Obligation as part of the Rationalization/Obligation, Responsibility/Commitment quad that makes up Becoming (transforming one's self, often by removing parts of yourself that don't match with what you're Becoming).
This is from the defiinition:
"Obligation is a mental trick we play when we accept a poor situation now in the hopes it will lead to a better one later. If we do not feel Obligated, we know we are really in control of the situation since we can leave at any time. However, we would then lose any chance of a reward at the end and even risk consequences that might befall us as a result of leaving. But by focusing on the hope of a reward and protection from consequences, our current suffering can be tolerated and we feel we have no choice but to stick it out. The problem is that as long as we continue to feel we have no choice, the suffering can increase way beyond any realistic hope of recouping and yet we must" stay.""
My comment: well, sort of. Sort of. This is zero-sum style morality: there’s always a balance struck in the accounting. But not all of us agree that all morality is zero-sum.
You can also have an obligation you know will do you no good whatsoever, and you stick it out for the other person’s benefit, as you think of it, and at the end of it you may even be in a worse position, and you knew all along that was where you were headed, but you owed the person so your personal morality compelled you to be obligated.
I suppose you would argue that you are reaching for the benefit of altruism, of feeling good, but that always seems like a stretch to me. The most you may get out of it, of the the kind of obligation I'm writing about here, is a relief of conscience, you don’t have to live with the guilt of not fulfilling the obligation, but that’s not much of a benefit, it’s more the absence of a cost. it’s a way of maintaining a status quo of no-guilt.
Furthermore, it's not difficult to imagine fulfilling an obligation, or taking one on, that promises to make you feel more guilty and leaves you generally worse off, and gives you no benefit at all, because you may be mentally ill and subject to an outmoded or dysfunctional morality. You may be subject to a herd mentality, or on the other end of the spectrum suffering from a compulsive disorder that forces you to mentally submit to an obligation that may leave other people wondering, because they don't see any need for any obligation at all, including the person or people you feel obligated to. They may just want you to go away. I think a lot of stalking and harrassment comes out of this kind of 'obligation disorder.'
Another angle: You are obliged by your preconception of what it is a human being does in these situations, as you conceive of a human being. A gentleman always holds the door open for a lady. Obligations come from outside you. A synonym might be 'duty'.
LATER NOTE: seems to shade over into the quad's definition of Commitment, in a dependent relationship, but still not quite the same thing.