The Kobayashi Maru Of Emotional Vulnerability

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 15.678% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So because I’m still really sort of processing, I’m going to core-dump in my journal for a bit about the problem I alluded to earlier.  (And please take special note about the “Don’t do that, then” style of advice.)
What I’m struggling with right now is the Kobayashi Maru of emotional traps: how do I tell someone I’m hurt when I’m not even sure I’m right to be hurt?
Thing is, when I’m in a hypersensitive mood, I see neglect in everything.  Hey, did you not put bacon on my cheeseburger?  How could you?  You know I love bacon.  Your lack of bacon must mean that you’re purposely out to deprive me of bacon.  That’s really a shitty thing to do, you know, fucking my cheeseburger over when you could just tell me the love is over.  If you really loved me, I guess you’d have remembered the bacon.
No.  I honestly get like that sometimes.
Over the years, I’ve learned to calm down and process… but it takes me a while.  Because sometimes it’s not bacon.  Sometimes, someone’s done something genuinely shitty, and it turns out I need to talk to them to say, “Okay, what you did was mean and unfair.”
What I do know, however, is that talking to them in this tizzy does no one no good.  I’m accusatory, no matter how hard I try not to be.  I’m defensive, because I know I might be silly.  And even if they do apologize, an apology generally isn’t enough because I’m so hurt and saddened and vulnerable by having to reveal my inner processes that I need not just an apology, but a full-on reassurance that I’m loved and not stupid on top of it – because the problem is not that you did this thing, but thing made me feel full of self-loathing and neglect, and I want to not feel that way any more.
Practically nobody does that.  Mostly, an apology is about the best they can muster, especially if I am being stupid about things.  (Which is, you know, often.)  But at that point it’s not about the bacon, but this stir of terrored intensity that I’m totally unloved.  Going, “Sorry, you need bacon” doesn’t cut it at that point.
People say they want to know.  But I’m so unreasonable in these times that I know it’s better to withdraw.
Now, in an ideal world, I’d withdraw for a couple of days, retreating into myself while I process and emerge with a measured conclusion.  By then, a simple bacon apology will do (if in fact I decide I need to mention the bacon at all), and we can move on… Except I’m chatty, so people generally notice my absence.  And they ask, “Hey, did I do something wrong?”
(I can also try to fake it and talk to the person who wounded me during this time frame, but I do such a shitty job at pretending nothing’s wrong that they invariably notice.  I know I’m being foolish, but the emotions are pretty overwhelming, and it’s like trying to carry on pleasantries with a man who’s kicking a puppy.  I’ve tried to do casual conversation for years, but in my downtimes I don’t have the social skill to fake it.)
So here’s the paradox:
KOBAYASHI SCENARIO #1: I TALK TO THEM BEFORE I’M SURE THIS IS ACTUALLY A PROBLEM.  But I do it poorly, because I’m emotional and unreasonable.  Shit blows up, and they feel I’m unfair and grasping (which I may well be being), and I injure the friendship.
KOBAYASHI SCENARIO #2: I ADMIT SOMETHING’S WRONG, BUT TELL THEM I’M NOT IN A GOOD SPACE TO TALK TO THEM ABOUT THE PROBLEM RIGHT NOW.  Yeah, that trick never works.  The minute they know something’s wrong, they panic, and pepper me with questions about what they might have done until they know (complete with misintentioned reassurances that no, they’ll be fine), and then we’re back to Kobayashi Scenario #1.
KOBAYASHI SCENARIO #3: I SAY NOTHING, AND HOLD MY GROUND.  They notice something’s wrong.  they get mad at me because clearly I’m bent out of shape and not saying anything, and by the time I’m ready to talk (or let it go) they’re furious because what the fuck, man, you were just so cold and mean.
Whatever happens, whenever I’m injured, I wind up doing damage.  Which sucks.
I’ve since learned that #1 is the best option, but it still sucks.  Because then there’s a big fight, and I come out of that fight feeling whipped and saddened and hated for who I am, and I have to put on my Big Girl Panties and pretend “Hey, everything’s fine even though we’re pissy at each other!”  Which takes even MORE energy, this happy-go-lucky pretending that everything’s cool even though I feel less loved than I ever have in our relationship before…. but eventually it heals shit over.
(I used to dig deeper to try to “fix” things when I was in this mood, which shredded friendships like a woodchipper.)
I dunno.  I just wish I didn’t have this hypersensitivity, or the social ability to pretend that things were fine when they weren’t, but years of effort has shown that I’m not likely to acquire these tendencies any time soon.
And it’s not just me.  Gini’s said she has this same problem with me when she’s trying to figure out whether it’s a genuine issue she’s going through.  So I figure someone must have a way of dealing with the “I need space to process, but people aren’t good at giving it to me” problem.


  1. Carolyn Mansager
    Mar 20, 2012

    Hi! I believe you have titled this “Kobayashi Maru” for a reason. James T. Kirk knew that he couldn’t beat the test. So, he cheated and made a new test. The problem with the three options that you’ve outlined is that you are still trying to beat the existing test, and with your emotions, and perceptions of other people’s reactions by past events. But you are still playing with the same “machine.” (In this case, you’re the machine.) The problem is not how you react to others. The problem is that your machine is still running a flawed program that cannot be beaten. How can you reprogram? I’d say that the only commentary that anyone should be given in these moments are “Yes, there is something bothering me because I am a flawed human being. (machine)” Shrug it off. Don’t DWELL in the moment. That’s option #4. (There have to be #5-1397 options.) I don’t say “act.” However, you are recognizing that the best option really is “talk about it later, if really necessary, and not in those “I’m so hurt” moment.” The truth is that you do not HAVE TO respond “in the moment” to people. The fact that you feel so obligated to respond, or respond in the moment, is a problem. That’s a game you will never win. The fact that someone pushes you to respond when you aren’t ready to say something, whether it’s because you are irrational, overemotional or the sky is blue, who cares the reason? You have stated a boundary and said that you aren’t ready to talk about it, and that’s a boundary that should simply be respected. That’s on them, not you, if you’ve stated that you aren’t ready to talk., and they “pepper you with questions” etc. There is always the option of “walk away and discuss it later.” or “make a joke about it and discuss it later.” Or, “shift topics because it isn’t worth it, and never bring it up again, because it really wasn’t THAT important” (bacon) OR there is the reaction of you telling the person that you care about, how you feel about THEM and why he or she is important to you, instead of why your feelings are hurt. It’s counterintuitive, but usually appreciated and people back off, too. They don’t spin wondering what’s wrong with THEM. You’ve just told them what’s right with them. Let’s face it. If you didn’t care about the person that hurt your feelings? Your feelings wouldn’t be hurt. So tell them why YOU care. Start there. Then pause– for the length necessary. Then? Let THEM talk, not you. Try that. You might learn something in the meantime, that you are loved, that they think you are special, great, what have you, because you’ve opened that door.. and they are not reacting because they are freaked out, but because you’ve changed the “game” and now? you have Kobayashi Maru. (As long as you are honest about your feelings about them.) People don’t see that coming. We THINK people know how we feel about them. They THINK we know how they feel about us. How often, in these times, do we take our focus off ourselves and state it? Not that often. I find that this tactic builds bridges not fences. The problem with the Three Options that you have presented? The focus is on *you* and ignores the positive presence of why the other person is there in the first place. How’s that?

  2. Whitney
    Mar 20, 2012

    I go for Scenario #1. By the time I’m making sense, they’re not in any mood to pay attention to my feelings, and think that the resulting argument was disproportionate to the feelings that inspired it. I feel like my emotional side is about 6 or 7 years old…

  3. Sage
    Mar 20, 2012

    You guys aren’t the only ones. I know I do the same type of things.
    Additionally… as another annoying-to-me-and-a-pain-to-deal-with trait… if I have even an inkling of a breath of an idea that someone might want space (partly due to social anxiety, partly due to knowing that I might want space in their spot)… I’ll give them space. So much space they could drown in it. Space and space and space.
    .sighs. Which, of course, is also a friendship killer.

  4. JD Moyer
    Mar 20, 2012

    My friend Amy G. has a knack for calling people on stuff *seconds after it happens*. They can’t deny it, because the event is still in everyone’s short-term memory. But the call-out has less weight, because it’s in the moment. There’s no need to “have a talk” about it later, and no chance for anyone to stew or get defensive.
    Immediate confrontation about the lack of bacon … takes some practice but worth it.

  5. Skennedy
    Mar 20, 2012

    You are right in that #2, which seems like the best option, is very unlikely to succeed in most cases, unless someone has been sufficiently prepared (with, for instance, something like this post) and is willing to take you at your word that you need time to process before you can chat about it, and give you that space.
    That requires a pretty secure individual, though, on the other end of things.
    I try to catch things while they’re hot, as working them over and over without external input is likely to bring me to the wrong conclusions. So, when at my best, I try to just -ask- people about a given situation and see what their impressions are. Or I talk to a third party who understands my sensitivities and can give me some insight into whether I am reading into things. Or I write it out and come back and read it to see if I’m bullshitting myself to justify my feelings.
    Any which way, the feelings are very real, and valid, even if the reason you feel them might not be correct or based in reality, and so those feelings need to be respected and dealt with. It’s very unlikely that one can honestly tell oneself (and definitely not another) that something shouldn’t hurt, and thus … it doesn’t, like magic.

  6. Jericka
    Mar 21, 2012

    I actually get the reference to Kobayashi Maru! Heh.
    I don’t have an answer…but, I have a direction to possibly choose to go to ask? Maybe the all-wise Captain Awkward will know?
    If you are into advice stuff, this is a pretty good site, and the Captain and the commenters are used to dealing with deep shit.

  7. Beguine
    Mar 22, 2012

    What about saying something like “I’m just in too rotten a mood to enjoy talking right now, and I’m trying to avoid taking it out on anyone.” That’s sort of true; you’re trying to figure out if the bacon thing is you taking out your insecurities on someone else, and the bacon shortage is making you a ball of misery. You just aren’t mentioning their specific role in what you’re feeling until you’ve had more time to separate what they did from how you feel right now. However, unlike 2, they’re less likely to press you because you won’t be triggering their own insecurities.

  8. GreenRider
    Apr 4, 2012

    BTDT, I hacked the computer, reprogrammed myself and built a solution into the Kobayashi Maru.
    I do a variation of 2 & 3.
    Don’t say anything.
    “You ok?”
    “Yeah, something’s bothering me is all, I’ll let you know if I need to talk.”
    “Love you”
    *kisses* and make extra effort to treat your partner with loving kindness.
    NOTE: May take a little more dialog to get an ok from a partner, especially if they’re use to you reacting differently. Repeated use of this tactic should eventually yield the desired ok. Kisses are optional, but love yous are mandatory, it’s a nice reminder in a dark moment that you care for each other.
    I found calling a yellow alert instead of a red keeps things in perspective. Your partner doesn’t go to their battle station cause OMG something’s WRONG, klingon warbird what do we do captain? Well I’m not sure they’re really a threat, I’m gonna assess the situation first standby but go ahead and finish your breakfast no rush.

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