Doing onto others: the linger effect

Lynne McTaggart

Every story that we’ve been told ingrains in us the idea that we were born to be selfish. Left to our own devices, without the taming influence of a social contract, we would act according to our true natures, which is to say cold-bloodedly and entirely for self-preservation.
Many biologists argue that doing ontp others is ultimately an act with selfish motives. Those instances of true nobility of action derive from some rare moral exception, which temporarily suppresses our innately selfish impulse for personal survival.
This is entirely in keeping with most of what is written about the power of intention. Most of the literature on intention or manifestation has to do with creating personal abundance: using intention to get more stuff for me.
Since the start of The Intention Experiment I have rejected the notion that intention and manifestation should be used purely for personal gain.
The altruistic power of thought
I believe that if thought is so powerful, and group thought more powerful still, then we have, in a sense, an obligation to do something more than using it to park a new BMW out front.
This was the thinking behind our small and large-scale Intention Experiments. All should be designed with some large philanthropic implication: making food more plentiful; lowering violence, cleaning up polluted water.
Nevertheless, the most remarkable thing about altruistic intention is that it has an extraordinary rebound effect. What has impressed me most about the results we’ve had in The Intention Experiment thus far is not simply the extraordinary effects we’ve had on the targets – whether seeds, plants, leaves, water or a war-torn country like Sri Lanka – but also the effects upon the participants.
In the last three studies – the Peace Intention Experiment in autumn 2008, the first Clean Water Experiment last June and the second Clean Water Experiment in September — I have surveyed the participants several months later to find out what their experiences were during the experiment and if anything in their lives had changed in any way as a result of their participation in our experiments.
Rebound effects
I have been truly astonished by the results. In all three experiments, the majority of our participants were novice intenders. Although nearly half of the participants in both experiments were experienced meditators, and most had read The Intention Experiment, the majority of PIE and CWE participants had not practiced Powering Up, the intention program I developed, until the experiment.
Nevertheless, in both experiments the experience itself provided them with a rare opportunity to experience the transformative power of group intention with an altruistic purpose.
Despite the fact that their group consisted of total strangers scattered all over the world, a third of all PIE participants and nearly a third of all the CWE participants felt an overwhelming sense of unity with the other participants. Half the PIE intenders (one-third of the CWE intenders) felt a surge of compassionate love and in both instances half the participants felt peaceful.
A third of PIE participants felt a connection with the Sri Lankans — the target of our Peace Intention Experiment — and, remarkably, half of our CWE participants felt connected to the water.
In our forum, many of our participants commented that although they were experienced meditators and used to feeling peaceful, the bliss experienced was unlike anything they’d ever experienced before.
In the Peace Experiment, approximately a third felt more peaceful and compassionate than usual and more connected with others in their lives. Nearly half were more optimistic that world peace is achievable.
With the CWE, nearly 60 per cent said their mood had profoundly changed: they were more peaceful or compassionate than usual, and felt happier and more connected with others. Nearly a third felt more optimistic that clean water in the world for all is achievable.
Long-term changes
What is most fascinating of all, however, is the long-term effect on relationships with others. Although about a quarter feel more love for their loved ones, more than a third – the largest response of all — experienced a profound shift that can only be described as an impersonal, everpresent feeling of love.
More than a third of participants in both experiments claimed they felt more love for everyone they came into contact with. Nearly 40 per cent of the PIE participants and 23 per cent of the CWEgroup said their relationships with strangers improved, with the next best improvement among friends.
These findings have prompted me to studying why people are permanently changed by altruism, and I’ve discovered a few fascinating clues.
Joshua Green and Jonathan Cohen, two psychologists formerly of Princeton University, examined the effect in the neurology of onlookers to victims of violence. They discovered something remarkable: the same network of neurons in the brain lights up when the witnesses observe the potential of harm to another as when a mother sees a photo of her baby.
That basic capacity for caring and responding to suffering extends not only to our young but to strangers and also appears to be basic to our biology.
The rewards of altruism
Other neuroscientists called Jorge Moll and Jordan Grafman at the National Institutes of Health examined what happens within the brain either when participants receive a big monetary reward for ourselves or make a large charitable donation. The researchers discovered that either donating or receiving a big windfall had the same effect in lighting up the primitive mesolimbic reward pathways in the brain that get aroused during eating or having sex.
Nevertheless, those volunteers who chose to make a donation had additional activity in the the subgenual cortex/septal portion of the brain. This portion of the brain is linked with bonding and social attachment.
Ayn Rand once wrote, “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”
This study shows just the reverse. Giving not only feels good, but is the primary impulse – and not selfishness – that keeps us all together.
May you find permanent joy in giving this holiday season.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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30 comments on “Doing onto others: the linger effect”

  1. I enjoyed your article. And while I respect most of the scientific community, I have read much of what your revealing in spiritual paths. We can also think of these in terms of the Law of Attraction in a sense, and Newton's Law, To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction. It would surprise many to know what our ancient people have known all along about many things. Thank you for the great article.

  2. I would like to ask for help as a group? I am unemployed, have been since 04/08. Have applied everywhere and nothing. I too believe that thought is powerful, especially when is done as a group. Can I ask that you send thoughts of achievement, accomplishment, wealth, and abundance, and job offerings to come my way. Please.
    I have been trying. The home I live in, the people I live with, are constantly talking about negativity, Judging and sending bad wishes to others as they are constantly watching the news. This makes it a little harder for me. I meditate but when I come out. I see myself sucked into their negative mind and of thoughts.
    So if is not too much to ask, Please send or meditate on all good thoughts for me and everyone else that is in my place or worse. Thoughts have no boundaries.
    Thanks a bunch!
    Love and peace be with you,
    ELizabeth Martinez

  3. Actually, quite a few biologists well say that cooperation, not selfishness, is a central organizing principle of life. For example, I commend to you the writings of Lewis Thomas ("Lives of a Cell"), and of Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock (originators of the "Gaia Hypothesis").

  4. Merry Christmas!
    The cost of giving is receiving...
    choose carefully what you give, in thought, word, and deed.

  5. What we need now is an intention experiment aimed at the sociopaths who are the ones behind most of the wars and economic problems in the world. If we could just awaken in them a sense of conscience...

  6. Now if we really want to fix things we need to work on those misguided individuals who have been the cause of most of the world's wars and economic problems. If we could awaken a sense of conscience in these sociopaths the world would be a much better place...

  7. I agree with the assessment of "The Secret" as poorly used to gain personal materialism, rather than to give to the greater good.
    Also hate to throw this in: The people signing up for the Intention Experiments are already compassionate to begin with.
    Merry Christmas to all!

  8. Thank you, dear Lynne,
    for your great work and inspiration! It's about time that we come together in "loving kindness", as the Dalai Lama likes to say.
    In these times we are learning or remembering that we are part of all of Life. Rejecting others (here I mean certain individuals, groups of people, animals, plants, situations, conditions) we reject ourselves. The more we are against others, the weaker we become as groups and as individuals. The Universe is about inclusion.
    On a happier note, the more we lovingly reach out to each other, the stronger we become. Our loving, caring and optimistic thoughts are strong forces that go out to where ever we send them and share their bright energies.
    There is no stronger force than love.
    From the heart,
    Brigitte Novalis

  9. I am not a believer in the selfish gene. Most of our behavior is programmed by our parents that have been programed by their parents e.t.c.
    The programing trains people in the acts of mindless competition and the Darwin theory being part of this programing, says its the most aggressive and competitive that win and survive.
    However, recent studies by Bruce Lipton and others show that its the exact 'opposite' qualities of nature that are the 'reason' for its survival, being 'symbioses' and 'cooperation'.
    Dan Winter has shown that like can attract like under 'coherent' conditions. This involves the activation of a special 'internal' bond. This is the bond of the meek. Blessed is the internal bond for it will inherit the earth. :O)
    Most of what we are taught to think is back to front upside down and inside out. Its a world through the looking glass.
    Those that get back in touch with their true nature from 'within', think in ways that are the exact opposite to the programing.
    I see the solution as 'new models' based on 'open and self organizing systems' in which the qualities of Intention are just a 'very small' part.
    New wine, for new skins.
    There is talk of those that are using Intention for personal gain and this comes in many guises.
    There are those that recite the intentions at home and those that give seminars and make large sums of cash from DVD's and books.
    'If 'intention is to be truly autonomous and altruistic then 'both' of the above want seriously looking at.
    In my mind these skills are peoples birth rights that have been stolen and used against them by those that wish to exploit.
    I am guessing that way back in what some might call a 'golden age' these skills and many others were fully understood by all.
    Perhaps the intention for the new year ought to be to 'share' and reveal this ancient knowledge to all?
    Maybe its time for that magic circle to be removed around the C of copyright and free up the energy?
    Just a few thought experiments! :O)
    Merry Christmas to all and a Peaceful and Happy New Year!

  10. We are all born self-centred, absolutely but in my work, intuitive emotional healing, I also find that we are also born with a strong spiritual energy. It is often lost early on, replaced, if we are lucky with maternal love.
    For those who don't have the "God" or spiritual connection replaced with any love, there are lots of problems caused as a result. Look at the orphans from Romania who were thrown into orphanages when they were born. The only think they know is survival. Love makes all the difference.

  11. I believe that there are different levels of needs that we are looking at here. I work with the concept of self-parenting, parenting of others, parenting of the planet...and in the self-parenting aspects (so we do not project our 'stuff' onto others), we look at what our needs are, and how to meet those needs. As we do that, we can't help but then realize that our needs (true needs, not false needs) are the needs of all...and if we can meet them for ourselves (intend to meet them for ourselves) then why not help others (with intention) to have their needs met as well. One of our needs is to be of service, and when our survival needs have been taken care of, we can then reach out to help others -- not before. People think different things about putting themselves first -- that it's selfish, or that it's absolutely the best thing (the oxygen mask on the plane idea). Having one's needs met is not selfish -- having one's false needs met is what some people focus on. That's where the confusion lay, in my humble opinion. 🙂

  12. Most mainstream religions and mystical orders suggest donating (which includes the giving of money, actions or words) as part of their doctrines.
    The concept of 'sacrificing' to invoke the power and blessings of a particular god, goes back to the beginning of recorded history.
    Christian congregations around the world will come together this month to celebrate the ultimate sacrifice; the giving of one’s life for the sake of others, and this is symbolized through the construct of ‘giving presents’.
    Stephen suggests we should just share all knowledge and, which would mean a loss of livelihood for anyone who uses recorded materials as a means to make a living.
    This is a very altruistic wish indeed, but what value do people place on things that are ‘free’?
    If we can remove materialism from our current mindset, we’ll be more empowered. Give and you shall receive, but don’t give beyond your means.
    You should only give enough, to allow you to give again another day…maybe that is a bit selfish of me...?
    Write On!

  13. I realize this is off topic, but could we do an intention experiement to get universal health care passed?

  14. There is a cosmic law called THE LAW OF ALLOWING - ALL THINGS HAVE A PLACE AND PURPOSE. This does not take away our discernment but when we actively bring in this energy it actually moves mountains!!! love from Perth OZ.

  15. Great article Lynne. Hey Lezley, I'm from Perth as well. Can anyone on here help me with manifesting a fun, fulfilling part-time job while I'm studying to become a Physical Therapist? I'm looking at getting a part-time job at an Ice Skating rink, maybe Cinema work as a Projectionist, really just anything fun, and that also helps with my personal growth, social dynamics etc etc .... Any help is greatly appreciated. Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season. Warm regards, from Dave

  16. Re: abundance as a motivation. With at least six million people unemployed in the United States, I can well understand their having an overwhelming need and intention for abundance. To be effective for positive ends in the world , it helps to have a roof overhead, food in the stomach, and a warm stove near at hand. My point: the basics of abundance must be the foundation for effective intention work. Perhaps this is merely obvious, but wanting and getting those basics of abundance are among the mandates of life. Given those minimums, altruism can be enabled.

  17. that sounds great Lynn!
    please go on with the experiments to heal earth & water, to send blessings to countries where war is daily business, and let us be part of it!

  18. Elizabeth and all,
    Praying to God with thanks! I know He hears me, and I say that because there are others here who believe and will believe as well. The only purpose of time is to forgive and heal! Blessings of health, happiness, abundance & peace be with you today and always. May the joy of the Christ be realized by the Sonship in consciousness as we inherit the Kingdom of Heaven on earth! Amen.
    All for one and one for all,

  19. As a winner of last year's TED awards, Karen Armstrong's altruistic "wish to change the world" resulted in "The Charter for Compassion".
    The charter which was just unveiled November 12 already has over 30 thousand people affirming to bring healing to "... this aching world where pain and misery appear to rule (ACIM p172)". Well worth exploring:

  20. I notice that many of the responses to Lynn's blog are addressing these questions from a totally materialistic point of view. The material world is simply an illusion we create. We create worlds because we are made in Gods image totally. I found it interesting that wishing well to others affects us as a mother is affected by a child. In fact all others are our children. The closer one is to that realization the closer one is to God.

  21. Thank you, Marilyn.
    Your writing is helpful to me in my research. I agree with what you are saying and you write it so well.
    Thank you, Lynn, for your work and blog.
    Enjoy the holidays. 🙂
    K. C. Blair

  22. Thank you for this Lynne - great stuff as usual.
    I remember as a child in the 50's having a discussion with my father about altruism, generosity and why people give to others. It was because I had just read Huxley's Brave new World where the "good" or 'benefit' of contribution to the whole was systemised so as to remove all elements of heart from the equation.
    In fact the word altruistic was turned around through adherence to the cold philosophies of Rand, Huxley and Russell (and many others) who did attempt to divide human beings from humanity itself. I have heard people dismissing others and putting them down as "merely altruistic" - the faint praise of Brit style condemnation. I did not buy it then and I don't buy it now.
    My mesolimbic reward pathways were activated when I gave something I loved to another child and no way was I accepting that it was a self serving gesture to angle for agreement or approval. It just felt too good and the other way - that is to analyse and explain things away -felt cold and left me facing a lonely void.
    Thank you for bringing to the fore what I regard as a fundamental issue - the holy grail - what IS it that makes us human? And what is love?
    I just know your work in the scientific field and in the luminary circles is pivotal to the progress of how real humans (the ones with heart and love built in) develop to reclaiming Mankind's Natural Estate - health, heart and happiness.
    I honour you and thank you.
    Jackie Mackay

  23. To hold the problem as a choice between altruism and selfishness is a mistake. The real choice is whether the giving is a helpful and loving gift or is it a disempowering crutch. Ayn Rand had seen first hand the results of the latter and turned in the other direction, perhaps too far. Her backround explains this. She hoped to educate by extreme examples and a generation did learn. The young people today are far removed from the excesses and mistakes Ayn Rand saw. I hope they do not have to learn the hard way.

  24. The truth will out,dear lady. Seeking intellectual kudos has lead many a mind astray;for a myriad of reasons.Perhaps it is only sex,money,and ego that motivates our societies and really controls us all.
    The power of human intention is a powerful and, as yet, still untamed beast.Observe the world and her people and see the wild bitter fruits of unfocused intention.We can but try and rewrite the dark angels of our natures.I humbly believe that the great change has started.....slowly with small moves stability is growing.I can only speak for myself: the energy within focused group intention is a miracle to behold.No wishful thinking or self-deluded escapism;no perennial human scam lead by a latter day pied-piper.Intention works,for sure.How we wield it is the problem.A selfish weapon or a balm to cure our instinctual ills........that has ever be up to us.I for one sense the potential of intention for changing the face of our Planet for the common good. I am far from being alone in this.Being alone is now an empirically based fallacy, when viewed in the face of modern science and enlightened spirituality.Isolationism of being is an illusion,and must follow in the footsteps of the Dodo,or hunter gathering .We must evolve,eternal change demands it of us all.Thank you for being the champion of change,the truth will out dear lady.

  25. Thank you.
    To you Lynn as the creator of this amazing possibility to be in touch, our intention is to help and hopefully we are getting it.
    To all participating in this project, because I feel close to you and not alone at all.
    Happy Holidays, where ever you are, whatever you celebrate, our thoughts are together to bring peace and love for everyone and we can achieve wonders

  26. Dear Intention Experiment Group,
    Please pay attention to the Experiment E-news dated
    11 December 2009, the date of The Water over Wine Experiment is marked as January 30, 2010.
    Your website shows January 10, 2010 (see the snap shot of the website on December 27, 2009)
    Which one is correct? please let everyone know.
    The time for Experiment for Pacific time also is incorrect in the E-news shows 10 am, should be 9 am.
    I tried few times to send emails to you but all your email addresses are coming back as "not deliverable"
    Best Wishes,

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