Tag Archives: rational versus irrational

Unpacking Emotions

I’m going to read your mind. Let’s ignore, momentarily, how impressive that is – especially since I can’t even read your face right now – because this is important.

I have a sense that. very recently, you’ve had so many options in some facet of your life that you didn’t know how to begin sorting it out.

I wanted to make sure we could all imagine being in the same boat when I told you that I’ve had so many ideas for this blog for so long, that I’ve spend the last week spinning my wheels to try and sort out where I wanted to start.

Cue: Radio Silence.

But, it seems to me that’s as good a place to start as any; maybe even the most important place. Where better to begin than the place that feels the most confusing and chaotic. I always find it’s more helpful to wade through a mental mess by talking it out.

Here’s where I’m going to admit something that I’ve only ever told my two best friends in high school, though the people who’ve lived with me have kindly pretended not to notice: I talk to myself. Not just muttering and rambling, either. Full on conversations with fully-realized-yet-not-really-there people. If I’m not careful, I spend my whole day that way, trying to sort out some preoccupation of mine. I think it’s my way of trying to see beyond the limitations of whatever lens I have to look at an issue; some inherent optimism that there’s a solution, even if I can’t see it.

Some of the people in my inventory of imagined characters include: “Ivan,” who is brilliant, logical, condescending, and irascible. He’s a jackass, but I like him a lot. I understand him. “Alexander,” also brilliant, but believes it’s more important to be kind than to reinforce your view. I love him and hate him at exactly the same time, mostly because when I’m imagining him, I’d much rather be screaming and kicking than feeling empathy and compassion. There are others that don’t have names. But, what’s common between them all is that they have very specific points of view that I can use to separate myself from something that might be emotionally overwhelming and analyze it in very specific ways, in a rational manner. At least, as rationally as possible, given said emotional overload.

Here’s an example.

If someone is making me insanely frustrated, usually (but not always) I can reason out that blowing up at them is not going to solve anything. My conversation with Ivan usually makes me feel, first, like I’m justified in feeling what I’m feeling and allows me to be present with it, and it also makes me glad I’m not as mean as Ivan would be about it. My conversation with Alexander makes me think about what external forces could explain the behavior. It helps me consider ways not to take it personally, which is helpful, but it also forces me to acknowledge that we all get to be imperfect, and bad behavior isn’t (usually) about poor character. Usually, at that point, I’m tired of being rational, and I’ll invent someone to gossip with about Ivan and Alexander, and then we make up inappropriate lyrics to loud Beethoven music and sometimes go outside to draw lewd things in sidewalk chalk that I blame on “uncivilized children.”

I’m going to keep this conversation short-ish today, but I’m curious – how is it that you begin to dig out from something that’s confusing and bothering you? What works best? Does it feel crazy to you? Any less crazy than the things you’re preoccupied with? At what point do you start to ask yourself if feeling crazy is better than stuffing things down? Does everyone get to that point? Why or why not?