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Sue McRitchie talks | Kindness

As 2019 rolls in I would like to suggest that we make a very simple commitment for the future and that is to offer more KINDNESS to ourselves and others. Having said that perhaps is no need for an article to go with it.

Nobody needs a therapist to help them work through the concept; a psychologist elaborately to plan and monitor their progress; a psychiatrist to diagnose this personality disorder or that mental health category nor the GP to prescribe some medication. In fact it is one of the few things we, all on our own, without the need of qualifications or training, can do for the whole of the human race – offer more KINDNESS.

This theme has been coming to my notice quite a lot. It is a crucial element of the work I do and it seems to me that KINDNESS can get a bad press sometimes as being weak and ineffective. We do not need to look too far for the root of this negativity.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is heard to announce, when doubting her husband’s ability to act with the level of ruthlessness she expected in order to become King, “Yet doe I fear thy nature, It is too full of th’ milk of humane kindness”. Was it this then, as far back as the 17th Century, which has led us to where we are today?

In his book Mindsight*, Dan Siegal says that we are more likely to treat people ‘not like us’ with disdain and disregard whereas “studies have repeatedly shown that with people ‘like us’, we become kinder and extend ourselves more to care for their welfare”. So is this lack of KINDNESS just based on fear of enemies and avoidance of harm? That may explain some of our behaviour but surely not all of it. We can be incredibly unkind to our closest relatives and neighbour who are often very ‘like us’!

Maybe we can blame the pace of life. After all, we are so very busy with work and family and the demands of living that perhaps we do not have time to offer just a small gesture of random kindness to our fellow beings. An excuse or a reason? We have time to pop into the nearest café to pick up our daily fix of caffeine and to check social media so that too sounds a little lame.

Being kind does not require further time or planning and it certainly does not cost us anything. But what it does require is for us to make a commitment to check whether we really need to make that remark, use that tone or post that comment, to just take a moment to hold a door, look at someone and really ask how they are, or hold our loved one with our whole attention.

Let 2019 be the year where we all can be seen to be “full of the milk of humane kindness”

*Mindsight. Transform your brain with the new science of kindness. Siegal,D. 2013 Oneworld Publications

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