Want a happier life? Re-orient your focus ... to OTHER PEOPLE.
Learn why and how your finding ways to help OTHERS will, paradoxically but quite logically, make YOU much happier.
Let others make you happy !
Are you worrying too much about yourself? You're NOT alone: This is our common modern problem.
It's very sad, but paradoxically true: The more you worry about yourself, the less happy you'll be.
But you can decide to change your orientation...and then, to your great surprise, you may feel a lot happier, fast.
Humans active in groups are much happier than those who brood alone.
This essential human instinct comes from our species' long evolutionary history. Our human need to live with OTHERS is an essential biological fact...not merely philosophical theory or religious belief, which today are are more convincingly understood as products of (rather than causes of) our neurological essence.
Long ago, on the African plain (where our human species evolved): If you stepped out of your group's thornbush-fenced huts (or down your tree) and walked anywhere all by yourself: you quickly became a lion's lunch!
To this day, only a small, closely-knit, self-sacrificing human group - today's Masai - can manage to survive on these same dangerous, open, predator-filled plains. There, humans simply MUST take care of each other, at all times, if they're to survive!
One member of each little group always carries a spear to attack any predator...and will sacrifice himself immediately, if necessary, to protect his group. He'd face huge social stigmas if he didn't do so, yet survived himself, letting another be the victim. Not acting to save others was literally unthinkable. Such escape from responsibility for others literally (not figuratively} wouldn't even enter his mind...in a situation where only immediate action, without the delay of any thought, was required. There was no time to think, only to do. Nothing other than thrusting the spear correctly could clog the mind. Being able to have such narrow immediate-response concentration, without any precious-seconds-consuming considerations of self-interest, was essential adaptation for group survival.
This is not to say that individualism wasn't also important in that era. Another man who discovered, "We'll be safer if we train ourselves to climb trees" or learn how to make a spear, or the woman who first demonstrated that game meat tastes and digests better if you hold it over a fire, rather than eating it raw...all won a lot of recognition and esteem...and were offered more opportunities to produce offspring. More offspring surviving is what evolution is all about.
In rare circumstances, self-sacrificing altruism still happens today. The next time you read about someone jumping onto subway tracks to try to rescue another who's fallen in (and both the faller and the rescuer survive together): Listen to or read the news report. The rescuer usually says something along these lines, "I wasn't a hero. Anyone would have done what I did."
That's truly not somebody's being modest. It was a normal reaction of our human nature, evolved from natural selection, which rewards altruism in many ways, both biological and cultural.
Any good army manages to re-awaken this inherent biological ethic, which our modern self-centered urban culture, where there are few direct dangers to humans. can seem to foster excessive individualism. Fortunately, today much altruism doesn't have to involve extreme self-sacrifice, just ordinary kindness.
In our distant past, even other local humans were our predators, too: To survive, other little groups had to compete with our own, sometimes savagely, fighting fiercely over the best hunting-grounds in times of game scarcity. Remember, this was a pre-agriculture and pre-refrigeration era, so fresh food, especially protein, couldn't then be preserved for future use. Originally, we had to survive in a much-harsher, less broadly-cooperative era than we now live in.
Today we still need to remember and understand our earliest pre-history and our later cultural histories, if we want to understand ourselves. Biologically, we haven't changed our essence, over our whole long human story. This basic biology has enabled us to maintain that pre-historic sense of our huge need to live with 'others' to survive and thrive.
This group sense and essence, a team-orientation that has long endured inside our brain and neural system, has appeared in many differing cultural expressions over time. But our basic human need to help others still can expand... even now, when we live in safer modern communities, where our current dangers (including isolation and loneliness) are hardly those from wild animals... and therefore not as easy to see...often letting us to fall into the trap too much selfishness and isolation... with too little sharing and helping others.
Nevertheless, altruism continues. Loving societies are overall more competitive, over the long run. In Japan, expensive cameras left in a crowded public park will usually still be there, when the absent-minded owner returns many hours later!
Today, scientists studying evolution try to measure the roles of individual versus group, and biological versus cultural 'selection of traits' over time...but almost all agree that being very closely associated with others continues to have an enormous beneficial influence upon every individual's survival, success and happiness.
Thus, being part of, and contributing to your own chosen 'others', supporting them by your own individual talents, is a fundamental and inalienable part of being a normal human being. That's the source of our 'personal LIFE-MEANINGS' ...the strong FEELINGS all of us need to motivate us to live, survive and thrive together.
Does this explanation of how how you and I were actually formed make sense to you? Can you visualise that knowing these real facts might be really helpful to your happiness?
If you'd like to explore this idea, please read on, for some simple and practical suggestions about how you can change your orientation and become happier.
You and I MUST find and enjoyable ways to help each other...even though none of us knows all the answers.
For some of us, ways to help another can feel like a strong personal 'calling' (a way to help others that appears suddenly in our mind, often without much 'thought' at all). People you'll feel you really want to help might be family members, or a nearby neighbor you like, or other people in your social or religious or political organization, or (only if you love your job) within your company or other occupation.
For others, your personal group might include fellow-regulars in your gym, or at a neighborhood bar, or some classmates. Or there might be no specific people at all, but a cause you deeply believe in.
For some, it could be those you meet from engaging shared activities (music, art, sewing, dancing - anything) or even just some good books you like to read (or maybe write 'all by yourself'...but actually with your readers and people who have helped you in the past in mind...thereby adding your own unique health-giving contributions to a currently- invisible but still very real group of others)
So, start working now to follow your own track... towards your very personal causes, your own uniquely-personal ways to help others.The choices of which groups to join and what causes to support are (and always will be) yours alone. Everybody's different. For happiness, all of us all must find and follow our very own personal path.
And, never forget: 'all of us' includes YOU. So you may want to start opening your inner doors to your vital biological essence, starting to move your unconscious love for others into your fuller consciousness NOW. You're not crazy to want to give of yourself to other people: that's a very normal thing for a human to do. It a basic reason for the success of our species...what the great evolutionary scientist (and very accessible writer) E.O. Wilson has labeled 'the social conquest of earth'.
If you pursue this idea: Have fun all along your own unique, hopefully-lifelong happiness route...always trying to do your best to help others...in the way that only you can. And please don't worry too much if you fail in some worthwhile goal. Winning is infinitely less important than your caring.
Your own personal track will surely have many unforeseen and strange twists and turns, quite different from than the stock picture of railroad tracks (shown below here) suggest. But hope you get the general idea: create your own pathways, however straight or winding they may seem to you. To others what you accomplish will simply look easy and straight.. No else can really know how hard and complicated your own success was.
As Shakespeare dramatized so well, human life is complicated, filled with often-seemingly-conflicting forces of one individual versus another, one group versus another, one class versus another, one race versus another, one nation versus another. But we also have strong opposite forces to bring ourselves together in happy harmony.
You can be what others would label a hero. You'll know what you'll enjoy doing that would help other people. So don't overthink your better instinct: like the spearthrower, just DO it. Spontaneity can be often be far more important and true than well-considered delay. Soon, you'll start to feel that you're helping others more and more eagerly, because you enjoy it so. You don't have to believe this now; just try it, via a first little step sometime...and then please carefully observe how you start to FEEL about altruism.
Quickly now: please guess what, along these altruism lines, you might enjoy trying soon.What was the very first thing that popped into your mind? OK, why don't you try that. You don't have to believe it's going to work: just give this one little try! I promise you: you'll thank yourself for testing this theory...and may feel happier faster than you expect. And whatever you do will make me very happy, too. To quote my favorite poet, James Russell Lowell, "He who helps another helps three: himself, the other...and me." To put this in religious terms: That's how God blesses us. (There's really no conflict between science and religion on this subject.)
If you'd like to explore these ideas more: Please scroll down further for some books might enjoy and some free web links. Whether you prefer to read scholarly, or self-help, books on our subject of 'The Other as an Essence of Humanity', you can buy interesting information inexpensively, new or used, on Amazon or Abebooks.com. Some preview pages are often free,
Hope some of this may be helpful to you.
Godspeed, all along your very own way.
(c) Fred Meyer, 2017
"Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide
in the strife of truth with falsehood for the good or evil side.
Some great cause, God's new Messiah offers each the bloom or blight
and choice goes by, forever,'twixt that darkness...and that light.
"We see dimly, in the present, what is small and what is great.
Slow of faith: how weak an arm may
turn the iron helm of fate!
Now it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.
"Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves
of a legendary virtue, carved upon our father's graves.
Worshippers of ilght ancestral make the present light a crime!
Was the Mayflow'r launched by cowards, steered by men behind their time?
Yet we make their truth our falsehood. thinking that hath made us free.
Feel the rude grasp of great impulse! We ourselves must Pilgrims be.
Launch our Mayflow'r and steer boldly though the desperate winter sea,
nor attempt the future's Portal with the Past's blood-rusted key.
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet 'tis Truth alone is strong.
I see troops of beaut'ful angels to enshield her from all wrong.
New occasions teach new duties. Time makes ancient good uncouth.
They must upward still, and onward who would keep abreast of Truth.
James Russell Lowell, 1844
Condensation format (c) Fred Meyer, 2017
Illustrative pictures and poems
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