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Selfishness and Depression


Ralph
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I'm wondering if my selfishness could be causing depression and what to do about it if it is. What do you think? Is depression the result of being too self centered and not enough on taking care of others? If so how to go about becoming less selfish? I have tried volunteering and charity, and while it's better than nothing, it still doesn't seem to make me any less self centered.

I even started to feel guilty about volunteering because I know I am just trying to change myself, which is in turn still self centered. My rational mind says that at least I am doing some good and that is what counts, but emotionally I feel like I've just kicked a puppy; I mean like a terrible person. I've forced myself to be social by going to meetups, and just don't seem to be able to connect with others.

Feelings that nobody cares and nobody can be trusted have become self fulfilling prophecies. If you've dealt with this in your life, how did you overcome the isolation that goes along with depression?

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I not sure I understand, were you doing this to try and be more social and escape isolation, , or only out of the guilt you feel by thinking you are selfish???

I think depression follows isolation, and isolation to the point of depression is bad, I feel like I am wrestling with that problem all the time, becuase I am antisocial and socially awkward a lot of the time, but I think the only way out of this is to begin speaking your mind. Either way, to escape isolation you need to connect with people. So say what in your mind needs to be said, fuck them all if they dont agree. Keep practicing becuase I think it is hard for some pople to do. Take center position dont play winger all the time. That may seem selfish, but it is also the only way to share what you are about with others. it gives them something to connect with. I think its too easy to not bother speaking your mind, maybe its clouded or blank aand harder to search, more so than others, but the only way out is practice doing it.

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I'm wondering if my selfishness could be causing depression and what to do about it if it is. What do you think? Is depression the result of being too self centered and not enough on taking care of others?

In my studies' date=' I have learned that depression can be caused by continued patterns of negative self-talk and a lack of self-care and self-compassion. I do understand what you're saying, though, Ralph. Too much introspection and self-focus might not be a good thing either. Balance. I think it's healthy to get outside of ourselves too.

Before therapy, I struggled with the word "selfish," but I have successfully reframed my beliefs about what self-serving behaviors represent. It's difficult to not put a negative connotation to the word, but then we get into judgment, and that might not be helpful either. In my particular case, I had seen so much self-sacrifice that I'd come to learn that doing anything for myself was "selfish" and bad. A distortion. It's still challenging at times, but I know now that it's healthy and okay to take of myself and my needs.

I even started to feel guilty about volunteering because I know I am just trying to change myself, which is in turn still self centered.

My therapist once told me that we were in everything that we did. I understand what he meant. It's okay to have some self-serving interest in helping others. It's unavoidable really, since we are emotional beings and we inevitably have emotional responses. We're aware of our own good feelings and bad feelings. Of course these can offer us the motivation to behave in certain ways and that's okay. Can you think of any reason why you might believe it's not?

I've forced myself to be social by going to meetups' date=' and just don't seem to be able to connect with others.[/quote']

It's great that you are challenging yourself and trying.

Feelings that nobody cares and nobody can be trusted have become self fulfilling prophecies.

Could your fear of this be preventing you from connecting to others?

I hope you can be gentle with yourself, Ralph. Learning self-care and balance can be very hard work. Take care.

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Feelings that nobody cares and nobody can be trusted ...

I'm going to re-quote what Beth quoted, because my angle is that these have turned around and now apply to yourself more than anyone.

Is it okay to want something, without then going back and calling yourself self-centered for wanting?

Ultimately, anything you will yourself to do, anything that you consciously (which means with your ego) decide to do, is self-centered in the sense that your self decided to do it. In other words, if that's your definition of self-centered, and self-centered also carries a negative connotation for you, you'll never escape from the guilt. But to me, self-centered doesn't mean "something I chose to do", but "something I chose to do without regard for others, perhaps even willing to do them harm." You chose volunteering when there were many other, more self-centered options, by the definition above. You chose something that does help you socialize, but it also deliberately does good for others. To me, that's not being self-centered, but self involved with others, which is all the best that a social life can be.

The thing that's really self-centered is torturing yourself with guilt for being a human like the rest of us.

And certainly, the self-talk that goes along with guilt feelings could easily make a person depressed.

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You are carrying a guilt at everything and anything you do for yourself, I do too. You tried charity work to better yourself, and even though you help others, you found it to be selfish action. In a similar way, I do not wear make-up, because I think to myself "What gives me the right to want to look better?", and I'm sure if you thought about it, you could feel guilty that you weren't borm a starving child in Africa, I know I do. But it's easy for me to tell you that it's OK to look after yourself, it's okay to want things, it's okay! You can't help who you are.

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It seems more likely to me that “selfishness” and depression come from a common root, maybe what Heinz Kohut would call a deficiency in your self? I posted a link to an article about Kohut in the thread “Disorders of the Sense of Self” but I far from sure that would help.

PetPerson is on the right track, though. You can’t help who you are. And – who you are is OK! Doesn't mean you can't be better. And then, that will be OK, too. Accepting (or trying to accept) wherever you are in the moment has been helpful to me.

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I not sure I understand, were you doing this to try and be more social and escape isolation, , or only out of the guilt you feel by thinking you are selfish???

To try and be more social but also do some good. The guilt is what followed.

I think I haven't been very compassionate with myself. It's not that I'm trying to be perfect, but there are certain standards I set for myself and if I fall short I am very harsh about it. I am carrying a lot of guilt around. Even if I don't feel guilty, once I notice this I will feel anxious like there is something I should feel guilty about that don't remember. My self talk seems to be pretty distorted and I didn't even notice it until reading the replies to this post. I can't help who I am but I lack charisma. Is it my fear of others that prevents me from connecting with people? I think that my lack of self esteem comes through and people don't want to be around someone who doesn't even want to be around himself. I can't blame them for that.

How I'm doing is okay, no major problems at the moment but anxious about many things that could happen. Emotionally I wish I could say I am okay but I'm still trying to work around some depression even though my partner is with me for the week, and I am very happy about that.

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If you were looking at someone else, would you judge them as harshly as you judge yourself? I think we tend to be a lot harder on ourselves than we are on other people. It is good that you are getting out and doing things for other people. In the long run, it really doesn't matter if inside you do it for yourself or for them. It is the fact that you are helping others that matters. As far as isolation goes, I think it makes depression a lot worse. I have to force myself to interact with people. Otherwise I sit alone and ruminate. This gets a person nowhere, because ruminating leads a person down the slippery slope to self-hatred. Thinking about what you "should" have done better or differently serves no purpose. If something went wrong, learn the lesson and try to do better next time, but don't beat yourself over the head with it.

I hope you are feeling better. Give yourself time to learn and adjust to a new way of thinking. Healing is a process.

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It's not that I'm trying to be perfect' date=' but there are certain standards I set for myself and if I fall short I am very harsh about it. I am carrying a lot of guilt around.[/quote']

If you find yourself able to observe and become aware of your inner critic and harsh self-talk, you may be able to create a space between the words and your emotional attachment to them. My critic still tries to speak up now and then, but I've become so aware of it that I am (usually) able to ground myself and quickly regain balance. It takes some time to learn to be compassionate with yourself. I'm still working on this too. As Zigadenus said, imagine how you might treat a close friend who was having the same struggle. You deserve the same care, kindness, and patience, Ralph.

Emotionally I wish I could say I am okay but I'm still trying to work around some depression even though my partner is with me for the week' date=' and I am very happy about that.[/quote']

If you are able to connect with and give power to your positive energy, gifts, and inner light, this can be healing too. I hope you have an enjoyable time with your partner.

Take care.

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Maybe the inner critic got going as a primitive way to control the wounded inner child who wants to act out? Both are young and hurting and could use some compassion. It can be very very difficult to step outside a dynamic like that and offer your care, especially when it has gone on for a long time, and especially when you haven't had many experiences of someone else offering you care in this area as an example that it is possible. These parts might be able to soften their behavior if they felt understood...

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I really like this topic!

I think there can absolutely be a connection between selfishness and depression. Thinking that everyone and everything is out to get you is actually fairly self-centered, when you think about it. A comedianne years ago--I forget her name--said the following: "I finnally figured out my problem. I'm a piece of shit that the rest of the world REVOLVES around!." It isn't just her, of course. All of us have dealt with that feeling at some point.

I've found that volunteering is one of the best things to do...for my SELF.

We live in a competitive, increasingly materialistic world that sidelines acts of compassion. And then, the few of us who enjoy volunteering must also deal with the guilt over being selfish as we do so! It's amazing, sometimes, the human capacity for self-torture.

Have you ever read Martin Buber's "I and Thou"? He's a philosopher who suggests, among other things, that we so rarely allow ourselves to connect with another person, on a deep level, and be one with them.

It's this disconnection from other people that feeds into most if not all pathologies. Buber would say that it's our lack of connection to others that makes us psychologically ill.

For me, volunteering not only reminds me that we are all one, but also reaffirms the fact that I have plenty of hope and energy to spare; enough, even, to give away. So there's no reason, then, to feel hopeless or drained in my own life. It's a powerful symbol and it's more than therapeutic. It's almost magical.

It isn't a question of being selfish, or unselfish. It's a question of allowing yourself to connect with your fellow human beings. There's nothing more natural than that. :)

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Zoomed, I couldn't agree more. With YOU! Buber, however, I think is/was completely wrong. In much the same way as we strive to learn another language before we have mastered our own or study the universe when we have yet to fully comprehend and appreciate our own planet, we expect ourselves to have the ability to connect and relate to others before we have the slightest understanding of our SELVES. Selfish as it may seem or self-centered, if we could spend more quality time really exploring our bodies along with all of their functions; what is good for us and what is detrimental, I think we would be better able to relate to others. Instead we all run around cluelessly trying to help this one overcome the problem we just got past and seeking help for our new troubles from that one. It's kind of sad really. But life is a wonderful opportunity we have to live. Each in our own way. Each lighting the way for someone else while following another's light.

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To offer a bit of a different perspective, I feel that relating with others can actually help us learn to understand ourselves. The therapy relationship can be especially useful and helpful in this. We can live and learn through the experiences as they happen. I think that as I have become more self-aware of my own caring behaviors with others, I have become more adept at applying these gifts to myself. True compassion, in its full blossom, includes compassion for ourselves too. My relationships teach me about myself and I am able to practice and work with my stuff with my fellow human beings. Rather cool, I think. :)

Ralph, how are you feeling today?

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We live in a competitive, increasingly materialistic world that sidelines acts of compassion. And then, the few of us who enjoy volunteering must also deal with the guilt over being selfish as we do so! It's amazing, sometimes, the human capacity for self-torture.

I hadn't thought of that but that is a big piece of what's going on in my subconscious, i.e., I try to be compassionate but I'm also highly conformist and therefore sensitive to social criticism. Hence when I try to do something good for the community I worry about how other people will view it and fear that I'll be branded a "do-gooder" or seen as the guy with no friends to do nice things for so he ends up donating his time to thankless strangers.

I don't think everyone is out to get me, just a few people... but rather I think it's my difficulty connecting with others that makes me selfish. I am not interested in the "normal" things people are interested in, and have trouble faking it which makes it difficult for me to get into conversations with people. This in turn makes it hard to form new connections.

IJ, I am doing really well today. My partner is in town and we are spending some quality time together which makes my depression much less of an issue. Hope everyone else is doing okay today.

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I can relate to the fear of wondering what others might be thinking about us and fearing their judgment. It helps me to remember that none of us can control what others think and there will always be those who have some kind of judgment. As you build your sense of self and you feel more comfortable and accepting of the person that you are, the approval of others likely won't be as prominent in your mind. I know that's all easier said than done. I try to be aware of my self-talk and remind myself that it's okay to be me; to embrace who I am. Perhaps if you focus on and give power to how the giving feels for you, the thoughts of others will have less importance? I'm not sure how things work for you, Ralph, or if any of this might fit.

I don't think everyone is out to get me' date=' just a few people... but rather I think it's my difficulty connecting with others that makes me selfish. I am not interested in the "normal" things people are interested in, and have trouble faking it which makes it difficult for me to get into conversations with people. This in turn makes it hard to form new connections.[/quote']

It does sound as though you're being awfully hard on yourself in this. I hear you. Rather than "faking it," though, have you tried opening up conversations about subject matters that you are knowledgeable and interested in? I find this to be a great ice breaker that helps me to relax in my interactions.

I'm glad that you had a good day yesterday and have been enjoying the company of your partner. Does it help to think about and connect with the gifts your partner brings out in you? I hope I have not asked too many questions.

Take gentle care today, Ralph.

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Thank you for your replies, IJ. I have tried subjects that I am interested in but it hasn't worked well for me. Every once in a while I can meet someone who has similar interests and then I can carry on a conversation for hours. However I'm not that conversant on sports and that seems to be the main topic of conversation when I meet new people.

It helps me a lot to have my partner around and he is a full social life for me altogether. I don't feel I need anyone else when he's around.

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Zoomed, I couldn't agree more. With YOU! Buber, however, I think is/was completely wrong. In much the same way as we strive to learn another language before we have mastered our own or study the universe when we have yet to fully comprehend and appreciate our own planet, we expect ourselves to have the ability to connect and relate to others before we have the slightest understanding of our SELVES. Selfish as it may seem or self-centered, if we could spend more quality time really exploring our bodies along with all of their functions; what is good for us and what is detrimental, I think we would be better able to relate to others. Instead we all run around cluelessly trying to help this one overcome the problem we just got past and seeking help for our new troubles from that one. It's kind of sad really. But life is a wonderful opportunity we have to live. Each in our own way. Each lighting the way for someone else while following another's light.

Hi, Frazzeled. I'm curious to learn a little more about where you're coming from. What is it about volunteering that you believe precludes self-awareness? As you said, we all live life in our own way. My experience is a little different, but I'd still like to know your full meaning...

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I hadn't thought of that but that is a big piece of what's going on in my subconscious, i.e., I try to be compassionate but I'm also highly conformist and therefore sensitive to social criticism. Hence when I try to do something good for the community I worry about how other people will view it and fear that I'll be branded a "do-gooder" or seen as the guy with no friends to do nice things for so he ends up donating his time to thankless strangers.

Something to ask yourself, or maybe even write down in a journal entry if you want, is how does being sensitive to others' imagined judgements affect you, and then juxtapose that with how volunteering--just the act, by itself--feels to you. You might even give each one a numerical value. It may not help you to stop caring what other people think just yet but it would at least make you aware of what it's costing you.

Best, Z.

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Hi, Frazzeled. I'm curious to learn a little more about where you're coming from. What is it about volunteering that you believe precludes self-awareness? As you said, we all live life in our own way. My experience is a little different, but I'd still like to know your full meaning...

Hi Zoom. I blogged something about this before but my theory is... Infants are self serving in their every movement. Every milestone is an achievement of a self serving nature but it serves a greater purpose. It brings them a step closer to self sufficiency. When a child is walking, talking, dressing and bathing themselves, parents have more time to care for themselves and tend to other duties. What is good for one is good for many.

Starting around school age, we become less interested in what makes us tick and more interested in other people and how they affect us/how we affect them. Then, at some point, we again become interested in ourselves but by then we have forgotten how to self monitor and correct. So having the social education (most of us get throughout the biggest part of our childhood), we should attempt to reconnect to ourselves for the purpose of the greater good.

Healthy + Happy = Positive effect on the World at large :)

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In reading this I thought of the airline instructions that in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, first secure the mask to your own face before attempting to help others. I think maybe this goes for helping in the community as well. How can I help others when I am a mess? I need to help myself first and that is not selfish because I am a part of the world and making myself better makes the world better. Yet I can't wait until I'm perfect in order to help others because that will never happen. It's not selfish to engage in service work in order to better oneself because it's a benefit to both the person serving and to the population served.

I still think I lack empathy though. I feel like I need to take care of myself because nobody else will, and this creates distance between myself and others. I don't know if this is distorted or not. Do people need to take care of each other to be friends or associate? It doesn't seem to me like they should, and yet I feel that my obsession with self sufficiency makes me something of a loner when I would rather be part of a close knit group.

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I volunteered once or twice a week for about 6 years. But I was pretty completely broken down at the time and wasn’t doing anything else. I thought “well, maybe there’s something I can do with my time to contribute to the community.” It was also for myself, for therapy -- but I didn’t feel bad about that. I did boring data entry because I was pretty incapable of dealing with people. At least it saved the paid office staff from having to do it.

At the end of last year I quit. There are other things that I need to do for me and the boredom from the work I was doing was getting to me.

There’s a great book I just got from the library: “The Power of Empathy” by Arthur Ciaramicoli. But I think you have to GET empathy from someone (or maybe the Higher Power, I don’t know) before you can have it. So don’t beat up on yourself about that, would be my take. And there are plenty of things you can do in the world that don’t require empathy, IMHO, if – for whatever reason – you want to do them.

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Ralph wrote:

How can I help others when I am a mess? I need to help myself first and that is not selfish because I am a part of the world and making myself better makes the world better. Yet I can't wait until I'm perfect in order to help others because that will never happen. It's not selfish to engage in service work in order to better oneself because it's a benefit to both the person serving and to the population served.

Very well put Ralph. My 21 year old daughter has anxiety issue and can't seem to get her life together. She is taking a class that will lead her to a bachelor's in criminal justice and it is really difficult for her. She also suffers ODD and this only adds to her frustration (and my frustration with her). But when someone else is having trouble, and especially when it seems to be more trouble than her own, you would think she was a tenured professional. You would never know she had the first problem to hear her give advice and show tough love. She really is helpful to others.

It may seem dysfunctional and maybe co-dependent but she performs best when she feels needed. She obviously NEEDS help but she actually serves herself best by helping others. She does heed her own advice and apply the same rules to her that she asks others to apply to them. I would think that that will eventually catch up with her and ease some of her troubles.

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How can I help others when I am a mess?

I'm certain I've written this sentence myself a few times. I think that all of us struggle with our own issues and that none of us are exempt from being a "mess" at some point in our lives. We share our humanity. I actually find that helping others helps me to help myself. It's often much easier to offer care' date=' support, kindness, patience and compassion to others than it is to ourselves. The fact that we can offer it proves that we are capable of caring for ourselves that way too. When I am supporting another person, I am able to connect with and listen to my own voice, and at the same time, listen to my own words. If I am caring for another, I am walking through the steps and learning how to treat myself. Just being on this web site has helped me a great deal in this respect.

I still think I lack empathy though. I feel like I need to take care of myself because nobody else will, and this creates distance between myself and others. I don't know if this is distorted or not. Do people need to take care of each other to be friends or associate? It doesn't seem to me like they should, and yet I feel that my obsession with self sufficiency makes me something of a loner when I would rather be part of a close knit group.

Does it feel as if self-care requires all of your energy in order to be successful? There can be ways to learn to balance your needs. Everyone responds differently in relationships and has different needs for intimacy and closeness. I would think it would depend on the individuals and the friendship.

Take care.

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