I Broke up With the Light Box/Why Altruism is an Anti-Depressant

The first part of the title should tell you all you need to know about my affair with the Light Box (aka, THOR, The Helper of Rob) lego star wars vollversion kostenlos deutsch. Like me and Success, sometimes it’s just a poor match. Actually, I wasn’t noticing much of an effect with the THOR over the past few weeks, and with the weather in NYC significantly improving, I’m going to make a conscious effort to spend a little time in the sun each day e mails herunterladen outlook. This is relevant because, as discussed, I have very few interests, and virtually all of them involve being in my very dark Mancave (i.e., apartment) spongebob schwammkopf herunterladen.

In other news, as I was walking into the vestibule of my bank to deposit an insane number of checks for very little money (co-pays), I held the door open for a mid-20’s man to get to the ATM’s spiele mit jdownloaderen. He was dressed in what looked like a fairly expensive suit, and as I started to work on my transactions, I noticed he was fishing through his pockets and getting frustrated bpm studio kostenlosen.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Are you heading upstate on the train?” and he pointed to Grand Central Station.

“No, I live in the city,” I said herunterladen.

“It’s just that, it appears that I left my wallet in the office and my train leaves in just a few minutes. I need to buy a ticket and I don’t have time to run back and get money panasonic smart tv app herunterladen. If you were going on the train my wife could give you the money when we pull in.”

I looked down at the man’s wedding ring and considered that he wasn’t the most obvious person to extort $20 from me, especially here in Manhattan powerpoint foil sdesign download for free. I suppose he could have plotted out a scheme to follow me into the bank, feign forgetting his wallet, bet on the fact I wasn’t taking the train with him, and then laugh all the way to the bank herunterladen.

“If you give me your address, I can mail you the money back,” he said. “And I’ll give you my card as well.”

At that moment I thought about some research on happiness herunterladen. Few would doubt that altruism leads to improved quality of life for people, but studies are finding that helping others has similar effects on the brain as does sex and eating great food (i.e., similar regions of the brain are activated during all of these activities).* If the light box wasn’t bringing me increased happiness, could giving this man his train fare home do the trick? I’ve given money to homeless people before and I’ve felt great about it, but that wasn’t when I was feeling dysthymic.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a $20.

“Here you go,” I said.

“Wow, thank you!” the man said, clearly surprised that someone in NYC would turn over twenty bucks just like that. He took out a pen and asked for my address so he could send me a check. It crossed my mind to simply wish him well and consider it a gift, but the sheer curiosity of whether or not he would actually pay me back was too much. Plus I could always tear up the check if I was still feeling so giving a few days later.

I left the bank feeling pretty good. Not great, but definitely a little bit better. If the guy didn’t need the money and had scammed me, then I wouldn’t really be helping him. But whether he remunerates me or not, I’ll never know for sure if he actually needed me that day. And since the light box is now sitting in a box in the back of my closet, I’m going to assume (or perhaps simply delude myself) that I benefited the mental health of both me and the man. Isn’t life wonderful that way?

UPDATE: It’s been 10 days and nothing has come in the mail…

* One might argue, then, that altruism, at least by definition, does not exist. You get something in return, it has a selfish quality. Not in the pejorative sense, merely that you benefit from the action. And if this research is sound, you should be thinking, RIGHT NOW, about how to help someone, eat a great meal and then have mind-blowing sex. You’ll be the happiest person on Earth!

(Visited 129 times, 1 visits today)

24 Responses to “I Broke up With the Light Box/Why Altruism is an Anti-Depressant”

  1. escaperoad says:

    …and if i’m just thinking about how to accomplish that for MYSELF, then that makes me what, a narcissist?

    I would swap the order of events, though. Otherwise it stands to be a mind-blowing meal followed by food coma.

  2. Rob Dobrenski says:

    “Narcissist” sounds awfully harsh, unless you are hoping to somehow to bask in the glow of giving over a mere $20.

    And, as always, PORTION CONTROL.

  3. Prometheus says:

    Rob, as I long time reader of your site (since your first post actually), I too want to be altruistic and help out. And since I think the best thing you can do for someone is make them happy, please feel free to consider me your happiness provider. Anytime you’re feeling blue, you are more than welcome to send any amount of currency my way. I’m just that generous in my happiness dispensation.

  4. Tracie says:

    Altruism is pretty awesome. You have to be prepared for it to backfire though. I didn’t have any cash one day so I bought a sandwich for a homeless man with my debit card. He threw it at my head and asked for money for crack. Oh well. Maybe he just didn’t like turkey and cheese.

  5. Dr J says:

    Dud he give you his card?

  6. Keith M says:

    Twitter promised me you’d smashed THOR into tiny pieces. Article does not deliver. >=[

    Altruism is a tricky field. Even if it is selfish in that it makes us feel good, this makes us ask the question, why did we evolve to feel good when giving away resources to others? Especially competitors? Have we evolved complex mechanisms that tell us “if I help them now, they will be more likely to help me in the future?” Aid-investing, as it were? Has our tribal past raised us to help others in our tribe to increase coherence and unity? Interesting questions, to be sure.

  7. Mel says:

    A little boy at the cafe took off for the door as people were filing in. His father was nowhere to be found, and I was nearby contemplating buying some Easter pastries.

    So..after a split second of thinking, I rushed to the boy and picked him up at which time the father appeared behind me to whisk him away without even saying anything to me.

    Instead of thinking about the kid being safe, I ended up thinking about the etiquette on preventing little kids from running away. Not very altruistic of me.

  8. Chater says:

    It’s not coming.

  9. nikolina says:

    I don’t really get a boost from giving a homeless person money or anything, at least not an empathetic one. I’m not observant so usually I don’t notice other’s emotions unless they’re explicit.
    I usually do good deeds for the sake of my self-esteem. When I feel really low, if can reflect and say “each day I’ve made at least one person’s day a little better or easier” then that can pick me up. If you’re prone to “my life is worthless” episodes, the only real cure is prevention.

  10. Rob says:

    I have one of those brothers that will periodically ask for money. At this stage in our relationship, we don’t bother to pretend he will be paying me back, we are both clear that it is money that I am OK parting with simply because he is my brother.

    This is like that.

    You saw a fellow in need, you had the cash….you made the move that gave you emotional satisfaction, gleaned from helping your fellow man. I see nothing delusional. As you said, it was win/win.

  11. Dr J says:

    Fact is, you just don’t know the consequences of your actions. You may have done a good deed for a person in genuine need, or you may have convinced a budding conman that his ruse really does work.

    With that in mind, I propose mixing it up a bit. Being the perpetrator of a sharp slap to the face may in fact dissuade said conman from a life of crime.

    Give the man an old jelly baby which he may, after a series of ever-increasingly advantageous trades, exchange for a train ticket home, bringing with it a unique sense of accomplishment.

  12. BL1Y says:

    Sorry Rob, you got scammed. This very scam was done as part of the British show The Real Hustle; suit, needs a train ticket, will give you his card, and promises to mail the money. I can’t find the clip, but it’s somewhere on YouTube.

    Have you encountered the broken glasses con? Someone passing you on the sidewalk will bump into a little bit, and drop a pair of glasses he’s holding, and then insist you broke them and have to pay to fix them.

    The first time it happened to me was downtown near my old apartment and I refused to give him any money, and was mostly concerned about getting mugged, so I walked into the first store I could find and he left.

    He then tried the same con on me about a month later, just a block away.

    Then, I saw one of my neighbors talking to him, stopped and explained to the guy what was going on. That was pretty funny.

    And then a few months later the same guy bumps into me a third time, and I guess he recognizes me, and says “Oh,” and walks off. At this point I realize it would have been hilarious to pick up the guy’s glasses and throw them in the construction area that was outside of my apartment. But, I’m too late. I resolve to do this the next time I see him.

    Fast forward another couple months later, up near Penn Station and finally a different person tries this on me. As soon as I see the glasses on the ground I start running as fast as I can down the sidewalk, and the guy runs after me for a few blocks and then I stop and wait for the guy to catch up.

    “You broke my glasses!”
    “I know it’s a con! Someone tried it on me before.”
    “Then why did you run?”
    “To make you run after me. HA!”

    True story.

  13. Shay says:

    Doing good deeds is its own rewards. I was in the midst of a financially (among other things) fueled depression back in January. The day that my loans cleared I went to Five Guys and got a burger. Funny, the burger wasn’t that great as I remembered it. I took the fries back with me on the train and headed back to my building. Along the way I passed a homeless guy picking up garbage, I gave him my bag’o’fries and we had a conversation about God. I definitely felt better after being able to help someone, especially after weeks of strugglin’ to eat.

    If you can do something for someone, especially if it costs you little to nothing, why not?

    As always Dr. Rob, cross posted to FB, and I’ll see if I can’t find a reason to bring it up in Psychopathology tomorrow.

  14. BL1Y says:

    Shay: I tried to help one of the random NY street people one time. The guy who puts up those 27th Amendment Fair Housing fliers came over to talk to me and a couple friends, and I kindly pointed out that there already is a 27th Amendment regulating Congressional pay and he needed to change his fliers to say 28th Amendment. He yelled at me…for like…quite a while.

    That is why you don’t help people. Or…at least why I shouldn’t help people.

  15. Rainbow Brite says:

    “I have one of those brothers that will periodically ask for money”
    From what I understand you do not have any brothers (correct me if I’m wrong). It’s my opinion you love the attention of giving and benefit not from helping others but from how helping others makes YOU feel.

  16. Rob Dobrenski says:

    At Rainbow: I’m confused. To whom are you addressing this comment?

  17. Celestine says:

    I also have a tendancy for living in my “mancave” (except I’m a chick, obviously). I played World of Warcraft pretty religiously for about 4 years and didn’t get out much. I’m proud to say I have a lot more interests/hobbies now. If you’re okay with your lack of hobbies then there’s nothing wrong with that, regardless of whatever other people think, if you’re happy that’s really all that matters. If it bothers you, I say try new things. Living in NY, there’s always something new to try, explore and I’m sure your readers and twitter stalkers (aka me and @qwork1) can come up with various hilarious things for you to try out.

    As for for your altruism, I think of a scene from one of my favorite classic films, A Bronx Tale. The lead character Calogero keeps seeing this guy from the neighborhood (Louie) who owes him $20. When he’s spotted, the guy immediately starts making excuses and heading the other way, so as not to have to pay up. Later on in the film, Calogero’s mobster mentor Sonny gives him a piece of advice:

    Sonny: What’s the matter?

    Colagero: This guy Louie Dumps over here, you know, he owes me twenty dollars. It’s been two weeks now, and every time he sees me, he keeps dodging me. He’s becoming a real pain in the ass, should I crack him one or what?

    Sonny: What have I been telling you, sometimes hurting someone ain’t the answer. First of all, is he a friend of yours?

    Colagero: No, I don’t even like him.

    Sonny: You don’t even like him. There’s your answer right there. Look at it this way, it cost you twenty dollars to get rid of him. Right? He’s never gonna bother you again. He’s never gonna ask you for money again. He’s out of your life for 20 dollars. You got off cheap. Forget about it.

    This is one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Granted, it doesn’t fit exactly. This was some random stranger and not someone you knew. You gave him the money knowing you might not get it back. He made an effort to make it seem like he would, but one never knows. You could have ignored him. You did a nice thing, if he was in fact in need. If it was a scam or he never intended on paying you back…well, $20 is still getting off cheap. Clearly for you, it was a good enough price to pay to run the risk of being a fool vs the price of doing something genuinely nice for someone who was having a bad day.

  18. Dr J says:


    It looks like Rainbow confused you with plain Rob. Unless It’s a not-too-cunning alias.

  19. Nora says:

    Shocker that you haven’t received a check yet. Did you really give him your address? What if he starts stalking you? I NEVER give people money, unless they sing for it on the train, of course. I don’t care how “normal” a person looks, you simply don’t leave your wallet somewhere and not go back for it. I’ve heard all sorts of similar stories, and I never give in. There was one time, though, that I let a woman use my phone at 96th St. because she looked lost waiting for someone, but instead of feeling helpful, I was just nervous the whole time she was gonna run off with it. (This was pre-iPhone, btw, I would NEVER let a stranger near that!) I’ll stick to NY Cares and volunteering at soup kitchens for my required doses of “altruism.”

  20. BL1Y says:

    Nora: If you want to make sure you’re avoiding scams, ask them for the number and dial it yourself. A common con when borrowing someone’s phone is to then dial a pay number the con man (or con old lady) has set up. Then they have a fake conversation and stay on the phone until you insist they get off.

    Also, avoid using blue tooth unless absolutely necessary. And, when not using a blue tooth device, make sure blue tooth is turned off. Blue tooth doesn’t really have any security features, so someone near by can hack into your phone and, again, call a pay phone number they own. I believe this is known as “blue snarfing.”

  21. Rob says:

    @ Rainbow:

    No, I mean my actual brother lol.

    And Idk if it is about attention, I don’t tell anyone when I give him money….it really is no one’s business. I used it here because it is my personal example of what Dr. Rob encountered at the bank.

    I DO wonder why a man with no wallet, who ought be at the train station, is at the bank….where people are withdrawing cash from the ATMs…wierd. Almost as if he was seeking out people with some ready cash in their hand.

    Even so, helping him was a noble act, Dr. Rob.

  22. QPec says:

    I would say whether or not the man actually had to catch a train is irrelevant. You saw a fellow person who appeared to be in need, and you did what you could to help him. The fact you aided someone in need is what you should feel good about – not what the man did with the money after you left.

  23. Ren says:

    A teacher once told me it that if you put 100% into something you will get 10% back. This was simple enough logic to follow but then she said if you expect an A in my class I expect you to put in 110% because if you’re not trying then you’re not learning. I was 14, it took me a year to figure out what this lady was even talking about. If you think about it, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Now I think back on that teacher and I wonder how she got so smart.

    Mathematically speaking any task that is 90% complete is considered done because in calculus there is a formula that states 9=10, knowing this I have to conclude that the other 10% is simply for cosmetic purposes. To expand on this train of though I submit that permanent daily routines diminish our productivity at a minim rate of 1% per day. Thus explaining why as we age we slow down.

  24. […] Post: I Broke up With my Light Box/Why Altruism is an Anti-Depressant Share this […]