Why Being Nice Will Kill You

From a 2008 Journal of Immunotoxicology article:

“Risk of developing certain diseases correlates with human personality.”

Specifically, the authors are matching health with coping styles, active versus passive.


Summary of four personality types, A-D, plus how each type thinks about food:

Type A: The Angry Motherfucker

  • Driven
  • Fast Paced
  • Assertive and Demanding
  • Sloppy diet, eats whatever is convenient.
  • Food as fuel.

Type B: The Stoner

  • Laid back
  • Prone to procrastination
  • Relaxed
  • Expansive diet, eats whatever tastes good.
  • Food as pleasure

Type C: The Nice One

  • Passive
  • Sensitive
  • Polite
  • Cycle of dieting and overeating
  • Food as addiction (emotional eater)

Type D: The Worrier

  • Distressed
  • Anxious
  • Fearful
  • Frequently tries strict, fad, and crash diets.
  • Food as poison (obsessed about dangers of eating this or that).

Type As are susceptible to coronary disease and heart attacks. Type Bs will die from falling off the roof while drunk and stoned at a party. Type Cs are most likely to contract autoimmune diseases. Type D, being as stressed out as Type As and as depressed as Type Cs, are fucked.

From Psyche Central, on Type C personality:

In recent years, a cluster of personality characteristics has come to be identified as the Type C personality, someone who is at heightened risk for a slew of afflictions, from colds to asthma to cancer. In contrast with the Type A person (who angers easily and has difficulty keeping feelings under wraps) and the Type B person (who has a healthier balance of emotional expressiveness), the Type C person is a suppressor, a stoic, a denier of feelings. He or she has a calm, outwardly rational, and unemotional demeanor, but also a tendency to conform to the wishes of others, a lack of assertiveness, and an inclination toward feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.

Examples: she hates football but pretends to like it to attract more men.  He doesn’t want to work the holidays but always agrees to do so with an insincere smile. She hates her haircut but won’t tell the hairdresser he fucked up because she doesn’t want to risk hurting his feelings. He doesn’t like his food but won’t complain about it until he gets home and unleashes his anger anonymously on yelp. She won’t call her husband the lazy piece of shit he is because she’s conflict adverse.  There’s a lot of quiet stewing going on here.

The above cited description of Type C can be more nuanced.  It’s not that Type C denies feelings (and thoughts), they deny specific feelings and thoughts, which in the American socio-cultural context typically means anger and hate, murder and mutilation.

Canadian physician Gabor Mate…began to notice a pattern: individuals who were unable to express anger, who didn’t seem to recognize the primacy of their own needs, and who were constantly doing for others, appeared to be the ones most susceptible to a slew of ailments, from asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus to multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. These conditions are all autoimmune disorders. Mate claims that, when an individual engages in a long-term practice of ignoring or suppressing legitimate feelings–when he or she is just plain too nice–the immune system can become compromised and confused, learning to attack the self rather than defend it.

Again, we need more nuance, as above description makes it seem as if nice people are martyrs.  They’re not, some of them are raging narcissists who write purple prose, Albert Camus reminds us in The Fall (aka Confessions of a Nice Guy).  That tension, that dissonance between the inner narcissist and the outer martyr means there’s going to be a lot of ice cream and chocolate to medicate depression. Which is why some personality type researchers have noticed that Type C personality “is [more likely to be] a consumer of a diet high in sugar, high in saturated/trans-fats, and high in processed and refined foods.” They’re emotional eaters because they’re emotionally corrupt. More of Mate’s observations:

Emotional expression, in Mate’s view is absolutely essential because feelings serve to alert the individual to what is dangerous or unwholesome–or, conversely, to what is helpful and nourishing–so that the person can either take protective action against the thread or move toward the beneficial stimulus. If someone never gets angry, this reflects an unhealthy inability or unwillingness to defend personal integrity. Such “boundary confusion” can ultimately become a matter of life and death. If someone just cannot say no, Mate argues, his or her body will end up saying it in the form of illness or disease.

Put simply, nice people are fuck ups.

Like this.

Part II on why we train people to be nice coming soon.  In the meantime, try this: embrace your anger before it embraces you.

1 thought on “Why Being Nice Will Kill You

Leave a Reply