As a young man, I liked pitting my wits against those of my peers. Or I thought I did. I was both self-obsessed and blind to my own psychology.
In truth, I found it mildly distressing and distancing. I’d have been happier and more secure in my friendships if I hadn’t argued. When people are annoyed with you, they dislike you.
I just assumed humans were argumentative creatures, until Jamie brought up the topic of ADHD. Then I began to wonder if it was more pathological behaviour than a natural response to individual situations. Perhaps it was just me. But, if so, why? Was it caused by that ill-defined quality I’ve been calling impulsiveness: the unfocused, distractible brain?
I’m impulsively free with my opinions, it’s true, but uncomfortable if people disagree with me. I’ll make some outrageously provocative statement then gasp in horror if someone takes issue with it. I’m not sure my relationships are robust enough to absorb the damage.
Yet If we have to break off I feel like I’m suffocating. It feels unjust, unnatural, not right for the conversation to remain incomplete. I have a compulsive need for intellectual resolution as well as reconciliation. And I’d like to be right, please, because being wrong is a sign of your alienation. You didn’t understand life. Your mental landscape was a fiction, which makes you more unreal. And that sounds like anxiety.
So even superficial matters of personal preference became contentious and laboured. Music, books, films, art: no one was enjoying themselves, but the only way out seemed to be to plod through the debate. I’m boring.
Like you hadn’t noticed.