THE BLOG
06/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why We Don't Care Give: Instinctual Disconnection

I'd bet you've heard countless times that "it's better to give than to receive." I'd also lay heavy odds that you've read numerous articles on the importance of giving, and an equal amount of articles and blogs that promote numerous ways in which we can all be a more giving person. Even Presidents have written on this point.

It is not surprising that we all advocate care giving. The fact is, Mother Nature has hardwired us all with care giving instincts, their evolutionary function being that by providing care to others, especially the young, boosts the odds that the organizational unit will continue to flourish.

Care giving, then, is nature's inherent tool for developing others, or more broadly, for advancing the future. For this reason, Mother Nature has made sure that that you have care giving genes.

In lieu of this point, we know why so many people are givers; what I find interesting is why so many people are not. It is as if many people are "instinctualy disconnected," a term that means one has lost touch with their inherent tools for making life better. In this case, it means that many people are disconnected from their care giving instincts or at the very least, suppress them. Why might this be? Why do people refrain from care giving, even when their hardwiring instructs them too?

From my clinical and counseling experiences and daily observations, I'll give you some reasons why people often don't express their care giving instincts and how to instinctualy reconnect to this life enhancing tool.

The Anger Excuse. In therapy sessions, I hear the anger excuse time and time again: "I was angry, so I didn't want to show care." When mismanaged anger permeates a relationship, it extinguishes the nurturing instinct. Because most people are not adept at anger management, you can begin to see why so many people in so many relationships accuse their partner of not caring. You won't find wolves not nurturing their mates because they are angry, perhaps a reason wolves mate for life. Solution: learn anger management skills.

No time to Give. If you don't spend time with someone, it is pretty hard to demonstrate and communicate affection, whether it is with your partner, kids, employees, or your parents. Indeed, many people lose contact with their care giving instincts because they do not spend time with the people who would benefit from their love and attention. Solution: spend time with your loved ones so you have ample opportunity to express your care giving instincts.

It's Too Much Effort. From your earliest moments of being a caregiver, you quickly learn it is hard, draining and sometimes even painful. Many people just do not want to demonstrate their nurturing instinct because it is too much of an effort. Care giving takes energy and sometimes, you don't have it to give. Solution: take occasional respite -- you will be reenergized to express your care giving instincts.

I'll Help You Lose. Our competitive instinct, too, can trump our nurturing instinct. This is particularly true to the working environment where, for many people, competition with their colleagues dominates their working attitude. Because competition typically is a win/lose scenario, many people are reluctant to help others because it makes themselves lose in comparison. In effect, by not helping your coworker, you help him lose. Solution: recognize that those who cooperate and develop others are always the most successful.

It Is Expensive. Nurturing in all its forms can be a pricey endeavor. It costs a lot of money to give your parents the best care, your children the best developmental opportunities -- such as tutors, dance, music and karate lessons -- or your pet the high end food and frequent veterinarian care. Lack of resources, especially finances and time, is a frequent and realistic reason that prevents people from exhibiting certain care giving behaviors and communication. Solution: reexamine your priorities and figure out "cheap" ways to give.

I'd like to hear why you think so many people are instinctualy disconnected from their care giving instincts, including times you've fallen into that group.