Helper syndrome, pathological altruism--both typically do little good. They make some helper professionals feel an immediate "goodness" but the resulting longterm damage often makes both the helper and the helpee worse off than before any intervention. Pathological altruism can be dangerous.
Does it seem to you that it's on the increase? Seems that way to me.
What is pathological altruism? It's related to the helper sydrome about which I have blogged before; click to read my posts. From "The Pathological Altruist Gives Till Someone Hurts" (New York Times):
As the new book [Pathological Altruism] makes clear, pathological altruism is not limited to showcase acts of self-sacrifice, like donating a kidney or a part of one’s liver to a total stranger. The book is the first comprehensive treatment of the idea that when ostensibly generous “how can I help you?” behavior is taken to extremes, misapplied or stridently rhapsodized, it can become unhelpful, unproductive and even destructive.
Because a certain degree of selfless behavior is essential to the smooth performance of any human group, selflessness run amok can crop up in political contexts. It fosters the exhilarating
sensation of righteous indignation, the belief in the purity of your team and your cause and the perfidiousness of all competing teams and causes.
David Brin, a physicist and science fiction writer, argues in one chapter that sanctimony can be as physically addictive as any recreational drug, and as destabilizing. “A relentless addiction to indignation may be one of the chief drivers of obstinate dogmatism,” he writes ... .
On a related note, take a look at "Sentimentality as a Way of Avoiding Clear Thought," an earlier Blog Glob.
Have you spotted examples of pathological altruism in the legal profession? Or among conflict professionals? If so, I'd like to hear from you below in the comments or by e-mail.