Sunday, 7 March 2010

Not nice...and proud of it!

Someone once asked me how becoming  a Psychosynthesis counselor has changed me.  I hesitated only a moment before answering, "I'm not as nice as I used to be."  But, I hear you thinking, isn't is good to be nice?  In a word, no.  Let me explain.

A few years ago we had a heatwave in London - really hot, almost 100 degrees.  On this particular day I had arrived at class in my trusty VW Beetle with 10 minutes to spare.  I left the engine running so I could enjoy a few minutes gathering my thoughts in the coolness of the air conditioning.  I am not normally the sort to condone such wanton burning of fosil fuels, but following a fraught morning I felt I deserved a moment of cool peace. 

After only a minute or so, a woman walking by rapped on my window.  With a start I snapped to attention and cracked the window to see what she wanted.  With a friendly smile she asked if I wouldn't mind turning my engine off.  I was horrified at having been "caught" in my selfish act, and without hesitating I said, "Of course!" and switched off my car.  As she walked away I felt the red rise in my cheeks and I realized how angry I was.  But I wan't angry with the busy body, I was mad at myself!  My "niceness" had become habitual to the point where I was on people-pleasing autopilot.  

Thus began the process of untangling the difference between nice and kind - two very different things.  After all, giving robust "feedback" (critcism to some) with kindness can be extremely valuable, whereas niceness just for the sake of it evokes images of the smarmy Eddy Haskel on Leave it to Beaver.  (Didn't you just want to punch him?!)

I don't remember where I found the following quote, but I can't resist including it:
"The truth spoken is a gift given. Truth withheld is more than a gift denied, it is an arrow aimed at the heart.

It has been said that "the truth hurts," but the exact opposite is true. No truth is too hurtful, and no lie is harmless. Because every truth opens your heart to another, and every lie separates it.

Yet know this: The way you say your truth can be hurtful.  So speak your truth, but soothe your words with peace."
Many times I have replayed the scene in the car and imagined what I could have said to that lady - something like, "I'm sure you have your reasons for asking me to turn my engine off, but I have good reasons of my own for keeping it running, and it's really none of your business."  (The expression "firm but kind" comes to mind.) 

I'm more honest in my interactions these days, and I have discovered that  I can do all sorts of "not nice" things without a guilt trip, like saying no to my kids, or letting a waiter know the truth when they ask how the food is.  Stepping into my true self may mean that I'm not as nice as I used to be, but, ultimately, I am far kinder, especially to myself. 



  1. Loved this! Thanks for stopping by the blog and, in turn, helping me find this post!


  2. Another great post. I'm with Jill, who commented right above me. Had you not found and read my blogpost I may have never seen yours. Thanks for taking a step beyond reading to leave a comment. You may have just gotten yourself another follower as a result.

    A question: What is a Psychosynthesis Counselor?

    And a website you might be interested in:
    "Creation Spirituality Communities". Ever heard of Matthew Fox, not the actor but the excommunicated Priest turned Episcopalian, author of many books including "Creativity", "Creation Spirituality", "Original Blessing" and more. The website URL is:

    Keep up the blogging.

    Blessings, Ailey

  3. Hi Ailey. Thanks so much for all your feedback. It's a great feeling when people get inspired by something I've written. I am familiar with Matthew Fox but I've never read any of his books - but I guess I ought to! Thanks for the suggestions. Psychosynthesis is a form of psychotherapy that is sort of post Jung. It looks for meaning in life, rather than answers, and the belief is that people are complete with both bad and good components - whatever characteristics you disown or cut yourself off from keep presenting themselves through the circumstances of your life. Again - it's all about making meaning. Check out Assagioli - he's the founder. I'm not sure that my description does it justice! All the very best to you, Triciax

  4. I remember when I was studying at the university, our Sociology professor told us: "imagine you come across someone at the street. Imagine you ask that person, out of politeness, how was everything going. Imagine that, instead of the expected answer of "fine", that person makes a detailed accounts of their plights".
    Not a situation we'd like to find ourselves, is it?
    Your post made me remember that class taken more years ago than I'd like to think about. But completely precise.

  5. Live Life on your terms. I'm learning to do things for myself before others and find it freeing - and that I can eventually do more for others knowing I have looked after myself first.

    Peace, Bobby :-)