dark places and light places, good selfishness and not so good selfishness. The important thing for us is to find a good balance to fulfill us, and to share with others so we can all flourish!