Wired to be (too?) helpful

This evening I had a Lyft driver who, upon finding out I was returning home from the Cancer center, shared with me that she was a breast cancer survivor and then proceeded to tell me all about her beliefs in alternative medicines and how she has cured her own cancer without traditional Western medicine. I listened politely and engaged in some conversation, while getting the clear message that she knew more about cancer treatment than I did and she was bestowing her knowledge on me. This got me thinking a little bit about this innate urge we have to help people when we learn of some “problem” they may need assistance with. It seems to be a reflex in some ways, even when the situation is absurd when you dig a little deeper. For instance, why is it our natural response, when someone tells us they cannot whistle, to respond by showing they we can whistle? Or when someone says they cannot roll their tongue, we naturally roll our tongue to show them. Whistling or rolling your tongue at someone who cannot do it in no way helps them learn how to do it. If you think about it, it is essentially a slap in the face, a na-na-a-booey to someone who has just shared a personal limitation with us. Yet we don’t even think about it, it we just do it automatically. So is it the same absurd phenomenon with the Lyft driver talking to me as if she has better information about my medical issues and treatment than I myself do? That certainly seems absurd. Or is that completely different and just a personality issue? Is that a kind of a know-it-all complex of sorts? Thoughts are a-swirling. I was recently reading about how one of the theories about why yawning is contagious is empathy. Maybe this need to be helpful stems from that? I don’t know. It’s definitely absurd. At least my Lyft driver on the way there gave me recommendations for a great Turkish restaurant, so I’m going to say that makes up for the return trip driver.

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