Hi, undefinable! I have trouble getting what I mean across sometimes, especially in writing!
If dharma practice were reserved for those able to treat it purely as "art for art's sake" and/or a way of investing in others, it would be impossible for anyone to either approach or establish themselves on the Path.
The dharma isn't reserved for special people
I came to it from a place of deep depression and selfishness. I just wanted to feel better! Because of the depth of the Buddha's message and some excellent books, I finally found something for someone like me, too.
My point is that there comes a time when I guess the initial good karma of meeting the teachings and starting down the path peters out.
Then you're left with the ugly fact that you don't want to meditate, that saving all beings sounds like an awful lot of work, that letting go of attachment sounds good but then you realize you'd been ignoring your own anger or lust for years. And that being angry or greedy sometimes feels a lot better than you want to admit!
During those times, interest in one's own feelings or somehow improving your lot just won't cut the mustard. That's where hope and fear can be devastating to a practice.
So for me, I've found it helpful to instead view this instead as work I'm doing for others.
Even just conventionally, any goodness brought by the dharma may be felt by my partner, my friends, parents, people I see every day.
"if this can help me respond with love when I want to be pissed off at my partner, what a gift for him."
There's the cosmological level of the bodhisattva vow, as well.
But the moment I sit down to meditate to clear my mind or achieve access concentration or anything at all, the whole thing becomes incredibly frustrating. It's instant burden, just add three words "I want to..."
So for me personally, it's only by letting any benefits or hopes pass through my fingers like sand that then no disappointment or frustration or "don't wanna do this" can stick, either.
For most beings -including a great many humans- the existence and suffering of others outside their immediate cirlces is of little or no concern. If any of them consider such things for some reason, abandoning themselves to the inward observation of their own physical and mental processes is unlikely to be their first response
It's to their own detriment, as you well know.
Thankfully, the depth of the Dharma is such that there is this step of first getting out of your own head and suffering to see really how much things like metta and any kind of introspection can be of benefit to everyone, including oneself.
I had to find that gap between my depressive thoughts and the "me" I thought they came from before I could even give half a crap about others, let alone their problems.
But you have to start where you are. The trick is in communicating this skillfully to others, which I sorely wish I were able to do.
I know several people in my life who suffer like I did, and who need this medicine.
I hope that makes what I meant a little clearer