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.