My stepfather Dick (not a pseudonym) is incredibly kind.
He is so kind it often makes others around him uncomfortable. His kindness enervates a room and can trigger others to tease or to create an opposing position. He is my role model for interpersonal relationships. He searches for nice things to do, especially for my mother.
He is regularly, persistently and unceasingly complimentary. He sees the best in others and then voices it. He encourages, supports and positively mirrors. And he thrives. It is a fuel for him. He has been doing it non-stop for all of the thirty eight years I have had the pleasure of knowing and learning from him. Being nice to my mother moves his energy, is appreciated by mom and respected by me. The price of the nice spice is returned not twice but thrice.
In the process of writing the book, The Discomfort of Happiness, I wanted to explore my resistance to that level of kindness, my desire to control or moderate the verbal appreciations I allowed or disallowed myself to express.
So, I tried to be a Dick.
Throughout the day, I actively searched for people, things, situations and actions to compliment or verbally appreciate. When I found opportunities, I tried to be curiously attentive to my degree of difficulty in expressing them. I tried it with my daughter, my sweetheart, and with my friends. I tried it with people I would meet on the trails or in the grocery store.
What I came to realize was that identifying opportunities to compliment created potential. It unleashed some held energy inside of me. As that released potential energy began coursing through my body, it filled me—past the edge of my comfort zone. I had habituated to a level of energy to somewhere below what I was experiencing. I would begin to feel anxious and resistant. Making an effort to verbally express kindness was stressing me out!
The discomfort of my resistance had a somatic connection. I started to feel for the types of appreciations that tugged on my leash. I felt for the times I wanted to sit on the compliment or be a heel. I looked for where I hesitated and what that hesitation felt like. I learned to feel the hesitation as sensation in my body. Was I holding my breath? Did the compliment feel stuck? If so, where? I explored the somatics of kindness and my resistance.
I could feel it. I could feel the words stick in my throat. I could feel compliments as pressure at the base of my skull and as a tightening in my stomach. My shoulders would begin to roll forward and up. My low back would flatten as my tailbone tucked under. These things were all subtle movements. I didn’t turn into a Smeagle, I was only vaguely Smeaglish.
Resistance was isometric. There was the energy that wanted to move (the compliment) and the energy that it took to hold it, slow it or stop it (the reluctance.) I came to understand that my resistance was fear, fear of expansion and connection. It was the fear of unknown consequences. It was the A of happiness and success.
I was afraid of the positive consequences of being kind.
I came to realize that delaying, moderating or stifling compliments took more energy than expressing them. I could feel the difference between holding and flowing. The energy required to hold compliments deflated me back to a level that I was comfortable with. As I realized this, as my awareness increased, I was able to tolerate the healthy discomfort I felt. As I tolerated the discomfort, I adapted to a greater level, a larger zone. My Pranasphere increased.
Being explicitly kind became emotionally liberating. I can get high being nice. Kindness can be ecstatic.
Eventually, I hope to be a Total Dick!
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Apprentice Editor: Sarvasmarana Ma Nithya