Self Acceptance, Emotional Truth, & How to Argue

While reading the introduction to Social Intelligence last night, it occurred to me that if the way I handle emotions is just a function of the way my brain is wired, plus my social conditioning, then what possible reason should I have for beating myself up about that? So I hold my feelings in… big deal! I decided it was finally time to try some radical self-acceptance.

However, this is a problem in the context of my acting practice exercises (rep), where people are always hassling me to “open up” more. I’m slowing getting there, but on the other hand, what if I just didn’t worry about that, and just enjoyed doing the exercise instead. Frankly, I have more fun when we laugh and joke around. They tell me I’m “avoiding”, but I actually enjoy laughing and joking around! I don’t enjoy getting upset, or angry.

So tonight I rocked up with my new I’m-just-going-to-have-fun attitude, and had a great time. Then I started rep’ing with one of the intermediate students, who I basically said “let me have it” to. She kept provoking me and provoking me until I really was angry, and we had a full-on screaming match. I was totally pissed off, and so was she. Then an amazing thing happened… we got to a point where her hostility gave way to upset. I recognised that she was hurt and called her on it, at which point she broke down and I became apologetic and compassionate. I comforted her with a hug, which she accepted, and we actually ended up really feeling connected. Aha! So that’s how a real-world argument is supposed to go! Assuming both partners are actually committed to sorting things out, rather than to just getting-each-other-back, eventually someone admits a vulnerability which moves the other person to compassion. Even though we were both really, genuinely pissed off with each other, I didn’t feel at all angry with her after the argument because we actually reached closure.

This is something I never saw in real world arguments while growing up, which made me fearful of conflict altogether. It turns out that you can have really heated arguments with tremendous emotional intensity, and yet end up with positive feelings towards each other; you’ve just got to be prepared to work to the point where you have closure and compassion for each other.