I tend to befriend people who are a little bit Vulcan about things, largely because I am a little bit Vulcan myself. We have the same approach to emergencies: we immediately focus on trying to deal with the practicalities in a pragmatic fashion. It’s not that we don’t care about the emotional side of things; we just prioritise the practical. It seems the only logical way to go about things: after all, unless you address the causes behind them, the emotional issues will just keep cropping up over and over again. If you don’t like people getting hurt, removing the thing that’s hurting them seems to be the best solution. For us, that’s obvious. For other people, however, that indicates that we’re “unfeeling” or “uncaring” or “robotic” or “borderline autistic” – and I quote. (Ho-hum, can’t please everyone.)
Being practical and pragmatic are rather functional attributes. Not only they make us better able to deal with our problems, but they can also enable us to help others dealing with theirs. Where they become dysfunctional is when we forget that we are, in fact, still humans.
It turns out we still have feelings – feelings that may be not only distracting, but even <shudder> illogical. Feelings that affect how we, well, feel, hence they impact on our quality of life. We refuse to be overwhelmed by them, which is cool. What is uncool is when when we refuse to accept, respect, or work around our feelings; or, worse, when we scrutinise them “logically” and judge ourselves when we find them sub par, like Good Little Vulcans.
Example 1: A friend of mine was sexually assaulted on her own sofa. She dealt with the perp and the event as well as anyone could. She restored her safety and sanity. Still, she found herself struggling with an aversion to the piece of furniture. This was clearly irrational; it wasn’t the sofa’s fault she got assaulted; the sofa was not increasing her risks of a future assault; the sofa was a perfectly good piece of serviceable furniture, with plenty of life still in it. To get rid of it would be illogical.
It never occurred to her that her feelings, though maybe illogical, were actual pretty natural; that most people wouldn’t want a perennial reminder of an awful event right in their living room. It also never occurred to her that, if anyone else had the same problem, her logical advice would have been to get rid of the damn thing immediately, the logic being that ensuring emotional well-being and speeding up recovery are infinitely more important than any damn piece of upholstery.
Example 2: A friend’s kid was unsuccessfully sexually assaulted. The kid did splendidly, coming out of it with no serious injuries and no criminal charges. As utterly shitty situations go, it had gone pretty damn well. My friend was also doing splendidly at supporting the kid, getting help, keeping things together, making plans for the future, etc. I firmly believe that nobody could have done any better. Still, my friend felt “agitated”, and kept berating himself about it.
I had to point out to the guy that that normal humans are subject to emotional reactions; that a modicum of agitation is the natural response to someone trying to brutalise your kid, regardless of the outcome; that he would have to be a pretty odd parent/person not to have an emotional reaction to that kind of event; that his feelings weren’t getting the better of him, as he wasn’t allowing them to cloud his judgement or push him into rash actions.
Being logical and pragmatic is grand. But when being logical and pragmatic becomes our main priority, it can makes us pretty damn irrational, or even mean to ourselves; and that’s counterproductive and illogical.