On Tuesday evening I went to my friend Christopher’s house. I originally met him through a writers’ group that we were members of and have since become very good friends – he’s a man who never fails to interest and inspire me.
Last night he held a meeting entitled “Finding Your Highest Self” where one of the subjects explored was the concept of ‘selfishness’ and how the accusation of selfishness is used to control us.
It's not too long since I had this discussion with somebody close to me - a person who has used his/her own concern for my welfare in order to try to persuade me to change my mind about certain things I've wanted to do.
"If you do such and such a thing, I'll spend the entire time worrying about you." In other words, it would be selfish of me to do something that I want to do; something that I believe would enrich my life, because it would cause him or her concern.
But isn't it equally as selfish of that person to expect me to live a life that doesn't meet my personal needs, in order to satisfy his/hers?
So just what is selfishness? The group came to the conclusion that it's basically any action that stops a person from reaching their potential, as long as nobody is deliberately hurt in the process.
So what is 'hurt'? Would I be deliberately hurting another person by leaving them to worry about me? I don't believe I would. Their worry is, after all, their choice and not something I've deliberately brought upon them. Is it acceptable for that person to use their worry in order to stop me leading the life that feels right for me? I don't believe it is. In fact, in my opinion, that's nothing short of emotional blackmail.
Now this person insists this has never been about control - that they were merely making me aware of their concerns. But if those concerns are such that he/she would worry about me the entire time, it's obvious that it's going to put the dampers on my enthusiasm for whatever it was I wanted to do. Sometimes it's better to NOT say how you feel and offer support anyway. That would surely be the least selfish path to take. Voice concerns, by all means, but if the person making the decision still wants to go ahead, don't use "but if you do, I'll....".
Far too many people use emotional blackmail as a way of controlling others. Because nobody likes to feel that they're selfish, we accept this and often put aside our own needs in order to satisfy theirs.
Unfortunately this is something we learn at an early age. We see how well it works for others and start to use threats like "if you play with her instead of me I won't be your friend anymore (because you're being selfish by not caring about my feelings)".
In later life we continue to use it. We become more subtle about it, but it's still emotional blackmail regardless and that, I feel, is most definitely a more selfish action than wanting to enjoy a fulfilling life by reaching our emotional, intellectual, physical and/or spiritual potential.
Am I wrong? Maybe you see things differently. If you do, I'd love to hear why.
Sharon J xx