Positive Psychology


Pro-social behaviors are those that we can attribute to our superego (Freudian). We engage in behaviors that many consider “good” for social interactions. These behaviors are focused on an external component (person or situation), and the emotive quality is experienced internally. Altruism, gratitude, and forgiveness typically require an external instigation. When we do something for someone else without consideration of personal benefit, we call that altruism. When we acknowledge that we have obtained a positive outcome, we call that gratitude. When we accept an indication of contrition from someone, we call that forgiveness (although we can act on internal forgiveness; however, there is discussion whether that is “really” forgiveness, or acceptance of our personal behaviors). Egotism, on the other hand (not letting the superego engage), is the determination that there will (or could) be a personal benefit if we engage in a behavior (or not). The discussion that rages on is, is altruism really nonegotistical? Meaning, that most of us (although we may not think of it at the actual time of the behavior) will feel “good” that we did something for someone. Is there not personal benefit, then (a sense of wellbeing that we did something good)? In discussing empathy, I would suggest that many of you experienced this while watching the video from the last discussion (not sympathy, but a sense of the other without feeling “sorry” for them).

How can we cultivate altruistic, grateful, and forgiving attitudes and behaviors in ourselves? How can we help others to cultivate these? Can we “really” forgive, or is it that we can “forget” the behaviors that we perceived to be affronts to ourselves? Does the ego entirely abdicate its control in altruistic behaviors (not a simple yes/no answer will suffice; explain)? Why are pro-social behaviors considered so important in human existence?