Humans are animals. And like animals, we have an ingrained “fight or flight” response to stressors in our lives.
This is what gives us the ability to avoid dying when a car makes a strange maneuver in traffic and we have to get the fuck out of the way.
Or, it tells us to lie down in the street, opossum style, and hope the car just magically passes over us and we avoid death.
This is the strategy I also like to invoke when I’m faced with danger in social situations.
…It doesn’t always work.
But one key difference between humans and, say, squirrels, is that as humans we have an advanced capacity to feel emotions.
I’m sure cats and dogs feel things like happiness and sorrow, but they probably don’t get as advanced as existential questions about our existence.
Nor do cats have the tendency to fall obsessively in love with someone and try to stalk them.
And your dog probably won’t slash your tires for sleeping with your best friend when you were out of town visiting your parents.
But, emotions are wonderful. For the most part, I love being able to feel things. It makes life more interesting.
Sometimes though, as humans, we use our emotions for strange things.
For instance, we have this ability to use our emotions to suppress our “fight or flight” response.
And this makes us do really stupid things.
So there will be situations in which our little primitive animal brains are literally yelling at us to STOP FUCKING DOING WHATEVER WE’RE DOING AND RUN and our little emotional human brains will say “oh no dear, you’re just being silly. this is fine. calm the fuck down. put your pants back on. you’re a big girl. shhhh…”
I know this is true because I’ve done it.
Here’s a perfect example:
I was dating a guy for nearly four years. It wasn’t the most perfect of relationships, but that isn’t the point. He cheated on me then broke up with me via text message. It was traumatic to say the least.
He and I, obviously, didn’t speak for awhile after that. But six months later, in an unexpected rush of optimism, I decided that maybe it was time for us to be “friends” again.
So I contacted him. And he immediately responded in a rush of guilty “I’m sorries” that didn’t really fix anything, but made my ego feel nice and cozy.
So he and I started hanging out again, as friends.
Then we started making out again, as friends.
Then we started dating again (?), as friends…
On most of these “dates that weren’t really dates because we’re just friends” my ex took me downtown drinking.
I fully supported this idea, because when he and I were actually dating, we never went downtown drinking.
In fact, for most of our relationship, he despised alcohol. I didn’t really question this new behavior because I was getting free drinks out of the deal. So I just kind of went along for the ride.
Now, I’m kind of a lightweight, but I know my limits when it comes to alcohol. I never drink more than I can handle.
But, for some reason, on these “dates” I would be only one drink in or so, and I’d start feeling very anxious. Overwhelmingly anxious.
And this wasn’t just my normal, constant level of anxiety I carry with me every day. This was near “I’m literally a deer standing in traffic” levels of anxiety.
I soon realized what was happening. Not only was alcohol suppressing my inhibitions, but alcohol was suppressing my normal human tendency to Ignore my fight or flight response.
Since I had begun talking to my ex again, my brain had been screaming things at me like “NOOOOOOOOOOO STOOPPPPPP WHYYYYYY” and I’d been ignoring it.
But with alcohol in my system, I couldn’t ignore it any longer.
As I sat outside of a bar with my ex, I was overcome with a feeling I can only describe as eating day old sushi, swallowing a pound of pop rocks, washing it down with a 2 liter of mountain dew, then riding the incredible hulk during a thunderstorm.
In short: I vomited everywhere.
It was gross.
But, this guy I was with, being a gentleman, held my hair back while I puked.
My sickness was so bad, it attracted the attention of a bouncer who came over to ask my guy friend if “his girlfriend” was alright.
My ex responded, in the most soothing voice he could muster, at the top of his lungs, “YEAH NO THANKS MY EX GIRLFRIEND IS FINE I DON’T KNOW WHY SHE’S GETTING SICK. THANK YOU”
Which just made me vomit more.
Now, you would think that this happening once would have been enough to wake me up to the reality that I should not have been hanging out with this guy.
Once was not enough.
It happened two more times.
I puked, in public, downtown, while out with this guy, two more times in two weeks.
Each time, I’d only had 1 or 2 drinks.
It was around the time that he insisted on reminding me that he “wasn’t looking for a relationship” that I FINALLY learned my lesson and stopped seeing him.
But, shit. My animal brain was trying SO HARD to get me to stop seeing him.
Some people can’t see their exes because those people are abusive assholes.
I can’t see my ex because not only do I have an adverse emotional reaction, but I have an adverse physical reaction as well.
MY EX BOYFRIEND LITERALLY MAKES ME VOMIT.
*In the time since I’ve stopped seeing this guy, I haven’t once been sick due to alcohol consumption.