People are often hesitant to be “nice.” It is stigmatized. When we see nice people they often cause us to wonder: “Are they so nice because they are weak?” This is a common contention because being kind often involves slowing down for others, letting others have their way, and self-handicapping for them. But equating it with weakness is fallacious because being nice doesn’t necessarily mean that you let others take advantage. This is because it is completely possible to be self-composed when kind. Composed kindness has very few costs. Employing it will improve your interpersonal functioning, and restore your good faith in others. In Chapter 1 I said that people were taking my anxious kindness for weakness and it was making me into a bitter person. You will find that people take your composed kindness for strength and it will make you into a people person.
Every person you encounter is an opportunity for you to practice composed kindness. Keep spreading goodwill whether or not the other person reciprocates or cooperates. Starting out with unilateral kindness can help you hurdle the other person’s defense mechanisms. Be the cheerful, helpful chap in a world full of miserable Scrooges. You cannot lose as long as you maintain your sense of enlightened benevolence, guided by your personal code, centered by calm breathing. Presume good faith and positive intentions. This usually brings the best out in everyone. One of the best avenues to bring composure to your kindness is being cool.
Being Cool is Disarming
The best way to deal with social contention, is just to be cool. Done right it can be completely disarming. Think urbane, suave, garrulous, jocular, and levelheaded. You want sangfroid, verve, and moxie. Think firmness of character, force of determination, steadiness of nerves, and being powerfully good natured.
What does “acting cool” mean to you? Who are the top five coolest people you know? Who would be in your list of the coolest celebrities? Who were the people you looked up to in your youth? When have you been cool in the past? Channel this energy.
Being cool can mean being detached, and that is ok. Don’t be afraid to zone out on your friends. They may take it as aloofness, and try to push you away. But as long as you don’t push back, and you leave the door open allowing them to linger, many people will choose to hang out and hang loose with you. Try to get them to detach as much as you are, proving to them that forced extraversion isn’t necessary. Take breaks from talking and just take in your surroundings. Don’t feel pressured to keep interacting. Don’t use adrenaline to help you complete your sentence, to help you find that term that is on the tip of your tongue, or even to help you build rapport with someone.
Being cool is really about having sustainable body language in social situations. You want to operate in a way that would not fatigue even if you had to socialize for 48 hours straight. This would require you to allow plenty of micro breaks to each of various modules. Your face, voice, breath, and posture would have to be indefatigable (invulnerable to fatigue). How would you behave if you knew that you were going to be awake, and surrounded by people, and face to face interactions for two straight days? You would have to pace yourself. And if you were to maintain your assertiveness for the duration, you would have to be “cool.”
Almost every one of the exercises in this book will enhance your cool. Facial massage, gut compression, vocal rehab, and increasing the range of the diaphragm will all contribute greatly.
Another aspect of being cool is not being focused on yourself. Don’t think about how you are perceived when you are actively socializing. Pretend to have as little ego and self-awareness of your appearance as possible. Over time this will manifest. Impression management and self-monitoring can be important, but try to completely stop thinking about other’s social evaluations of you. Tell yourself that you have already had enough approval, compliments, and praise from others to last a lifetime, and that you don’t need anymore. This will help you stop identifying with the evaluations of others. Confidence isn’t thinking you’re better than others. Confidence is not even bothering to make the comparison. As the charitable, big-hearted, alpha-minded individual that you are, work toward feeling confident in every situation.
For your coolness to be tenable in the long-term you must act like everyone else is cool as well. When you treat someone else as though they were cool, you validate them. Act as if you expect the other person to be confident and at ease in everything they say and do. The best way to make yourself seem normal and well-functioning is to treat everyone else as normal and well-functioning.
Act as if Nothing is Awkward
Most people’s attempts at social dominance center around making you feel as if you are socially incompetent or at least not as socially skilled as they are. I used to act as if everything I did, and most things that others did, was awkward. I felt that I had social shortcomings and that I owed it to others to use my body language to recognize this or else I was being shameless. I would also subtley patronize others for their uncouth blunders, thinking it would also be dishonest to simply ignore these. This led me into a downward spiral of awkwardness.
One day I tried the opposite; I acted like nothing anyone did was amateur. I pretended to be comfortable with every aspect of the interactions I had. I quickly found that this tactic works wonders and that it is a key aspect of being nondominant and nonsubmissive. The more we treat others as if they are adroit socially, the better they feel about themselves, and the more they like us.
Treating people that are actually awkward or socially defeated as if they are normal will help them build composure. We should try to make everyone feel socially facile even if talking to them is uncomfortable at first. Make an effort to ignore the unrefined aspects of their presentation and express enthusiasm for what they are trying to communicate. Move on quickly from other people’s embarrassments or bloopers, but address yours and make a joke out of them. Most people focus on all that is ugly and inept in others. Don’t even perceive these things.
Embracing Composed Submissiveness
Up until now this book has denigrated submissiveness. We have discussed many ways that it damages both composure and health. But it is fully possible to be composed and submissive. In fact there are times when composed submissiveness is not just appropriate but beneficial. These are the times that we let, or encourage, others to lead.
It can be freeing to be mellow, and passive, and to support the leadership of others. Allow other people to take over, and allow yourself to relax when they do. Relish the relief from being in charge. Do so while exuding relaxed, balanced, non-confrontational energy. Perpetual assertion takes its toll. It involves intense face time, eye contact, talking, decision making, and an overtaxing of existing bracing patterns. It leads to social fatigue and is the reason why presidents age so rapidly while in office. We should be handing over the pack leader role constantly, passing it around from person to person, sharing the stage, the crown, and the accompanying burdens.
Just because you don’t try to stop someone from acting dominant doesn’t mean that they are dominating you. In fact, they can never dominate you as long as you stay composed. Take sovereignty from needless one-upmanship. Keep in mind that everyone has important observations and keen insights to impart. All humans are our fellows, and our equals. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Every man I meet is in some way my superior.” So let every man and woman be your superior at times, especially when they have something to teach you. When you see someone do better than you at something you value, don’t feel envious or threatened, feel eager to learn. This is ego stability.
When threatened by an intruder a dominant gorilla will let out a tremendous roar, charge and knock down the newcomer with an immense hand swipe. However, outside of defending themselves and their group members, dominant gorillas do not generally overtly assert their rank (Hermann, 2017). Despite the fact that they are immense powerhouses, gorillas are often described by animal behaviorists as shy. Why would they come across to us as shy? Because most of the time they don’t feel like they have anything to prove. It is not that they are shy, it is that we are conceited, and pompous.
The only way to transcend the dominance hierarchy is to be comfortable and content when you temporarily find yourself in a subordinate position, and to be absolutely comfortable when others perceive you as subordinate without trying to change their mind. You don’t want to be a doormat, but you also don’t want to be consumed by resisting looking like a doormat. Only doormats worry about being doormats.
The Ego and Being Humble
Because of the primate status hierarchy that we have been subjected to for tens of millions of years, the human mind has a propensity to interpret every occurrence as either a promotion (status raising) or a demotion (status lowering). It is instinctual. For example, boasting becomes common in children of 3 years. The ego wants to turn relationships into self-aggrandizement. Left unchecked, it will turn everyone, even friends and family, into a means to an end.
Surely confidence is necessary, but egotism is incredibly draining. Developing a side of yourself that is humble and modest is necessary for being happy. Counterintuitively, it is also incredibly empowering. Renounce your ego by enjoying a sense of personal pride that is unconditional and not based on external circumstances.
Healthy humility will make it so that you don’t have to constantly look for evidence of your worth anymore. You want to be a strong presence that doesn’t glorify or advertise itself. Bring an end to the need to measure yourself against other people. The only person that you should be working towards being better than is the human being you were yesterday. Being humble makes it so that you don’t have to constantly prove yourself and so that you are not embarrassed when you inevitably make mistakes.
This last activity is sometimes seen in Buddhism and Hinduism as the single most powerful metaphysical practice. It build emotional maturity. Spiritual author Eckhart Tolle has an insight about it: “When you are seemingly diminished in some way and remain in absolute non-reaction, not just externally but also internally, you realize that nothing real has been diminished, that through becoming ‘less,’ you become more.”
The best way to cultivate inner freedom is to learn to relax around people that are petty, rude and aggressive. The need to defend yourself will diminish until there is nothing they can do to aggravate you. Every time you stop yourself from overeating, it gets easier. Likewise, every time you stop yourself from status maneuvering, social chess, and jockeying for power, it gets easier.
Our unconscious mind values prestige, over happiness. But you can change this by intentionally pursuing happiness over prestige.
Endearing But Still Composed
Body and voice movements that take effort, or briefly compromise composure, endear people. There are many ways to do this that are thoughtful and beautiful, but that are not inferiority displays and that won’t lead to repetitive strain. For example, some endearing forms of body language include keeping your palms up, moving closer to people, pointing your feet toward them, and rubbing your hands together.
Use self-handicapping displays sometimes, just do it judiciously, a little bit at a time, without letting it cripple you. If you don’t brace them, and you give them the microbreaks they need, these modules will recharge and can be used again right away with no cost to you. It is endearing to squint, raise the eyebrows, raise the shoulders, crinkle the nose, speak in a high voice, and stoop over for a short time. As long as it only persists for a few seconds, and trigger points are not made active, it won’t consume you.
You Have Everything it Takes to Be Charismatic
I want you to develop charisma in the same way that you developed your dancing abilities in the last section. In other words, practice it under relaxed conditions, hitting all the beats, without stopping, while breathing through your nose. Assert your opinions in front of groups of others with conviction and panache and keep it rolling at a sustainable pace. This will unshackle you from all of the bracing patterns that normally bar you from doing it fluidly.
To master charisma you have to indulge in a little showmanship. Take risks using a take-charge demeanor. Be fully present when speaking to people, give them your full attention, and expect theirs. Don’t try too hard to impress people. Instead focus on impressing yourself. Let your style and positivity make them want to impress you. Think of your social abilities as inexhaustible. Imagine that they replenish infinitely.
To exhibit charisma you need to act in a way that makes people think that it would be a good thing if you were in charge. You must show the competence of a leader. You want to come across as strong, decisive, and a person on whom others can rely for guidance. To do this create the sense of constructive forward motion. As a leader, boss, or manager express high performance expectations of the people around you, combined with high confidence in their ability to meet those expectations. By having confidence in others, you build their confidence in you. You want to send out indicators of alliance so that people unconsciously assume that you like them, that you respect their opinion, that you will include them, and back them up if it came down to it.
Did you know that optimism is generally considered by psychologists to be the key to charisma? Charisma is a set of nonverbal behaviors that give the impression that you have, not only strength, but also a positive attitude. It is the mix of power and warmth that makes charismatic people influential, memorable, persuasive, and inspiring.
Optimism, Excitement and Feeling Good
It pays to be happy. Optimists live longer, have stronger immune systems, recover from surgery more quickly, and have increased mental and physical health. Happiness and positive emotions are linked to higher earnings, better appraisal at work, better quality relationships, increased likability. Happy people are perceived as more intelligent, competent, and physically attractive. Optimists cope more effectively with stress and are less effected by its adverse effects. They are generally healthier and are less likely to become depressed (Taylor & Armor, 1996; Carver et. al. 2010). When optimists have coronary bypass surgery they recover more quickly than pessimists do (Scheier et al., 1986). This is because positive thinking leads to a cardiovascular system that is less reactive to stress (Frederickson & Levenson, 1998). But how do we become happy?
We make our own expressions to ourselves while we go about our days alone. Whatever these expressions are, they constitute our true selves. For most people this is wincing. Instead, make the gestures and facial expressions of happiness when you are by yourself. The similing exercises from Chapter 10 will definitely help with this. If solitary happiness is not practiced regularly, attempts at appearing happy among others will be fake. Remember how excited you could become as a child? You had no reservations about expressing ebullience and enthusiasm. There is nothing stopping you from feeling that right now aside from force of habit.
Optimists attribute the cause of negative events to external, specific, and transient factors. Pessimists attribute the same events to their own shortcomings. Through my life I attributed failures to my own internal, global, and permanent shortcomings. If this is you, stop it. Allow the fact that you have the potential to fix anything and everything that has ever been wrong with your life to help you regain optimism.
I have spent much of this book describing how we use our bodily energy to traumatize our tissues. This might make you assume that our life-force is destructive. It is not. You must redirect that same life force away from anxiety and tension and toward happiness and joy. The more you do this the less energy there is to sustain stress. Every time you do this actively it reprograms the way your body routes energy, setting you up for hardwired happiness. For this reason, all of the exercises in this book should be done with joy, and optimistic expectations. This will make them much more powerful.
Be a dead corpse when it comes to tension, ego, and pessimism. But when it comes to playfulness that’s when you don’t want to use the corpse philosophy. That’s when you want to be alive and spend your chi-like energy on positive social displays. Let’s start with laughter.
Laughing in Other Animals
Many mammals laugh. For example, most rodents emit long, ultrasonic vocalizations during rough and tumble play. The sounds rats and mice make have been described as chirping and occur in the 50-kHz range. When chirping, they actively seek being tickled and played with. They chirp when wrestling, chasing, or searching for one another. They chirp during courting and before copulation. Rat chirping has been interpreted by researchers as an expectation of something rewarding and it appears to elicit friendly social approach in other members of their species (Wohr & Schwarting, 2007). It also nullifies anxiety. If you tickle a rat after a fearful situation this will neutralize the negative emotions and decrease any fear-related learning going on in its brain.
Dogs can pant using heavy, forced exhalations in a way that suggests a form of modified laughter. They use it during play. Dogs exposed to a recorded “dog-laugh” exhibit significantly reduced stress behaviors, increased tail wagging, the display of the dog “play-face” as well as prosocial behavior such as approaching and licking another dog’s lips (Simonet et al., 2005). Breathing Exercise #8 from Chapter 11 closely approximates the dog laugh.
Chimps, gorillas, and orangutans all exhibit laughter-like vocalizations in response to physical play including friendly contact like chasing, wrestling, or tickling (Panksepp, 2000). It is a shallow pant, used to convey nonaggression that is highly reminiscent of suppressed laughter in humans. Their laughs show the same sonographic patterns as the laughs of human babies. They also use similar facial expressions while laughing and are ticklish in the same areas that humans are. Ape laughter consists of a series of exhalations and inhalations (like panting). Human laughter on the other hand, consists of a series of exhalations with no intervening inhalations (Provine, 2000).
Mice, dogs, apes, and humans make their breath shallow to create rapport. Insistence on breathing on long intervals caused me to stop doing this. I was so focused on diaphragmatic breathing that I refused to breathe shallowly even when joking with friends. This is like refusing to make any face other than expressionlessness. Think of shallow breathing during fun, jovial play as a form of healthy panting that serves as a temporary micro-break or counterpose to diaphragmatic breathing. Refusing to pant is refusing to play.
Rehabilitating Your Laughter Will Make It Much More Pleasurable
Gelotology is the study of laughter and the positive effects that it can have on the body. Proponents advocate the induction of laughter on therapeutic grounds (Folkman & Nathan, 2010). Laughter yoga (hasyayoga) and laughter meditation also use voluntary laughter for therapeutic purposes. It has been shown by studies to alleviate stress and pain (Godfrey, 2004). These practices are based on the assumption that voluntary or forced laughter provides some of the same benefits as spontaneous laughter. It is often done in groups, and often turns into real and contagious laughter. Participants are instructed to facilitate laughing by using “childlike playfulness” and eye contact. These practices are great, but I think that they often don’t get down to the crux of the issue. These people are basically fake laughing. To really reap the benefits we must laugh genuinely and to do that we must isolate, rehab, and strengthen the core laughing reflex.
The muscles involved in laughing have been traumatized by life-stress. As an infant your laugh was primordial and bona fide. Combining anxiety with fake laughing, and worrying that your laugh is too aggressive has damaged your instinctual laughing pattern. As you might expect, people that are depressed or anxious have the least convincing laughs. Extremely dominant people laugh loudly, without hesitating, at whatever they like. But most people stifle their laugh in the same way that they stifle their posture, and breathing. This is why the laughs of most adults are eccentric, and largely deviated from the innate laughing reflex.
A baby’s laughs are vivacious and natural. Infants don’t stifle their laughing. They don’t worry about their laugh being too forceful or offending someone. To relearn to laugh genuinely it is helpful to watch infants and toddlers laughing. Please take the time to search for videos of “babies laughing” on the internet and mimic them.
Laughing should be intensely pleasurable. A hearty and progressive emptying of the lungs applies a significant load to the diaphragm and the muscles of the chest wall triggering the endorphin system (Dunbar, 2017). Most adult laughs hardly activate the pleasure system at all. After years of stifling laughter we have forgotten how to laugh in a way that produces this response. For many people, the role of the diaphragm in laughter has been weakened so much that laughter no longer recruits endorphins and is draining rather than energizing.
Fake and nervous laughter come from the throat and often result in increased tension there. The respiratory diaphragm is the main muscle responsible for natural laughter. By training yourself to laugh through deep contractions of the diaphragm and abdominals you can rebuild an authentic laugh. These muscles should reach exhaustion and start to fail during a good laugh. If your diaphragm and abdominals start to burn like they did when you were a child, you know that you are doing it right. The next exercise will show you exactly how to retrain your diaphragm to cooperate in the laugh.
Because the muscles are strained, stagnant and uncoordinated, at first this will sound like the laugh of an insane villain, but with practice it will become friendly and ebullient. It is important to do this exercise loudly and unhesitatingly so make sure that you are not worried that others will hear you. Do it in a closet, or in the car.
It will be uncomfortable at first. The muscles you engage may be so weak that they feel susceptible to damage. Mine certainly were. If so, take it easy the first few days and build up to doing it vigorously. Consider it a much needed workout. I believe that this exercise will allow you to reach muscles that you otherwise couldn’t, and is a powerful complement to diaphragmatic breathing exercises.
At first the laughing exercise should make you feel weary. After only one week you will be able to push harder, and will be more adept at coordinating the pulses of laughter. After a few weeks you will be good at it, and you will find yourself laughing more often. This exercise transformed my laugh from a flimsy, perfunctory, courtesy laugh into something enjoyable. Now I laugh spontaneously, heartily, resolutely, and much more frequently. I find laughing tremendously gratifying, and things that were barely amusing to me before are now hilarious.
I believe that laughing evolved to help humans let off steam. It may have allowed instances of camaraderie and social bonding to influence an individual’s life strategy to place less value on the adaptive aspects of trauma. In other words, the more conducive your environment is to laughing, the more your body assumes that your environment is a good one. We brace our breathing musculature during stress and so it becomes stuck in partial contraction. A real laugh was probably designed by evolution to help us attain a full-range, hard contraction of the diaphragm. This contraction relieves the diaphragm of the partial contraction caused by shallow breathing. The more you rehab it, the more you increase its potential for providing you with endorphins. Remember that in mammals endorphins are most reliably produced from grooming, singing, laughing, and play (Dunbar, 2017). These are addressed by Chapter 6, Chapter 12, this section, and the next section respectively.
All stressors (anger, fear, pain, hunger, separation, and distress) reduce play. Animals must be well-fed, comfortable, and healthy for play to take place. When these conditions are met, rats and mice chase and pounce, wrestle, pin, nip, poke, and knock each other over. This is the kind of play that generates the high frequency laughter-like 50-kHz chirps. Physical rough-and-tumble play is the most fun of all. At one point I thought all aggressive acts were bad, but clearly feigned aggression can be integral to play.
It is important to note that when mammals play rapid role reversal is a defining element. In other words, they know it is friendly when everyone gets a chance to be on top. Knowledge of this should influence us to rapidly pass being dominant back and forth with our friends.
The rat that ends up on top more often during pins becomes dominant. The continuation of play necessitates a willingness on the part of the winner to self-handicap. Dominant rats that go easy on others always have playmates, but those that bully are ignored when they try to solicit play. Play helps animals determine who to avoid and who they can develop cooperative relationships with. They learn to dominate, but also to accept defeat.
Dominant animals would rather play, but aggressive animals would rather fight. Rats that are actually fighting bite each other and box. This can lead to injury. They stand on their hind legs and strike each other with their front paws. When they do this the 50 kHz “laughter” turns to 22kHz “complaints.” This is similar to the situation in chimps where play is accompanied by wrestling, panting, and a play face, whereas fighting involves boxing, tearing, scratching, biting, and barking.
Often human play is focused on verbal interchange and batonage. Repartee involves provocation, rejoinders, biting commentary, and if friendly, laughter. As in other mammals this spoken “rough-and-tumble” play can engender friendship, respect, and cooperativity. Bombastic quarreling, absurd braggadocio, frivolous histrionics, grandiose pretentiousness, and ostentatious balderdash can be real fun. When you do it employ exuberance and enjoy it. If you are entertained, other people will be too. Just remember to be like the mice during play and allow others to be on top, lest you risk losing playmates.
Play ranks among the most beneficial neuroplastic interventions. Placing rodents into enriched environments where they can socialize, wrestle, and play with others results in heavier brains, and higher levels of dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. Encouraging playfulness in animals is one of the few behavioral interventions that reverses depression (Wohr et al., 2009). As we should by now expect, studies have found that rats deprived of play are more fearful and aggressive toward other rats.
Social play involves creativity and requires that we learn to approach others in diverting and lively ways. Imagination and fantasy can facilitate play. My favorite way to play with people is to make up imaginary scenarios. I am totally shameless, and immature with this. My scenarios include helicopters, ninjas, dinosaurs, and hats with pinwheels on top of them. Whenever someone uses an analogy or poetic license to describe a situation, help them flesh it out until you have created a whimsical, comical, cartoon world. Ask outrageous questions, set up outlandish hypotheticals, and feel comfortable acting like a kid.
Reawaken Your Play Face
A simple open mouth expression in primates called the “play-face” communicates that play is either underway or about to begin. It often accompanies primate laughing. The jaw is wide open and sometimes the corners of the mouth are slightly drawn back. Unlike the primate sneer or grin, the expression is relaxed, and the teeth are usually covered completely. All apes as well as macaques, patas, vervets, and rhesus monkeys use the “play-face.” Common during play sessions in juveniles, it is also an adult expression. It is used to enlist others to play and is accompanied by an jaunty, sprightly approach. The display is usually reciprocated immediately. It is often interspersed with tumbling, tickling, chasing, wrestling, play-gnawing, and lip-smacking sounds.
We know the primate playface as gaping in childlike wonderment. Our ability to gape has been reduced by our uptight attitudes and by excessive tension in the jaw. However, it can be rebuilt. Rehab yours because in some ways the playface is better than the smile.
Happy babies open their mouths wide when laughing. Socially defeated adults open their mouths the least. In my twenties I wasn’t able to open my jaw fully and trying to was painful. Any kind of gaping would make my jaw creak and crack. Dropping my jaw in any social situation seemed like dropping my guard. Pairing gaping with diaphragmatic breathing for less than a total of a half hour gave my jaw joint an oil change. It has never creaked or cracked since. Now that gaping feels natural, I feel less serious, and more encouraged to have fun. Master your play face.
Practice Dancing as a Form of Play
Dancing is one of the best forms of play. It has been stifled for most of us due to social apprehension, self-inhibition, and contamination from distressed breathing. The following exercise will address this by teaching you to rest while dancing.
Laughing Through the Nasophayrnx
Some people with relatively calm nasopharynxes can clear their nasopharynx in the same way that we clear our throats. It is like snorting, except it involves breathing out, rather than breathing in. Some people call it a nose laugh. I believe that it is a dominance signal, that conveys that the person’s nasopharynx is not tense. People with tense nasopharyxes are not capable of doing it. Once you have compressed your nasopharynx using the exercises in Chapter 11 you can build the coordination to perform this laugh. I think that it is an empowering display and I encourage you to practice it.
Some people use this signal as a way to laugh at something that they find inferior, like rolling the eyes. Don’t use it divisively or to ridicule people. Instead, use it as a heartfelt laugh to communicate that you are enjoying absurdity. People usually find it exciting, and it makes them want to laugh along with you.
Savor Goosebumps to Strengthen the Response
The full body tingling that you feel when you get goosebumps comes from a surge in endorphins. It is also known as the aesthetic chill response, or frission. This happens when you feel victorious, when you encounter something beautiful, or even when you find yourself strutting in the face of danger. The goosebumps on your skin come from the bristling of tiny hairs in a reaction called piloerection. It is meant to make furry animals look bigger by making their hair stand on end. This is responsible for the “raised hackles” on a wolf that has been surprised, the plump tail of a cat before a fight, and for the bristling fur on a chimp that is marching around putting on a dominance display.
I wish I had a reliable method of somehow activating and strengthening the response because I believe it is very positive. I don’t. But I can report that the frission response is much more frequent in my life since I have been using the Program Peace exercises. I believe that the improvements that antifrailty made to my posture played a large role.
There are ways to deliberately elicit the response. You can try listening to your favorite music, singing loudly and unabashedly, partaking in “ASMR” via online videos, or by using the massage and caressing techniques discussed in Chapter 6. Another way to send a shiver up your spine is to combine the postural exercises from various chapters to walk around in public as if you have a bulletproof “S” on your chest. Regardless, the best way to strengthen the bristling response is to savor it when it happens to you. Savoring a sensation in this way is often called sensate focus. Focus on extending the feeling, and pass your hand over the gooseflesh to heighten the sensation. Like all positive feelings and emotions, every time you get the goosebumps, relish it and make it feel like it will be welcomed when it returns.
Caring For Others Will Make You Happier
Moral integrity is key to happiness. People who have ethical social habits are happier than people who do not. The first reason for this is that people are more likely to value you if they see you as a good person. Psychology research has found that the most important traits to increase your likability are trustworthiness, honesty, warmth, and kindness. Choose your words politely, honor boundaries, compromise, show consideration, admit when wrong, honor your word, and show respect. Get over your issues. Don’t be vain. Don’t seek attention. Don’t be racist or sexist. Don’t say bad things behind people’s backs. Acknowledge other people’s contributions, helpful advice, and good decisions. State explicitly what they did to help you and how it helped. Acknowledge people’s success, no matter how small and pay a compliment every time you notice something good. Don’t judge people. Be courteous. Ask if you can lend a hand. Make the effort to be a friend.
The second reason for why moral integrity will make you happier is it stimulates an old part of the brain responsible for tending and befriending. All mammalian brains have a care and nurturance system. This system initiates instinctual behaviors meant to take care of young. In rats stimulation of this area promotes nest building, licking, grooming, arched-back nursing, hovering over pups, and gathering those that stray from the nest. When you care for others you activate this system in your own brain along with the related reward pathways. Nurturing others naturally produces endorphins. In fact, helping others has shown to protect against the harmful effects of life trauma. Volunteering after a natural disaster, protecting others during an attack, care taking, and becoming a peer counselor have all shown to reduce stress. Activating the brain’s nurturance system also subdues the defeat response. So be a good, kind, person; the best person you can be. All the good that you want in your life, dig it up from within your own heart.
Practice Being Pure of Heart
Being pure of heart has a reciprocal relationship with being free of nasty thoughts. In fact, I believe that seeing yourself as wholesome and virtuous is the quickest route to becoming free from negative rumination. Regularly ask yourself if your actions are noble and pure. Holding yourself to high standards sounds like an adult burden but will actually make you a kid at heart.
Goku from the original Dragon Ball comic and TV show is a small, naïve child that doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. He has a trusty cloud (flying nimbus) that he rides like a magic carpet. He is able to ride the cloud because he is pure of heart. Billy Batson is a small boy from DC comics whose purity allows him to take on the power of the superhero Shazam. Thor from Marvel comics has a worthiness allows him to lift Mjolnir, his enchanted hammer. I have asked myself on many occasions “would I be able to ride that cloud, don that cape, or lift that hammer?” Would you?
Practice indiscriminant and promiscuous kindness. I like the saying that tells us to “love the one that you are with.” I take this injunction further to mean that you should love whoever you find yourself with in any moment. Use “agape” which is the Greco-Christian term for self-less, unbiased, universal love. Or experiment with using “unconditional positive regard” with others (Rogers, 1980). When your primary aim is to broadcast goodwill, you act much less defensive, and your composure quotient will soar. A pure, lighthearted mentality will affect many minutiae of your body language and microexpressions improving your overall aura.
The key to being popular is to like more people. Research has shown that likable people like others. They like larger numbers of people and they like those people more (Sanders, 2005). So forgive those that you feel have wronged you. Forgive your parents, siblings, all of your family and friends. Then forgive everyone else from your past and present, and even in to your future. Forgive people from every walk of life. Forgive the rich, the poor, all sides of the political spectrum. Forgive humanity, then fate, and then the entire universe. Have no fear of rejection from others, have no need to be accepted. Be able to say “I love you” with no regret. Love yourself and your body the way it is, and know that you, and everyone else, are perfect.
Become a Great Conversationalist
One of the best ways to love others is through conversation. Unfortunately, most of us have learned to converse competitively using passive aggression. The conversational narcissist wants to keep the attention on themselves, and control the conversation as much as possible. We are all narcissistic and we all see conversations as competitions to some extent. We pretend to listen but are really just thinking about what we want to say once we have found an opening or way to interrupt. This is like the mouse that always wants to be on top. Nobody wants to play with him.
Lavish your attention on the other speaker. Support their topics of choice. Question how you can you get this person to open up further. What is their underlying interest? Keep asking “why” until you get to what they want to say, but aren’t saying. “Why” helps you discover their interests and motivations for speaking. Ask open ended questions, and questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Focus on positive topics and use the word “you” more than “I.” Turn “yeah but,” into “yes and.” They will find you interesting if you are interested in them.
Without empathic listening and anticipating the motivations of others, friendships becomes socialized egoism. So urge them to elaborate. Active listening involves engagement, empathy, and validation. Refer back to what they said. Use your personal knowledge to help the them flesh out and provide evidence for their ideas and opinions. Separate asking for clarification from disagreement, and separate disagreement from criticism.
Have you ever had a night out with a friend where an absorbing conversation left you feeling deeply satisfied? Try to attain this satisfaction for you, and for the other person, during every conversation.
Trauma, pain, and tension make it very difficult to be cool, playful, and pure of heart. By removing tension though, the Program Peace exercises will make it much easier. When you think “pure of heart” think dominant but nondominating, nonsubordinate but nonaggressive, assertive but lighthearted. The key to being cool and calm is just having faith in yourself. Know that what you’re doing is coming from a good place with other people’s best interest in mind. As long as you know that you mean right by other people you don’t have to worry about offending them with your composure.
Most people have a secret fear that they are bad, or that they have done things that they can never atone for. But it is never too late to start being pure of heart. You can do it any point in time. I recommend that as you take on the Program Peace system, you imagine yourself turning over a new leaf. Decide that you will let go of all of the guilt that you have carried with you from past misdeeds and mistakes. Turn any ounce of self-hatred that you may harbor to self-forgiveness. Guilt can be paralyzing and poisoning, so use your participation here as an excuse to get rid of it. Expect yourself to be pure of heart in everything you do and conceive of your life from here on to be a hero’s journey.
Chapter 25: Bullet Points
- Treat everyone as if they are the least awkward person you have ever met.
- There are so many ways to be endearing, you don’t have to forfeit your composure or health to do so.
- Creating a “pure of heart” mindset will make many of your troubles disappear.
- The “feel good” neurochemicals like endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin derive from kind behavior. Nature endorses morality.
- Laughing exercises will give you a strong, bold laugh and strengthen your innards.
- Every laugh should almost sound antagonistic, as you were laughing at someone – but only because it is assertive and unaffected by submissive tendencies.
- A night full of fake laughing and smiling will greatly increase the tension that you feel the next morning. But one minute of genuine, unadulterated laughing can relieve all that strain.
- Stimulate the play area of the brain by being playful with others.
- Stimulate the nurturance area of the brain by nurturing others.
- Self-stimulating happiness is key to perpetuating your upward developmental spiral.
- Self-amusement is very healthy and a trait of dominant people.
- Feel free to be silly.
- Treat everyone like it is their birthday. Act like every day is your birthday and every night is Saturday night.
- When you are mistreated, think of it as an opportunity for personal growth. Consciously deciding to under-react to negativity is regarded by many to be the most powerful way to achieve spiritual growth.