Tuesday, May 03, 2011

PJTV: The Dark Side of Altrusim

I interviewed Barb Oakley, the author of Cold-Blooded Kindness: Neuroquirks of a Codependent Killer, or Just Give Me a Shot at Loving You, Dear, and Other Reflections on Helping That Hurts about the dark side of altruism:
Author Barbara Oakley joins Dr. Helen to discuss the dark side of altruism. Could good intentions create bad results, like stress, unhappiness or worse?

You can watch the interview here.



Blogger TMink said...

The book looks really interesting. Neurology has become more and more interesting in my practice. Applied neurological change is what I think therapy does by affecting neural pathways and habits.

It reminds me of Freud's old quote "Anatomy is destiny" but in regards to a different organ! But even with the brain being so central to our lives, choices, and experience, early environment and parenting choices must have a huge impact on how the pathways develop and which are enhanced through repetition and reward.

Are you going to read the book? If so, please post your thoughts!


8:22 AM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...

Yes, I read it and did a blurb for it which is at the Amazon link.

9:04 AM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger JonRobert said...

The video fails to load as the bottom of the window reports "google-analytics"

Is a new feature hanging things up? (9:24 AM on 3 May).

9:24 AM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...


We are letting PJTV know about the problem. Sorry!

9:42 AM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

Dr. Helen.

That was a good interview and an interesting discussion.

I read a review of another book in The Writer, which is the only magazine I subscribe to, related to this subject. It's titled The Writer's Guide to Psychology. You might want to check it out.

The author, Carolyn Kaufman, has a BA in Engligh and psychology and a Ps.D in clinical psychology. Her thesis is that what most people know about psychological disorders comes from mass media and is innacurate, leading to psychological-related myths. She then dispels these myths and offers a realistic view of psychopathology and of the therapies involved.

It's a book for writers, so that they can accurately depict characters who suffer from psychological disorders and of the therapists who treat them. I thought you might find it interesting.

Here is the link from Amazon:


9:49 AM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

"Her thesis is that what most people know about psychological disorders comes from mass media and is innacurate, leading to psychological-related myths."

Good point GG. Psychology is really bad about communicating the science of behavior and behavior change to the public, and very good at communicating PC hogwash to the public from my perspective.


10:05 AM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger Michael said...

The Road To Hell is Paved With Good Intentions, and

Hell itself is paved with do-gooders

10:48 AM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger Zorro said...

Fascinating interview. I just ordered the book.

2:40 PM, May 03, 2011  
Blogger Helen said...


Thanks! Glad you found the interview of interest and thanks for buying the book. I think you will find it equally fascinating.

3:29 PM, May 03, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great interview. The Dark Side of Altruism sounded interesting, but it was Pathological Altruism that really caught my attention. I look forward to its release.

There’s no such thing as true altruism, of course, as you pointed out in the interview via Heinlein. While not a psychologist, I do claim expertise on the subject—professional golddigger and all that.

What I find is that most people in the world, consciously or not, are much invested in seeing themselves as the good guys.

But some people, for whatever reason, don’t believe they are as good as they should be. So giving money is a great opportunity for them to make themselves feel better about who they are or what they have or what they do, etc. The money purchases psychic relief.

A great many people (too often with no apparent justification) do see themselves as good people—genuine white hats of the world. Confronting such a person with the chance to be either generous to a good cause or actively decline the opportunity yields interesting results. Some will give freely because their self-identity requires it. They enjoy being a good person and get, among other things, a nice psychic pay-off from such reaffirmations of their goodness.

But most self-identifying white hats can easily decline. Their sense of themselves is so indestructible there’s very little psychic income to be had from philanthropy. Their behavior is not terribly different from the self-identifying black hat; I even treat them similarly.

I specialize in these two types. All golddigging is an appeal to self-interest (most often disguised as an appeal to altruism), but with these types you’ve really got dig around for the key to each man--to figure out what gives him a pay-off. It takes time, sometimes years, but when you figure out how to unlock him he’ll be a generous and loyal donor for as long as you can keep the pay-off coming. All my best donors are people who said No at first.

4:24 PM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger TMink said...

Digger, I can see your point, but I can't quite agree that it applies to everyone. I know some people with good hearts and others who have a spirituality that leads them towards altruism. So it seems to me that your are overapplying your cynical, but often accurate model.


8:19 AM, May 05, 2011  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

as a physical altruist i have many times wondered why people monetise the process and don`t actually get out there and give of themselves...but that`s just me. besides, the corporations that supposedly provide relief often give pennies on the dollar to whichever cause they apparently champion. those tv ads and billboards and lobby actions are extremely expensive after all. not to mention legal frees and consultancy.

10:59 AM, May 05, 2011  

Post a Comment

<< Home