Self-esteem and selfish love


Recommended Posts

I once heard someone say that what a neurotic needs is reference experience that he has worth in himself. Rather than only being valued for obedience. Or by getting "charity" from a white knight.
Rand says something similar in the following quote:

"Love is not self-sacrifice, but the most profound assertion of your own needs and values. It is for your own happiness that you need the person you love, and that is the greatest compliment, the greatest tribute you can pay to that person"

 

I wonder if she or other objectivists has explained this as a way of healing somewhere?

As in: act egoistically and not altruistically, and gain experience that who you are in your self while you act selfishly has value to other people. In that way you know that you have worth \, your self-esteem rises, and you don't have to rely on  altruistic obedience for your self-esteem anymore. 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

CM,

Hi.

:)

I don't know how to answer this in a way that speaks for Objectivism per se, but I do know how I have come to grips with this seeming dilemma.

One day I decided that there would be things in my lifetime I will never know, what with the universe being as big as it is, and as tiny as it can get. I accepted that and serenity appeared. And that made me rethink a few of my either-or values. (I used to be more of a Randian fundamentalist than I am now, although I still have a worldview formed by my contact with Rand's ideas.) One of the things I rethought was love.

Over my life, in looking for the perfect mate according to the "selfish highest values" standard and demanding this out of the women (and friends) I got involved with, I burned through several families.

(Painful, but definitely not boring. I have stories... :) )

And on the family front, as I started getting past 50, I didn't want to be alone during the time nature would be taking my powers from me. So I decided family was a good thing. And I mean that on a love level. We don't get to choose our families, but normal people do love their mothers, fathers, sons, daughter, brothers, sisters, etc. When looking at this with fresh eyes rather then the image of Hank Rearden's family :) , I couldn't see anything wrong with that kind of love. Not even for me. So, I concluded it doesn't not have to be either-or. After that sunk in, I have wondered how I got into that mentality in the first place.

I think it is entirely possible--and good--to have a healthy loving family life and still seek "highest value" people to love. We can have both. One does not cancel or compromise the other. In fact, I got myself one last family (I chose, but some step-kids came with it I didn't choose :) ) and I have been holding onto it, even during bad times. I am happy to report I have not been disappointed by making that choice. It feels good to know I belong here and my family belongs with me.

Please don't take the following as dissing Ayn Rand, but I don't want to end up mostly alone at the end like she did. I didn't know her (although I did see her speak live), so I can't speak to anything except what I learned about her from others. From what I have read and heard, she was not very happy in her last years.

But I can speak about Barbara Branden. I had a great deal of love for her and, unfortunately, she was mostly alone at the end. In her case, she did not want to be a burden on anyone and drove people away (me included). I felt privileged when we last spoke (by phone) and I felt loving vibes coming from her. She wanted to know some of my plans--some of which involved me promoting her work--and we talked like old friends who had just seen each other yesterday. This was when she knew her own end was near, although I didn't know it. I hope that call gave her a bit of happiness. It seemed like it did since she never spoke to me with such tenderness before.

Back to the point. With all due respect toward Rand and her insights, I don't think altruism and selfishness are the proper polarities for which to measure love. Maybe there are some situations and some kinds of love where this is a good measure, but it definitely does not apply to all love. And I no longer believe that there is only one kind of love and it exists as one-size-fits-all.

Besides, love in general is organic. It grows and dies just like all organic things do. But, even so, when I look inside me, I detect some kinds of love that will only die when I do. They were there when I first became aware of myself and they have been there all during my life.

I can't measure that kind of love with selfishness or altruism since that capacity is part of my very identity. Measuring it in that manner would be akin to measuring one of my big toes according to selfishness or altruism. I wouldn't know how to do that.

The following is not a Randian thing to say, but it comes from the deepest part of my heart and soul. The more I learn about love, the less I know for sure about it and the more I detect there is to learn. One thing I am sure of, though. None of it is beyond me. I am able to feel it all if and when I so desire. And that sharing love is as natural to me as breathing.

I imagine this is true of anyone who looks through unfiltered eyes at first and lets themselves experience it. (We can all filter later.)

I don't know if these thoughts are of any value to you, but they are the best I've got.

btw - A warm welcome to OL.

:) 

Michael

  • Upvote 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Over my life, in looking for the perfect mate according to the "selfish highest values" standard and demanding this out of the women (and friends

I may have uttered or written that sentiment, but the REAL way I became involved with someone, is I met them. I talked to them. I responded to any signs of liking me and who I felt they were. I asked them out . . .  

Link to post
Share on other sites

Never mind "highest value" for then you are thinking your way into a situation. Once you are in love then apply analysis. Why? Because that gal or guy may have serious issues and those issues will continue through the relationship, even marriage. Love ain't enough. You aren't going to change your mate in any significant way. The other's significant faults will destroy your happiness. That said, you may be a masochist.

Some women don't marry for love. They marry for the children to come and they will get her love and give her happiness. So the sophisticated man gets a mistress. Welcome to France.

So instead of highest value go for higher value. Trade up. Pull yourself up by living (it) up.

Love is what makes human life make sense. Love manufactures lived in immortality--that is, you don't worry about dying because you're too busy living/loving.

--Brant

love is grace on steroids

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/14/2020 at 10:55 PM, Clark Mansion said:

As in: act egoistically and not altruistically, and gain experience that who you are in your self while you act selfishly has value to other people. In that way you know that you have worth \, your self-esteem rises, and you don't have to rely on  altruistic obedience for your self-esteem anymore. 

 

"You don't have to rely on altruistic obedience". True. The prevailing perception of love is that you sacrifice yourself. (Or someone does for you). Except, much of the time, most people aren't surrendering "a higher value to a lesser one". Sub-consciously at least, they understand that the object of their love is 'worth it', and what they do to sustain it through thick and thin totals a gain in value, since they love him/her above minor outlays, but often they'll mis-name and display their acts as 'sacrificial' nonetheless. Then the others, the authentic self-sacrificers, who hang on through all kinds of abuse-- because they believe the old saw that sacrifice is in the nature and is the proof of love. Whoever gives spiritually, etc. more than receives, continuously, should be out of there and fast. The divorce rate is evidence of people's eventual recognition of and disgust with self-sacrifice. That's one thing that love isn't. Another linked catastrophe being a subjective and rationalist desire to seek and impose unreal 'perfectionism' in your partner, not unknown to young Objectivists brought on to an extent by the romantic fictional hero/ines, probably. Which is sacrificial too, in a sense. You're right about self-esteem and worthy of being loved, for all that one also is not 'perfect'.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/15/2020 at 12:25 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Back to the point. With all due respect toward Rand and her insights, I don't think altruism and selfishness are the proper polarities for which to measure love. Maybe there are some situations and some kinds of love where this is a good measure, but it definitely does not apply to all love. And I no longer believe that there is only one kind of love and it exists as one-size-fits-all."

Yes, I agree with you that love can be "for the sake of the other", without it being a sacrifice. In that sense I like to complement Ayn Rand's Aristotelian love of "enlightened self-interest" with Erich Fromm's "brotherly love" as described in his "Art of Loving". 

 

That being said, my question in this thread was somewhat on the side of this issue. My question was about the transition from Protestant Christian Altruist self-sacrifical ethics and towards a healthy, life-affirmative type of living that yields proper self-esteem and love. A big problem with the Lutheran self-sacrifical ethics is that one is only valued for self-sacrifice. Which means that one doesn't get to experience that others can enjoy to be with oneself and find value in oneself for who one is - who one is without sacrificing oneself. Who one is when one acts in one's enlightened or rational self-interest. 

 

This switch in morals from Lutheran to Aristotelian is a revolution for the neurotic, and my question is if Rand has described how healing this switch of ethics can be for one's self-esteem, with particular regards to being valued by other people for being who one is without sacrifice. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I suppose you might meet someone at a fan-of-Rand meeting like on a campus but no where else. I remember dating and found most people could care less about Ayn Rand's philosophy, even if they had read a book or two of hers.  Their eyes may not have glazed over but I found that I bored her.  If you start with a shared interest in "a hobby" the relationship is not built on much. There are aspects of a relationship based on more substantial, personal things than things from a book or a philosophy. Of course I would not recommend socializing with a Marxist, but just because you met person who mentions they voted for Hillary, that may not be "game over," neon sign. I would suggest starting a relationship and bring up some of your likes and dislikes and ask for theirs. And don't quote Ayn Rand. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/19/2020 at 10:11 AM, Clark Mansion said:

My question was about the transition from Protestant Christian Altruist self-sacrifical ethics and towards a healthy, life-affirmative type of living that yields proper self-esteem and love. A big problem with the Lutheran self-sacrifical ethics is that one is only valued for self-sacrifice. Which means that one doesn't get to experience that others can enjoy to be with oneself and find value in oneself for who one is - who one is without sacrificing oneself. Who one is when one acts in one's enlightened or rational self-interest. 

 

This switch in morals from Lutheran to Aristotelian is a revolution for the neurotic, and my question is if Rand has described how healing this switch of ethics can be for one's self-esteem, with particular regards to being valued by other people for being who one is without sacrifice. 

 

CM,

What I'm going to say below might seem like a sidestep of the issue, but it is not.

 

1. With the current understandings of neuroscience and modern psychology, this question is more interesting historically than it is in terms of human nature. Of, if you happen to come from a strict Lutheran family or something like that, your question is relevant since there is a lot of storytelling to align. (I don't mean that disrespectfully.)

From a human nature lens, mirror neurons, fMRI scans, tons of modern psychology experiments, neutraceuticals and other brain impacting pharmaceuticals, etc., it's very easy to detect when selfishness is the strongest activity in the brain and when sacrifice is. Based on that, it's pretty clear that both have individual survival value and species survival value. Also, both give great pleasure and both can be abused to the point of being lethal or causing intense depression.

The main point is that, for as much as I love Rand's ideas--my worldview was informed by them--the human nature question is not selfishness versus altruism. The human nature question in the modern world is: When is each relevant?

 

2. Years ago, we had a member who posted a lot on OL, Paul Mawdsley. From what I know of him, he stopped doing the Internet as a social activity.

He wrote one of the most insightful comments I have ever read in terms of framing the difference between Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden. He said Rand's main yardstick for measuring human actions was good versus evil. And Branden's was healthy versus unhealthy.

I think both are valid when thinking about love and sacrifice. On the good versus evil axis, what good is predominantly selfish love or predominantly altruistic love if it allows you to be easily killed or enslaved because it makes you vulnerable to attack and conquest? On the healthy versus unhealthy axis (with NB, meaning mentally healthy/unhealthy of course), what good is predominantly selfish love or predominantly altruistic love if it makes you miserable and depressed?

So I think context and other values need to be inputted to make using one or the other axis effective. 

 

3. I suppose some fringe people will be concerned about what wood is best for building covered wagons, but this is no longer an issue since people don't travel by covered wagons any longer. That, to me is a good metaphor for engaging in human nature conflicts using old standards when all we could see before was outside of the human body. Now that we can explore brain activity, neurochemicals, and things like that, I believe the old standards are not relevant to that reality. We can point to this principle or that, or this observation or that, from different philosophies and religions. Then we can say neuroscience, modern psychology, etc., validate it or not. But the entire older systems are no longer all encompassing like they once were.

 

4. I want to explore this deeper later because it sounds like I am making a case against Rand's ideas. I'm not. I building my thoughts about the new reality emerging from progress on top of Rand's ideas rather than trying to mold limitations to progress according to them. Frankly, ditto for religions. For a great example, reason versus faith was a great polarity when entire societies were built predominantly around one or the other. In the modern world, we know the brain will do both, it can't not do both. Law of Identity and so on. So the question becomes, in what situations do we use each and even how much? 

This applies especially to love. But that's a looooooooooong discussion. :) 

 

5. As a final thought, I have been doing a lot of thinking about transcendence--mental transcendence. I think this is an interesting lens to judge these questions by. Roughly speaking, what forms of mental transcendence promote human life and health, and what in different philosophies and religions foster such transcendence? I would keep that part and discard the rest, at least where the issue of transcendence was involved.

This includes love that promotes mental transcendence. When (meaning in what situations) selfish love does that, I am for it. When altruistic love does that, I am for that.

 

I don't know if these thoughts cover what you want to deal with, but I find there are some very interesting ideas in this conversation.

If, for instance, your really want to do a dive into Lutheranism or other Christian thought, I'm willing to do some digging, reflect on it and let you know my thoughts, then bounce ideas back and forth. Ditto for other topics like the nature of love itself.

But first, your conflict is clear to me in general form, but specifically, I don't know what you want to look at, or what you think of it once it is clear.

So tell me more...

:) 

Michael

  • Upvote 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

 

 

 

2. Years ago, we had a member who posted a lot on OL, Paul Mawdsley. From what I know of him, he stopped doing the Internet as a social activity.

He wrote one of the most insightful comments I have ever read in terms of framing the difference between Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden. He said Rand's main yardstick for measuring human actions was good versus evil. And Branden's was healthy versus unhealthy.

 

 

 

:) 

Michael

Paul was correct, Branden's and Rand's fields are distinct - and simultaneous, I think he'd agree: Good and evil and healthy and unhealthy. As both thinkers understood. Philosophy and psychology are considered different areas of formal study and application but co-exist in the individual mind and his life. (Self-evidently). Healthy and unhealthy was the specific concern of this Objectivism-grounded psychologist. Who would still write psycho-philosophically in Honoring the Self, about the correlation of human atrocities, sacrifice and self-sacrifice : "It is not self but the absence of self which is closer to being the root of all evil". NB

In fact, imo Branden's writing very much points to the same mind-body integration as is fundamental to Objectivism, obviously core to self-esteem. Therefore, integration of mind-biology, mind-brain, reason-emotion, moral-practical, not any of which is or had to be separated in the natural, healthy -and- rational growth of a stable individual, if left to his/her own devices. The disruption is artificial, an intervention mostly caused by adult authorities/teachers who 'know better' and who need to produce sacrificial conformists to fit Society (for your own good).

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now