What Is Self-Centered Thought?

This concept is known variously as self-centered thought, the self-centered attitude, self-cherishing, self-preoccupation, or just plain old selfishness. Out of our self-grasping ignorance, we put a disproportionate emphasis on ourselves. We each think the world revolves around us, that we are the most important.

  • We are preoccupied with ourselves, always thinking about our own happiness, our own suffering.
  • Everything is seen through the lens of I, me, my, mine.

These two culprits of self-centered thought and self-grasping ignorance are the source of our problems.

  • Our problems & our happiness don't come from outside ourselves.
  • This delusion that they come from outside us leads us to continually grab at what we think will make us happy and push away what we think will cause unhappiness or suffering.
  • This self-cherishing causes us so much pain & suffering, all unrealistic & unnecessary.

Dealing with Self-Centered Thought

Although this self-cherishing or self-centered attitude is habitual (with us since birth), it can be changed.

  1. See its disadvantages.
    • It causes conflicts with others.
    • We feel bad after we act out of this attitude.
    • It makes us untrustworthy.
    • It makes our problems seem bigger than they are.
  2. Investigate how it operates.
    • It begins with our seeing ourselves as the center of the universe, with our own happiness & suffering the most crucial.
    • This, in turn, motivates many of our thoughts, words, & actions.
  3. Eliminate it.
    • Realize that we are all part of the same unit of life, i.e., we're all interdependent, so helping others is as simple as helping ourselves.
    • Remember that we all want to be happy & avoid suffering, so we're all equal in this way.
    • See the relationship between eliminating the self-cherishing attitude and cultivating a kind heart.
      • A kind heart is the essential cause of happiness.
      • A kind heart respects others and considers their needs, opinions & wishes.
    • The more we help others, the happier they'll be, the more pleasant our environment will be, the happier we will be.

Self-Centered Thought, Guilt, and Wise Giving

When we see ourselves as selfish, we often feel guilty (though we usually don't do much about it).

  • It's unproductive (and another form of self-centeredness) to feel guilty for our selfishness. What is needed isn't guilt, but action.
  • Eliminating selfishness does not mean giving everyone everything they want. We must apply wisdom to altruism by cultivating a calm mind and determining the best solution for the most people.