emotional hangover

The morning after a very intense discussion, which actually became an argument and then returned to discussion, and I feel hung over. There are signs the discussion is not about what’s on the table, but I don’t yet see them soon enough to prevent the exhausting detours through murky territory. This morning I am calm. I can see yes, I had been speaking from old ideas that had become rote.

Intellectually, I saw myself struggling to understand Nick’s point of view. I kept getting confused and angry when I couldn’t understand his terminology and kept badgering him to define his word choices. And game as he was, and the harder I worked, the angrier and more confused I became until at some point I realized that my intellectual confusion was covering a blinding rage. I was furious that what he was saying was so reasonable and appealing compared to what I had believed without thinking things through for myself. He was being honest and thoughtful and I was scrambling to defend ideas that I had learned growing up but had never considered for myself whether they were true. The more I tried to pin down why I felt the way I did, the less sure I felt, the angrier I got that I couldn’t explain my position and the more frustrating the whole discussion became.

I know he feels deeply about the Gospels in the New Testament. When the documentary we were watching showed an interview clip with a woman suggesting there were anti-Semitic tendencies built into the Gospels, Nick disagreed vehemently, at the same moment that I was thinking this is a new and interesting idea. We spent some time arguing around the term anti-Semitic. Nick believes one can’t use the term without invoking the centuries of Jewish persecution, including the Nazi holocaust. I thought one should be able to use that term without the emotional baggage. This morning, I can see that of course words and terms do have emotional contexts. That’s why when writing I choose one word over another. So of course, he’s right. But when I get like this, I’m all about intellectual freedom, language neutrality and objectivity. And while my mind sees itself as Superman, defending one’s right to language and truth, my feelings are a chaotic mass of churning rage. Once more, I feel I’m the child struggling to be understood, arguing with life-and-death intensity and feeling so alone. At the time, I don’t know this is happening. I feel like I’m being intellectually rigorous, demanding the rules of the discussion be made plain before we continue. Afterwards, I realize I’ve been plunged back into the past, dipped in that huge vat of pain and despair, reminded that this is the way the world really is. It’s as if all this forgotten loneliness and hopelessness is lurking underneath my days, biding its time until it can take over my life again.

Once I can see that this is happening, I can recover. I can see how I’ve been defending ideas that are not actually mine. I’m repeating what I learned at home, at Sunday School, at school, and then never thought of again. I was always an A student, gave the teachers back what they wanted to hear, played the game. And when a contradiction shows up now, I’m furious because I find myself defending something my secret inner self questions. And my secret inner self is me, the most important part of me.

So. After a tiring discussion we reveal what’s really happening, and rescue my private beliefs, hopes and optimism. That black void closes up, life looks good and normal again and I make more tea to recover from the emotional hangover.

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