Altruism Lives

One of the bright and shining lights in the current dismal viral fog is the beam of human altruism.

During a crisis, and certainly during this crisis, the cynic might expect people to rush toward every-man-woman-for-himself-herself. And sure enough, the toilet-paper hoarders, the face mask price-gougers, the medication squirrellers, the hand sanitizer sudden-capitalists, the food marauders, and the rest who cannot share but prefer to profit at other people’s expense bear out the hypothesis that human nature acts only on self-interest, and that to believe otherwise is naïve if not downright stupid.

Until you meet the rest of humanity.

Until you meet my friend who works in an intensive care unit in Manhattan where he says, “I am 100% certain I will get the virus. I want it to happen soon so I can get it over with.” He is a doctor who could easily quit and immediately get a job in a low-risk area, rather than in his hospital which is the highest risk in the nation. But he chooses to stay.

“I’m no hero,” he said to me, when I told him he was one. A crusty cynic, he said, “Everything I am seeing supports my belief in how stupid most people are,” before launching into a story of how the chairman of his department, “who is way out of his league” sent out a memo that contained orders which, if followed, would put everyone’s life at risk. My friend shot back a note telling him he would quit immediately if the chairman did not retract that memo on the spot. Which he did.

So why does my friend lay his life on the line?

“I’m not falling on any hand grenade, believe me. I’m taking precautions, doing my best to make sure other people do, and then taking care of the patients who need help. There’s nothing noble about it. The situation sucks, that’s all.”

But there is something noble about it. No, noble is the wrong word. There is something human about it. Usually when we refer to something as human, we refer to a frailty, a shortcoming, a weakness. But I see in my friend a quality that I see in most people, an instinctual, natural altruism that emerges under stress. Rather than looking out for himself, my cynical friend who sees the weaknesses in humanity for sure, puts his own life in serious jeopardy by taking care of patients who need him desperately.

Why does he do this?

Why does he not protect himself and leave Manhattan? Why does he keep going into the hospital even though he is “100% certain” he will get infected?

Because he wants to. This is the part that’s so hard to believe until you see it. But we see it over and over again during crises. During 9/11. During Katrina. During fires every day around the country. During wars around the world.

Believe it, there is a streak of altruism, of love for others before love for self, that runs through human nature just as sure as there is a streak of selfishness.

Look around you these days. You will see it. Look into yourself. You will see it there, too.

Take heart from knowing that as bad as we all can be, we can just as much be good. Life-sacrificingly, life-savingly good. To love others, at least sometimes, more than you love yourself, that’s human, believe it or not.


In this Psychology Today interview, Why Does a Crisis Make Us Want to Connect and Be Kinder? Dr. Hallowell shares his views on why a crisis changes us.

If these times have you feeling anxious and worried, read Dr. Hallowell’s blog post on Managing These Uncertain Times.

Making Meaningful Connections

Making meaningful connections at their best involve your whole soul. Of course, not every connection will draw upon all of you, but if you give yourself honestly in all your interactions, you’ll make meaningful connections and lead a connected life.

If, each day, you resolve to make contact, if you resolve to reach out, no matter what the response, in a genuine way; and if you resist the urge to pull back, then you will connect. In short, if you try to draw pleasure from connecting, you will.

Why not try starting your day with family breakfast? Or breakfast with a friend?

Click here for Tips on Making Meaningful Connections

If you’re a parent and would like to know how to help your child make meaningful connections, Dr. Hallowell’s session in The Parenting AUTISM Summit on The Importance of Making Meaningful Connectionsairs Wednesday, November 6th.

About The Parenting Autism Summit:

The Parenting AUTISM Summit offers strategies in autism and parenting from 28 experts; including Dr. Hallowell, that work to help your child navigate the social world; some of the available treatment options and how to focus on your child’s wellness, and more.

The summit is online and runs November 4 – 7, 2019.  You can’t afford to miss this! 

You’ll Learn the skills, strategies, and mindset necessary to understand:

  • how to help your child feel safe, loved, and appreciated;
  • to figure out what is behind your child’s behaviors; 
  • how some people experience their autism; and more…

Register for FREE here. 


How To Face Your Fears

When I first started speaking in public, I was terrified to speak in front of people. I had a phobia of public speaking. However, I had messages I wanted to share with the general public. I wanted to share what I knew about ADHD and other psychological topics.  So what was I to do? In my podcast on  How To Face Your Fears,” I describe how I overcame my fear of public speaking and offer ways you can overcome your phobia or fear.

As such, I invite you to listen and learn “How to Face Your Fears.”


What’s the Difference Between Fear and Phobia?

Fear is an emotional response to perceived or real danger. It can be a wonderful ally as long as it goes off when it should. For example, when it keeps you from putting yourself in a dangerous situation.

When fear is of a specific thing, we call it a phobia.  A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that describes an excessive and irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation. Such as, fear of flying, fear of heights and fear of public speaking.

Phobias involve intense fear surrounding an object or situation that realistically poses little or no real danger. They are different from common fears in that the associated anxiety is so strong it interferes with daily life and the ability to function normally.  People suffering from phobias may go to extreme lengths to avoid encountering or experiencing the feared object or situation. If you have a fear or phobia that is paralyzing and life-defeating,  in addition to consulting with your family doctor, be sure to consult with experts in other fields

How the Hallowell Center Can Help

Treatment helps most people with phobias. Options include therapy, medication or both.  When should you seek therapy? Generally when the phobia causes intense fear, anxiety or panic and it stops you from your normal routine or causes significant distress. Taking the time to get diagnosed and set up a treatment plan is an investment in your health and well-being.

Find out how one of our qualified mental health professionals can help you by calling The Hallowell Center:

Boston MetroWest at 978-287-0810

New York City at 212-799-7777

San Francisco at 415-967-0061

Seattle at 206-420-7345