The Unselfishness Trap


The article The Unselfishness Trap was written by Harry Browne; a journalist who lives in New York City. The unselfishness trap views those who try to put the happiness and well-being of others before their own in an effort to do what is best for the world, not for themselves. Harry Browne indicates that he believes that each person always acts in ways he believes will make him feel good and will remove discomfort from his life. Later in the passage, he suggests that the motivation for any action is self-satisfaction. He states, “Each person is doing what he believes will assure his happiness” and he says this is a way which leads me to believe that is always true.


In life the world uses areti (virtue) to find the telos (goal) of eudiamonia (happiness). To do what seems necessary to achieve happiness is the ultimate motivation for all of us. Finding happiness is the final goal and end to every selfish and unselfish act. The means for trying to do is what varies. "Selfishness" is hardly a chief if everyone is so by nature; if everyone sacrificed for the happiness of others, who would ultimately be happy? I agree with Browne answerer - Nobody! If we all sacrificed ourselves for our families, which in turn sacrificed themselves for their families, and so on, it would never end. There would never be a family and no one would get to have a great positive, joyful life lived as they wanted to live it.


In Browne’s passage he describes a world of all unselfish people. He talks about the idea of happiness being a “red ball.” In this world of unselfish people, the ball is continuously being passed around. Browne examines the impossibilities for the ball to be caught and enjoyed. The ball would never be played with and used. I agree that this world would be unhappy because the unselfish people living in it would be constantly catching the ball and passing it around in fear of being thought of as selfish for holding it. The example is simple and relative to everyone. I think that Brown is correct. He uses an example that’s simple, and relative to everyone. As Browne continues, he suggests that the only alternative is to please only yourself. I think that Browne is explaining exactly how the would works.


"The unselfishness trap is a merry-go-round that has no ultimate purpose," Browne states, “If gifts must always go from one person to the next, no one would ever get to enjoy it.” No one's self-interest is enhanced by the continual relaying of gifts from one person to another to another. In trying to secure your own wellness lifestyle with maximum freedom and happiness, you will have to deal with people who believe you should not put yourself first. You will be expected to delay or abandon your plans, to make changes to benefit the other. You will have to choose between doing what you want to do in seeking happiness and facing the disapproval of others.


A defining characteristic of a free person is the ability to make positive choices based on alternatives that contribute to happiness, not limiting you to choices that will result in the least discomfort. Avoid choices made to avoid being deemed "selfish." These are negative decisions that do not enhance your prospects of happiness in the way positive choices do.


Browne urged readers to be selfish and support yourself. He argued that it is possible to create exchanges between individuals based on the idea that both parties benefit, rather than one sacrificing for the other. The key is that "mutually beneficial relationships are possible when desires are compatible," that an "efficiently selfish person" is sensitive to the needs and desires of others but doesn't consider those desires to be demands.


I think the choice of being selfish or unselfish is best resolved in a mutual respect .Browne suggests that since people can never know exactly what other people want. We should not try to please others but focus on pleasing ourselves. One thing may make someone happy but not another. I may act to please someone else when in turn I am not happy. Do what makes you happy and forget