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The Transformation of Altruism in Religious Individuals.

The Transformation of Altruism in Religious Individuals.

This paper is an investigation of the psychological and spiritual development of altruism. Healthy altruism is the ability to experience sustained and relatively conflict-free pleasure from contributing to the welfare of others. It is a human ideal and for many, an effective way of expressing their spirituality.

Altruism can also be defensive, which involves pathological relationships with oneself and others. In this paper I will discuss the analytic work required in moving from defensive to healthy altruism for individuals from a religious background. This involves a reconnection with oneself, a process of learning to tolerate vulnerability, conscious grieving and the development of a new way of being in relation to others. The growth of healthy altruism in religious individuals will also involve a transformation of their relationship to God. For those with extreme altruistic presentations, this work will feel catastrophic and a strong and relational analytic container is needed for the experience of both giving and receiving to feel real and reliable.