The Dangers of Being Too Nice

by | Mar 17, 2021 | Mental Health

Being real and living authentically involves knowing the types of tasks your brain does most energy efficiently, and making conscious choices related to the amount of time you spend performing tasks that require much higher expenditures of energy second for second. Have you ever lived authentically? Thinking about tomorrow, will the majority of your tasks match your brain bent?

If your answers are yes and yes, you likely know what if feels to be “real.” You probably know how to manage your energy expenditures efficiently. On the other hand, if you answers are no and no, this may be new territory for you.

Do you believe that being tired all the time is the price of being an adult? Think again. Not necessarily! Do you know how your brain feels when it is purring along in an energy-efficient manner? If not, pay attention. Learn to recognize it. It may even feel rather strange at first, especially if you’ve spent years doing mostly non-bent tasks.

Do you know how your brain feels when it is purring along in an energy-efficient manner?

Are you adapting too much?

The cost of adapting too much is high. It involves expending life energy that is, consequently, unavailable for other endeavors. Over time, it depletes your energy banks too quickly. If you spend years living an inauthentic life, the stress consequences can eventually show itself in any number of ways. In Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak Says:

‘The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant, systematic duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune. Our nervous system isn’t just a fiction, it’s part of our physical body, and our soul exists in space and is inside us, like teeth in our mouth. It can’t be forever violated with impunity.’

Following are eight symptoms, some or all of which may be seen in varying degrees in individuals who have been adapting too much for too long. They comprise the Prolonged Adaptive Stress Syndrome or PASS.

  1. Fatigue – This makes sense, especially when the brain must work significantly harder when adapting. The risk here is self-medicating with anything that will alter brain chemistry and make the person feel better and less exhausted—however temporary (e.g., food, beverages, drugs, addictive behaviors).
  2. Hypervigilance – This can become a safety mechanism for the brain. It tends to go on ‘protective alertness’ in response to the mismatch between who it is innately and the energy-exhausting activities it is trying to complete.
  3. System Suppression – Over time, suppression of immune system function can show itself in slowed rates of healing and/or an increased susceptibility to illness (e.g., cold or flu, autoimmune diseases, cancers). The brain and immune system are in constant communication. According to Parris M. Kidd PhD, a biomedical nutritionist, if people took proper care of their immune system, the average life span could reach well over 100 years—at potentially high levels of mental and physical functioning.
  4. Interference with Thinking – The stress of overadapting, which can alter neurochemicals throughout the brain, may be especially deleterious when it occurs in the frontal and pre-frontal lobes (the ‘executive’ portions of the neocortex or 3rd brain layer).

    This may be reflected in a decrease in artistic and creative endeavors—a block—or a reduced ability to brainstorm options. It could show up as interference with an ability to make logical/rational decisions, and in slowed speed of thinking. When you say, “I just can’t think,” you are probably right on the money. Something isn’t working optimally in your brain.

    Note: An alteration in brain chemistry may also impact one’s management of willpower, the development and use of conscience, and one’s behavioral choices. Some have even suggested that humans may be unable to access free will or be truly intimate with another (intellectually, emotionally, physically, sexually, or spiritually) unless they are being authentically ‘real.’
  5. History of Severe Stressors – Individuals often reported a history of severe or chronic stress. Some related to caring for a child with major handicaps or caretaking for aging parents; others spending years working at a job that didn’t match their brain bent but appeared as their only option or that seemed the only way to make money. The perceived unendingness of these stressors, often without options for respite, can create havoc with everything from hormones to relationships.
  6. Memory Problems – Cortisol, a body substance that is released under stress, can interfere with the function of memory in a variety of ways, including actually killing brain cells. For more information on the topic of stressors and cortisol, refer to the book by Dr. Robert Sapolsky titled Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.
  7. Discouragement and/or Depression – Some estimates indicate that upwards of 20 million people in the United States are depressed at any given time, with 15 percent of those likely being suicidal. Excessive or prolonged adapting may contribute to such statistics because of the profound energy drain it can cause over time.
  8. Self-Esteem Problems – This isn’t hard to imagine. You don’t feel successful in life, you have many of the other listed symptoms, and you feel ‘trapped.’ No wonder you question your self-worth. A diary by Christopher Isherwood called Good-bye to Berlin opens this way: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.” What a monotonous, unrewarding, and weary way to move through life.

The above excerpt is from the book Your Brain has a Bent (not a Dent) by Arlene R. Taylor and W. Eugene Brewer. Adapting to others without giving yourself time to be genuine to yourself can be very taxing to your mental health. This doesn’t mean that jerks are happier people because there’s no good reason to be a jerk either, but it means that you should be honest with yourself and others. Learning more about emotional intelligence could help you navigate healthier relationships.

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