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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Enlightened Self-Interest

Updated: Apr 19

 

“How you gon’ be a social worker when you don’t like people?” my late stepmom once asked me when informed that I was accepted into a graduate program for social work. She understood what others in my inner circle also know—in general, I’m not fond of most people and prefer to keep to myself.

 

Some people who misunderstand my lifestyle erroneously refer to this as “selfish”—lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. However, this assumption is far from true.

 

I began life coaching in the ‘90s and have continued this practice since then. Some people who knew me in adolescence said I was “easy to talk to” and would say things like, “I don’t know why I’m telling you this, because I’ve never said this to anyone” when sharing their stories with me.

 

Although I don’t consider myself particularly altruistic—showing concern for the well-being of others above oneself—I admit that I’m not completely unselfish. After all, if there’s anyone I’d prefer to be stuck on a deserted island with, I wouldn’t exactly opt to forego choosing no one out of respect to the other individual’s interests.

 

Perhaps the person in mind wouldn’t want to share the remainder of life with me and my choice in this individual would be selfish. Alas, I’m a fallible human being.

 

Despite my flaws, I enjoy helping enrich the lives of others. This, despite the fact that I’ve chosen to go my own way from most people and irrespective of my late stepmom’s accurate assertion, that relatively speaking I don’t like most people, I like helping others.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t entirely identify as a misanthrope—a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society. After all, I did intentionally earn two master’s degrees in field of mental health service provision—which necessitates the need for contact with others.

 

What I find is that when assessing my motivations to help others, I value enlightened self-interest which one source defines as “a philosophy in ethics which states that persons who act to further the interests of others (or the interests of the group or groups to which they belong) ultimately serve their own self-interest.”

 

During some of my most challenging periods in life, I’ve been fortunate enough to have people who’ve helped me ease my burdens. To say it “feels good” to have the influence of these people doesn’t tell the reader much. Therefore, allow me to briefly explain.

 

When others have helped me, I’ve experienced joy, relief, and hope. As well, I’ve enjoyed a lighter sensation throughout my body. Additionally, I’ve altered my actions toward partaking in activities that better serve my interests and goals as a direct result of how others have aided me.

 

To me, this is what it means to “feel good.” From a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) standpoint, I understand that my beliefs about help from others are what’ve led to a pleasant emotional, bodily sensation, and behavioral experience—not necessarily the actions others have demonstrated.

 

Nonetheless, I appreciate the assistance offered from others and I want to in turn help people so that they, too, may experience improved functioning and quality of life. Through my practice of REBT, I can help people get better in such a manner.

 

Simply stated, one source adds, “Enlightened self-interest refers to the understanding and trust that what a person does to enhance another’s quality of life enhances one’s own quality of life to a similar degree.” Truly, it “feels good” to me when I help others “feel good.”

 

Page 17 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion encourages REBT practitioners to help clients understand that enlightened self-interest and self-care are healthy alternatives to selfishness and selflessness—concern more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own.

 

While I leave it to my clients as to whether or not they choose to solely focus on themselves or others, often at great expense to the clients themselves, I invite them to consider service to others and maintenance of personal care so they may in turn benefit from more productive behavior.

 

Ultimately, as an REBT clinician, I’m less focused on helping people feel better. If enlightened self-interest yields this by-product, wonderful. Nevertheless, my aim is to help people get better—just as others throughout my life have played integrals roles in helping me to achieve.

 

If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

 

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

 

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

 

 

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW

 

 

References:

 

Bloom, L. and Bloom, C. (2012, December 17). Enlightened self-interest. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stronger-the-broken-places/201212/enlightened-self-interest

Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/disclaimer

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/fair-use

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/get-better

Hollings, D. (2024, January 6). Happiness is a by-product. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/happiness-is-a-by-product

Hollings, D. (2022, May 31). Holistic approach to mental health. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/holistic-approach-to-mental-health

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/

Hollings, D. (2022, November 4). Human fallibility. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/human-fallibility

Hollings, D. (2024, January 2). Interests and goals. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/interests-and-goals

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/life-coaching

Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-rebt

Hollings, D. (2022, December 25). The B-C connection. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from https://www.hollingstherapy.com/post/the-b-c-connection

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Enlightened self-interest. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightened_self-interest

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