Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Rational-Emotional Disconnect

You know how sometimes someone does something that hurts you (like a friend who you haven't seen in a month comes to your birthday party and then wants to leave soon after, and isn't particularly nice to you, and then calls you about making a plan to do something nice for someone else's birthday) but then you know, rationally, that it's not a big deal (being nice is not their thing, it's not actually your birthday, and said person has warned you several time that they are thoughtless, and you know they are in a tantrum mood and therefore what to expect from them). At this point, you are upset. But you also know that saying something will get you branded as irrational.

Then there's this scenario, where someone does something that irritates or annoys you intensely (your parents are stressing out about someone you're seeing), and while you know they mean it for the best (you have had a series of bad relationships, said person is insolvent or from a vastly different background). Again, you are upset, and again you know that people will keep throwing logic at you.

I was thinking about this once, well okay I was thinking about how often I am upset but I can't get past it because I can't do or say anything because I am a rational person, an 'adult' and I like to think I can and do behave in a rational manner. This often leaves me feeling very frustrated. So, when Dragon picked BBot, I had this whole thing where I was choking in misery, and when I was talking to Disco Dancer about it he really upset me because he insisted on saying, well, she is an adult, she made a choice, you can't dictate how long it takes someone to attach to someone, or blame them for who they choose. Which were all very valid points, point, moreover, that I kept making to myself. Then why did it make me cry?

It occurred to me that everyone operates on two parallel levels--the rational level and the emotional level. As we get older we tend to start privielging the rational level over the emotional one (to wit, you can't stamp your foot and demand that you be important to someone--you are or you're not. But it still hurts like the BLAZES.). So then we discard, nay ignore, the emotional response, because the rational one is the one that will give us the right behaviour in the end.

The problem is, there has to be a balance, and unless the rational and emotional level are both acknowledged and dealt with, you can't really get past the hurt completely--you become harder, cynical, whatever. And, while it is true that most of the time the rational level is right, this does not mean that the emotional response doesn't exist. (We tend to flagellate ourselves for even having an emotional response usually.) So when you're dating, and a person behaves a certain way, you beat yourself up saying, see? You KNEW they'be a jerk. Then why did you have to be stupid and get attached? Now deal with this shit and move on.

I call this the Rational Emotional Disconnect, and it is the single most debilitating problem I have with all the things I do in my life. Until I can align the two levels and their responses I find that I simply can't get past things that happen to me.

For the longest time I thought the RED was only one way--you have an emotional response and you suppress it. But then it struck me, that often, once you're in a relationship with someone, you start to privilege the emotional over the rational. If you love me you should know better. You know, some days it's not that your partner doesn't love you, it's that they're having a shitty day, or they're tired, or stressed, or you didn't communicate your upsetness. So the rational response has to be heard too before anything can be done.

I've started to try and do this thing now where, when I'm upset, I sit down and think it all through, all the emotional stuff and the rational stuff. I say it to myself, or to a friend (read, The Bride), and then, once I've exorcised the reaction as it were, I can stand back and figure out which was what response and which one is the better one to use in this situation. And let's not assume the rational one is always best--sometimes an emotional response is what the other person needs from you--but then we all train ourselves to deny emotional responses so much that we can't bring them out, which then makes the other person feel bad and suppress theirs and the endless cycle of people are so cold begins.

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