Selfishness and Altruism

  • David M. Allen
Part of the Critical Issues in Psychiatry book series (CIPS)


In this chapter, I will argue that, in the United States of today, our perceptions about the motivations of other people are biased in one specific direction. Namely, in this country we are apt to attribute selfish rather than altruistic motivation to others. This can happen even in instances when others are clearly acting against their own best interests. Following this discussion, I will then go on to explore the important concept of mortification—the process by which individuals straitjacket themselves in order to conform to societal and family system norms. As an example, I will discuss how mortification is a mainstay of twelve-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Clinical examples of hidden references in language to the dialectic between selfishness and altruism and to the mortification process will be presented later, in Part II of the book.


Family System Altruistic Motivation Alcoholic Anonymous Secondary Gain Sexual Masochist 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • David M. Allen
    • 1
  1. 1.BurbankUSA

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