Service to Others vs. Co-Dependency
Service to others has the wondrous property of erasing the pain of the past.
No matter if our upset is about the pain of betrayal or abuse or our own regrettable actions. Service to others also alleviates the pain of our guilt and lessens our self-hate. That’s why, for example, the last Step in all 12-step programs is about being of service to others.
That means that through service to others, our past can become a unique and powerful tool. For instance I had a childhood history of being unwanted by my parents and being called a turd (in Italian) as I was beaten. But that set me on a course of studying what self-love is and ultimately learning to cultivate it. By telling my story and spreading my message about love, tens of thousands of people have been helped. And the pain of my past has all but disappeared.
Benevolence: The Magic Elixir
Being of service is the fastest way to getting out of your own petty and not-so-petty problems and into greater serenity. Many studies show that true benevolence increases self-esteem, lifts depression, alleviates chronic pain, builds health and even leads to a longer life! One researcher describes the good feelings that come from service as the “helper’s high.” Giving activates the brain’s reward center with dopamine-mediated euphoria, much like eating or having sex does.
Harvard psychologist David McClelland did a study where he asked students to watch Mother Teresa helping orphans in Calcutta. Those students showed signs of an increase in their immune system that he called the “Mother Teresa Effect!” So even just thinking about being of service to others is profoundly helpful.
Out of your spiritual awakening a mission of service to others will call out to you, whether it is huge and helps thousands or as small as a smile to a stranger. This is where big love resides, the kind that makes you finally content and full. The love that flows everywhere into infinity through compassion and giving. As William Blake wrote:
“I am in you and you in me, mutual in divine love.”
Service to others can backfire and create more pain for you if you are in a codependent pattern. Where you are constantly taking care of others at your own expense. If codependent over-giving is your problem, I suggest pursuing more attending a 12-step group that teaches non-attachment, like Al-Anon or Codependents Anonymous.
Or if you need immediate help because you are being dragged down in a relationship where you are over-giving allow me to give to you. Consider giving yourself a gift of a free one-on-one coaching session with one of my expert Love Mentors®. You will learn to establish self-caretaking boundaries so that you can then choose to stand back from handling a crisis situation or to step in and help. You can only truly perform service to others when you are in a peaceful and emotionally detached state of mind. Because that is the greatest gift we can share with others.
Please go to the two part series on spiritual practice for more articles like this.
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Dr. Diana Kirschner
Diana Kirschner, Ph.D. is a relationship advice expert, frequent guest psychologist on The Today Show and the creator of a globally available dating coach and Love Mentor® program. Dr. Diana is also the best-selling author of the acclaimed best-selling relationship and dating book, “Love in 90 Days”. Love in 90 Days was the basis of her PBS Special on love. Connect with Dr. Diana through her Dating Tips & Relationship Advice Newsletter.
“Diana Kirschner’s work is life-changing, love-affirming and wonderfully effective.”
~Dr. Christiane Northrup, Internationally bestselling author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.