Service to Others vs. Co-Dependency

service to others

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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  1. Shane Sorensen on April 15, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    I always tell my girlfriend that I strive to be interdependent. Do you think you can actually need, another human being? I really love her a lot, and I feel like I don’t need her to survive, but I feel I need her and her love to reach my fullest potential. Is this interdependence or dependancy?

  2. Dr. Diana Kirschner on August 27, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Hi Shane!
    Your relationship sounds like healthy interdependency! Love that helps each other grow is the highest and best kind of love. I am so happy for you!

  3. Nicholl McGuire on December 8, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    This is an issue with many women in relationships with abusers. They feel as if by giving their partners everything that somehow all will be better. The temporary high they experience is all that it is then after all the holiday niceties it is back to more of the same. Thanks so much for shedding a bit of light on codependency in this piece.

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