derek_scottThis week I spoke with therapist Derek Scott, a practicing IFS therapist who has been in the field for over thirty years. Working primarily online, he views therapy as a path of service and IFS as an evolutionary direction. The topic of our discussion was the myth of selfishness.

This myth springs from our culture’s emphasis on helping others before helping ourselves. Nobody wants to be accused of selfishness, so many of us go overboard taking care of others and sacrificing our own needs and wellbeing in the process.

If you have a people-pleasing part of you, this cycle can become particularly vicious. Anything to avoid that criticism and conflict!

Is it really so selfish to take care of yourself before others?

I want to reframe helping others with Martin Norwalk’s idea of “cooperation.” Norwalk, a researcher at Harvard and author of the book Super Cooperators, says cooperation is essential to our survival.

What we need to do, then, is to achieve a balance in cooperating with other people and our own inner people (or as we call them in IFS, parts).

Certain parts of our Self might be working hard to please others in order to not appear selfish, or to be soothed by being seen as generous to others. When we are not blocked by those parts of our Self, compassion towards our Self and others will flow naturally.

Join me with Derek as we discuss selfishness, shame, compassion, and what truly lies behind the myth of selfishness.


If this podcast piqued your interest, I recommend taking a dive into Derek’s YouTube channel of thoughtfully curated videos about Internal Family Systems. They’re a wonderful, free way to learn the IFS lens so you can bring it to your own journey through this life.


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Sharing” by Flickr user Ben Grey is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.