To generalize, wherever you go in the world, in human society selflessness is a huge value. At face value, this seems like a good thing. After all, if everyone was just running around in a self-centered way doing whatever they wanted, regardless of who it negatively impacted, social wellbeing and especially social order would be hard to maintain. The problem is, it isn’t actually possible for a being to be selfless. At first, this truth might shock you, especially if you are identified with being a selfless person. But stick with me.
What was the relationship that your family of origin or culture had with selflessness? When you were young, can you remember the people in your life expecting you to do things for them or things that were in their best interests? Do you remember times where it felt like doing those things were in their best interests, but not your own? Do you remember that when you put up a fuss about it, you were shamed or punished for it? Essentially, were you taught that to be right and good and therefore loved, you had to disregard yourself for the best interests of others? And that doing so was loving them? Most people on earth today were taught that to love others is to be selfless and to be loved back is to be selfless and you are only really loved if someone is selfless relative to you… Long story short, you were taught that love is selfless.
This belief causes all kinds of pain amongst people. For one thing, it can create both narcissistic and codependent styles of relational behavior in people. It can cause people to give themselves up for the sake of harmony with their social group. It can cause people to go totally off of the direction that their own internal compass (and purpose) is pointing them. It can cause people to cross their wires so that the pain they feel is interpreted as ‘good’ for them and others. It is a recipe for resentment as well as manipulative and invisible strings dynamics amongst people. And this list goes on and on.
But one of the most damaging relationship patterns that this creates, is the “you only love me if your actions are selfless” pattern. When people have this pattern in relationships, they don’t feel loved and feel totally alone unless they can’t link any of your actions to any potentially selfish motive. Meaning that if you get anything out of what you do for the other person, they don’t see you as loving at all.
To give you an example of this, I worked with a man, let’s call him Derek, who had a mother that (due to her own trauma) could not make any relationship with a man work out. She was married 4 times and each of those times, she had multiple children with the current husband. But because the men she chose had no interest in actually providing for the children, or in being husbands or fathers, from age 5 on Derek got saddled with the job of being surrogate husband to his mother and raising all of his younger siblings as if he was the father. His mother only gave him positive feedback when he did this. And his mother would pull a victim control drama any time he protested. He coped by subconsciously building the belief that he was loved for being selfless like this and that he would know if someone loved him if they did things that were totally in his best interest, regardless of whether they were in their own best interests. In other words, he was looking for someone to give him love in the same way that he showed his love to his mother.
He would enter into every relationship behaving completely selfless, happily sacrificing for every woman like he had for his mother. Expecting to get the same in return if the occasion ever arose. Every time however, eventually a situation would arise where the woman he was with would have to do something selfless to prove that she loved him. Such as giving up a male friend that made Derek feel insecure or ceasing to wear the outfits that he disliked. And if the woman protested or refused, he would suddenly sink into a depression, now convinced that she didn’t love him. Derek would also pass everything that a woman did for him through the filter of: What’s in it for her? And if he found anything, anything at all that she could possibly get out of doing it, he could not feel love through the gesture. For example, if she made him a food item that she hated but he loved, he felt that she loved him. On the other hand, if she hugged him and he could feel that she wanted physical touch, he felt that she didn’t love him and was just using him. He did the same thing with friends. Derek subconsciously loved to put people in lose-lose situations just to see if people would choose his best interests, even when there was a consequence for doing so, so that he could test whether or not they loved him. Needless to say, every woman and every friend who entered into Derek’s life ended up completely depleted and found him impossible to be with.
When someone has this pattern in relationships, he or she feels loved with more benign little stuff, where a person is obviously acting in his or her best interests but obviously against their own, such as a person who hates the color purple buying them something in the color purple because that person knows that they love it. But this also tends to escalate and turn into another pattern which I call the “Suffer So I Can Feel Loved Dynamic”. Where he or she feels loved when a person is acting against their own best interests in an extreme enough way so as to actually suffer. To understand all about this dynamic in-depth, you can watch my video titled: The “Suffer So I Can Feel Loved” Relationship Dynamic.
The idea that love is selfless is something that people need to let go of in order to have good relationships. And feeling loved only when someone’s action can’t be linked to any selfish motive, is a recipe for never feeling loved. This isn’t to say that there are not totally self-centered people, who do everything (even loving things) for personal gain, regardless of the negative impact on others. It is to say that people need to change their definition of what is and isn’t loving.
Most people think that love is to feel intensely positive towards something or someone. This is not the case. This can be a byproduct of love. But to love something is to take it as a part of yourself. If you take something as a part of you, you do not perceive yourself to be separate from that thing and so you can perceive it fully and you seriously take its best interests into account. If you take something as a part of you, you can’t hurt that thing without hurting yourself. This doesn’t mean that when you do this, you give yourself up. Instead, it is as if the truth of the other thing, and your own truth exist like two entities inside yourself. You can’t act against the best interests of either of them. Most people can only understand this by thinking of two of their own children. If you have two children, you feel pain any time that one of them is happy and the other is not, so you’re automatically looking for a ‘win-win’ or a ‘highest and best for both’ situation. This is what truly loving something translates to. This means that the best type of love, is love where both the giver and the receiver of the love benefit. Both people’s best interests are a part of the gesture. For example, a person who is giving love through affectionate touch, feels fully received (and therefore also loved) by giving touch. Or a person who loves to cook (because cooking makes them happy) cooking for someone who feels loved when they are fed. Or a situation where neither partner is ok with the other feeling bad, and so in a needs conflict situation, they each work to try to meet the needs of the other so as to arrive at a mutually beneficial arrangement and decision. And this is one reason why compatibility is such an important part of healthy relationships. To understand more about this in depth, watch my video titled: Incompatibility, A Harsh Reality In Relationships.
In a universe that at the highest level is ‘all one’ (which it is) there is nothing in existence that is not you. Even when collective consciousness decides to hold the perspective of separation (which is what gave rise to individual fragments within source consciousness like you and me) this is true. So, even doing something for someone else is doing something for yourself. On top of this, because there is nothing that is not ultimately you, all love is ultimately self-love. This translates into the physical embodiment as the inability to actually be selfless. Every single thing that is done, is done because it makes the person doing it feel better themselves. Even things that we, in human society label self-sacrifice. So much of the time, even when a person thinks they are being purely selfless or is self-sacrificing, they are being that way in order to feel like they are a good/right person; which is a self-centered motive. If you want to understand this in depth, watch my video titled: Self Sacrifice, The Most Self-Centered Thing In The World. If you don’t believe me, try it! You can ultimately take anything that any person does, and whittle it down to the fact that they did it because it made them feel better to do it. Even the things that we would on the surface label ‘self-sacrificing’.
But all of this should not make you depressed, nor should it make you feel like you live in a hopelessly cold and narcissistic world. Instead, it is a good thing that you can’t erase caring towards yourself. You are, after all a precious part of the universe and must therefore take care of it. And “US/WE” thinking is how we will ultimately reach a state of peace and unification, not by being able to slip into ME vs. THEM thinking, which is what selflessness and self-sacrifice ultimately is. And believe me, there are a great many acts that a truly conscious person might do that would be judged as self-sacrificing by other people, when in fact from their own perspective, the truth is quite the opposite. They are simply connected enough to see it!