I continue to publish drafts that have been lingering in the archives. This one lingered because it was veering towards criticising my friends and I was too scared and distracted to get it to a place that was honest and compassionate instead of either judgmental or passive. Check out how non-intense it is. This is the type of stuff that has been terrifying me for years. It’s kind of funny.
. . .
9 Feb 2008
I just went to the dentist for the first time in about seven or eight years. This particular dentist is explicitly “an emotional guy” who gives a lot of compliments about teeth, and expresses a lot of care and encouragement about your dental health. Full on, “I know I just met you, but I really care about your teeth and gums, because I know that dental health can really impact a person.” Totally sincere, enthusiastic. OK. Awesome. It also ran right into this discomfort I have with receiving compliments and praise, which I thought about a lot on the walk home from my appointment.
So I’ve been wanting to write out my ideas about praise and compliments, but I’ve determined that first I need to deal with this other dentist-related thing, being that a lot of my friends go to the same dentist and I’m a bit afraid of sparking some “we’re all in the Dr. Bjornson club!” celebrations. (This is a real “everything good is actually bad!” kind of post. I dislike compliments, and furthermore I dislike belonging! No fun allowed!) I’ve been belatedly discovering Kurt Vonnegut’s books, and in the last one I read (Cat’s Cradle), he uses this invented word, granfalloon, to describe an allegiance based on a shallow or pointless shared trait, like being from Iowa or going to the same dentist. I am happy to have this word, even just to clarify for myself that I don’t want to avoid all kinds of belonging. Only granfallooning gets the diss, because it is meaningless and distracting, and is, I think, a kind of vanity.
. . .
So, then, over a year later, I’ve thought a lot about my problem with compliments. I think there are two parts; one where I’m crazy and one where some compliments are crazy. I have book quotes to go with both of these.
The part about living in a crazy world is like this. From Nonviolent Communication.
Conventional compliments often take the form of judgements, however positive, and are sometimes offered to manipulate the behavior of others.
And the part about my own craziness goes like this. From Women Who Run With The Wolves, in a chapter about procrastination and creative blocks.
Troublesome contaminants in the river [of soul/creativity] are obvious when a woman turns away sincere compliments about her creative life. There may be only a little pollution, as in the offhanded “Oh, how nice you are to give such a compliment,” or there may be massive trouble on the river: “Oh, this old thing” or “You must be out of your mind.” … These are all signs of an injured animus. Good things flow into the woman but are immediately poisoned.
Not that my teeth are my creative life, but being a person who was both terrible at accepting compliments and struggling with intense procrastination at the same time, I figure it translates.