Do you know your true worth?
HINT – It’s not about $$$.
Penny and I believe everyone deserves access to integrative health care. Unfortunately, many families can’t afford programs that do not receive government support. At the courses we run that introduce people to the therapeutic program we offer, we have met many beautiful families for whom this is true. Yet these families would very much like to take part in our individualised services. This was the beginning of the awesome journey that we have embarked upon – a journey that has included kindness, community, cooperation, generosity, and altruism.
Most of the world operates on the exchange of money. This is very unfortunate, considering that 1% of the population owns 90% of the world’s wealth ¹. How does a system like this benefit the other 90% of the population? And is there a different way to operate?
There is a common belief in society that if something costs a lot it is worth a lot; and vice versa, if something does not cost a lot it is not worth as much. There is also a belief in society that if someone wants something badly enough, they will find the means to pay for it. Penny and I subscribed to these beliefs – until we saw that it was not serving lots of people … or us. So we set out to challenge those beliefs.
We think we have the best neighbour in the world. We don’t pay a gardening fee on the property we rent because we committed to doing the gardening ourselves. But we don’t have a lawnmower; which is not a problem because our neighbour Kris mows our lawn. I am very grateful, and it occurred to me one day that perhaps we should be paying Kris our gardening fee. Well, it turns out Kris loves to mow lawns. In fact, occasionally he brings us a bottle of wine to thank us for letting him mow our lawn. Are people really that generous?
After natural disasters, the media loves to broadcast around the world coverage of people running amok, chaos, and negative behaviour, such as looting. So much so that it seems that the dog eat dog nature of man is the norm, particularly in a time of crisis. According to the Centre for Disaster Research at the University of Delaware
², this is not borne out in research. That in fact what is more prevalent is helping behaviour, giving behaviour; that there is more pro-social behaviour than antisocial behaviour. It’s just that this is not sensational enough to make the headlines. Could it be that people are really that cooperative?
Our experience has been yes. Two years ago, we changed our fee structure regarding our individualised services. Instead of telling potential clients what the cost is for our service, we let them know the value we put on the service, based on what we put into the service in time, energy, costs etc. We then invite those individuals to make us an offer based on their financial situation; including a combination of money and in-kind services. Our initial intention was simply to make it possible for those with less money to be able to afford our services. What we did not realise at that time was how, like ripples resonating out when a pebble is dropped in a pond, the ripples of generosity would also resonate out and create cooperation and community.
Finding your gift.
This did not happen automatically. People struggled with the idea of not paying in full, often telling us that they could not afford the program – even though they were invited to pay what they could. People also struggled with the idea of in-kind services. When we asked those interested in services what in-kind services they had to offer, many found it difficult to think of things, even when given examples – as if they could not possibly offer anything worthy of the financial difference. What we have learned is that in order to offer in-kind services, one has to believe he has something to offer – which everyone does; she has to believe that who she is and what she has is worthy of exchange – which of course everyone is and does. Deep down we all just want to know that we are worthy just as we are, that we are enough, that we have purpose in this world and have gifts to offer, just by being who we are. Yet so many of us need permission to believe this.
And herein lies as much growth and healing for the family as the therapy program they would like to embark upon, because we can’t help but see our circumstances and our world differently when we feel good about ourselves! And, it is exponentially bigger than that, because the child receiving the therapy benefits from the parent’s shift in how they see themselves, because the child too learns that she is worthy as she is. It is exactly this sense of self-worth and goodness that gives a child the courage to try new things, to step out of comfort zones, to learn and to grow. As Philip McKernan in the film Give n Grow ³ said, “Giving requires an element of vulnerability. When you give unconditionally you grow exponentially.” It has been an honour to see families acknowledge their gifts after grappling with this issue; and then take pride in the outcome of having shared them with us.
In a recent trip to Singapore, families offered in-kind services that turned an intimidatingly busy trip with many finely tuned logistics into something close to a ‘home away from home’ experience. A family who at first could not imagine cooking meals that we would like, cooked us dinners that were so delicious and beautiful that we began salivating at 4pm each day in anticipation – and they delivered them to us hot each evening. A family gave us accomodation in an apartment that was right next to the botanical gardens, because they know I love to run each morning. Families endured peak-hour Singapore traffic and drove us to our appointments, or arranged taxis for us. Families found venues for our courses that aligned with our vision and filled the courses with people. And a family gave us hand made thank you cards and hand painted stones that radiate happiness, which we have been passing on to others in our lives to keep the happiness going. We of course were very delighted with all of these services, delighted that more people attended our courses, and thrilled that new families were able to receive our service.
One might think of this as bartering. But what happened was much bigger than a simple exchange of services. We were not expecting and were excited by the cooperation and community that developed as each of these families communicated with us and each other, working together to make our trip run smoothly. In fact, scientists who study human behaviour confirm that cooperation – “What can I do to help?” – is instinctual; that the brain evolved in the context of cooperation with others, not in the context of competition. According to Harvard University, Professor of Biology and Mathematics, Martin A. Nowak 4, cooperation is governed by five rules, the first being reciprocity – I help you, you help me later. Reciprocity is the exchange of goods and services between two individuals over time. This kind of mutual arrangement can be beneficial to both parties, making them more likely to survive. 5
Thank you – more than manners.
As Professor of Psychology and gratitude researcher Michael McCullough 6 has explained, the positive feeling of gratitude can alert us to the benefits we’ve received from others and inspire us to show appreciation, which will in turn make others more likely to help us again in the future. In this way, gratitude helps build social bonds and friendships between individuals. This means that reciprocity may have been fundamental in the evolution of gratitude. In humans, with our ability to express our emotions through language, reciprocity and expressions of gratitude often go together.
What Penny and I have noticed is there is something about cooperation and community that increases happiness; and that when people are happy, their generosity and gratitude flourish. What seemed like a simple exchange for a service turned into something much bigger, as all of us mutually felt grateful for the generosity of the other – just as our neighbour Kris loves mowing our lawn as much as we love having it mowed! In fact, researchers are starting to trace this common human emotion all the way back to primate behaviour. According to Malini Suchak, assistant professor of animal behaviour, ecology, and conservation at Canisius College, in her article, The Evolution of Gratitude 7 research shows the benefit of saying thank you, as well as of other expressions of gratitude. Gratitude is one of the fundamentally important parts of human life. Michael Norton, Professor of Marketing at the Harvard Business School, conducted studies to determine if kindness increases our happiness 8. He asked the question, “What is the best way of spending our money in order to be happy?” He discovered that people who spent money on themselves were no happier; but people who spent money on others did get happier. He says, “Our research shows that you don’t have to give away billions of dollars to be happy about giving; small amounts give you a boost from giving. So it’s not just millionaires who give and create foundations, all of us in our lives can do more giving and we’re going to get a happiness benefit from doing it.”
Are we capable of selfless giving?
Awesome as all of that is, our journey does not stop here. During that trip to Singapore some families who were not seeking services at the time gave because they wanted more people to have the experience they have had with Compassionate Therapy. Altruism is acting selflessly for the good of others, in their best interest alone. Interestingly, until the 1960s the majority of researchers studying behaviour were of the opinion that true altruism did not exist. Social psychologist Daniel Batson 9 has been interested in the egoism/altruism debate, asking the question, are we capable of caring about the welfare of others? It turns out that empathy – to feel what another is feeling – is a prerequisite for any altruistic act; and some surprising research shows that empathy is seen in children three months of age! So yes, altruism definitely exists.
We realised that if we want to live in a world that embraces kindness, generosity, and altruism, we need to practice these things. How do we go about promoting altruism? According to Matthieu Ricard 10, molecular biologist and Buddhist monk who has dedicated his life to the study of altruism, more consideration for others leads to altruism. He says, “If you have more consideration for others, you are going to make sure that in work, in education, in social life, you gather together all the conditions in order that everyone can blossom.” So we wondered, is there a way to involve the greater community to support those who need help with seeking our services? And will this kindness be as contagious as a virus?
Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH 11, a specialist in social networks, published a beautiful study that showed how kindness spreads. If five people have the opportunity to be kind to each other, in succession, the kindness of the 4th to the 5th person depends on the kindness of the 1st to the 2nd person; there is a cascade of kindness through the system, a social contagion. This brings us back to Nowak’s rules of human cooperation – the second rule is indirect reciprocity. When you help someone, that person benefits; but so do you. Plus others see your kindness and there is a chain reaction of goodness!
Penny and I want kindness, generosity and altruism to be contagious! Therefore, Compassionate Therapy is putting into place a ‘depository’ that individuals can ‘pay into’ so that others can experience what we do – by receiving services, attending a course, heck, even just getting to know us. In our depository, the scope of your contribution is only limited by your imagination. Recently in Mildura after teaching a Live Happy seminar, two families spontaneously said, “I’ll look after your dog,” which led to another person saying, “I have a house you can use when you are in Swan Hill.” Because of this generosity, the next course in Mildura is scheduled. What people have given so far include accommodation, meals, hand painted thank you cards and stones, making phone calls to personally invite others to courses, eye examinations and new lenses, creating an app that enables clients to monitor their program, IT problem solving, finding course venues, printing course binders, setting up a free community information session, and facilitating a connection with another organisation to further our vision.
In her article, The Privilege of Sharing Abundance 12, Greta Matos expresses the world Penny and I want to live in beautifully. She says, “I believe it’s in our nature to give to one another, and most people deeply appreciate opportunities to offer kindness without expectation. As soon as we tie an expectation to our giving, as soon as we draw conditions around our willingness to give, our entire world becomes smaller, and so do we. But when we give without expectation, when we are able to acknowledge what a gift it is to have something to give in the first place, that alone will fill us with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, love and compassion. The world in which we can give becomes larger; and so do we.”
If you would like to join us in creating a world that is kind and generous, that embraces cooperation and altruism for the good of all, please make a deposit! You can do this by calling Penny or emailing Mary. If you don’t yet know what you have to offer but want to contribute, give us a call and chat with us! Perhaps you can help build the infrastructure of the depository. We’d love to help you to see how your goodness can benefit others.
We’d love to hear your comments and reactions please post to the Facebook feed: https://www.facebook.com/CompassionateTherapy/
Many of the references come from the film, The Altruism Revolution http://www.revolutionaltruiste.com/en/. You can watch on VIMEO, AMAZON, iTunes, KANOPY and FMTV.
2 Centre for Disaster Research at the University of Delaware. https://www.drc.udel.edu
4 Martin A. Nowak, Mathematician and Biologist, Harvard University. Author of Super Cooperators; Altruism, Evolution and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed. http://www.martinnowak.com,
6 Michael McCullough http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/Gratitude_Page.htm
(C) 2017 Mary E. Robson