by Fr. George Morelli
There is a deep chasm between genuine and sincere concern for the problems that beset others versus undue personal disturbance. One of the major disaffirmative consequences of an undue concern for others problems is that we are not able focus on fostering our own healthy physical, psychological or spiritual functioning and wellbeing. This is often accompanied by our own emotional distress. Furthermore, this then leads to being ineffective in giving others the help they may deservedly need and that we might want to give to them. Irish author, poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), put it this way: "Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live."1
Sometimes there are situations in which others' problems do affect us. We may personalize the idea that others are not acting the way we want, taking it as a personal insult or slight. However, as cognitive clinical psychologist, Albert Ellis (1962)2 points out, it is our own "injustice-collecting ideas," or what I would label as our demanding expectations that we be 'justly treated,' that inflates our own feelings of annoyance. For example, if someone acts ill-manneredly towards us, it is our own 'self talk' about it that triggers our untoward feelings: "What rudeness he/she has! How dare he/she do that to me." We insist that others follow our own set of rules. We fail to perceive the reality that people are going to act the way they want, not the way we want them too. A psychological alternative is to stop focusing on our own irrational reaction to what others are doing or not doing so that we are able to focus on calmly and caringly help others in overcoming their impediments and challenges.