You make me feel so good

Lynne McTaggart

Although I believe that everything in our lives benefits from the use of intention, in the Intention Experiment, on this website and in my workshops I’ve deliberately chosen to emphasize using intention for an altruistic purpose.
This just seemed like common sense to me – after all, if our thoughts are all that powerful, then instead of only focusing on getting that new BMW or new job, maybe we can use this power collectively to help alleviate the vast catalogue of suffering on the planet – particularly in these times of great upheaval.
But after our big Intention Experiments and also at my workshops, I was fascinated to learn about the profound effect that our group Intention Experiments have on everybody involved. During my workshops, I ask people to break into small groups and send intention to someone with a healing challenge. 
Healing heals the healer
Invariably, the effect is nothing short of transformative. Those sent intention report remarkable healing effects — but so do the senders. Perfect strangers begin to hug each other. The separation between people lessens. The love in the room is utterly palpable.
As many of you reported on our Peace Intention Experiment survey, a similar situation occurred when you sent intention for peace in Sri Lanka.  Hundreds of the participants reported feeling far more happy and peaceful themselves, with more love for perfect strangers.
All this positive effect among the people doing the sending   suggested to me that something about sending intention for an altruistic purpose feels good – as good as, if not better than, sending intention for yourself. So I wanted to find out whether this kind of caring, compassion and the desire to help is somehow hardwired into our very make up.
I didn’t have to look too far. I came across a fascinating study by James Rilling and Gregory Berns, two American neuroscientists at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who decided to observe the real-time behavior of the brain during an altruistic act by scanning people as they were engaged in a true social interaction.
Prisoner’s dilemma
They employed functional MRI scanners to record the brain activity of 36 women as they took part in a game called “Prisoner’s Dilemma’, a classic psychological model used to assess levels of cooperation between two people. In every round of the game, each partner is allowed to choose whether to cooperate with the other partner or to ‘defect’ – to operate selfishly, for his or her own gain. 
In the classic version of this game, two people are arrested for robbing a bank and placed in separate cells isolated from each other.  The prosecutor offers each of them a deal. They can either confess or remain silent.  If one of them confesses while the other remains silent, all charges will be dropped against the confessor, but the silent one will get a maximum sentence.
If both confess, they’ll be convicted but will be given early parole.  If both are silent, they’ll only be charged with possession of firearms.  
The ‘dilemma’ is that while each is better off confessing, the outcome is worse than it would be if each remained silent.
Test of altruism
The study is thought to examine the nature of cooperation and a test of altruism, as the two people are more likely to benefit if they work together than if they pursue their own self-interests. 
It also tests the idea that operating from the heart – that is, acting against one’s own best interests – works better in group situations than operating purely for rational self-interest.
In the Emory University version of the game, when the two players were asked to independently to choose to cooperate with each other or to defect, each would receive a sum of money depending on both players’ choices in the round. 
Once again, the biggest reward was for defecting. 
Rilling and Berns were fascinated to find that mutual cooperation — both players choosing the same outcome — was the most common outcome. 
But interestingly, when the partners cooperated with each other, both demonstrated activation in  the caudate nucleus and anterior cingulate cortex - the same area of the brain activated when people receive rewards or undergo a pleasurable experience.
Giving felt good – as soon as getting something for yourself. Doing something for someone else literally was its own reward.
Rilling and Berns had also examined brain activity in their participants when they were playing with a computer as the partner.  In those instances, the pleasure zone areas of the brain did not light up. 
Giving is hard-wired
 “Our study shows, for the first time, that social cooperation is intrinsically rewarding to the human brain, even in the face of pressures to the contrary,” said Berns, who is associate professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. 
“It suggests that the altruistic drive to cooperate is biologically embedded — either genetically programmed or acquired through socialization during childhood and adolescence.”
Rillings believes that our in-built reward system reinforces our positive choices in helping – the more we do it, the better it feels – which in turn spurs us on to help others. 
As Clint Kilts, a co-investigator in the study, noted, ‘It defines the most complex form of the human genesis of a social bond.’ 
We help others and cooperate because it feels good to do so.  Sending intention to others feels so good because by doing for others we are literally doing for ourselves.

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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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18 comments on “You make me feel so good”

  1. I do energy work for people that I am led to help and when I have them to focus on I feel much healthier and can expend much more energy than when I am between projects. I receive no compensation but being provided for, and I feel wonderful to do it. It is only between projects that I feel unwell and lethargic.
    It seems that this posting points to the reasons for that. Interesting.

  2. What an amazing study! As a Reiki Master, I definitely notice how peaceful and wonderful I feel after giving someone else an energy treatment. It feels even better than when I do a treatment on myself. Interesting topic - I hope more studies come out in this area.

  3. For over 2 years my husband and I have run free conference calls twice a week to give people distance healing, specifically Tong Ren. We moved this month to a lovely apartment in Gloucester, Mass, and are naturally more tired than usual. Coming home on the train from Boston yesterday we decided to take time off from the calls and make that announcement that evening. 15 minutes into the call, though, we felt so much better that we gave up on that idea 😉 Giving these treatments has kept us healthy and has lifted our spirits time and time again. We also had 8 people come on last night to "doll" along with us. 4 of them were once cancer patients with questionable futures a year ago. Such exciting times!

  4. When we give from our heart without any expectations, hidden agendas etc. we enter the world of love, beauty, joy and true freedom. That's why it's an energizing experience! Do we really need a scientific proof for that? I believe that many children have this natural ability. The question should be why some of us turn into roothless, selfish and cold individuals... How can we research that?

  5. The reference to children in KATERINAS comment is very significant --- because JESUS taught that one MUST set aside ones adult knowledge and attitudes and BECOME LIKE A CHILD in putting ones TOTAL TRUST in GOD in order to find HIS KINGDOM that lies WITHIN EACH OF US and be willing to DIE TO SELF ( set aside our own selfish desires ) and instead -- SEEK GODS WILL FOR US and WHAT HE INTENDS OUR LIVES TO BE --- and if we are willing to do that and obey HIS simple "rules " --- HE will help us become a NEW PERSON that would not only be capable of accepting and LOVING OURSELVES PROPERLY ---- but also of LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR PROPERLY ALSO --- and I have been given the grace to do that and I can tell you that it enables you to have a heart FILLED with the BEST INTENTENTIONS for those around you ---- and when you let that INNER LIGHT SHINE on those around you it is amazing ! --- MOST are in SCHOCK and dont know how to take you --- becaise there is so much DISTRUST AND SUSPICION in the world these days ---- it is ALL ABOUT THE HEART and the THOUGHTS AND DESIRES YOU ENCOURAGE TO BE IN IT THRU those THOUSANDS OF FREE WIIL DECISIONS we all make EVERY MOMENT OF OUR LIVES
    JESUS STATED " the WORLD WILL NOT CHANGE until MENS ( and WOMENS ) HEARTS CHANGE --- but then HE COULD " READ " MENS HEARTS and HE knew only too well how selfish some hearts could become --- and how BEAUTIFUL AND INNOCENT a childs heart could be --- and I think that is the real reason us grandparents can have such a SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP with our grandchildren

  6. Katrina's question is very thought provoking. I agree with Ken some of us are ruthless, selfish, and cold because there is so much of distrust and suspicion in the world today. And in turn this ruthlessness and selfisness gives rise to distrust and suspicion creating non ening cycle. So the question now becomes "How do we break this cycle"?

  7. The truth is that we are all ONE and when we help others we are helping ourselves as well.
    The good we give away always comes back to us because it is part of the Universal Law. What you give comes back to you three times. I think it is also part of the Wiccan belief system (but I am not sure). The work of Edgar Cayce has much information about living according to the Universal Laws which govern our Souls. (

  8. The basic nature of human being is giving.
    We are one, that is all related to each other wether we accept it or not.
    We all come from God or The Source, who's nature is of a giver.
    We do not have to pay to breathe in order to be alive, it is being given free of charge to us.
    Human beings have came up with the notion of paying for things. And this attitude goes against our basic nature. We just have to look at the state of the world to realise that.
    Giving is bliss.
    When I give to others, simply by being nice to them, makes me feel good within. My heart swells with love, I cant stop smiling, I am so much calmer and relax.
    So yes let's keep giving over and over. It's free and it is the best medicine in the universe.

  9. My humble response to Katerina and Sadashiv:
    "The question should be why some of us turn into roothless, selfish and cold individuals…"
    "How can we research that?"and “How do we break this cycle?"
    end of quotes
    The study of the Dis-eased Mind is the focus of Psychiatry - so why compound the outcomes by suggesting we duplicate their great body of work.
    You break any 'cycle' when you choose to focus on what you want to achieve; after all, the energy goes to where it is focussed, right!

  10. I always start pondering when someone says the brain does this, or it's in the genes, or even that it's socially induced.
    I think something else is happening. I don't think it starts in the brain.
    I have a personal theory: that our feelings come from our highest being - meaning the soul level - and from those feelings the brain creates a response that to us feels good. That in turn means chemicals being released into the body and neurotransmitters sending signals everywhere.
    So my understanding - and par5tially my experience - is that we are not hot-wired, but heart-wired.

  11. I also think the HEART is very important --- in fact --- research has shown that the heart has its own set of "brain cells " --- this has been validated in the experience of heart transplant patients who have suddenly taken on major interests in subjects that they formerly did not have --- but that were major interests of the DONOR OF THE HEART --- GOD also decided to PLANT HIS RULES --- not in mans brain --- but in his HEART ---- " modern science " often refers to this as the CONSCIENCE ---- I read recently that the average american makes over 200 small " food decisions " every day --- and therefore the secret to HEALTHY EATING was to " micro manage " all those small decisions correctly ---- perhaps the same technique could be applied to other areas of our behavior --- I have noticed that when I SLOW DOWN and reflect and meditate more on activities -- and relationships I am currently involved in ---- I tend to be much more careful and thoughtful in my WORDS AND ACTIONS ---- than when I am TOO BUSY -- and make SNAP JUDGEMENTS and say CARELESS words and responses ---- in fact -- I now prefer to SLEEP ON those decisions and REMAIN IN A QUIET STATE UPON AWAKENING to permit my INTUITION to have its voice heard ( thoughts --- ideas -- and solutions that seem to simply ARISE ON THEIR OWN ) as I quietly watch dawn arrive in the eastern sky

  12. I think it takes lot of courage to be selfless when surrounded by distrust and suspicion. I am still trying to find a way to be courageous.

  13. WOW! that was good, the quote "When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for" says it all. The purpose gives the courage to be selfless. Thanks, Adeline.

  14. Josee, After reading the article and all the comments I was stopped short when I read your words.
    It wasn't so much what you said, I could feel 'your' words.
    Thank you

  15. So much has been said here that is absolutely true, that I can add little but my own spin ont the subject. God/Spirit in us, all of us, expresses love so perfectly and completely, that aligning with It, even a little, give us a glimpse of Heaven. Our hearts open, we feel peaceful and empowered. It's wonderful

  16. I agree, and I think " to make this world simple" should be one of our intensions. Some times I think forgiveness will also help.

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