Memorial Day: The psychology of sacrifice – Examiner Enterprise

Dr. Chrissy Whiting-Madison

This is the time of year when families and friends come together, creating treasured memories and traditions carried on for generations. We host parties and picnics. We cookout, swim and hike. For most of us, it is a day of fun. Unfortunately, many also seem to forget what Memorial Day is truly about. It is the time of year to remember the sacrifices made by so many to protect the freedoms of the rest of us. It is a day set aside to honor those who have paid the ultimate price. 

Chrissy Whiting-Madison

If you are anything like me, you might wonder if you possess the ability to make such a sacrifice. In reality, most of us are remiss to even sacrifice the remote control to our spouse on Friday nights, let alone, lay down our lives for our country for people we most likely never met. Furthermore, biologically speaking, we are genetically programmed for self-preservation. We are actually designed to do whatever it takes to keep ourselves whole. Given this, how can some people willingly choose to die for another?

Some psychologists believe the reason an individual is able to make this sacrifice is an innate need or desire to feel helpful. In other words, these psychologists hold the belief that most people do possess a desire to help others in their times of need, no matter what it takes. For those who embrace this theory, sacrificing one’s own life is,