\Too Much of a Selfless Good Thing: Pathological Altruism

There’s a good chance you’ve been lectured on the virtues of selflessness.


When Helping Hurts, and Why Some of Us Can’t Stop
A desire to alleviate others’ suffering — even if by means that harm, rather than improve, another person’s well-being — arise from our brain’s hardwired empathy circuits, empathy researchers Carolyn Zahn-Waxler and Carol Van Hulles note. The mere sight of another’s distress evokes patterns of activity in our own nervous systems that mimic others’ emotional or physical pain as if it were our own, albeit at a much less intense level than the actual sufferer. So it’s no wonder most of us would like to get rid of the not-so-pleasant feelings ASAP.