Being too nice can make us ill?

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You might be checking the title and either you are thinking you misread or the author is crazy. How can being nice get you sick? Isn't that a behavior that was preached to us since childhood? Especially for little girls.

Let's see what the research says.

In 1987 Dr. Lydia Temoshok interviewed 150 people with melanoma and found all these patients to be "excessively nice, pleasant to a fault, uncomplaining and unassertive" She proposed what came to be known as Type C behavior patterns and linked the traits to cancer risk. 

As per Temoshok, a closed lid over emotions leads to being unaware of one's needs and induces unconscious suffering that has been shown to damage the immune system.

In one study, the physiological stress responses of participants were measured by how their skin reacted electrically to unpleasant stimuli vs what the participants reported. Three groups of participants were assessed: people with melanoma, people with heart disease, and a healthy control group. Flashed on the screen were insulting statements like "You are ugly" "You deserve to suffer", and "No one loves you".Interestingly, in the melanoma group, there was a large gap between the body stress registered and what the participants reported. In other words, they had pushed their emotions below conscious awareness. It is being stressed without being aware you are stressed.

Traits mostly linked with health risk

As per Dr. Gabor Mate, these are the traits that are most present in people with chronic illness, from cancer to autoimmune disease, to skin conditions, migraines, endometriosis, multiple sclerosis etc.

  • an automatic and compulsive concern for the emotional needs of others, while ignoring one's own
  • rigid identification with social role, duty, and responsibility 
  • overdriven, externally focused multitasking hyper responsibility, based on the conviction that one must justify one's existence by doing and giving
  • repression of healthy, self-protective aggression and anger
  • harboring and compulsively acting out two beliefs:" I am responsible for how other people feel" and "I must never disappoint anyone"

When you read the list above may be nothing really strikes you as bad because all these traits have been hyper-normalized in our culture. 

We have been thought to perform our societal and family duties without complaining or we have been told it is selfish to be thinking about ourselves. Expressing anger or disagreeing has been frowned upon while keeping cool has been praised. 

It is commendable to put someone else's needs in times of crisis, but doing that on a constant basis cannot lead to anything healthy.

Very often I hear people praising women in Indian society in the form of " She's very nice, very affectionate, she smiles all the time and never gets upset".

I am sorry to break it to you but this only shows that a particular person is not able to express her true feelings and needs to put on the socially acceptable mask all the time which can be draining and life-threatening as well.

Are you telling us we shouldn't be nice?

Not at all, but I would replace the word "nice" with "kind" and would suggest you start being kind to yourself first and then to others. This makes a huge difference.

True compassion does not mean forgetting your own needs in order to tend to others. It means harvesting your inner joy and energy and extending it to the world.

If you cannot do that yet, at least become aware of the situations in which you are displaying the traits discussed above. You can only change something when you become aware of it.

One more thing: don't panic if you ticked all the boxes above. Be grateful that you discovered this amazing piece of info and treat yourself with love from now on.

Be true to yourself,

Gabor Mate with Daniel Mate, " The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness a& Healing in a Toxic Culture"


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