Why thinking of others is mentally healthy

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Wishing the best for others saves brain energy.  Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

Thinking of yourself is tiring.  It involves the illusion that you are the centre of the universe, and so you have to work out how to channel all the resources of the universe straight to you.  It also involves you coming into conflict with all the other beings who think that they, not you, are the centre of the universe.  Therefore, if you are going to think of yourself all the time, then you are giving yourself two jobs: General Manager of the Universe, and Head of Military Operations.  Not surprisingly, you will feel exhausted, and as though you are in a constant wrestling match.

COGNITIVE REASONS TO THINK OF OTHERS

Human brains like cognitive economy.  That is to say, they like to have a simple focus, without too much conflict.  Wishing the best for others saves brain energy in several ways.  It avoids the unnecessary energy of anger, since you don’t need to set yourself against anyone defensively.  It avoids jealousy, since you are not trying to gain advantage for yourself.  And it avoids much anxiety, since if you are focused on kindnesss, there is less need for guilt.

EMOTIONAL REASONS TO THINK OF OTHERS

Human bodies also like simplicity.  Thinking of yourself creates anger, and one thing you will notice about anger is that your thoughts and actions suddenly become confusing.  You have to keep up with who said what when, and who deserves what retribution, and to what level.  All this meanness takes a huge amount of bodily resource, as you are constantly running events against your emotional judgement, to see if you are happy or unhappy with each and every word and occurrence.

Furthermore, the deluded human mind likes to hide the worst of itself from itself.  When you are angry, you will use up a lot of emotional energy denying that you are being angry or selfish.  The same is not true when you are making peace or thinking of others.

SELF CARE

Even though thinking of others is mentally healthy, a certain kind of self-care is also mentally healthy.  This is the kind that keeps you in good shape to help others.

Imagine that you are a racing car.  To perform properly, you need to be maintained and energised between, and even during, races.  The same is true of people who like to think of others.  To be effective, they need to keep their caring equipment in good shape.

This kind of self-care doesn’t involve anger – it’s just a practical, assertive management of your own health and energy.

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SUMMARY

Thinking of yourself uses up a ridiculous amount of energy.  That kind of self-obsession requires constant manipulation of your universe, and a militaristic defensiveness.

In contrast, thinking of others is cognitively logical, as there is less conflict involved.  It is also emotionally intelligent, since selfishness results in confusion and frequent unhappiness.

Thinking of others doesn’t mean ignoring your own self-care.  You can still maintain yourself intelligently, and keep yourself in good shape.  It’s easier to be helpful to others when you are healthy yourself.

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