The longer I live, the more I realize that the majority of humans do almost exclusively whatever makes their own brains happy, while claiming they're doing stuff for the benefits of others: their kids, spouses, colleagues, etc.
At issue is our collective inability to stop and ask ourselves "WHY?" -- why do we feel compelled to do this or that in this or that way at the moment? The answer is almost NEVER because it is really in the best interest of someone else, but only because it satisfies our own brain's compulsions at that moment and, of course, our self-interests. Most often, for most people, they do things entirely, completely and unreservedly because their brain tells them that is what the brain will reward them most for doing at that moment.
- "Bobby, HIT that other player HARD!"
- "I'm going to have another drink!"
- "Kids, help me make this cake PERFECT."
- "We're all going to have dinner at that expensive sushi place I love on Friday."
I know a dad (who's overall a pretty good guy) who signs up all three of his daughters for swimming competitions across the region and drives them to all of these every night and weekend. Odds are
that not all three kids equally love competitive swimming, I'd guess? He does it because his marriage is no longer so great and it gets him out of the house. He'll swear he's just trying to keep his kids happy and active. Hm. Does the fact that he never achieved his dream of making the swim team back in high school and is currently overweight have nothing to do with his underlying motivations?
I know of many post 45 year old men who, having experienced a drop in testosterone and their own feelings of attractive manliness, have stopped working and just live off of their working wives, drinking and putzing around with occasional jobs (if at all). The fear of rejection has overcome their formerly egotistical (and societal) pressure to earn a living. Their brains constantly tell them "Not today, have a drink, watch a show, it'll be OK, tomorrow's another day...." Their brains are NOT thinking about what will please their spouses most, only what will feel best in this moment and the next.
I have several extended family members who insist that family parties go their way, on their terms, with their party china, according to the schedules their brains have dreamed up. They'll swear up and down and sideways that ALL their motivation to conduct these highly ritualized ceremonies that their brains enjoy so very much ("I ALWAYS do it this way...") are solely for the benefit of everyone else in the family. They are not. Repeating these events in exactly the same manner, over and over again, year after year, is extremely rewarding to their obsessive-compulsive brains and the evidence of OCD can be seen in SO MANY of their daily activities, if we look closely, from their cleaning rituals to their lunch box preparations.
Normally there's no harm done, but often their brains' demands to exert ABSOLUTE CONTROL over their family and everything in their lives has tremendously damaging effects on the psyches of their kids and spouses.
Some of us give and give, or are patient and accepting for too long of others' self-centered compulsions to 'do things their way', regardless of the fact that this steamrolls the best interests of their friends, families and colleagues... Eventually the givers' unflagging 'loyalty' fails and it becomes tough, or impossible, to win that loyalty back, because the 'giver' comes to realize that all the 'takers' in the world have no ability to control their brains, no control over their 'egos' which tell them they are great, and right, and so very, very good. Either the givers leave, or sadly succumb, becoming automatons who mutter "Yes, Dear..." on cue and give up any semblance of self-determination or doing what THEIR brains most want to do.
There's really no point in trying to change, or argue with, these generally very low-empathy, and often hyperactive/OCD 'taker' brains, just move on (or succumb). :-)
Life is short, our society tends to over-value the Judeo-Christian concept of "guilt" as an honourable trait -- "...in sickness and in health, till death do us part..." I'm not sure. As my friend Len said to me, when 'love' and 'loyalty' are 'purchased' with guilt, I'm not sure either person wins.
To make the most out of this rare opportunity we have, having had some genetic material come together and laid down the building blocks for the neural pathways that make each of us unique, I think the givers need to strike out and grab their own lives by the horns and wrestle themselves free, free to do what mostly, or at least most often, makes their own brains happy, even it it means saying "No, sorry, I'm not going to do that/that way." to your controlling mother, or father, or kids. If what makes you most happy is giving, find another giver to give to, otherwise you'll find yourself in what the professionals call a "co-dependent relationship", giving endlessly, and without gratitude, to a relentless taker. :-(
If you thought this was thought provoking, you might like this other post of mine about how we let our ego-fed brains scare us into irrational thinking. (Click to read post.)